Isolationism, Noninterventionism, and Interventionism are three relatively broad terms used, sometimes accurately, to describe foreign policy ideas in the United States of America. Isolationism and Noninterventionism are the two most often confused, and under the blanket term, Isolationism, are said to be the cause of a number of tragedies America has faced over the years, most notably World War II. This of course, is largely false. In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, there were some hardcore “Isolationists” to be sure, who refused to get along with other nations, or accommodate them even slightly. But such persons were never in the majority in power and influence. And there were also your Noninterventionists of many stripes (ranging from those who favored a loose-knit “league of nations” or even a world court to those who favored more traditional relationships with other nations, which also is the Constitutional view). But for the most part, on both sides of the aisle, you had your Interventionists (who today are composed mostly of pragmatists/realists, neoconservatives/idealists, and special interests/war profiteers).
You had your Wilson/FDR/Truman Democrats and your TR/Dewey/Eisenhower Republicans. These were the ones pushing for both World Wars, the downright vengeful Treaty of Versailles, the unamended Covenant for the League of Nations, NATO, and the UN. Last time I checked it was the Interventionists that succeeded in getting their ideas pushed through, which then failed to accomplish the great deeds used to justify their respective ratifications or initiations. Peace in Our Time? Nope. War to end all wars? Nope. World safe for democracy? Nope. Nothing to fear but fear Itself? Nope. Rendezvous with destiny? You betcha!
[This may seem out of place, but I though I should mention it as another ill-effect of interventionist minded policy: There is even a theory that the Federal Reserve System (1913) was created 1) to pay off England’s war debts in WWI (1915), and 2) appear to lesson the tax-burden associated with going to war, so as to make any future wars less unpopular with the taxpayer. No war can last long or have meaningful impact if those funding it refuse to continue doing so. But I don’t like to delve too much into conspiracy, so I will leave it at that.]
In this piece, number five of my series, which has thus far been slow-going and casual, I intend to examine the three broad schools of foreign policy in regards to diplomacy and its effects and purposes, and compare them in a similar manner to that in my pieces on immigration and travel. So, without further ado, I give you…
Pure Isolationism: Peace can be attained by cutting off all ties with other nations and their agents. Because foreigners are different, their goals are not our goals. Therefore, diplomacy will inevitably result in compromise of our values and our resources. This is true whether we send our agents or entertain theirs. Even where a conflict can be averted or alleviated to the benefit of both sides, diplomacy represents compromise and weakness. The nation will be tainted as a result, and likely singled out to be destroyed or taken advantage of.
Pure Noninterventionism: Diplomacy should be used to further our interests insomuch as they do not compromise our principles, our sovereignty, our liberty, or our security. Peace can best be achieved through “honest friendship with all nations and entangling alliances with none”. Conflict (and its cause, entanglement) should be avoided at all costs. If one arises, undue, drastic measures should not be taken during or after it. Relations should be normalized as quickly as possible. We should not act arrogantly or unilaterally. Where such action may work in limited cases, at specific times, against certain targets, the result will likely be cost prohibitive and dangerous, to the aggressor and victim both, in relations with other nations or the nation in question in the future.
Pure Interventionism: Aggressive actions, including war or the threat of war, can work as well or better than mere diplomacy in furthering the interests of America and in preserving our status as the world’s lone superpower. Security and military strength are the chief sources of peace, even if other nations, and the rights of our own citizens, have to suffer for it. Whether a nation invades, bombs, threatens to invade or bomb, is capable of invading or bombing, or will be capable of such sometime in the future, that nation must be either made into a military ally or attacked, even preemptively. The deciding factors as to which should be 1) how much more our interests could be furthered under one scenario than the other, and 2) how culturally similar or different they are to us. France, for example, is one nation that is positive on both criteria, and Iran is one that is negative on both criteria.
While “peace through strength” is an axiom all should cherish, the nature of that “strength” is different in each of the above camps. The isolationist seeks peace through the strength of ignorance and the interventionist seeks peace through the strength of hubris. It is the noninterventionist that seeks true peace through the strengths of forbearance and charity.