Friday, February 16, 2007

The New Isolationism

The DC Examiner makes a very worthwhile point in an editorial today:

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., currently the leading 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are making history this week by leading their party in Congress to the brink of endorsing a virulent New Isolationism. This New Isolationism imposes an impossible standard for deciding when America can legitimately use force overseas to protect its interests and establishes a cognitive dissonance as a benchmark for congressional oversight of foreign policy.

Clinton’s Senate speech on Wednesday mostly generated headlines about her warning to President Bush not to attack Iran without prior congressional approval. Given her name and status in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, however, the more important graph from that speech was this one:

“We have all learned lessons from the conflict in Iraq, and we have to apply those lessons to any allegations that are being raised about Iran. What we are hearing has too familiar a ring. And we must be on guard that we never again make decisions on the basis of intelligence that turns out to be faulty.”

Because the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction has since been proven “wrong,” Clinton’s new standard is that the United States must not in the future act except on intelligence that can never be proven wrong after the fact. The reality is that 99.99 percent of the time, the best intelligence is incomplete and thus imperfect. Presidents rarely have intelligence so clear-cut as photos of Soviet missiles amid the palm trees during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Either Clinton misstated her view with these words or she intends, if elected president, to pull America into an isolationist shell.
I would add two things: 1) Clinton's husband certainly relied on "intelligence that turns out to be faulty" when he bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in 1998. 2) Each political party seems to retreat into isolationism when it does not have control of the White House. Republicans were the party of isolation during the Clinton years.