Reconsidering isolationism

The United States needs to be more discerning when deciding whether to get involved in a foreign affair.

Andrew Oxenham, Writer

Before World War I, the United States of America operated under a policy known today as isolationism, a policy in which the U.S. remained apart from the affairs and interests of other nations. After WWI forced the United States to take an active hand in the defense and reshaping of Europe, they were never able to completely withdraw from international affairs.

Since that time, the United States’ presence in foreign places, both militarily and diplomatically, has increased dramatically. The question is often “why doesn’t the US go in and do something about this problem?’ The emphasis has shifted from that of dabbling in foreign affairs to an unprecedented amount of troops and influence in foreign places. Since 1950, 54 different countries have hosted at least 1,000 American troops at one point or another.

Unfortunately, the clamor to have U.S. troops and presence in the world became a global example of the old idiom “have your cake and eat it too.” If there was a problem in a place with no U.S. presence, pundits for non-isolationist policies asked how a powerful nation like the United States watch tragedies happen without helping. On the other hand, if the United States went to a place and strove to bring democracy and freedom to it, advocates of more traditional isolationist policies cried foul and pushed for the United States’ removal from foreign countries.

Due to the United States’ Christian foundation, it seems apparent that it should not be adverse to helping out other nations in need. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait (an ally of the U.S.), the military movement known as Operation Desert Storm was an appropriate response to help out a foreign ally.

There is a difference, however, between helping out when action is necessary and a constant presence.

The difficulty comes after the initial good act is performed. After the United States deals with a problem, is it better to keep military garrisons there for future use or is it important to withdraw and allow countries to solve their own problems?

Helping out another nation is morally permissible but not required. A country must, however, take care of its own citizens, and so for the good of its first priority (its citizens), the United States should help internationally whenever feasible, whenever there is dire need. Less serious need should be judged on a case-by-case basis, and each case should be decided within an isolationist framework. This gives the United States the ability to err on the side of working to improve itself, and then only helping out others during times when it is necessary or when there is sufficient resources to do so.

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