Jonah Goldberg

Maybe everyone is misreading America's views on foreign policy?

Among Republicans, there's a big argument between the so-called isolationist wing of the party and the ostensibly interventionist wing. On the left, there's a similar debate (though liberals are never described as isolationists no matter how isolationist they might be). Among Democrats, the dividing lines are murkier if for no other reason than the Democratic Party takes its lead from President Obama, and his own views are murky, to put it charitably.

The biggest boon to the anti-interventionists is the simple political reality that Americans just don't want to intervene in Syria. They also want to get out of Afghanistan. They don't seem to care much that Iraq is slowly sliding back into chaos. The footage out of Egypt may be horrific, but I would be surprised by any groundswell of sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some commentators paint all of this as part of a general isolationist or inward-looking attitude on the part of the American people. And lord knows that after so much American blood and treasure has been spilt since 9/11, nearly everyone is war-weary.

But there's a simpler reason for American reluctance to intervene in the Middle East that plays a much bigger role in peoples' attitudes about foreign policy. It can be summed up with the words "to hell with them."

I borrow the phrase from my National Review colleague Rich Lowry. In 2006, as even the rosiest scenarios in Iraq turned gray, Lowry wrote an essay on how the Bush administration was losing the support of the "to hell with them" hawks. These were, in Lowry's words, "conservatives who are comfortable using force abroad, but have little patience for a deep entanglement with the Muslim world, which they consider unredeemable, or at least not worth the strenuous effort of trying to redeem."

Recall that this was the time when the Palestinians held an election in Gaza and proceeded to elect a repugnant terror organization, Hamas, as their dictators. President Bush routinely responded to every fresh atrocity by insisting "Islam means peace" until it became a punch line.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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