ENCORE: Liberal Isolationism

North Korea’s launch of a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile Saturday night was not to put a “commercial” satellite in orbit. The idea that the Stone-Age communist nation would do anything commercial is oxymoronic. And the missile’s payload didn’t go into orbit: it flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific.

The North Korean launch was another test in its pursuit of military power, a fitting end to a week in which the Obama administration relentlessly pursued the doctrine of liberal isolationism.

Liberal isolationism was invented by Franklin Roosevelt, who took no action to prevent Hitler’s rise. It was further developed by Bill Clinton and, incomprehensibly, perfected by George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice. Clinton negotiated the “Agreed Framework” with North Korea, in which it promised to end development of nuclear weapons in return for U.S. aid. When it became obvious that North Korea had taken the aid and continued its nuclear program, the Clinton administration tut-tutted that the North Korean regime would become more isolated from the “world community.”

Bush and Rice continued negotiating with North Korea in the six-party talks, arranged so that China could sit behind North Korea pretending to pressure it to renounce nuclear weapons and missile proliferation. More “isolation” was threatened against Pyongyang.

They applied the same concept to Iran: its decades-long pursuit of nuclear weapons was often criticized, but no real action was taken to stop it — only more words about how Iran should fear greater isolation from the world community. By the time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to an adoring crowd at Columbia University, Iran’s isolation was so complete it could have purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Liberal isolationism shares two things with its conservative counterpart: it isolates America, not its enemies. And it cannot withstand the tests reality imposes.

Barack Obama is now taking the doctrine to its logical conclusion. The president has focused American power inward, taking the reins of the automakers as well as the financial industry. Just as it fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner from his post and told Chrysler it had to merge with Fiat, the Obama administration has told banks bailed out in the “TARP” program that they cannot return the monies they received to free themselves of government control.

Two weeks ago, a Republican senator told me of a large bank in his state that had recovered sufficiently to offer repayment of bailout money to the Treasury Department. And when it tried, the Treasury Department refused the repayment. President Obama is determined to retain and increase his control over the American economy. And apparently just as determined to shrink American influence abroad.

The North Korean launch was accomplished despite the Obama administration’s threats of “strong response” through the U.N. Strong responses by the U.N. are as farcical a concept as “commercial” activities by the North Koreans. There will be no effective UN action against North Korea: China and Russia will prevent that.

Isolation from the world community is America’s, not our enemies.’ There is no “community of nations”: such a community would share values and goals. Of the world’s nations, only a very few share America’s values and goals, and the vast majority share nothing except dreams of military and economic power over each other.

In Europe last week, Obama met with many of the leaders of the G-20 nations, including Russian President Dimitri Medvedev as well as our putative NATO allies. Obama’s approach was neo-Clintonian. He criticized American attitudes toward Europe, saying we had shown arrogance and had been both dismissive and derisive at times. Responding to that, the G-20 nations (fortunately for them) refused Obama’s entreaties for more “stimulus” spending by their governments.

Rebuffing Obama’s insistence that they take over their economies as he is taking over ours, the NATO nations also refused Obama’s request for more troops for Afghanistan. Our war against the Taliban and al-Queda there is isolated: it’s our war, not Europe’s, as they are willing to appease the same threat by ignoring it.

In meetings with Medvedev, Obama reportedly offered to recommence arms limitation talks. His goal is to reduce both nations’ nuclear arsenals and to control “loose nukes”, i.e., those not under the control of the nuclear powers.

But at the same time, Obama sent the message that our proposed missile defense system for Europe is on the table. The Russians are as opposed to it as they are to our homeland missile defenses, and Obama is apparently willing to delay or end both efforts to gain nuclear disarmament. Yesterday, presidential advisor David Axelrod said that Obama will support domestic missile defense only if it is “necessary, cost effective, and if it works.” Instead of a military threat against Iran, Axelrod said a “better answer” would be to “pressure Iran to stand down.”

The Financial Times reports that the Obama administration’s review of our policy toward Iran is considering whether we should accept Iran as a nuclear-armed nation given our inability to talk them out of their nuclear ambition.

But a nuclear-armed Iran is not the same as a nuclear-armed Britain or even a nuclear-armed Russia. Iran is center of Islamic terrorism in the world, its principal perpetrator and sponsor. Its deployment of nuclear weapons is vastly more dangerous to us and all our allies than even a nuclear-armed al-Queda.

The only economic sanction that could affect Iran is to end the sale to it of gasoline and other refined oil products. Europe is the principal seller, and the Europeans have, for years, refused to end the sales. Once again, it is America — not Iran — that is strategically isolated.
Obama is pursuing a determined course of imposing government on our economy and appeasing the threats posed by nations such as Iran. Republicans — to their credit — have begun to take Obama on directly on his economic takeover, but they need to do more. And they need to do the same on his foreign policy.

Obama’s interference in our economy goes farther than Franklin Roosevelt’s. It needs to be reversed. On the economy, Republicans need to craft an agenda as aggressive as Obama’s to the opposite end. There should be a detailed legislative plan to withdraw the government’s interference, a business work-out of sorts.

On Obama’s isolationism, Republicans need to be equally outspoken and present an equally detailed plan to bar Iran’s nuclear ambitions, contain North Korea, and defend America from the missile threat.

In the first volume of his history of World War II, Churchill wrote the first paragraph for the plan Republicans must craft. Writing of the years 1931-1935, in which America endured the Great Depression while ignoring Hitler’s rise,Churchill said:

It is difficult to find a parallel to the unwisdom of the British and weakness of the French Governments, who none the less reflected the opinions of their Parliaments in this disastrous period. Nor can the United States escape the censure of history. Absorbed in their own affairs and all the abounding interests, activities and accidents of a free community, they simply gaped at the vast changes which were taking place in Europe, and imagined they were no concern of theirs.

Obama’s unwisdom is the equal of that of France, Britain and the United States in the early 1930s. Churchill’s are words to live — or die — by.


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