of the U.S. Constitution wisely advised a path of nonintervention
in the affairs of other nations. As students of history, America’s
first statesmen established peace and free trade as a wiser foreign
policy course over militarism, alliance-making, and empire. John
Quincy Adams, the sixth president, best summed up America’s
original philosophy on foreign-policy: “America … goes not
abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”
For the last
century, the United States has strayed from its noble roots, marching
headlong into one war after another having no bearing on the security
of the United States and bringing us the massive armies, debts,
and taxes that James Madison warned of. These wars kill thousands;
destabilize entire regions; destroy economies, civilizations, and
cultures; engender resentments against Americans; put U.S. troops
in the middle of civil conflicts; build a large and expensive overseas
military empire; and alienate nations that would otherwise support
argue that a foreign policy based on “peace, commerce, and
honest friendship” is ill-suited to the modern age. As they
march us to war, these folks often vilify anyone who objects to
their messianic desire to use bombs and bullets to shape the world.
The word “isolationist” is an easy pejorative label often
employed in this act. Presidential candidate Ron Paul was so labeled
in an October 5, 2007, editorial
in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Those of us labeled
“isolationists,” the editorial suggested, reject the wisdom
of the U.S. government’s role as global dragon-slayer. (Paul’s
response to the editorial is here.)
Leader’s editorial listed “decades of military
interventionism around the globe” as “critically important
components” of U.S. foreign policy.
U.S. interventions in Korea, Vietnam, and Lebanon were “critically
After a decade
of sanctions in Iraq had killed hundreds of thousands of innocent
civilians, the United States invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein,
a brutal dictator who had been, by the way, supported by the U.S.
government for years as part of its interventionist foreign policy.
All that was “critically important”?
Shall we discuss
America’s man in Chile, the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet,
who, with the assistance of the CIA, ousted the democratically elected
president of Chile in a coup? That was “critically important”?
The U.S. government
propped up the shah’s brutal regime in Iran after the CIA ousted
the democratically elected prime minister of that country in a coup.
That was “critically important”?
armed and equipped mujahideen rebels, fanatics who would later attack
New York City, to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That
was “critically important”?
Is this what
the New Hampshire Union Leader claims is a rational
Paul’s repeated insistence that ‘there would be no risk
of somebody invading us’ is just what the isolationist Republicans
of the 1930s believed – right up until Pearl Harbor,”
was the final jab from the Union Leader editorial page.
the Union Leader’s suggestion, the Republicans of the 1930s
weren't “isolationist” – they were simply resisting
Roosevelt’s schemes to get America into another unnecessary
and destructive war. After all, don’t forget that President Wilson’s
“make-the-world-safe-for-democracy” debacle of World War
I was still fresh on their minds.
D. Roosevelt, like George W. Bush, was desperate for war. He engaged,
without congressional approval, in the “destroyers-for-bases”
deal, contrary to U.S. neutrality; he employed “lend-lease”
to ship military equipment to the Soviet communists and Great Britain;
he oversaw the use of U.S. military convoys to ship goods to Britain;
finally, he ordered U.S. ships to report German submarine positions
to the British – an act of war.
lure the Germans into attacking the United States, Roosevelt looked
to the Pacific. While Japan was fighting in China, he prohibited
American companies from selling Japan oil, iron, and scrap steel,
and froze all Japanese assets in the United States. He refused to
meet with the Japanese prime minister, whose government fell, ushering
in the more hawkish prime minister, Tojo Hideki. An offer by the
Japanese to leave China in exchange for normalization of trade was
rebuffed. The “Flying Tigers” were a U.S.-backed air force
in Burma training to fight against the Japanese – before
There is nothing
“isolationist” about desiring free trade, commerce, and
honest friendship among all nations. It is quite the opposite of
isolation. While it has been some time since the United States followed
this path, a safer course for the future is one of strong neutrality,
not the thuggish militarism always desired by some at the expense
of peace and freedom for the rest of us.
McPherson [send him mail]
lives, reads, writes, plays music and home schools his kids in Portsmouth,
New Hampshire. He is policy advisor at the Future
of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.