Once, the US was a relatively isolationist destination — the shining city on a hill for opportunity seekers around the world. Built upon a wise legal foundation, it had only to deal with a number of pesky issues of human nature regarding slavery, indigenous peoples, political divisions, and annoying neighbors, before finally arriving at a trans-continental commercial and political cooperative with amazing economic prospects. To many, the idea of Utopia was not out of reach, as long as foreign wars and entanglements could be avoided. Isolationism ruled the minds of most late 19th and early 20th century Americans.
When the US Government Turned from “Isolationism” to “Interventionism”
It took two world wars of the 20th century along with an ideological – and often violent – war of communism against all other ways of life, to convince most Americans to support the US government when it decided to push its nose into everyone else’s business. Americans had generally been of an isolationist bent, with a few limited exceptions, prior to being drawn into the squabbles of Europe and Asia against the will of most citizens.
100 Years of Interventionism
In 1917, the US was pulled into a European War in order to restore peace and markets to the world. The nation could have continued to stand by and watch the blood-letting for a few more years, until Europe was utterly exhausted — and largely de-populated of its young men.
But that would have left Europe open to the emerging Bolsheviks, who were still barely turned back at the Battle of Warsaw in 1920.
And so, isolationism had become a poor option for the US in the year 1917.
But after World War I was over, America once again swung to its natural inclination of isolationism, and continued in that general orbit until the late 1930s and early 1940s, when once again world events caught up to the nation of clerks, entrepreneurs, and craftsmen — an emerging economic superpower — that did not wish to become an international military and political superpower.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — and Germany’s subsequent declaration of war against the US — pulled the US into another overseas conflict. This war was even larger in scale than the war 20 years earlier, and required a much larger commitment in military deployment and in domestic military production. The 1940s transition of the US to wartime consciousness amounted to a “phase change” of American thinking, from which the American mind has still not completely recovered.
After the unconditional surrenders of Germany and Japan, Americans were not willing to surrender the destinies of Europe and Asia to the USSR — a nation that itself would not have survived WWII without massive US and British aide on all levels.
… the army lost 58 percent of its vehicles in 1941 alone. To recover these losses, the Allies supplied more than 400,000 vehicles, mainly trucks, to the USSR. During the occupation, the German concern Daimler Benz set up a vehicle assembly line at a factory in Minsk (now the capital of Belarus). After the liberation of the city, the assembly of American vehicles under Lend-Lease was organized there.
It was not only supplies of finished products, but also raw materials that were extremely important – metals, chemicals and products, which were either not produced in the USSR or lost to the enemy. For example, more than half of Soviet aircraft were produced using aluminum supplied by the Allies.
The Cold War and the Leadership Void the US was Forced to Fill
Most of the world economies were devastated by the end of WWII. The US was the only (newly minted) great power to escape largely unscathed, except for human losses and economic costs. Militarily and economically, the US was the last man standing — the only one in a position to help Europe and Asia to rebuild markets and industries.
Truman had come to believe that true cooperation with the Soviets in the postwar world was a delusion, a realization driven home by the meeting in Potsdam in July of 1945. 26 There is little question that the immediate basis for Truman’s decision to use atomic bombs against Japan was the desire to minimize American casualties. But the American perception of Soviet behavior in Poland and Germany had made the prospect of a German-type solution in Japan very unappealing, and Truman did not wish a repeat of that unstable policy in Japan by allowing Soviet participation.
The USSR wanted to conquer Europe and Asia in the name of Communism. And soon, Moscow fastened its iron grip onto most of Eastern Europe, and gained enormous influence in China and North Korea. Movements of insurrection and terror were quickly organised and funded from Moscow to spread out across Asia, Africa, Latin America.
The US used its economic, political, and military power — along with its strong Anglospheric alliances — to boost markets and industry in free Europe and free Asia, and to organise economic and military alliances between the free nations — in an attempt to restore markets and to forestall continuing Soviet creep. Without US leadership, the entire house of cards would have collapsed, leaving a vacuum for a brainwashed communist decay to fill.
US Isolationism is Making a Comeback
Something to keep in mind about American foreign policy is the entire post–World War II era is something that we crafted in order to fight the Cold War. So Bretton Woods, GATT, NATO all of this was multiple sides of the same system. That system stopped being important to the United States about twenty-five years ago when the Cold War ended. We have been basically going on auto-pilot now for about twenty-five years. Think back, if you will, to what the world was like before 1945. Think back to what it was like when the United States had global reach, but no global interests. __ CFR: Nye and Zeihan
A lot of things have changed since the 1990s and the dawn of the 21st century. World communism is gone, North America is increasingly economically self-sufficient, and disruptive innovations in energy, manufacturing, and many other areas of the industrial, commercial, and financial worlds are making US foreign military intervention more expensive, less popular, and less necessary.
Imperial behavior has very shallow roots in American society and attempts to implement such policies have always proved short-lived. Hegemonic leadership is more likely to resonate strongly with American political traditions and its self-image. __ Vincent Ferraro
It is not simply that imperial behaviour has shallow roots in American society — isolationism has deep roots in American society. It is why most Americans and their ancestors came to America in the first place — to escape old world conflicts and entanglements. The aftermath of World War II and the Cold War put Americans into an unfamiliar mind space of feeling continually threatened from the outside. It was natural for them to respond in a defensive manner.
But as outside threats largely subside — and as the ability to function and prosper on a relatively independent basis from the rest of the world grows — the US is likely to swing once again toward the isolationist pole.
It is true that the Islamic Terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 revived the American war spirit yet again — temporarily. But Muslim terrorists are much less a threat to the peace when prudent immigration and deportation policies are pursued, than are hundreds or thousands of MIRV – armed ICBMs capable of being launched from thousands of miles away.
Sabre Rattling by Russia and China Does Not Help
Modern-day Americans would prefer to allow other nations and regions to go their own way, in peace. In fact, most Americans are in favour of pulling back most US military forces from overseas altogether.
We’re in a world now where the United States is reliant upon the rest of the world combined for about nine percent of GDP. About half of that’s NAFTA, about half of what’s left is energy. So we’re looking at within just five years the total involvement of the American economy with the rest of the world is about three percent of GDP.
But violent territorial expansions, and nuclear threats against the US by China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and other League nations are not acts of peace. They are the type of acts likely to jerk the US and Americans back into a wartime consciousness which they would so desperately prefer to abandon.
Whether Russia and China are rattling the bloody sabre out of a desperate need to prevent domestic insurrection, or whether they are attempting to push their respective nations into positions of greater global power, influence, and hegemony — the induced effect on American consciousness is one of explicit threat. This is clearly an obstacle to any move toward isolationism. Something must bend, or another breaking of the world may be imminent.
Bad Behaviour by Russia and China: Blame the Leadership, Not the People
A different leadership in Moscow and Beijing could create a peaceful and cooperative transition for the other nations in the neighborhood: Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, India, the Baltics, Georgia, Philippines, Poland, Finland, Turkey, etc. etc. China and Russia are terrors of their respective neighborhoods, much like packs of rabid dogs.
If they limited their bad behaviours to their own backyards, the US would be relatively free to slip back into a dream-state of new world isolationism. As the leftist absurdities in Latin America die of their own contradictions, prosperous new markets could spring up in the western hemisphere.
Many western as well as Russian forecasters have predicted the collapse of modern Russia within the next 20 years. Likewise for an unbelievably debt-burdened and toxin-saturated China. Time will tell how the dysfunctional tyrannies fare. But their neighbors would certainly be happier to see them gone, as would isolationists of the free world everywhere.