WSJ's Stephens: GOP Should Avoid Trap of Isolationism

Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 04:24 PM

By Dan Weil

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As Congress considers whether to back an attack on Syria, there is a segment of the Republican Party turning toward isolationism, says Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens. That's the wrong way to go, he writes.

"Most Republicans don't want to become, again, the party of isolationists. Not consciously at any rate. Nearly all of them profess fidelity to a strong military, to Israel's security, to stopping Iran's march to a bomb."

And opposition to President Barack Obama's plan for assaulting Syria doesn't necessarily amount to isolationism, Stephens says.

"Yet the Syria debate is also exposing the isolationist worm eating its way through the GOP apple," he states. And he offers the quotes of several leading Republican congressmen as proof.

"The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States and victory by either side will not necessarily bring into power people friendly to the United States," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

"I believe the situation in Syria is not an imminent threat to American national security, and therefore I do not support military intervention," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

"When the United States is not under attack, the American people, through our elected representatives, must decide whether we go to war," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

"Such faux-constitutional assertions — based on the notion that only direct attacks to the homeland constitute an actionable threat to national security — would have astonished Ronald Reagan, who invaded Grenada in 1983 without consulting a single member of Congress," Stephens states.

Then there's the argument that we need to focus on the home-front. "When Barack Obama claims, dishonestly, that the cost of foreign wars is guilty of 'helping to explode our deficits and constraining our ability to nation-build here at home,' he is sounding this theme," Stephens says.

"So is Mr. Paul when he demagogues against foreign aid by insisting that 'while we are trying in vain to nation build across the globe, our nation is crumbling here at home.'"

Deficits are mushrooming thanks to entitlement spending, not military outlays or foreign aid, Stephens says.

"Republicans should know, too, that investing in global order deters more dangerous would-be aggressors and creates a world congenial to American trade, security and values," he writes. "One cost-effective way of doing that is making an example of a thug who flouts U.S. warnings and civilized conventions."

Paul's views make him "yesterday's man," Stephens says. "Republicans follow him at their peril."

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