The policy of isolating one’s country from military alliances or other commitments in order to avoid foreign entanglements was historically a strong sentiment in the USA. President Woodrow Wilson won a second term in 1916 in promising (falsely) to keep America out of WWI. President Franklin Roosevelt campaigned in 1936 on a pledge to “shun political commitments which might entangle us in foreign wars” and to seek to “isolate ourselves completely from war." Since coming to office during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama has practiced the spirit of this policy - especially with Syria.

One columnist writes, "Isolationism is not just an aversion to war, which is an altogether healthy instinct. It is a broader reluctance to engage, to assert responsibility, to commit. Isolationism tends to be pessimistic (we will get it wrong, we will make it worse) and amoral (it is none of our business unless it threatens us directly) and inward-looking (foreign aid is a waste of money better spent at home)." He then quotes one political leader as saying, "We are not the world’s policeman, nor its judge and jury...our own needs in America are great, and they come first.”

Many praise this approach as wise and helpful across the political spectrum, from Tea Partiers to liberal pacificists.  For some, the death and carnage of any military engagement is enough to see the wisdom in this course. Others raise concern about the implications of isolationism.  "I will never forgive Obama for what he did - and didn't do - in Syria" one man notes. "A group of peaceful freedom seekers was annihilated by their government.  And we did nothing.  How would it have turned out for us if France had the same attitude during the revolutionary war? And how would the Arab Spring have turned out if America had been a little more willing to stand up for those seeking democracy?"  

Dialog Tips: 

America’s Role in the World: What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century (NIF Issue Guide) (2013) National Issues Forums Institute

Conversation Catalysts: 

Bill Keller, Sept 8 2013, Our New Isolationism.  New York Times Op-ed.

Tony Blankley, June 23, 2010 Obama the Isolationist?  National Review.  


There is currently no content classified with this term.