Broadly speaking there have been two isolationist trends in American politics. The isolationist on the Right disdain foreign involvements because they do not think it is wise or appropriate to squander American blood and treasure on non-Americans. Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul are the two most prominent proponents of such isolationism today. They are relatively marginal figures on the Right and have little influence in American politics. The isolationism on the Left has a different provenance and much greater influence on American policy since the Vietnam war. For the Left, American influence (and the West, in general) has historically been seen as insidious and invidious; America has been, to this way of thinking, more often a force for evil in the world rather than a force for good.
President Obama came of age politically in a milieu steeped in Academic Leftism, fully endowed with the philosophical belief that America has been an evil empire. The Left has traditionally ignored or mitigated the evil of non-Americans (going back to the New York Times hagiography of Joseph Stalin, for which William Duranty "earned" a Pulitzer Prize.)
There is another important trend line in Academic Leftism that also informs current events, that is a distaste and mistrust of action versus contemplation. For the American and European Leftist, action by and for our interests is inherently unworthy. Occasional action, when forced to ti in extremis, can be justified when it is quick and painless. This kind of approach was prominent among the Democrats in the run-up to the Iraq War when they voted overwhelmingly to authorize an invasion for fear of appearing weak and feckless but turned on the endeavor when the struggle bogged down and disaster threatened.
History is repeating itself in the Middle East. We have a President who is lagging behind events, nearly paralyzed by his inability to lead and his antipathy for taking steps that might force him into taking action. At the same time, the usual suspects are preparing the grounds for the triumph of tyrants who are overtly anti-democratic and anti-American.
First, Elliot Abrams on Obama's Pathetic Response to Libya:
This [the President's comment on Libya] is not so much a feeble response as a non-response. It is an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days—five more days of likely slaughter. The verbs the president employed in his remarks are toothless: we will “monitor” and “coordinate” and “consult.” We will “speak with one voice.” While he “strongly” condemned “the use of violence in Libya” the president could not bring himself to condemn the regime or its leader, the man who is imposing this reign of terror. He did say “the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.” But at what cost? He did not say. The closest the president came to speaking of action was this: “I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.” No one knows what this means, but it presumably may mean sanctions. Maybe. Next week. Because "prepare" is not an action verb either.
The administration has followed its near silence over Iran in June 2009 and its wavering on Egypt last month with days of silence on Libya. Finally the president has spoken and said next to nothing. For a superpower this is an embarrassment. Belgium and Luxembourg can consult and coordinate and monitor; can we do no more? How about sending Stuart Levey (leaving Treasury soon but still there) off to get freezes on all Qaddafi family assets? Instead of sending Hillary Clinton to the Human Rights Council, how about sending the Marine commandant or the chief of staff of the Air Force to NATO headquarters? Perhaps that message would be a bit more likely to capture Qaddafi's attention. How about demanding indictments of Qaddafi for war crimes right now?
Second, the New York Times, with its finger nowhere near the pulse of events int he Middle East, prepare to treat a modern evil with the same diffidence with which it has treated past evils, from Hitler to Stalin to Mao:
The Western media continues to portray the Muslim Brotherhood--without citing any actual evidence and ignoring everything said or written by its leaders in Arabic--as moderate and full of diverse factions.
But what does it mean when Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most important Islamist cleric in the world and of the Muslim Brotherhood, says, "The revolution is not over yet." He means that, like the Russian revolution of 1917, Egypt should have a two-stage revolution: first, the overthrow of the dictatorship and the development of democracy; second, the revolution to implant an Islamist state. Between one and two million Egyptians listened to that speech and cheered.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a moderate; he is not a democrat; he is an Islamist Nazi who is the most influential cleric in Egypt (and among the most important in Sunni Islam) and is the leader of a group which is indistinguishable from the Nazis in its genocidal desires. The New York Times and much of the MSM have not noticed.
When so many of the policy prescriptions proposed by the Left cause misery and pain, it is tempting to look for a Psychological explanation. Moral Masochism was proposed by Freud as an explanation for negative therapeutic responses: [My additions in brackets and italics.]
Moral masochism is seeking unpleasure without being aware of the masochistic sexual satisfaction thus obtained because of unconscious feelings of guilt.
[The connection to masochistic sexual satisfaction deserves explication. All of our impulses, fantasies, wishes, etc ultimately stem from very primitive sexual and aggressive drives derivatives. The connection posited by Freud for Moral Masochism back to sexual masochism can be attenuated and of minimal importance in many people.]
Freud used the term moral in The Ego and the Id (1923b), where he linked negative therapeutic reactions to a "what may be called a moral factor" (p. 49), an unconscious sense of guilt and its satisfaction by means of punishment and suffering.
In "The Economic Problem of Masochism" (1924c), Freud described moral masochism as the third form of masochism, alongside feminine masochism and erotogenic masochism. In moral masochism the connection to an external object comes undone: "The suffering itself is what matters; whether it is decreed by someone who is loved or by someone who is indifferent is of no importance. It may even be caused by impersonal powers or circumstances; the true masochist always turns his cheek whenever he has a chance of receiving a blow" (p. 165).
[Freud's limitation in understanding Narcissism and its vicissitudes, especially in its societal reflection in Honor-Shame dynamics, left his theories one-sided; his concentration on libidinal explanations, sometimes rather tortured explanations, have been superseded in many areas. Masochism, self harm gratifying unconscious desires, is often related to deeply buried unconscious sado-masochistic sexual fantasies, but for may not be the only or most important dynamic in particular people or societies.]
Unconscious guilt feelings are thus assuaged. This is at once one of the greatest benefits of neurotic suffering and the source of negative reactions to therapy. Freud made the valuable observation that the notion of a need for punishment applies only to patients whose sense of guilt remains unconscious. The ego's masochism in fact stems from the cruel superego, which, at its formation, assumed the mantle of the introjected parents. "The dark power of Destiny" (p. 168) is the final figure in this series of authorities that begins with the parents, and it remains their unconscious representative. Whereas self-punishment by the cruel superego is consciously perceived, this is not the case with masochism of the ego.
... Arising from instinctual fusion and libidinal satisfaction, moral masochism comes from a death drive that has not been diverted outward, and for this reason is dangerous.
For the Left, there are a number of additional steps that must be understood before their anti-Americanism can be fully grasped. The guilt must be generalized; in other words, the Leftist does not see his guilt as emerging in part from his personal relationships, especially to his early objects (parents, siblings); rather his guilt is an intellectual construct arrived at by studying Western Civilization's perfidy over the centuries. Next, the guilt must be externalized. He is not the guilty party; only those who support America's past, traditional American values, believers in American exceptionalism, have become imbued with American guilt. Finally the Masochism is inverted and turned into a sadistic attack on those upon whom the guilt has been projected. For the Left, they are in no way responsible for the evils of America (genocide of Indians, racism, various other isms that are imagined to only exist in America and Europe); it is the Capitalists/Republicans/Whites (pick your scapegoat) who are responsible for all the evils of our history and our present. The results would be amusing if the world were a more forgiving place. For example, President Obama has been so committed to being "not George W. Bush" that he has made himself into a caricature of an Academic Leftist in over his head in the White House.
Thus we see the Left, once proudly proclaiming their support for freedom against tyranny, remaining nearly silent while mercenaries hired with Libyan oil money shoot unarmed protesters and truly evil, anti-democratic forces of Islamic Nazism, plot to gain power in the Middle East. If the Muslim Brotherhood gains power in Egypt, all those who the Left so loudly support, Gays, women, minorities, will be forced under the yoke of totalitarian Islam, with America's silent complicity:
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever