Andrew Bacevich is right when he argues that "isolationism" is a bogeyman used by the US foreign policy establishment to stigmatize criticism of American interventionism. Actual isolationism in the sense of the isolationists of the 1920s and 1930s is not advocated by either Republicans or Democrats - with a small but important exception. And the fact that some many liberals and progressives these days seem to be unfazed by the accusation of "isolationism" is a healthy thing. Well, mostly.
The Patriot Militia/John Birch Society crowd that operates at the overlap between the Republican Party and far-right fringe parties like the Constitution Party do advocate the kind of Old Right isolationism whose tradition runs from the anti-League of Nations crew after the First World War to the America Firsters of the early 1940s to Pearl Harbor conspiracists to the John Birch Society and to today's militia movement and Koch Brothers-type billionaire rightwingers.
And to the brand of Republicanism practiced by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and his song, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, aka Papa Doc and Baby Doc.
The Papa Doc brand of Bircher Old Right isolationism does have some appeal to otherwise left-leaning critics of current US interventionist foreign policy. I continue to think that's more of a sign of desperation than of nuanced political advocacy on the part of his admirers on the left.
You just cannot understand the brand of dogma that people like Papa Doc is pushing without realizing that Papa Doc is a hardcore, unrepentant Southern segregationist and Bircher conspiracist. Period. Full stop.
And, yes, I'm sure that Papa Doc's Christian heart is as pure as the driven snow. And that he's entirely innocent in advocating policies that are most at home among far right militia types and that is white racist, xenophobic, anti-democracy, bitterly anti-labor, opposed to any and all arms-control treaties and honest-to-God for real anti-Semitic. Did I also mention overflowing with absolute crackpot theories about "fiat money" and the North American Superhighway and the United Nations and more besides? It's not a matter of ad hominem dismissal of his ideas. It's that you just cannot understand his foreign policy worldview without understanding the Bircher conspiracist worldview of which they are an integral part.
Glenn Greenwald discusses Papa Doc's policies in Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies Salon 12/31/2011.
Glenn links to segment of The Young Turks that among other things mentions favorably a melodramatic anti-intervention ad from Papa Doc. Philip Weiss also praises the ad in The Ron Paul moment – bad and good Mondoweiss 12/22/2011, calling it a "genius video Paul just did opposing our occupation of foreign countries." It's called If China Attacks America (JUST IMAGINE) YouTube date 12/04/2011:
But I doubt very seriously that Papa Doc's Bircher/Patriot Militia base takes this as an ad about peace and love. They will process that business about a foreign military occupation in Texas in terms of black-helicopter fantasies about a secret Mexican army hiding in America ready to pounce at the signal of our Marxist Kenyan Islamunist America-hating President. (And it's really pretty cheesy on the face of it.) Remember, in the militia-movement fantasy-world, the federal government is an occupying force in Texas and other states. You know, the "Zionist occupied government" in Washington (headed by that Marxist Kenyan Islamunist America-hating President) that these folks are terrified of?
Glenn's pieces are always worth reading. But I just think he misses the boat on this whole Papa Doc business. I can certainly agree that we don't have to "see all political issues exclusively as a Manichean struggle between the Big Bad Democrats and Good Kind Republicans or vice-versa." But we should also see Papa Doc Paul for who he is.
I don't believe Papa Doc is someone who has a quirky mixture of progressive antiwar views, earnest civil liberties concerns and hardline rightwing attitudes on the economy, immigration, abortion and just about everything else under the sun. He has spent his career catering to a political underworld to whom all US foreign policy is part of a big Jew Commie plot. His position on civil liberties is that the federal government should do absolutely nothing whatsoever to remedy even the grossest violations of civil liberties by states and localities.
Glenn is very good about analyzing the often cynical and, yes, brutal nature of the Obama Administration. He is not so good at seeing the deep cynicism in the segregation, Old Right isolationist viewpoint Papa Doc has spent his entire political career right into 2012 promoting and supporting.
The bottom line on Papa Doc still is, he's a flaming rightwinger!
Matt Stoller, Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals Naked Capitalism 12/29/2011. To his credit, unlike many other commentators on the left, Matt digs into the neo-Confederate "libertarian" ideology that is a big part of Papa Doc's and his supporters' worldview. He also speaks from some personal experience working with Papa Doc's staff on Capitol Hill. And he plausibly suggests, "Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order."
Michael Tomasky, Democracy Journal, Ron Paul's America Spring 2008, reviewing Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism by Bill Kauffman (2008).
Tags: isolationism, old right, ron paul