These days are troubled for anti-interventionists and multi-lateralists. Virtually all of their nostrums have proven false.
We can woo powers by economic engagement? That didn’t work with Russia. We let Russia into the World Trade Organization, and Europe’s economy is more intertwined than ever with Russia’s. That, it seems, has made it harder, not easier, to check Russian aggression.
Not antagonizing (“tweaking” in Sen. Rand Paul’s words) Vladimir Putin? To the contrary, he’s shown he believes he has nothing to fear from the administration. His brazen occupation of Crimea, fomenting of civil war and support for the separatists who killed nearly 300 innocents (and then concealed and lied about their conduct) revealed — for those who doubted — precisely why it would have been useful to act sooner and more firmly with him.
No “dog in the fight in Iraq”? Not even the administration doubts that the emergence of an Islamic State-controlled territory is a direct threat to the United States. Moreover (and this should concern Sen. Paul, who was so concerned about Christians he was willing to make excuses for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) Christians are now in jeopardy:
They have been given a choice either to convert to Islam or flee. They were warned before a weekend deadline that if they remained and didn’t convert, they would be killed. Thousands — often entire families — have had to leave the city with nothing more than their clothes as militants robbed them of money or jewelry. Crosses have been destroyed across the city.
That such violent bigotry in the name of religion can exist in the 21st century is hard for many in the Christian world to believe, but that is part of the West’s problem. Jews know all too well that anti-Semitism can inspire murderous behavior. But Christians or post-Christian secularists who are content in their modern prosperity often prefer to turn their heads or blame all religions as equally intolerant.
Innocent Christians — and people of diverse religions in Syria — bear the brunt of U.S. reticence. It’s pure fantasy to think that simply cutting aid to this country and is sufficient to protect the world’s oppressed people and U.S. interests.
Liberal fans of “smart diplomacy” and engagement with tyrants without sufficient leverage — favored by isolationists and “realists” (hardly) in the Democratic camp — have in the real world been a loser. “Give time” for diplomacy with Iran? The mullahs have used the time to recover economically, move forward with weapons delivery systems and conduct advanced centrifuge research. This administration, for more than five years (and in fairness the Bush administration before that), has “engaged” Iran. The result is a revolutionary Islamist state on the verge of nuclear breakout and that is more aggressive than ever in using terrorism as an instrument of state craft. Talking didn’t end the Syria conflict, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s endless obsession with the “peace process” did no good whatsoever and wasted precious capital.
Russia is especially illuminating. There are few people who have been wrong about Russia as Hillary Clinton. She was the champion of the Russian reset. She repeatedly went to Russia looking for help with Syria’s civil war (the naivete is stunning). She championed START, with which the Russians may not be complying, and admission of Russia into WTO. (She was still cheerleading about that in 2012.) Also as late as April 2012, she was insisting Mitt Romney was delusional about Russia, insisting, “In many of the areas where we are working to solve problems, Russia has been an ally.” At the State Department she opposed the Magnitsky Act until its passage was inevitable. All of this was entirely misguided — with the results playing out to this day. Along with prematurely celebrating the decline of al-Qaeda (and taking her eye off the ball in North Africa and elsewhere) her wrong-headedness about Russia was expressed in too many places in too many contexts to entirely extricate her from responsibility for the fiasco that is/was our Russia policy. She can rewrite just so much history. (In her infamous 60 Minutes softball interview with the president she cooed, “I mean [our relationship is] very warm, close. I think there’s a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn’t even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences that I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some, but has been really at the core of our relationship over the last four years.”)
In short, American retrenchment begets terror, violence, persecution and instability. Why in the world would we ever trust its exponents again?