Saturday, February 6, 2010

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Isolationism is fool's gold

From the Parkville Luminary

What would post-earthquake Haiti look like today if the United States did not intervene, did not send any aid or troops, or did not send any food or doctors or medical supplies?

What would Israel’s prospects look like if it was forced to go it alone, if the United States did not provide material, military or political support?

And, how would Al Qaeda react if the U.S. decided to abandon the war against terrorism?

Indeed, the world would be a much different, and scarier, place without leadership from the United States. Yet, frighteningly, support for a new isolationism is on the rise in America.

In a recent Pew Center survey, 49% of Americans agreed with the statement that the U.S. should “mind its own business and let others get along on their own”. This was by far the highest percentage of Americans agreeing with this survey question since it was first asked in 1964. The “mind our own business” mentality was especially evident among those younger than 30, where 59 percent agreed with the isolationist sentiment. (

“The generation that fought World War II required little persuading that it was always better to fight a war in another country than to wait for one to erupt in your own,” said John Pike of “It was just self-evidently true…I’m not sure it’s true for the Twitter generation.” (KC Star, 1/10/2010).

In a related question, 44 percent said the U.S. should “go our own way” and not be concerned when other nations disagree with us. (

While the results are disheartening, they are certainly understandable. Some experts think the sentiments expressed in the poll don’t reflect isolationism as much as they do a distaste for what respondents see as America’s bullying. It’s logical to think that a good deal of the “mind our own business” sentiment has been generated by the unjustified, immoral, and costly war in Iraq.

However, the survey results cross the line from anti-bullying to true isolationism when one examines the role of the right wing tea partiers. Columnist David Brooks writes, and I agree, that the tea partiers’ isolationism is rooted in their anti-intellectualism. “The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should ‘go our own way’ has risen sharply.” (

Of course, some of the isolationist sentiment is also being generated by far left wingers who never saw a trade agreement (NAFTA, for example) or foreign intervention that they liked.

Both the right and left wingers are wrong. The world needs America’s leadership more than ever, particularly in the battle against Al Qaeda. Pakistan and Afghanistan would be instantly destabilized if the U.S. slinked home, and both countries would eventually become even safer places from which Al Qaeda could operate. Also, without a threat from the U.S., rogue states like Iran and North Korea would menace their neighbors.

Without funding from the United States, the United Nations would be unable to keep the peace, and would find it harder to deliver food, medicine, and education to the impoverished around the world. An isolationist America wouldn’t sponsor the Peace Corps, and 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers wouldn’t be deployed around the world making life better for countless thousands while demonstrating to the world the true American spirit.

Isolationism has always been fool’s gold. For proof, look no further at America’s isolation in the 1920’s, an isolation that allowed Nazism to rise, isolation that threw up few barriers to an expansionist Japanese empire. America must be globally engaged. If our interventions are intelligently conceived and morally executed, America’s security is enhanced by making the world a more stable, livable place.

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