Something weird happened on February 13 at the Republican debate in South Carolina.
Donald Trump went after Jeb Bush over the record of his brother, former President George W. Bush. Trump attacked George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq and for providing insufficient security for the U.S.A., as represented by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There are a few things to consider about this incident. The first is that despite all of the evidence to the effect that the administration of George W. Bush lied us into a war with Iraq, there are still people – particularly in the Republican Party – who insist on believing that there was sufficient justification for an invasion that violated international law and precedent. In other words, they will not let the facts get in the way of their opinions. Such delusional thinking is always unsettling.
Second, within the Republican camp – and frequently out of the view of many liberals and progressives – there are those who are what might be described as “neo-isolationists.” They tend to believe that the USA should wall itself off from the rest of the world, in some cases literally – such as Trump’s call for a wall on the border with Mexico – but in most cases figuratively. This element believes that the USA should not engage the international community, but instead should leave everyone to their own devices.
Right-wing isolationists want “their USA” to be protected, and one must be clear as to what that means. When one listens to the rhetoric of candidates, such as Trump, “their USA” is a White, non-immigrant America; that is, the “White republic” of old. They see this White republic under threat by demographic changes, economic changes, and a changing world. For them, the USA– defined as a White-dominated USA– must withdraw from world affairs. We were hearing elements of this in Trump’s rhetoric at the debate.
Dominate and disengage
It can be misleading because it sometimes sounds like what we progressives have said. But the reality is that Trump wants to retreat into a mythical past. He wants America to be able to dominate the world when it sees fit, but to otherwise disengage with the rest of the planet in resolving common planetary challenges.
Trump is correct that the Iraq invasion was based on a lie; the neo-conservatives in the Republican Party disagree vehemently with him. Yet his vision assumes that America can have its cake and eat it, too, and that America can obtain resources from the rest of the world – and act not as a partner, but as a periodic bully when it does not get its way.
While we may agree with Trump’s criticism of George W. Bush, none of us should ever assume that he has seen the light.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of “The Global African” on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.