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?

isolationism
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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The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility.

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