Is this just hypocrisy? Politicians change their position on military intervention when their own party controls the White House?
Historian Thaddeus Russell says it's not. He says it's always been "progressive" Democrats who led America into war: Woodrow Wilson in World War I, FDR in World War II, Truman in the Korean War, Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam and Bill Clinton in Somalia and Kosovo.
Russell says the progressives like "nation-building" because it fits their view that government can reform the world "not just in the ghettos, but outside our borders. Anywhere we find the oppressed, we must go out and save them."
Of course there are the neoconservatives, such as William Kristol, who were pro-war under both Bush and Obama.
"The so-called neocons who drove us to war in Iraq actually all began in the Democratic Party. They all began as progressives," says Russell. "They supported intervention in Iraq to remake Iraq in our image, and they support intervention in Syria to do the same."
Both neocons and progressives call those of us who oppose most intervention overseas "isolationist."
A Wall Street Journal column complained about "the isolationist worm eating its way through the Republican Party apple." On the left, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, "This is not the time for armchair isolationism."
I resent the smear.
"Isolationist" suggests that anyone who objects to killing people in foreign countries (mostly people who have never attacked us) wants to "isolate" America, withdraw from the world.
Before World War II, American?isolationists did fight to prevent refugees who were escaping Hitler from coming to America. Isolationists also opposed trade and immigration. That's nuts. We libertarians who are skeptical about war today are nothing like that.
I want to be engaged with the world without us being in charge of it. Let us trade with people of every nation. It's said that when goods cross borders, armies don't. History backs that up. A report funded by several governments found that the level of armed conflict in Muslim countries is lower today than two decades ago, and trade is the reason. You're less likely to bomb the people with whom you engage in commerce.
Preferring trade to government action may not sound "progressive" to progressives, but it's not a surrender to evil or a withdrawal from global affairs. As we trade goods, we also export our ideas and our culture.