Real Isolationism: Part One

There is a lot of hype out there concerning the “isolationism” to be found in certain sectors of the Republican and Libertarian parties, as well as in the Liberty movement at large. And who is pushing it? Everyone. Neoconservatives. Republican Establishmentarians. Statist Democrats. Single-Issue Voters. Beltway Libertarians. Pundits. Theocrats. Army Brats. Welfare Rats. Swing Voters. Knee-Jerk Conservatives. Pre-Millenial Dispensationalists. Tea Party Turncoats. The Occasional Occupier. Spokesmen For Our Middle East “Allies”. YouTube Trolls. Powermongers. Powerbrokers. Disgruntled Former Employees. The No-Labels Crowd. And of course, Humanitarians. This is not to say that all members of all these groups toss the term about loosely or with malicious intent, but merely that these are the quarters in which I have encountered this behavior to a greater or lesser extent.

In this piece and the next few, I will attempt to demonstrate that there is no such thing as pure isolationism in today’s world (and I suspect that there never was), and that many of those that use it as a derogatory epithet are in fact among the greatest isolationists to ever set foot on the United States political landscape.

Before I go into attack mode, I would like to define my main terms. In so doing, I will be aided by 1) Merriam-Webster, 2) New Oxford American, 3) Wikipedia, and 4) my own understanding.


1. a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations.

2. a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, esp. the political affairs of other countries.

3. the policy or doctrine of isolating one’s country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, foreign trade, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one’s country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.

4. Someone with isolationist sentiment or tendencies would want one or more of the following: No alliances. No diplomatic relations. Heavy arsenals. Defensive wars only, probably on our own borders. No trade, protectionist tariffs, or strictly managed trade. Walled borders manned with machine guns to keep out both immigrants and foreign workers. Travel restrictions. Limitations on overseas money transfers. A pure isolationist, of Fortress America fame, would presumably desire all of these things. I don’t know if such a person ever existed, although I have run across comments on “conservative” blogs and news sites, that come pretty close. Often times the kind of people that want to shut down the borders also want pre-emptive military interventionism, and those that want strictly managed trade oppose tariffs.


1. the state or policy of not intervening.

2. the principle or practice of not becoming involved in the affairs ofothers.

3. a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense. This is based on the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination.

4. A strict noninterventionist opposes protectionism, preemptive, offensive, aggressive, and territorial wars, and sanctions; but advocates orderly immigration, market allocation of international labor, free trade, diplomacy, the right to travel, and unrestrained property rights.


1. the theory or practice of intervening, specifically governmental interference in economic affairs at home or in political affairs of another country.

2. favoring intervention, esp. by a government in its domestic economy or by one country in the affairs of another.

3. a policy of non-defensive (proactive) activity undertaken by a nation-state, or other geo-political jurisdiction of a lesser or greater nature, to manipulate an economy or society. The most common applications of the term are for economic interventionism (a state’s intervention in its own economy), and foreign interventionism (a state’s intervention in the affairs of another nation as part of its foreign policy).

4. An interventionist might favor any or all of the following in dealing with real or perceived threats, and in some cases allies: Nationalism (including variants of protectionism). Mercantilism. Sanctions. Exploitation of ethno-cultural conflicts. Nation building. Long term occupation. Preemptive wars. Internationalism. Imposition of foreign values. The severing of diplomatic ties.

I will end this first part with a question: Which ideology has the most in common with isolationism? Noninterventionism or interventionism?

One thought on “Real Isolationism: Part One

  1. Pingback: One Year Later at PTPOL « Propagating the Philosophy of Liberty

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