Bill Keller presents a false and vicious dichotomy. Although he’s a bit sheepish about it, he’s ultimately arguing that, if we are to be engaged with the world, it must be at the point of a gun:
But can we dial down the fears and defeatist slogans of knee-jerk isolationism and conduct a serious discussion of our interests and our alternatives in Syria and the tumultuous region around it?
The event that ultimately swept the earlier isolationists off the board was, of course, Pearl Harbor. But even before the Japanese attack the public reluctance was gradually giving way, allowing the delivery of destroyers to the British, the Lend-Lease program, a precautionary weapons buildup and the beginning of military conscription.
One factor that moved public opinion toward intervention was the brazenness of Hitler’s menace; Americans who had never given a thought to the Sudetenland were stunned to see Nazis parading into Paris.
I see barely a smidgeon of isolationism in contemporary America. There are millions of Americans living and working overseas, we import a huge proportion of our consumer goods and a lot of our food from abroad, and we have a higher proportion of immigrants presently living in the United States than at at all but a very few times in our history.
Who is he, Hideki Tojo? Is the only form of engagement with the world military engagement? That’s militarism.
He’s calling for robust dialogue about our role in the world without recognizing that nobody’s arguing for complete disengagement from it. Even if we were to completely stop bombing and killing people overseas, we would remain tremendously far from isolationist. Think about what real isolationism would imply for a while.
Branding anyone who believes that a little less military intervention wouldn’t be such a bad thing an “isolationist” doesn’t promote dialogue. It’s an attempt at stifling it.