The United States has been at war for well over a decade now. Yet the recent debate over Syria evoked expressions of concern in Washington that Americans were once more turning their backs on the world.
Americans today debate possible new interventions, withdrawals, disputes over what does and does not constitute a "red line," and other applications of power abroad in light of enormous geopolitical changes and challenges. Let the debate consider the long history of cautious realism.
It's undeniable that we are facing a pivotal moment in our foreign policy -- a moment reminiscent of the post-World War II era, the Cold War "new world order," and the years following 9/11. But the only thing experts agree on is that we are facing this moment, not how to approach it.
America does not know the feeling of having countries, say, 90 minutes away from its border that often say things like America doesn't deserve to exist and brethren will unite to prove this! America does not know what is like to be attacked, routinely, by missiles.
A peculiar form of American isolationism has gripped our country. The rest of the world is fending off potentially disastrous immediate economic contagion, while we expend much of our national energy on social issues pretty much decided years ago.
Contrary to the false propaganda proclaiming that Dr. Ron Paul is "not electable", his numbers are rising, his support growing and he stands an excellent chance of winning both the GOP nomination and the 2012 presidential race.
With Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney heading up a desultory field of Republican patriots, all pretending they have a lock on American national pride, I'd like to say a few things as a professional American historian and biographer.
Should we exert force abroad for the national interest? (And how do we define national interest?) When and where should we use force for a humanitarian cause? Or should the U.S. withdraw from the international theater to focus on challenges at home?
American exceptionalism splinters, and does so quickly, when we move from serving as a shining example for others to follow, and instead turn toward enforcing our will and our way of life on the world.
Marked by a calculated estrangement from war's horrific realities and mercenary purposes, the new isolationism magically turns an historic term on its head, for it keeps usinwars, rather than out of them.
What's more dangerous: the thousands of nukes that will still target U.S. and Russian cities if the New START treaty is not ratified OR the opportunistic, Tea Party pandering politicians who would derail this commonsense agreement?
Whether intentional or accidental, President Obama's increasing isolationism will create a world no longer guided by a powerful, benign hand, but rather a world that is the target of malignant grabbing hands and pounding fists.