Advocates of a noninterventionist foreign policy and the restoration of civil liberties in America haven’t had a reason to be optimistic in the past decade or so – but that is rapidly changing.
On the foreign policy front, non-interventionism hasn’t had many champions in American politics. Indeed, during the darkest days of the post-9/11 era, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a single influential politician willing to take up the banner of peace. The debate over the Iraq war was mainly between the unilateralists, usually Republicans, and multilateralists, Democrats for the most part: the question wasn’t whether we ought to intervene, but how we ought to do so.
That has changed, and it has changed not only because the country is sick and tired of perpetual war but also because of a sea-change within the Republican party, formerly the political bastion of that troublesome little sect of warmongers known as the neoconservatives. During the Bush era there was hardly a peep of protest within the GOP over our recklessly aggressive foreign policy: today there is a growing contingent of congressional Republicans who can be relied on to vocally oppose the wide-ranging interventionism of the Obama administration – and the unrepentant militarism of the administration’s Republican critics who claim the President isn’t aggressive enough. And the star of this rising anti-interventionist movement on the center-right is undoubtedly Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
The conventional wisdom about Senator Paul is that “he’s not his father,” i.e. he’s not as radically critical of US foreign policy as former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. This observation is usually made with the smug self-assurance of those who assume that anyone who wants to succeed in American politics must curtail his or her more “radical” views and especially keep a low profile when it comes to critiquing the Empire.
That isn’t true anymore, although the DC-centric pundits act as if nothing’s changed. For the first time in memory the majority of Americans believe the best foreign policy is the one that minds our own business. Nearly fifteen years of constant foreign adventurism has taught ordinary people a few basic lessons, although these seem to have eluded the Deep Thinkers of DC.
During the Vietnam era, Joe Sixpack was portrayed as an unmitigated war-lover whose first response to any ginned-up overseas “crisis” was to call in the 82nd Airborne. No longer: today Joe (and Jane) are much more likely to dismiss panicked calls for military intervention as the clucking of chickenhawks looking for wars other people’s kids will fight. And now they have a voice.