The Gettysburg Address, with its liturgical language of death as consecration, and its insistence that sacrifice of life requires further war in a holy cause, is the eloquent blueprint for all humanitarian intervention.* After Gettysburg, Hauerwas says, "American wars must be wars in which the sacrifices of those doing the dying and the killing have redemptive purpose and justification."
If Gettysburg makes intervention holy, then it follows that resistance to linking federal military action and virtue would have its origins in the Union's enemy. And indeed, the most passionate American arguments in favor of self-determination and against occupation come from the Confederacy, and from racist neo-Confederate myths about Reconstruction.
Walter Benn Michaels has pointed out that Thomas Dixon's The Clansman and Thomas Nelson Page's Red Rock are both explicitly anti-imperialist and explicitly racist. "Red Rock," Michaels writes in Our America, "tells the story of a conquered people, of how they survived under occupation, and of how they eventually 'reconquered' what it sometimes refers to as their 'country' and sometimes as their 'section.'" The conquered people are, of course, Southern whites, and the reconquest is a reimposition of brutal racial apartheid.
Given this history, the libertarian, anti-government thread of conservative isolationism starts to look more than a little repulsive. The liberal, federalist interventionists, like Wilson and FDR and LBJ, want to intervene on behalf of various non-white folks. The anti-interventionists (like, say, John Calhoun or Charles Lindbergh or David Duke) don't want to, because intervening on behalf of non-white folks is dangerous federal overreach. Ron Paul's racism and Ron Paul's isolationism aren't arbitrarily slapped together. They're two strands of a single, long-standing, and very unpleasant ideology.
So to avoid racism, should we just bomb everybody? Obviously, that's not logical. And part of the reason is that, in fact, federal interventionists have a checkered history as well. If there's a racist anti-imperialism, there's certainly a racist interventionism as well, as Rudyard Kipling declaimed while urging the U.S. to take up the white man's burden and intervene in the Philippines.
And so we did, involving ourselves in a long anti-insurgent campaign James Loewen has suggested served as a bloody, forgotten prototype for our racially tinged war in Vietnam. Woodrow Wilson, a kind of neo-Confederate himself, re-segregated the federal government and used his position to violate civil liberties with a paranoid thoroughness that even our post-9/11 presidents have failed to surpass. The sainted FDR had his homegrown concentration camps, while Truman had the bombing of Nagasaki, which Kurt Vonnegut called "the most racist, nastiest act by this country after human slavery."