After claiming a special expertise in foreign policy, GOP presidential wannabe Marco Rubio finds himself under fire because of his neoconservative tendencies. He’s responded in the usual way for someone whose policies would keep America perpetually at war: accuse his critics of being “isolationists.”
Trying to defend his record of supporting such disastrous misadventures as Iraq and Libya, he denounced unnamed foes who sought “to derail the postwar consensus about America’s role in the world.” This outrageous yet anonymous “they,” he added, “will never call themselves isolationists, but that is exactly what they are.”
Against Ted Cruz, the likely intended target, the claim obviously is nonsense. After all, Cruz recently proposed carpet-bombing the Islamic State.
What Rubio unintentionally illustrated was the fact that “isolationist” today has been stripped of almost all meaning to become an all-purpose epithet. Indeed, if “isolationist” means anything today, it simply is “you don’t want to intervene where I want to intervene.”
There are no isolationists in America today, or at least any seriously involved in influencing foreign policy. Even the strongest critics of Rubio’s militarism tend to promote free trade, liberal immigration, and international cooperation. That’s hardly “isolationism.”
And most everyone is for at least some military action. The number of analysts who opposed social engineering in the Balkans, nation-building in Afghanistan, democracy-promotion in Iraq, and humanitarian intervention in Libya would fill a Washington phone booth, if one could be found.
Perhaps the greatest irony is how Rubio and his fellow neoconservatives parade as internationalists even as their policies disrupt the international order. Indeed, it is a curious internationalism which views itself as in full flower when the U.S. military is bombing, invading, and occupying other nations. As I point out in National Interest online: “Anything else—diplomacy, economic sanctions, even threatening future military action—is the worst form of ‘appeasement,’ another meaningless yet all-purpose insult.”