Elevating the fallacy of the false alternative to a foreign policy, John McCain and a few others believe Republicans who oppose U.S. intervention in Libya’s civil war — and who think a decade of warfare in Afghanistan is enough — are isolationists. This is less a thought than a flight from thinking, which involves making sensible distinctions.
Last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” McCain warned that the GOP has always had “an isolation strain.” He calls it “the Pat Buchanan wing,” which he contrasts with “the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people all over the world.” Rather a lot turns on the meaning of “stand up for.”
Between wishing success to people fighting for freedom and sending in the Marines (or the drones), there is as much middle ground for temperate people as there is between Buchanan, a sort of come-home-America conservative, and McCain, a promiscuous interventionist. When asked his response to those, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who say there was no vital U.S. interest at stake when the Libya intervention began, McCain said: “Our interests are our values” and “our values are that we don’t want people needlessly slaughtered by the thousands,” as Moammar Gaddafi seemed to threaten to do, “if we can prevent such activity.” Under the McCain Doctrine, America’s military would have just begun to fight, and would never stop.