When America’s interests are threatened, it must act: Non-interventionism is not pacifism, and sometimes you have to hit back

The mainstream media is all atwitter this week about how the new breed of Republican doves is already turning back to their old hawkish ways in the face of new global threats. I’m not sure if this is a not-so-subtle attempt to paint non-interventionism as unsustainable, or if conventional wisdom is just that ignorant about what non-interventionism actually is.

So let’s set the record straight once and for all. Non-interventionism is not pacificism. When American interests are threatened or Americans are killed, non-interventionists are right to demand action, and that doesn’t make them no longer non-interventionists.

Robert Costa and Sebastian Payne at the Washington Post provide good reporting on a faulty premise in their “Rise of Islamic State tests GOP anti-interventionists.” Naturally, Hawk-in-Chief John McCain is using this piece to mock Rand Paul and others via subtweet.

But Costa and Payne (and of course McCain) miss the point. ISIS has killed two Americans in gruesome, barbaric, public fashion. They did so explicitly to declare war on the United States. Retaliating against them would not be hawkishness, it would not negate non-interventionism, and it would be right, just, and the only reasonable thing to do.

There may be some isolationists and pacifists who want so little American foreign action that they don’t care about justice for slain journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, but mainstream Republican candidates and politicians are not among them. Once Americans start dying, the rules of the game change, not the players.

The WaPo piece also mentions increasing dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s soft approach to Russia’s incursions in Ukraine as evidence of waning non-interventionism. Except I haven’t seen anyone, except maybe the usual McCain-Graham drum corps, call for military action against Russia.

There may be arguments for and against them, but sanctions and other diplomatic repercussions for Putin’s expansionism are still debated in non-interventionism circles. In fact, you could argue that diminishing diplomatic relations with Moscow is more “isolationist” than hawkish, since it’s by definition isolating us from them.

Also mentioned in defense of the resurgent Republican hawkishness are Senate candidates like Tom Cotton and Scott Brown who are military veterans and explicitly interventionist. Yes, there are still hawks in the party. They’re probably even the majority of elected or campaigning officials. That doesn’t mean the ones who aren’t no longer exist.

This is a new and hopefully long term struggle within the party. There are going to be hawks, and there are going to be doves. Campaigns, arguments, and even electoral victories by either one doesn’t signal the end of the other…until the primary in 2016. If we then have an open and honest debate between the Rand Pauls and the Marco Rubios, and one claims the standard for the party, then we’ll have a better idea of what Republicans really want to be.


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