False Choice Between Hawkishness and Isolationism

by Mike on March 6, 2014

in Election 2016,International Relations,Media

Don’t get me wrong — this is not the worst case of the oversimplification of our political process out there, but today’s piece in the National Journal on Rand Paul and Marco Rubio is an excellent example of what I recently labeled as the silliness dominating our discourse.  One of the tricks media outlets, and not just liberal ones, have used for decades is to create conflict where none may exist just for the sake of creating conflict.

In this example, the National Journal pits the “isolationism” of Rand Paul against the “hawkishness” of Marco Rubio as one of the potential battle lines in 2016.  The evidence used to back up this assertion is this analysis of Rubio’s (supposedly hawkish) comments in the crisis in Ukraine:

[Rubio] wrote an op-ed for Politico suggesting ways to “punish Russia.” On Meet the Press, Rubio called Russia “an enemy of the United States” and labeled Vladimir Putin’s regime “a government of liars.”

That’s awfully hawkish for someone who doesn’t like labels.

Immediately followed by this analysis of Rand Paul’s (supposedly “isolationist”) reaction:

Paul was considerably less animated in responding to Russian aggression. He issued a placid statement suggesting that Russian leaders “should think long and hard” about their actions.

The problem with this purported conflict is that there may not be one.  Paul’s approach to foreign policy probably is more inward-looking than Rubio’s, but neither label really seems to fit.  With two fronts in a global war on terror dominating 2000s, what’s remarkable is that neither man is calling for military intervention, as many may have done just ten years ago.  In the case of Paul, the term “isolationism” really isn’t fair either given his statements about open borders and global free trade.

Stories about conflict attract more news consumers than stories about ideas.  That has always been true, but it seems even more so recently.  The National Journal is right that Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have different approaches to foreign policy, but “hawk” and “isolationist” are overstated and oversimplified.  To use one of President Obama’s overused phrases, the choice between a hawkish Rubio and an isolationist Paul is a false choice.

*To be fair to National Journal, this article was a more interesting post than those merely asserting the “A Pwns B.”

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