"Isolationists must not prevail in this new debate over foreign policy," warns Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "The consequences of a lasting American retreat from the world would be dire."
To make his case against the "Isolationist Temptation," Haass creates a caricature, a cartoon, of America First patriots, then thunders that we cannot become "a giant gated community."
Understandably, Haass is upset. For the CFR has lost the country.
Why? It colluded in the blunders that have bled and near bankrupted America and that cost this country its unrivaled global preeminence at the end of the Cold War.
No, it was not "isolationists" who failed America. None came near to power. The guilty parties are the CFR crowd and their neocon collaborators, and liberal interventionists who set off to play empire after the Cold War and create a New World Order with themselves as Masters of the Universe.
Consider just a few of the decisions taken in those years that most Americans wish we could take back.
After the Soviet Union withdrew the Red Army from Europe and split into 15 nations, and Russia held out its hand to us, we slapped it away and rolled NATO right up onto her front porch. Enraged Russians turned to a man who would restore respect for their country. Did we think they would just sit there and take it?
How did bringing Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into NATO make America stronger, safer and more secure? For it has surely moved us closer to a military clash with a nuclear power.
In 2014, with John McCain and U.S. diplomats cheering them on, mobs in Independence Square overthrew a pro-Russian government in Kiev that had been democratically elected and installed a pro-NATO regime. Putin's response: Secure Russia's naval base at Sevastopol by retaking Crimea, and support pro-Russian Ukrainians in Luhansk and Donetsk who preferred secession to submission to U.S. puppets.
Fortunately, our interventionists failed to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Had they succeeded, we almost surely would have been in a shooting war with Russia by now.
Would that have made us stronger, safer, more secure?
After the attack on 9/11, George W. Bush, with the nation and world behind him, took us into Afghanistan to eradicate the nest of al-Qaida killers. After having annihilated some and scattered the rest, however, Bush decided to stick around and convert this wild land of Pashtuns, Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks into another Iowa.
Fifteen years later, we are still there. And the day we leave, the Taliban will return, undo all we have done, and butcher those who cooperated with the Americans.
If we had to do it over, would we have sent a U.S. army and civilian corps to make Afghanistan look more like us?
Bush then invaded Iraq, overthrew Saddam, purged the Baath Party, and disbanded the Iraqi army. Result: A ruined, sundered nation with a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad, ISIS occupying Mosul, Kurds seceding, and endless U.S. involvement in this second-longest of American wars.
Most Americans now believe Iraq was a bloody trillion-dollar mistake, the consequences of which will be with us for decades.
With a rebel uprising against Syria's Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. aided the rebels. Now, 400,000 Syrians are dead, half the country is uprooted, millions are in exile, and the Damascus regime, backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, is holding on after five years.
Meanwhile, we cannot even decide whether we want Assad to survive or fall, since we do not know who rises when he falls.
Anyone still think it was a good idea to plunge into Syria in support of the rebels? Anyone still think it was a good idea to back Saudi Arabia in its war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has decimated that country and threatens the survival of millions?
Anyone still think it was a good idea to attack Libya and take down Moammar Gadhafi, now that ISIS and other Islamists and rival regimes are fighting over the carcass of that tormented land?
"The Middle East is arguably the most salient example of what happens when the U.S. pulls back," writes Haass.
To the CFR, the problem is not that we plunged headlong into this maelstrom of tyranny, tribalism and terrorism, but that we have tried to extricate ourselves. Hints that America might leave the Middle East, says Haass, have "contributed greatly to instability in the region."
So, must we stay indefinitely?
To the CFR, America's role in the world is to corral Russia, defend Europe, contain China, isolate Iran, deter North Korea, and battle al-Qaida and ISIS wherever they may be, bleeding our country's military.
Nor is that all. We are also to convert Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan into pro-Western preferably democratic countries, and embrace "free trade," accepting the imported merchandise of all mankind, even if that means endless $800 billion trade deficits, bleeding our country's economy.
Otherwise, you are just an isolationist.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)