OpEd by Council Executive Director, John Isaacs

It's time to retire 'isolationism'

The term is inaccurately used to describe the logic of those who oppose military intervention overseas.

Supporters of American military intervention abroad, most recently in Syria, like to falsely pigeonhole opponents of military strikes overseas as "isolationists."

War hawks, however, tend to ignore the bitter lessons drawn from the many less-than-successful interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

Bill Keller, writing in the New York Times, compared to the reaction on Syria to the pre-World War II period: "America is again in a deep isolationist mood."

The "isolationist" accusation is a convenient way to lump anti-war liberals with Tea Party conservatives. It allows those who support military action to paint their opponents as out of touch — burying their heads in the sand and clinging to a bygone era. As Harvard professor Stephen Walt has remarked, "Hawks like to portray opponents of military intervention as 'isolationist' because they know it is a discredited political label."

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