Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Dubai port deal has isolationist hackles rising all over the political spectrum. It has generated an opportunity for Senatorial grandstanding, with a presidential gleam. It highlights the worst aspects of the Administration's communication strategy. In short, it's illustrative of the worst sort of "short game" thinking that effects all Americans. Rich Lowry at National Review Online looks at this:

Put this all together and you get a national-security policy based on doing more to seal ourselves off from the world; spending more on homeland security, including the ports; emphasizing our independence from Gulf sheikdoms; and forswearing serious attempts to reform Arab countries. President Bush would be left with the politically delicate task of explaining why we need to go out of our way to court some Arab allies, even if they are imperfect, and why trying to liberalize the perpetually tumultuous Middle East — rather than turning our backs on it — is so important.

There are problems with Democrats adopting this approach. It would be irresponsible, and there are some Democrats left — Sen. Joe Biden comes to mind — for whom that still matters. It would reject the post-World War II Democratic tradition of internationalism, to which the party (thankfully) still has a reflexive commitment. Finally, Democrats would inevitably mix their message. They can't be the homeland-security party and oppose the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency eavesdropping program. They can't be the hardheaded, let's-take-care-of-our-own party and still be best friends with the global elite at Turtle Bay and Davos, Switzerland.

Americans are isolationists at heart. Immigrants to this country now and in the past were seeking to escape from something to something else. Those "huddled masses yearning to be free" we looking for the new, and the United States provides it. Breaking from the squabbles of the old world, rich in resources, a large country, there was a time when the US could isolate itself from it's neighbors, but not anymore. If Pearl Harbor did not illustrate this point than 9-11 did, or should have. Now, I do not have a burning desire to go and stick our collective noses in every's business, neither can we follow the "just leave them alone" policy that seems to be gaining momentum.

The United States is not Micronesia. It's wealth, power and influence effects the entire world whether we choose to exercize it or not. It is not our military influence alone which provokes envy, hatred, and awe. It is not the exporting of our culture or businesses, either. It is the entire package of who we are as a people. This observation is not new but bears repeating over and over again.

The Bush Administration is also practicing isolationism, only with the press instead of foriegn policy. Determining that the press is either an overt enemy or antangonistic at best, the administration has shut them out as best they can, preferring to
talk as directly to the people as they can. The problem is-they don't. Not anywhere near as much as they should, as effectively as they should. If the administration is going to treat news organizations as adversaries they need to get out their message twice as effectively than if they were not. The administration can get their message out, they do so in campaigns and when they realize the importance of the situation. Half of the press fallout they receive and deal with could be minimized if they kept at it.

Look no one likes to do the dishes in my house, but you don't want them to pile up either. The longer they sit there, the more work it's going to take to get them in order. The administration let's the dishes pile up, then makes some poor sod go in there with the SOS pad. The White House's influence doesn't just go away because they are not exercizing it effectively. The US can't pretend it's Micronesia and the White House can't pretend it is the Sunnydale Mayoral House either.

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