I drove to Atlanta this weekend to take in some quality outdoor musical entertainment, leaving behind the clutter and hassles of life in Tampa for a few days. On my way up Friday morning, I noticed a billboard boldly stating in red, white and blue: “Stop Terrorism: Get U.S. out of the U.N.!”
I had time to stew over that for a few days until, on my way home, I saw another billboard that called on all good patriots to “Boycott France!”
I understand that these sentiments are from fringe groups and probably do not represent the majority of opinion in America. Getting the United States out of the United Nations would be about as probable as getting USF President Judy Genshaft to let us use that gigantic front lawn of hers for parking on any given afternoon.
But while not many have gone so far as to proclaim open rebellion against international organizations, there is a new isolationist sentiment in America today. Of course, the paramount example of this new isolationism is George Bush’s decision to go in alone with a “coalition” of willing nations and invade Iraq, against the wishes of the U.N.
Where do these feelings come from? For a while at least, we seemed to have a good rapport with the world and we were working together. Remember way back when Bush’s approval rating was in the 80 percent area? That was when he was working with the rest of the world; because of this, the “War on Terror” (or at least the front line-combat with enemy combatants) went relatively smoothly.
Remember Afghanistan? Sure Mr. Bush has bungled that whole thing now, but when we were in major conflict with the Taliban, much of the world supported us.
That support is now all but gone. Bush could suggest we all hold hands and sing “Kumbayah” and the French, Germans and Russians would object. Why is this? Is it Old World stubbornness? Maybe, but it’s mostly because people don’t appreciate it when a big bully shoves them aside and takes their Twinkie.
Similarly, nations aren’t too happy when bigger nations usurp the power of international law to fulfill their personal desires.
So what spawns this new isolationism? Sadly but simply stated: the ignorance of the American people. The people who proclaim America can “go it alone” aren’t thinking about the economic and financial ties that America has with scores of other nations around the world, including France.
They don’t realize that the U.N. does a lot of good. The U.N. is deeply involved in refugee support, a program that feeds and houses tens of millions of refugees around the world. Despite what some might think, they are not really into running around the General Assembly hall burning American flags.
The feeling that we can “go it alone” was all but trampled when Bush went to the U.N. for the first time since the war started and asked for help in cleaning up what amounts to a toxic spill the size of California. Bush certainly didn’t want to go to the U.N.
But that whole thing about Americans dying needlessly and little progress being made kind of forced him to. Perhaps he and those who lust for isolation will remember their mistakes. Isolation solves nothing. All it causes is animosity, needless loss of life and anti-American sentiment that’s going to be hard to overcome.
Joe Roma is a senior majoring in political science. firstname.lastname@example.org