Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2013/ 8 Tishrei, 5774

Charge of 'isolationism' losing its sting

By Robert Robb


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If you think that bombing Syria is a bad idea, are you an isolationist?

That's the charge being hurled with increasing promiscuity by the neoconservative Thors on the right. And even by some on the formerly pacifist left. Secretary of State John Kerry called opposition to bombing Syria "armchair isolationism." I guess isolationism sitting down is even worse than isolationism standing up.

Intellectually, this is flabby reasoning that robs the word "isolationism" of any useful meaning.

True "isolationism" favors a full-spectrum withdrawal from interaction with other countries. There are very few true isolationists in the United States. Pat Buchanan can fairly be described as an isolationist, since he favors not only withdrawing from international military alliances but also protectionist tariffs and closing the door to immigration. Rand Paul, who favors free trade, cannot fairly be described as an isolationist.

Being skeptical about intervening in regional fights isn't the same as favoring withdrawing from engagement with the world. The increasing foreign policy divide in the United States, and within the Republican Party, isn't between isolationists and warmongers, although that would be the equivalent intellectually vacuous label for those who self-style themselves "internationalists."

In reality, there are three different levels of policy questions at issue.

The first is whether, in any particular situation, there are actionable U.S. national interests at stake. Those who favor bombing Syria believe that there are. The United States, they believe, needs to take action to deter the use of chemical weapons against us, weaken Iran's influence in the region, and make it more likely Iran will give up developing a nuke.


Opponents don't see an actionable national interest at stake in Syria. Bombing Syria, in their opinion (and I'm among them), won't deter terrorists a whit. Nor will state actors make the mistake of concluding that because we didn't retaliate against the use of chemical weapons on Syrians we wouldn't retaliate massively against their use on Americans.

Opponents don't believe bombing Syria will make Iran less likely to develop a nuke, nor see an American interest in trying to tip the balance in the Shia-Sunni regional power struggle going on.

The second level is the extent to which there is a generalized American interest in serving as the guarantor of world order and stability. The internationalists believe there is. Having influence is valuable and the United States should try to accumulate and assert as much of it as possible. Moreover, the United States benefits from world order and stability and there is no one else who can guarantee it.

Interventionist skeptics believe there are huge costs associated with getting involved in conflicts in which we don't have a direct stake and that the extent to which the United States is "indispensible" is often exaggerated. For example, Japan and South Korea have ample resources to defend against any threat posed by North Korea. But counterbalancing a rising China with uncertain regional ambitions and intent, perhaps not.

The third level is humanitarian and moral. Should the United States, which has the means to punish Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons, stand aside while he uses them? Many see a moral imperative to act. Interventionist skeptics question the extent to which national governments should function as international humanitarian enterprises and see a slippery slope in a world full of hurt and atrocities. Which atrocities do you punish or stop and which do you let pass?

These are difficult and important questions. But they are about how the United States interacts with the rest of the world, not whether we should interact.

U.S. foreign policy may be at a historical turning point. It tends to be much more interventionist than the American people are comfortable with. Generally, Americans believe in leaving other people alone except to try to sell them stuff, unless they threaten us directly.

The instinctive opposition of the American people to bombing Syria is forcing the internationalists to actually debate these questions rather than hiding behind the all-purpose and false charge of isolationism. And thus far, they aren't winning the argument.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Robert Robb is a columnist for The Arizona Republic. Comment by clicking here.

Robert Robb Archives

© 2013, The Arizona Republic

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles