Isolationism by Another Name
A hat tip to Stephen Green at Vodkapundit for the kind words about my blog, and also for this item, posted by Rich Lowery at "The Corner" a couple of days ago.
According to Mr. Lowery, there's something of a debate emerging on what conservative foreign policy should be after George W. Bush. Rich detects an air of frustration among some conservatives over the War in Iraq, and the wisdom of trying to "democratize" other Middle Eastern countries. He refers to this "movement" (perhaps a premature description) as "to hell with them hawks." In other words, it was proper to invade Iraq and get rid of Saddam, but we should have withdrawn immediately, and left the country to its own devices. Ditto for any sort of military action against Iran.
As an example of this sort of thinking, Lowery cites Fred Barnes's recent comments on FNC. Noting escalating protests over the Danish cartoons in the Middle East, Fred decided that this is not a fringe protest, but a representation of "mainstream" Islam that will never fully embrace western values, culture or democracy. In other words, the battle for Islamic hearts and minds has already been lost, so "to hell with them."
Of course, such thinking is nothing new; it's simply the latest variation on the isolationism that conservatives have periodically embraced for more than a century. Unfortunately, as the world's only remaining superpower, we lost that option a long time ago. Besides, as Steve Green so accurately describes it, the "victory and retreat" strategy carries unacceptable risks, particularly in the Middle East.
"Of course, we might find that we had to re-invade Iraq in five years. Or let the Turks in, to "protect" the Kurds. Or that Iran would annex the oil-rich Shia regions. We might find that someday we'd have to invade Iran – with no friendly land bases nearby. Today, we have a violent and dysfunctional Iraq, but the "to hell with them" scenario just leaves a hole in the map to be filled in by al Qaeda and their ilk."
"There's another danger, too. What little cohesion exists among hawks today could easily fall apart. I don't care if the next President is a Republican or Democrat, so long as they're a hawk. Otherwise we would face another round of the Clinton Administration's do-nothing mentality. Back in the '90s, at least we could plead some kind of ignorance. Ten or twelve years ago, the Crazies attacked us far away, in Africa or Saudi Arabia or in foreign waters. Yet by failing to respond, we taught al Qaeda how to attack us here at home."
As the liberators of Iraq, we have a responsibility to defend the country from internal and external threats, and help the Iraqi people move toward a democratic system--just as we did in post-war Germany and Japan. There are limits to what we should do in Iraq--and how long we should remain--but the idea of knocking off Saddam (or any other dictatorship) and then sailing home is simply a non-starter.
A better idea is to encourage democratic movements in countries like Iran, and work hard for regime change. When the Solidarity movement began in Poland, it seemed inconceivable that a group of shipyard workers would eventually bring down Soviet communism and free Eastern Europe. Today, there are millions of Iranians who are tired of the mullahs and are looking for a new government, but they need support and encouragment from the west; President Bush said as much during his recent State of the Union address. Going isolationist (again) is not the way to win friends or produce regime change in Tehran, Gaza City, or Damascus. Similarly, we can't bring lasting change by mounting a military campaign, declaring victory, bringing our troops home, and simply hoping for the best.