July 26th, 2007

On Isolationism


photo credit: CyboRoZ

Those who toe their party’s line and regurgitate what the media offers as news and sound wisdom often show themselves to be politically and historically naive. In few matters is this more apparent than when dealing with foreign policy. These people I’ve described often accuse Ron Paul and like-minded “traditional conservatives” as being “isolationists”.

One such example is found in yesterday’s NPR interview with Ron Paul, when the interviewer said:

What you’ve described as an old, conservative Republican view of foreign affairs is called, in many quarters, isolationism.

Rep. Paul’s response was as follows:

Some people who would like to diminish its value call it that. I don’t call it that, because to me, it’s the opposite. It conforms with what the founders advised, and that is, yes, we don’t get involved in the entangling alliances and the internal affairs of other nations, but they strongly advocated trade and talking and travel. And now that we follow that policy with Vietnam … [the country] has Westernized; we trade with them; their president comes here, we invest in Vietnam. So we achieved in peace what we couldn’t achieve with war. But it’s a far cry from isolationism.

It has become apparent to me in recent months that far too many people throw this word “isolationism” around without understanding what they are talking about. President Benson rebuts this misinformed claim and sets the record straight:

Already, I can hear the chorus chanting “Isolationism, isolationism, he’s turning back the clock to isolationism.” How many use that word without having the slightest idea of what it really means! The so-called isolationism of the United States in past decades is a pure myth. What is isolationism? Long before the current trend of revoking our Declaration of Independence under the guise of international cooperation, American influence and trade was felt in every region of the globe. Individuals and private groups spread knowledge, business, prosperity, religion, good will and, above all, respect throughout every foreign continent. It was not necessary then for America to give up her independence to have contact and influence with other countries. It is not necessary now.

Yet, many Americans have been led to believe that our country is so strong that it can defend, feed and subsidize half the world, while at the same time believing that we are weak and “interdependent” that we cannot survive without pooling our resources and sovereignty with those we subsidize. If wanting no part of this kind of “logic” is isolationism, then it’s time we brought it back into vogue. (United States Foreign Policy, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 155)

President Benson goes on to cite a statement by Senator Robert A. Taft, a true model of conservatism, when he said:

Our traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war. From the days of George Washington that has been the policy of the United States. It has never been isolationism; but it has always avoided alliances and interference in foreign quarrels as a preventive against possible war, and it has always opposed any commitment by the United States, in advance, to take any military action outside of our territory. It would leave us free to interfere or not according to whether we consider the case of sufficiently vital interest to the liberty of this country. It was the policy of the free hand. (A Foreign Policy for Americans, p. 12)

These great patriots clearly demonstrate that “isolationism” is anything but. On the contrary, it is the same example-setting, long-suffering, morally sound doctrine that should permeate all practical actions of leadership, whether by a clergyman or politician. We will rally more people to our cause of liberty through our example, reasoning, and moral leadership than through the point of a gun. Spreading democracy while destroying nations and imposing our will on others is the method of force used by the archenemy to pursue his nefarious agenda. Surely we do not want to model similar behavior?

True isolationism is a result of the political agenda we have been pursuing since the end of World War II. Spreading our empire and messing with the internal affairs of sovereign nations is what truly isolates them from American values and respect. We isolate our allies and enemies more and more by propping ourselves up as a moral authority and then imposing our will on the world through military force.

Ron Paul, the target of such hollow “isolationist” accusations, recently explained further this argument:

In their hopes to remake the world in their image, the globalist elite who run much of America’s policy-making apparatus simply further isolate our country from the rest of the world. By claiming a moral superiority that is so evidently absent when the effects of their policies are witnessed, neo-conservatives have made America seem hypocritical to many abroad.

America is now held in low esteem in many nations, not because we follow our own interests, but because the elites make claims that are not reflected in reality. They have, for example, undertaken economic sanctions in an entirely new way in recent years. When they wanted to take aim at Iraq and Iran, they imposed sanctions against those countries, but also against countries doing business with those countries. This meant we were in no position to negotiate with our adversaries, and we also could not rely on support from our allies.

To reset the debate in a way that reflects reality, it is important for us to reject the idea that the choice is between globalism and isolation. Instead we must stand firm for national sovereignty, constitutional republicanism and international cooperation. We should realize that America’s current isolation is simply a consequence of globalism gone awry.

As Tocqueville once wrote, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, then America will cease to be great.” Our foreign interventionist policies are the cause of true isolationism. Jefferson had it right when he counseled: “Peace, commerce, honest friendship with all nations, and entangling alliances with none.”

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6 Responses to “On Isolationism”

  1. Dan
    July 26, 2007 at 8:31 pm #

    You quote Robert Taft who says:

    Our traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war. From the days of George Washington that has been the policy of the United States.

    hmmm, perhaps Robert Taft wasn’t aware of the Monroe Doctrine…I do believe the whole entire premise and heart and soul of the Monroe Doctrine is interference in the business of other states. I’m sorry, but our current actions had their start with a Founding Father who preached American assertiveness and aggression through a Doctrine that European powers could not meddle in our “backyard.” Only we could meddle in the internal affairs of Latin America. This of course led to everything else that we see. Thanks Mr. Monroe!

    I’m not surprised, Connor, that you don’t address the Monroe Doctrine in this piece. You’re not actually trying to talk here about isolationism and non-interventionism, but rather, you’re selling a product whose name is Ron Paul. You should retitle your piece to something like “Ron Paul is not for isolationism.” If you are going to look through some of the history of isolationism and non-interventionism then you must address the discrepancy of the Monroe Doctrine.

  2. Connor
    July 27, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    I do believe the whole entire premise and heart and soul of the Monroe Doctrine is interference in the business of other states.

    I do believe that you are referring to the Roosevelt Corollary which warped its intended meaning and cited it as reason to intervene…

    The State Department’s website explains:

    Monroe and his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams drew upon a foundation of American diplomatic ideals such as disentanglement from European affairs and defense of neutral rights as expressed in Washington’s Farewell Address and Madison’s stated rationale for waging the War of 1812. The three main concepts of the doctrine–separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe, non-colonization, and non-intervention–were designed to signify a clear break between the New World and the autocratic realm of Europe. Monroe’s administration forewarned the imperial European powers against interfering in the affairs of the newly independent Latin American states or potential United States territories.

    I’m sorry, but our current actions had their start with a Founding Father who preached American assertiveness and aggression through a Doctrine that European powers could not meddle in our “backyard.

    Monroe’s assertion was one of defense, not offense. It was a warning against the European empires seeking to meddle in the affairs of other nations near our borders, instead of a declaration that we were going to invade ourselves.. Its meaning, as I understand it, was one of “stay out of our business, and we’ll stay out of yours”.

    The State Dept. site goes on to explain:

    As Monroe stated: “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” Monroe outlined two separate spheres of influence: the Americas and Europe. The independent lands of the Western Hemisphere would be solely the United States’ domain. In exchange, the United States pledged to avoid involvement in the political affairs of Europe, such as the ongoing Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire, and not to interfere in the existing European colonies already in the Americas.

    By the mid-1800s, Monroe’s declaration, combined with ideas of Manifest Destiny, provided precedent and support for U.S. expansion on the American continent. In the late 1800s, U.S. economic and military power enabled it to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. The doctrine’s greatest extension came with Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary, which inverted the original meaning of the doctrine and came to justify unilateral U.S. broadened in Latin America. (emphasis added)

    John Quincy Adams, one of the doctrine’s authors, was most certainly a believer in nonintervention.

    You’re not actually trying to talk here about isolationism and non-interventionism, but rather, you’re selling a product whose name is Ron Paul.

    False. If other statesman were speaking out boldly and wisely on this issue, I’d be quoting them as well. I’m not selling a man, I’m selling a principle—nonintervention.

    Find me other honest and wise men, and I will uphold them.

  3. Dan
    July 30, 2007 at 11:40 am #

    Connor,

    Monroe’s assertion was one of defense, not offense.

    It doesn’t matter if he called it defense or offense (for example, today we call our military the Department of Defense, when it is in no way a defensive institution!), it is interferring in the internal affairs of other nations.

    It was a warning against the European empires seeking to meddle in the affairs of other nations near our borders, instead of a declaration that we were going to invade ourselves

    But you contradict yourself in the very next part:

    Its meaning, as I understand it, was one of “stay out of our business, and we’ll stay out of yours”.

    Who are we to say that Latin America is “our business?” What right do we have to claim that Latin America is our backyard? What utter arrogance!

    I’m not selling a man

    Yes you are. It would do you good to just be clear about it. You are trying to convert your readers to vote for Ron Paul. Please do not deny it.

  4. November 15, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    The Monroe Doctrine, and all that it entails, was the policy of men, as is the warped interpetation of it that is being practised by ‘men’ today. Just because a policy has been put into action does not make it right. This attitude, of meddling in the affairs of other nations, what good has come of it? The history of our nation’s foriegn affairs the past 50 some years is indeed a sorrid one. To me, it appears as if the action taken in the name of the United States have the purpose of destroying our republic.
    There have actually been numerous incidents throughout the world during this timespan that could have been justification for us to attack other nations. A few that I can think of quickly are 1) the shooting down of the passenger plane by the USSR with an American congressman on it; 2) the seizure of our embassy in Teheran, Iran in 1979; 3) the bombing of the barracks in Lebanon that took over 500 US Marines and many more that were justification, due to the attack being perpetrated CLEARLY against us as a Nation. Of course, this was not on the agenda at the time, so the powers-that-be denied us our constitutional rights. No, they instead send our forces into ambiguous situations such as Somalia and Yugoslavia under Clinton and of course the present fiasco in Iraq. It is ironic that we are duplicating the same mistake as we did in the Vietnam War era. We send our best, brightest most motivated young people halfway around the world to fight, meanwhile nations within our own hemisphere are turning against us. We suffered for years due to ineptitude in dealing with Castro and we have not learned will have to put up with Chavez from Venezuela for years to come.

  5. Obi wan liberali
    November 15, 2007 at 10:32 pm #

    Is this fact telling. During World War II, the LDS church suspended mission efforts and Mormon young men served in the military to rid the world of Nazism and Japanese expansionism.

    During the Korean War, a young Gordon B. Hinckley got his start helping Mormon men avoid the draft so they could serve missions (See Go Forward with Faith). How many Mormon missions kept Mormons out of combat during Vietnam? Mitt Romney is a prominent one. Utahns in general supported the war, but were under-represented in the military fighting that war.

    At no time has President Gordon B. Hinckley suggested that Mormon men forgo missions to enlist in the fighting against the “war on terror.” Sacrifice means a heck of a lot more to me than words. All we have from the Mormon CEO is words. Atleast, that is my take. I’m still waiting for Mitt to enlist one of his strapping sons in the noble fight against “islamofascism”. I won’t hold my breath.

  6. Burkely Hermann
    July 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    This article argues that America has been pursuing an isolationist policy since WWII by intervening more in world affairs. I find that to be counterintutive that such a policy would be followed by the ruling elite. I believe that isolation has never been U.S. policy, only in the years 1934-1940, it was U.S. policy in a sense. I argue in my opinion piece for interestingblogger: http://bit.ly/kIUQQq this point exactly.

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