McCain and Graham are honorable men, but they wildly overestimate their moral authority and the intellectual power of their arguments. The desire to end prematurely the mess in Libya -- or even in Afghanistan -- may be wrongheaded, ill-advised or shortsighted, but there's little evidence it stems from anything that could be meaningfully called isolationism or a resurgence of the "Pat Buchanan wing of the Republican Party," as McCain calls it.
Buchanan, by the way, left the party more than a decade ago, leaving behind not a wing but a feather.
If anything, it's McCain and Graham who are nurturing a rebirth of isolationism by going for the easy insult. Isolationism is an actual doctrine, with a rich and complicated intellectual history on the left and the right. It is not an adjective that can be accurately applied to anyone who disagrees with a specific course of action or who is simply weary of a decade of war. But, if wanting to be done with Libya and Afghanistan is now the measure of what isolationism means, then a lot of Americans are going to say, "Hey, that sounds pretty good to me."
The GOP's drift to non-interventionism might help Obama in 2012, as Graham and some conservative strategists believe, or it might not. But no matter who is pushing it, premature withdrawal spells disaster for the country and for Obama's legacy.
Of course, McCain and Graham wouldn't need to leap into the breach if Obama were doing his job. It would have been easy for him to seek authorization from Congress under the War Powers Act and win support from both parties.
Alas, he's in campaign mode now, convinced that talking about foreign policy and war is a political loser for him. He'd rather do nothing and keep his fingers crossed and hope for a lucky missile strike, creating a dangerous leadership vacuum at home and abroad in the process.
We refer to the straw that breaks the camel's back for a reason. We don't expect a straw to break a camel's back. You wouldn't expect Libya to break Washington's back either. But we could be heading in that direction.
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