The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Pfaff argues for "non-interventionism"

"Isolationist" is a term used derisively in American foreign policy circles, but one with which I increasingly identify. Non-Americans increasingly feel that way too: leave us the hell alone, America, they say. William Pfaff explores this argument in this NYRB piece:

It seems scarcely imaginable that the present administration could shift course away from the interventionist military and political policies of recent decades, let alone its own highly aggressive version of them since 2001, unless it were forced to do so by (eminently possible) disaster in the Middle East. Whether a new administration in two years' time might change direction seems the relevant question.

Yet little sign exists of a challenge in American foreign policy debates to the principles and assumptions of an international interventionism motivated by belief in a special national mission. The country might find itself with a new administration in 2009 which provides a less abrasive and more courteous version of the American pursuit of world hegemony, but one still condemned by the inherent impossibility of success.

The intellectual and material commitments made during the past half-century of American military, bureaucratic, and intellectual investment in global interventionism will be hard to reverse. The Washington political class remains largely convinced that the United States supplies the essential structure of international security, and that a withdrawal of American forces from their expanding network of overseas military bases, or disengagement from present American interventions into the affairs of many dozens of countries, would destabilize the international system and produce unacceptable consequences for American security. Why this should be so is rarely explained.
The rest of the article posits a non-interventionist policy I wish could be embraced -- and it took the Bush administration to make me realize that.