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Does America Have An Isolationist Policy?

Updated on June 19, 2013

They say history often repeats. It is true, great empires have collapsed from within many times for a variety of internal reasons-take Greece, take the Romans, more recently, cold war Russia. America in the 1920-30's had a foreign policy that was isolationist, meaning, whatever problems outside of the US were ignored. It was an attitude of, "not our concern" and "we are focusing on our own issues". America had just finished a short stint in WW1, after much begging from England to get involved. There were many issues at home to deal with, then, the great financial collapse of 1929 really made American foreign policy inward. Thus, during the whole 1930's, as Hitler came to power in Germany, America simply watched and went on its way.Hitler's coming to power was not secret. Even after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, America seemed not to be concerned. Even in 1940, when Germany invaded France, America felt the same way. That was a European problem. Of course, had not Japan attacked in 1941 in Hawaii, America might have delayed entering in WW2 as Hitler took much of Europe with "boots on the ground".

President Obama's "engagement" policy is the current foreign policy. Some think, it is making America "isolationist" again, as our trillions of debt and recession needs to be dealt with. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have drained many Americans. Iraq remains a bad place. Afghanistan is simply a more modern Vietnam, after the US leaves, many doubt if Karzai will last for very long as the Taliban and al-Qaeda return to remote regions.

Engagement is a hit or miss policy. Usually, with jihadists or extreme governments with devout beliefs, it amounts to appeasement and delay. The US may view it as containment or success, but in the end, the other side gets whatever they wanted to begin with. Vietnam is a classroom example. Nixon tried it and failed. Obama engages with Iran and North Korea and both continue to whatever their goal is.

The French in Mali have requested help from many countries. Some have provided logistical support, supplies, transport, intelligence at no cost. Yet, the US has offered transport planes and use of predator drones to the French but want the French to pay for the help. This shocked them and view as rude, so, they may refuse it. Japan recently sparred with China over the Senkaku Islands near Okinawa by firing a warning shot at Chinese aircraft flying over the islands, which both nations claim as theirs. China called it an "act of war" and will respond. America said while we have a defense treaty with Japan, we are neutral on this one. How so? Would the US keep their promise with Japan?

Syria continues for a second year and the "engagement" policy means keeping the US other NATO countries out of it as 60,000 are killed. Yet, Russia sees it as a weakness, as does Iran, which continue to send aid to Assad right under America's nose.

As America becomes more isolationist in foreign policy, the more history is repeating in some ways until there will be another "event" to reverse the trend.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Yes, that is true in part. President Clinton has stated that he greatly regretted not intervening in the slaughter of the 90's in Africa to stop it.

    • Jewel01 profile image

      Julie Buchanan 5 years ago from Michigan

      There were many issues which influenced the destruction of Greece and Rome. One in particular was that Rome had spread its armies so thin, it was unable to protect itself, as well as the cost to maintain an army. Economics played a major role, in that Rome imported more than it exported and relied on the booty from war to fund it treasury. Failure to maintain it's infrastructure, as we might consider firemen, police, and basic necessities.

      I agree we are going the way of Rome, but never has a country maintained its super power status, for over 200 years. I also agree with previous posts, regarding affording another war. We are not engaged with Syria and its problems because, we do not need them to secure a foothold in the middle east. We do not fight because we are for human rights or dignity, other wise we would have aided Darfur.

      We are an Imperialist Country, plain and simple.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Yes, I know, yet, we cannot just ignore everything else.

    • profile image

      Lole 5 years ago

      The problem is that the U.S. doesn't have money to intervene anywhere else. The country is not in good financial shape and if we go any further the whole country will be like your POS state California.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Thanks. Many will say, "it is about time", hopefully, history will wake us up.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 5 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I couldn't agree more with your article.

      The mood of the country today parallels that of the 1920/30s. We cut the defense budget in the '20s when times were good. As the Depression came in, it just got worse and we had a population looking for larger government. We are war weary, but the world is still dangerous. Engagment is the only answer. Great article.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I think charity begins at home. America has been very generous with other countries, and out own economy and infrastructure need work. We still have bases in almost every country of the world, so that's hardly isolationist.