December 13, 2016
The Unz Review
The Establishment and Realist foreign policy communities in the United States often seem separated by language which leads them to talk past each other. When a realist or Libertarian talks about non-intervention or restraint in foreign policy, as Ron Paul did in 2008 and 2012, the Establishment response is to denounce isolationism. As Dr. Paul noted during his campaigns, non-interventionism and isolationism have nothing to do with each other as a country that does not meddle in the affairs of others can nevertheless be accessible and open in dealing with other nations in many other ways. Non-interventionists are fond of quoting George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which he recommended that “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible… Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” Establishment pundits tend to dismiss that “little political connection” bit, preferring instead to warn how detachment from foreign politics might lead to the rise of a new Adolph Hitler.
I was reminded of the language barrier while reading the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force report, which appeared on November 30th. The report, which promises a new “Compact for the Middle East” while also asserting that “isolationism is a dangerous delusion,” might be regarded as a quintessential document laying out the Establishment position on what should be done in the region. It is ostensibly the product of two co-chairs, Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley, but it is also credited to an Executive Team headed by Executive Director Stephen Grand and Deputy Executive Director Jessica Ashooh, who in all probability were responsible for the actual drafting and editing.
The report also appears to have numerous high profile advisers who might or might not have had some hand in the final product. Running through the list of associates in the project which appears at the end of the report, one notes immediately that there is no individual or group identified that would contest the notion that the U.S. must have a leadership role in the Middle East. Indeed, many of those named derive considerable status from being part or supportive of America’s engagement in the region.