The truth about US “isolationism”
This is a letter QR American editor Matk G. Brennan sent to the New York Times today
June 15, 2011
Dear Mr. Zeleny:
I am writing in reference to your (mis)use of the word “isolationism” in your article “Candidates Show G.O.P. Less United On Goals Of War” in today’s New York Times.
As a working definition, “Isolationism” can be defined as a foreign policy adopted by a nation in which the country refuses to enter into any alliances, foreign trade or economic commitments, or international agreements in hopes of focusing all of its resources into advancement within its own borders while remaining at peace with foreign countries by avoiding all entanglements of foreign agreements. None of the presidential candidates offered any such policy prescription in the debate Monday night, even though you characterized their comments as “a renewed streak of isolationism among Republicans.”
In the postscript to his important 1966 work Isolationism in America 1935-1941, Manfred Jonas concluded, “True isolationism…survives only as “old nostalgia.” As a positive, defensible policy it is dead. The years from 1935 to 1941 were the years of its swan song.”
The word you should have used was “non-interventionism.” This word better captures the notion that the United States will not intervene in foreign wars that have no bearing on the American national interest. To categorize the Republican debaters’ positions as “a renewed streak of isolationism,” plays on mythological historical fears while at the same time pushing for more American military debacles like the current ones in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. And perhaps I should add Yemen to that tragically long list.
When the United States cuts off all commercial trade, cultural exchanges, and diplomatic relations with foreign nations, then you might correctly write about “a renewed streak of isolationism.” In the meantime, please note that your description is historically inaccurate as well as rhetorically incendiary.
Posted by Derek Turner 15 June 2011