Tony Blankley

And in 1956, for example, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and our great allies Britain and France, along with Israel, invaded Egypt to retake the canal, Eisenhower firmly opposed that war (and ruthlessly forced our NATO allies to remove their troops).

Pointedly, however, he did send the word out that if the Soviets intervened, he would order American military intervention. (And decades before the War Powers Act was enacted, President Eisenhower -- out of respect for the legislative branch -- asked for and gained the approval of Congress to have authority to start a war in the Middle East if the Soviets came in first. The Soviets never did. That is an example of prudent and principled American internationalism.)

However, Rep. Ron Paul is part of the isolationist tradition and, as a result, has no chance of being nominated by the GOP primary electorate. Even Pat Buchanan correctly does not claim to be an isolationist. During the Cold War, he was a great champion of effective American internationalism. After the fall of Soviet communism, he judged that the threat was less -- and so also should be our engagement. That is not isolationism; it is merely differently judging the utility of American intervention.

So, too, regarding Afghanistan and Libya, one may oppose those current efforts and not be isolationist. I supported both the Afghan and Iraq wars (as did Gingrich, Romney and most other GOP candidates) as needed responses to the rising threat from radical Islam after Sept. 11. I continue to support the still-likely winning effort in Iraq (and have written on that in this space recently).

But almost two years ago, I was one of the first GOP internationalist-oriented commentators or politicians to conclude that the Afghanistan War effort had served its initial purpose and that it was time to phase out the war. As a punitive raid against the regime that gave succor to Osama bin Laden, we had removed the Taliban government and killed as many al-Qaida and Taliban fighters as possible. (See about a dozen of my columns on Afghanistan War policy in the 2009-10 archives.)

But as the purpose of that war turned into nation building, even GOP internationalists had a duty to reassess whether, given the resources and strategy being brought to the new purpose, such policy was likely to be effective.

Now many others in the GOP and in the non-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party are likewise judging failure in Afghanistan to be almost inevitable. That is not a judgment driven by isolationism. Neither are we isolationist in our judgment (along with the opinion of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and almost the entire uniformed chain of command) that we see no national interest in Libya.

This is not isolationism; it is a rational effort at judging how best to advance American values and interests in an ever-more witheringly dangerous world. The charge of isolationism should be reserved for the genuine article. Such name-calling advances neither rational debate nor national interest.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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