So You Want To Be An Isolationist?

Deborah Venable

September 8, 2006


It should come as no surprise that many Americans fall short of understanding their cultural and traditional roots.  I’m not talking about the pre-hyphen part of the post-hyphen American – I’m specifically referring to the NO hyphen, distinctly American culture and tradition.  So what about THAT distinctly American culture and tradition am I talking about?  Simple - the part that used to embrace an isolationist stance for America.  That good old, “what’s in it for us?” attitude that once upon a time was in the driver’s seat of American foreign policy was held as American tradition through much of our history.  Some will tell you that American isolationism had a lot more to do with staying out of European affairs than anything else, but generally speaking isolationism has a definition much stricter than that:


“Isolationism is a foreign policy which combines a non-interventionist military and political policy with a policy of economic nationalism (protectionism). In other words, it asserts both of the following:


Political rulers should avoid entangling alliances with other nations and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial self-defense.


There should be legal barriers to prevent trade and cultural exchange with people in other states.”    Definition Source


Why do I bring all of this up?  Well, it ocurrs to me that whole generations of Americans living now and griping the most about this and that – specifically the War in Iraq and our fight against terrorists are truly ignorant of the tradition of isolationism and the ongoing debate about it.  You see, the true isolationist is far more apt to be ultra conservative – an extremist if you will.  Isolationism has been proven in the past to secure peace for longer periods of time than any other foreign policy undertaken.  (Japan’s Sakoku, for example.)


Now, let’s be clear – the anti-war crowd are not predominately isolationists because they have no idea what it would mean to their own comfortable lives.  Many debatable points exist within this issue of isolationism that have nothing to do with whether or not America goes into a military conflict.  Immigration policy is heavily influenced, as is trade, communication, and other cultural exchange by an isolationist stance.  The growing attitude toward border security and our ridiculous illeagle alien problems have focused attention on the need to more clearly define America’s big picture on foreign policy.  Yes, there are many debatable points. 


One person certainly NOT ignorant of how the sentiment of many members of his own party, as well as that of the “pullout crowd” of democrats smacks of isolationist theory is our current president.  You only have to look back to George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech this year to see how aware he is of this fact: 


“The road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting—yet it ends in danger and decline...America rejects the false comfort of isolationism...Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need...American leaders—from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan—rejected isolation and retreat, because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.”


Contrasting that message to George Washington’s admonishment in his famous Farwell Address, we find the somewhat muddied definition of “American isolationism” stated earlier:

"The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

When we hear it stated that “America is becoming increasingly unpopular” in Europe especially, but thoughout the world, some of us scratch our heads and wonder why, others turn an unrealistic blame on our own nationalism, some attribute it to our declining culture, and others simply chalk it up to our isolationist roots.  Hey, we are who we are – aren’t we?  We’re a crazy, mixed up hodge-podge of immigrants from the Old World and their descendents who have been educated almost to idiocy by subversive efforts to overtake our traditions, our culture, and our uniqueness.  Why do we need to be popular?  The bottom line is that more people are trying to get in here than ever try to get out!  Do they, too, wish to be unpopular?


But here is another question that I recently answered in a brief essay:


Should the U.S. Get Out Of Iraq?


Although this question has taken on a life of its own as a driving force, debatable issue to make or break politicians during this election cycle, the answer is quite simple.  A “yes” answer to it hangs on only one condition – otherwise the only sane answer is a resounding “no” until the newly elected Iraqi government can insure Iraq’s stability. 


The one condition that would support an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq is if we decided that the United States should maintain a strict isolationist stance for an indefinite period of time.  Most folks don’t realize just what this would mean, but we ARE one of the few countries of the world that could probably pull it off.  I am talking about severe isolationist policies, of course. 


It would require, first of all, that we break every treaty we have with any foreign country or group of countries.  The United Nations would have to find new headquarters elsewhere and without our membership or financial and military support.  Our foreign interests in every country would have to be severed – sold or abandoned – with no further support of any kind.  All foreign aid would cease.  All foreign personnel would have to immediately leave the United States – selling or abandoning all their interests and holdings here.  All our military bases in foreign countries would have to be shut down and all troops and equipment everywhere shipped home.  All foreign travel for United States citizens would cease.  All foreign trade – imports and exports – would cease.  Any travel to or from a foreign country would have to be covert with no passports issued or accepted.  Lines of communication in and out of the country would be heavily monitored for any commerce or other “illegal” activity and severely fined.  All debts to foreign countries would be immediately payable and all foreign debts to us immediately collected. 


All of these requirements would also, of course, apply to our neighbors immediately to our North and South.  Border restriction policy would include, “shoot first and ask questions later.”  All air and sea routes would be restricted to and restrictive of our own borders.  Much of our infrastructure – not just economic, but power grid, transport lanes and satellite communications would have to be re-routed or completely severed.  Ours would not be the only country in the world “cut off” from what was happening in much of the rest of the world.


The most difficult complication to all of this would certainly be our joint ventures in the international space station.  It would have to be immediately disabled.


The United States is the richest country in the world in natural resources, which includes the human element.  Though we might suffer inconvenience for a period of time, we could recover from it and proceed with a rewarding lifestyle for most of our citizens.  It would be costly in the areas of civil and military defense of the country, because no mistakes could be allowed.  Our freedoms, of course, would suffer even more setback in some ways until we stabilized, but we should be able to insure basic individual liberties in the end.  The point is that every other country on earth would suffer far more than this one.  Most American citizens do not realize or accept that fact these days.  The tyrannical, fascist, socialist, communist, and theocratic governments that rule so much of the rest of the world would not long survive beyond the third world stage.  The democracies would feed on themselves until they destroyed themselves or would be easily overrun by others. 


Should the United States get out of Iraq?  Think of what we are telling the rest of the world if we do – before the job is done.


The following is an excerpt from an interesting article written by John Hawkins called, “Confessions of an Isolationist Wannabe”:


If you want to put it in perspective, it's like we're the guy who ended up being the designated driver for the planet. Sure, we'd love to sit back and drink ourselves into a stupor with the rest of the globe but we're responsible for getting as many people home safe and sound as possible. Ever so often while we're sitting around wishing we could kill a few beers like the rest of the planet, a sloppy drunk, drooling Europe comes over to where we're sitting. Then they take another swig of Vodka straight out of the bottle and tell us not to worry about a thing because they'll drive everyone home in their "international law" van. But we know if we go ahead and drink up, we'll just get a call at 4 A.M. asking us to bring our tow truck and the "jaws of life" to clean up the bloody mess on dead man's curve. That's the burden of being an American.  Article Source


Thanks, John, for putting it in words everybody can understand.  Make sure you read the whole article at the link above.


All it takes to understand folks like Pat Buchanan is to have a good grasp on the isolationist stance.  Not that even Mr. Buchanan would advocate for the strict isolationist stance I outlined in my essay, but we must understand that very few Americans have any grasp at all on the result of isolationist policy because we have been spoon fed a homogenized version of foreign policy.  Diplomacy is touted as the end-all to war, and our economy has been diluted in responsibilities to foreign governments through aid and trade.  Now immigration is being forced as a necessary evil instead of applied as a benevolent component of our “good will.”  And underlying all of this is the deliberate attempts to destroy our traditions and culture and re-write our history.


I will say it again: the human element is perhaps the crowning jewel of our vast natural resources.  Our blessings are only outnumbered by our attempts to share them.  That is a direct result of our strong spiritual influences – not born of a religion that requires death to non-believers.  When are we going to wake up and realize that our fights among ourselves are sparked by the dark side of human nature that wants something for nothing and demands power from weakness? 


As we approach the 5th anniversary of September 11, I think we should all strive to recall the first thoughts we had when we knew on that fateful morning that America had come under foreign attack.  Once our muddied perceptions of reality kicked in, too many of us lost the grasp on reality that we desperately need to regain if we are to ever bring a successful end to the rein of terrorist bullying.  Will it take a true isolationist approach?  We COULD pull it off, but I don’t think that is the message we wish to send the rest of the world, is it?



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