My column this week is on the remarkable rise of isolationism in American polling, and the deep ambivalence many feel toward the president's quick surge in Afghanistan:
To have experienced the blow of 9/11 and to watch almost a decade later as young Americans die for a kleptocracy in Kabul and a sectarian bazaar in Baghdad is to experience a deeply demoralising and discouraging morass. Osama Bin Laden, moreover, remains at large eight years after the worst mass murder in US history. And he is sheltered by a supposed ally that has received enormous sums of aid.
Americans see all of this as they lose jobs in vast numbers, or see their wealth vanish in a collapsing housing market, or struggle to send their children to college or even a doctor. They know, too, that even with all this sacrifice and effort, their security remains tenuous.
That’s why no president could have announced, as some Republicans wanted, an indefinite massive campaign in Afghanistan. It simply isn’t sustainable politically or economically. The country is more broke than at any time since the second world war in a global economy still vulnerable to another relapse.
The Pew survey has polled Americans for decades on their attitude towards the wider world measuring how unilateralist and isolationist the mood is, or how multilateral and interventionist. The latest results, announced last week, were striking.
The percentage of Americans now saying that the US should “mind its own business” and let the rest of the world get on with it is now higher than it ever was during the Vietnam war and higher than it was in the low point of the Carter era. A full 49% of Americans now favor isolationism. The previous peaks were 41% in 1995 and 1976; at the height of the Vietnam war, the isolationist position mustered only 35%.
For the first time, most Americans also see China as the pre-eminent economic power; and 47% believe that Afghanistan will revert to the Taliban once the US leaves.
I wonder if the neocon right has a strategy for the predicament their own over-reach precipitated. The whole column is here.