Isolationism is a broad foreign affairs doctrine held by people who believe that their own nation is best served by holding the affairs of other nations at a distance. Most Isolationists believe that limiting international involvement keeps their country from being drawn into dangerous and otherwise undesirable conflicts. Some strict Isolationists believe that their country is best served by even avoiding international trade agreements or other mutual assistance pacts.
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What makes these warnings odd is that in contemporary foreign policy discourse, isolationism—as the dictionary defines it—does not exist... The problem is that isolationism—as commonly understood—not only doesn't fit American foreign policy today, it doesn't even fit American foreign policy in the 1920s and 1930s. … The only sense in which the United States in the interwar years truly remained apart from other nations lay in its refusal to make binding military commitments, either via the League of Nations or through alliances with particular nations. America wielded power economically, diplomatically, and even militarily, but it jealously guarded its sovereignty. That's why one influential history of the era dubs U.S. foreign policy between the wars "independent internationalism." … The popular "characterization of America as isolationist in the interwar period," argues Ohio State University's Bear Braumoeller in a useful review of the academic literature on the period, "is simply wrong."
If calling America isolationist in the 1920s and 1930s is wrong, calling America isolationist today is absurd.
- Peter Beinart, "The myth of American isolationism", National Journal (18 October 2014); cf. Jesse Walker, "The Imaginary Specter of Isolationism", Reason's Hit & Run Blog (20 October 2014, 12:28 PM).
- There is no constituency for isolationism on the right, outside the Buchananite fever swamps.
- Max Boot, "What the Heck Is a ‘Neocon’?". OpinionJournal.com (The Wall Street Journal). December 30, 2002.
- Protectionism and isolationism — the policies that brought us the Great Depression and World War II.
- Max Boot The Republican Party is dead. Los Angeles Times (May 8, 2016).
- I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations. Yes, in World War Z some nations come out as winners and some as losers, but isn't that the case in real life as well? I wanted to base my stories on the historical actions of the countries in question, and if it offends some individuals, then maybe they should reexamine their own nation's history
- Max Brooks "Exclusive Interview: Max Brooks on World War Z". Eat My Brains!. October 20, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2008.
- In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting — yet it ends in danger and decline... But our enemies and our friends can be certain. The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil. America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed, and move this world toward peace. We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders — and for the others, their day will come.
- George W. Bush, State of the Union address (January 31, 2006)
- Our nations must renew our commitment to open economies, and stand firm against economic isolationism.
- George W. Bush, Address to the United Nations General Assembly by President George W. Bush (23 September 2008)
- We must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad.
- If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts? Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us? Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us. Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us.... And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them.
In reality, bias against ‘heretics’ is felt today just as it used to be. Many give way to it as much as their forefathers used to do. Only, they have turned it against political adversaries. Those are the only ones with whom they refuse to mix. Sectarianism has only changed its object and taken other forms, because the vital interest has shifted. Should we dare to say that this shifting is progress?
It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened: it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less. Injustice and violence are still reigning; but they are now in the service of degraded passions.
- Henri de Lubac, Paradoxes of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 226-227
- No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors "The Chance for Peace" (16 April 1953)
- America cannot be the world's policeman. But we must reject the new isolationism that says: don't help anywhere, because we can not help everywhere.
- Al Gore, Address to the International Press Institute, Boston, Massachusetts (30 April 2000).
- Perfectionism, no less than isolationism or imperialism or power politics, may obstruct the paths to international peace. Let us not forget that the retreat to isolationism a quarter of a century ago was started not by a direct attack against international cooperation but against the alleged imperfections of the peace.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, annual message to Congress on the State of the Union (January 6, 1945). The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944–45 (1950), p. 498.
- For the people of my country this meeting today has a special historic significance. After the first world war the United States refused to join the League of Nations and our seat was empty at the first meeting of the League Assembly. This time the United States is not only a member; it is the host to the United Nations. I can assure you that the Government and the people of the United States are deeply proud and grateful that the United Nations has chosen our country for its headquarters. We will extend the fullest measure of cooperation in making a home for the United Nations in this country. The American people welcome the delegates and the Secretariat of the United Nations as good neighbors and warm friends. This meeting of the Assembly symbolizes the abandonment by the United States of a policy of isolation.
- I have no confidence in the system of isolement [isolation]. It does not answer in social life for individuals, nor in politics for nations. Man is a social animal.
- Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, letter to Thomas Raikes (March 1, 1841); in Harriet Raikes, ed., Private Correspondence of Thomas Raikes (1861), p. 262–63.