In January 1938, Rep. Louis Ludlow, an Indiana Democrat, proposed a constitutional amendment strongly supported by the public: “Except in the event of an invasion of the United States or its territorial possessions and attack upon its citizens residing therein, the authority of Congress to declare war shall not become effective until confirmed by a majority of all votes cast thereon in a Nation-wide referendum.” Although narrowly defeated, 209 to 188, it might have passed without President Franklin Roosevelt’s last-minute opposition.Read the rest here.
During Barack Obama’s, shall we say, sinuous progress toward a Syria policy, he has suggested, without using the word, that isolationism is among his afflictions. During his news conference-cum-soliloquy in Russia, he said:
“These kinds of interventions . . . are always unpopular because they seem distant and removed. . . . I’m not drawing an analogy to World War II other than to say, when London was getting bombed, it was profoundly unpopular both in Congress and around the country to help the British.”
He wisely disavowed (while insinuating) this analogy, lest Americans wonder which is more implausible, casting Bashar al-Assad as Hitler or himself as Roosevelt. But the term “isolationism” is being bandied as an epithet, not to serve as an argument for U.S. military interventions but as a substitute for an argument. To understand the debate that roiled America before World War II is to understand why today’s reservations about interventionism are not a recrudescence of isolationism.