By Sam Carliner
Something strange is happening in the United States. As the Biden administration continues to go all in on proxy-war in Ukraine, the only politicians speaking up are… MAGA Republicans? Far-Right leaders like Margerie Taylor Greene and Josh Hawley are some of the only elected officials opposing the constant stream of weapons for war and NATO expansion. This leads some people who oppose war to consider joining forces with MAGA.
Is this a good idea?
The phenomenon of Trumpist Republicans calling out proxy-war with Russia and NATO expansion is a classic example of a broken clock being right twice a day. But what’s driving this Trumpist opposition to proxy-war is an ideology that is incompatible with serious anti-war opposition: isolationism.
The MAGA crowd criticizes NATO and the war in Ukraine because they’re isolationist. Like the infamous slogan “America first,” isolationism takes the view that the people of the United States should focus on themselves and that “American” needs and concerns are more important than the problems humanity shares. This worldview explains why Far Right politicians call for withdrawing from military alliances and wars that they see as costing the United States more than benefiting.
No wonder this strikes a chord with so many people. After all, decades of U.S. intervention around the world has only fueled instability abroad and left communities in the United States deprived of basic needs. Even now the war in Ukraine is fueling a global recession which raises the cost of living for workers. The anti-war movement should be calling for an end to this proxy war and the NATO alliance which provoked the conflict. But this call for peace must be rooted in internationalism.
We need an anti-war movement that opposes the war in Ukraine because it uses the Ukrainian people as cannon-fodder to settle a great power rivalry and subjects the entire world to rising costs of living. Isolationists foster the idea that we should not care at all what happens to Ukrainians or the impacts of the war anywhere outside the United States.
In fact, by accepting the basic premise of U.S. superiority, isolationists enable the nationalist, chauvinist sentiments which empower militarism and imperialism. This creates an obstacle to fostering serious anti-imperialism and peace. This can be found in the example of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
After 20 years of the United States military occupying the country, the United States finally withdrew troops. This was a positive development. But much of the opposition within the United States was rooted in the concern of wanting to bring U.S. troops home and stop wasting U.S. money. Of course, both of these are important demands, but by centering the impact on American lives this created the sentiment that Afghan lives were less important and set the stage for violence to continue beyond the withdrawal.
This was most clearly demonstrated when many Americans called for revenge after 13 U.S. troops were killed during the withdrawal. These calls for revenge prompted Biden to launch a drone strike in Kabul which killed an innocent family, including seven children. One year later and Biden is still waging drone warfare on Afghanistan, but because U.S. troops are no longer in the country, the supposedly anti-war MAGA crowd has nothing more to say about Afghanistan.
Isolationism is not just dangerous because of its failure to question the idea of U.S. supremacy which drives imperialism. It also fosters support for militarism by seeking to wage wars domestically. Part of why we never hear people like Margerie Taylor Greene or Josh Hawley calling to divest from the war machine is because they actually want these resources to be used against immigrant communities and Black communities. MAGA Republicans are the biggest supporters of using the institutions and tactics of militarism to surveil and terrorize anyone who tries to cross the border or protest killer cops. This support for racist state violence has no place in anti-war spaces. It is not just plainly immoral. It actually makes war inevitable because consent for one form of state violence paves the way for all other types of state violence, such as war.
Of course the anti-war movement should win over whoever we can, but this does not mean making space for ideologies that inherently contradict the internationalism that must drive anti-war work. Anti-war activists need to have difficult conversations and educate our neighbors, friends, and families into empathizing with all humanity without ranking or separation based on arbitrary borders and nationalities. This means winning people away from a Far Right worldview, not finding common ground with it.