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I just looked up the word in a big Webster’s Dictionary, and it says, “The policy followed by isolationists.” Now, that being not very helpful, I went to “isolation.” It tells me that there are those people who want nothing to do with anybody outside their own territorial boundaries. It doesn’t say what the territorial boundaries might be: the city limits of Hillsdale, Michigan, perhaps?

Robert Taft

A good friend of mine asked me a couple of years ago, “How isolationist should we be?” I replied, “As much as we can be.” The term “isolationism” was invented by New Dealers who were trying to discredit the political opponents of FDR by giving them the rhetorical equivalent of a head in the sand. In fact, there has never been an organized isolationist party in the history of the United States. When FDR got his attack from the Japanese he set several government agencies on his opponents, searching their tax records and their phone logs, defaming them in every possible way (I have seen the sources, and would gladly give citations), and went about not only defeating a scurrilous enemy but creating an empire. Those who were left behind, like Robert Taft, became “isolationists.”

The men who wrote our Constitution knew pretty well that imperial longings destroy republics. John Dickinson wrote in his Letters of Fabius that there are two things most likely to destroy republics: the imitation of foreign fashions, and, above all, “the thirst of empire. This is a vice, that ever has been, and from the nature of things, ever must be, fatal to republican forms of government.”

It doesn’t take much to see how we are extending the empire in the Middle East. Just Google “American embassy in Baghdad” and look at the largest “embassy” complex ever built in any country by any country in the history of the human race and think about its implications. The New Deal has been extended to Iraq; does it matter if we have “combat” troops in residence?

The dirtiest of all the dirty little secrets about our Middle East policy is that we have been complicit in destroying Christianity there for about fifty years. Iraq was a good historic place for the faith; we have aided and abetted the slaughter and displacement of Christians from Egypt to Syria to Iran, but especially in Iraq. Christianity will probably not come back from this holocaust for a couple of generations. Post-Saddam dismemberments of Christian bishops is practically a weekly happening. 700,000 or so Christians have had to leave their homes. Have you heard one Israeli or one neocon or one Democrat or one Republican say a word about this?

So, do I accept the dirty word, “isolationist?” You bet I do.

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5 replies to this post
  1. Ah! Sweet reason and a dram of Gen. Geo. Washington from John Willson. I have nothing of substance to add to this fine and concise post. But on the lighter side, everyone please read (or reread) Chesterton's Napoleon of Notting Hill, a tale inspiring and humorous in equal measure. Written in 1904 and set in 1984 (scooping Orwell), the world has grown so 'democratic' that the King of England is chosen by lottery. A series of mishaps awakens medieval ideas in a young lad who grows up to fight developers and plutocrats for the integrity of his community, Notting Hill, resulting in the break-up of London into (imagined) medieval boroughs. It is not about isolationism but more about its possible consequences. Were someone to update and film it, John Willson might play himself as the squires, yeomen and vassals of Hillsdale County opt to go it alone. This was the first Chesterton I ever read, recommended by Dr Kirk, devoured before the log fire in his Mecosta library while he hammered out a newspaper column on his clattering electric typewriter late one snowy, winter's night. Sheer bliss. Later still, we trudged up to Piety Hill through the falling snow, drank strong coffee, and when he went to bed I stayed up until dawn, glued to that book.

    Worse yet, as I re-read John's thread a tune kept running through my head, recalled from the early 60s – 'Come on, baby, do the Isolation!' Is Little Eva still alive?

    Stephen Masty

  2. Here's an addition, suggested by a good old friend:

    Istanbul was Constantinople
    Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night.

    Every gal in Constantinople
    Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
    So if you've a date in Constantinople
    She'll be waiting in Istanbul!

    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
    Why they changed I can't say
    People just liked it better that way.

    So take me back to Constantinople
    No you can't go back to Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Turks

    Istanbul (Istanbul)
    Istanbul (Istanbul)

    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Turks.

    This is a shortened version, but you get the idea. It's the perfect swing era foreign policy song.

  3. John, this song was re-done by "They Might Be Giants" when I was in college. Love it. Though I think I would've been on Constantinople's side. God willing. . .

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