Editorial: Giving Isolationism The Boot
This year, the Republican debates had a noticeable lack of foreign policy. To some extent, it is only natural that on the tail end of a recession people are more concerned about domestic issues. After all, it was an Arkansan who reminded us that the more important thing was the economy, even if done so in relatively inelegant terms. However, it was puzzling to see candidates claiming the right to lead our nation more or less eschewing this important aspect of our national policy when we were embroiled in one war and bombing another. Even more puzzling was the rise of isolationism, an aspect of American politics not seen in force since the 1930s.
Ron Paul clearly led the way this primary with his openly isolationist rhetoric. Partially from his strict constructionist views, partially from his fiscal conservatism, Ron Paul took isolationism from bygone relic to haute couture almost singlehandedly. As the debates went on and announcements from the Obama administration on interventions in Libya and against the Lord’s Resistance Army came out, isolationism suddenly became not just the buzzword associate with Ron Paul’s campaign, it became a way for candidates to differentiate themselves from Obama.
The rush to isolationism was a knee-jerk reaction. It is a mistake, a huge one, to assume that ill-founded American adventurism counts as the opposite of isolationism. It is far too simple to say that the last decade of American action abroad counts as the only alternative to forsaking the global stage, just as one would be scoffed at for saying the only kinds of food in this world are Mexican and Chinese. It’s a classic case of not seeing the forrest for the trees.
The simple fact is that the United States cannot completely withdraw from the world. That’s not to say we should not, it is an impossibility for us to completely remove ourselves from the happenings of the world-at-large. Because of the new ways the world has found to connect, because of the decentralized way everything from government to business works now it is impossible for a nation to not be part of the networks that criss-cross the planet. Unless you live in North Korea, where the government has totally controlled all outside information and connections from its inception, you cannot move away from the world.
Look at the explosion of multinational corporations based in the United States. Intel has offices around the world that design and produce products, or handle mundane office tasks, from Israel to India to California. Nike has long carried a variety of “Made in” tags, as have most manufacturers. A cursory glance at price stickers in a car window will show you that most of our car batteries come from China, the electronics from Korea and, if you are lucky, the transmissions coming from Europe.
Other than business as usual, our government cannot just up and leave the world stage. The United States has obligations, responsibilities that will continue to keep it involved in the world. We have long-standing defensive treaties with the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the nations of NATO. Though we are often maligned by the international community for doing little to defend human rights, democracy or liberalization efforts around the world, most in the know realize that the United States is instrumental in promoting these very aspects of international relations that make the world a safer place. Look at the Balkans. When it mattered most to ending discriminate slaughter, the United States intervened twice to save defenseless communities from having murder masked by millennia-old vengeance exacted on them.
Isolationism died a quick death in the 1940s. The reason why is not something lost to the mists of time, nor are they incomprehensible to people today. While people like Charles Lindbergh grandstanded for isolationist groups and were even feted by the Nazis, others watched affairs around the world with growing concern and alarm. As the world went to hell around America, as nation after nation found itself crushed by the kind of tyranny that rises only in a vacuum, people eventually came to realize that American action in the world was inevitable. Given the alternative, it was desirable. The same holds true today. We simply cannot walk away from a world that already is tied to us, and vice versa.
Image Credit: CharlesLindberg.com, 2012
Share This Article
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.