Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Isolationism, Interventionism, Noninterventionism!?

Any time a Republican takes a stand against aggressive wars, his opponents always raise a hubbub about isolationism.  They call him unpatriotic, they say he doesn't support the troops, or that he is naive.  They say isolationism caused World War 2, equating an anti-war as isolationist.  The truth is, though, that those who are against war are the most supportive of the troops, and the troops know it.  Let's take a few lines and define these three policies.

According to Merriam Webster:
Isolationism is a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations.  (Emphasis added.)
In other words, isolationism is the policy of maintaining no relationship with foreign nations - no military alliances, yes, but also no trade and no diplomacy. What makes islationism is very dangerous is that it undermines markets and can kill an economy - it impoverishes nations.  Of course we already know that, afterall we are currently practicing isolationism against North Korea, Syria and Iran via trade sanctions - we're isolating them in order to destroy their economies.  It worked with Iraq, didn't it?  Syria and Iran will be starving soon enough, just as North Korea already is.

Interventionism is different, but related, as mentioned above.  Merriam Webster defines this term:
Interventionism is the theory or practice of intervening; specifically: governmental interference in economic affairs at home or in political affairs of another country. 
I'll rearrange that last bit slightly so it more accurately reflects interventionism in practice:
Interventionism is the theory or practice of national governmental interference in economic or political affairs of another nation, or in those affairs of local governments in its own nation.
As you can see, it is not, as some believe, a benevolent policy of helping those in need, it is in fact a policy of aggressive interference with sovereign governance. Only in theory it can be carried out peacefully, in reality this interference has always been aggressive force, carried out using military, police, or proxy governments (dictators) to impose our authority or culture upon other nations.  The US has been engaging in this activity for decades.  Just in the last ten years, we have embarked on this military interventionism against Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.  We've also, as I mentioned above, been using interventionism as a mechanism by which we enforce isolation on other nations.  Using sanctions, we've effectively isolated Iran in order to start a war.  It is just as Jefferson warned:
"We had relied with great security on that provision, which requires two-thirds of the Legislature to declare war. But this is completely eluded by a majority's taking measures as will be sure to produce war."
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1798
So the truth is that inteventionism is very dangerous to us, and we must learn this before cause irreversible damage.  Iran is only one example - here's a second, much more dangerous one: in 2008 we came very close to war with Russia.  You don't believe me?  Look it up.  In 2007, Randy Scheunemann (John McCain's principal foreign policy adviser) pushed for Georgia’s entry into NATO.  If successful, that would have committed the United States to fighting for Georgia during the South Ossetia war of 2008.  Despite these dangers, there are interventionists in government today still pushing for this. 

Interventionism is the policy of permanent war, and war cannot but cause loss of liberties at home, as supplies, morale, funding and public patience is stretched thin.  War of course has its dissenters, and they grow more numerous as wars drag on.  The government, in an effort to gain the cooperation of the citizens, will use any means at its disposal - nationalistic propaganda will be trumpeted via the media, campaigns to silence or ridicule opposition will be put in place, and fear of eminent attack will be used to justify removing the protection of civil liberties.  Citizens will be recruited to spy on their neighbors, and all communications will be monitored.
"War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties. The minorities are ... intimidated into silence."
- Randolph Bourne
Our founding fathers, men of keen minds and impeccable honor, men who built a foundation for individual freedom and prosperity of a magnitude never before achieved in the entire history of mankind, were proponents of peace and commerce between nations, and against entangling political and military alliances.
"Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
- James Madison
So what is this noninterventionism, and why do so many people believe is the best policy? Merriam Webster's definition is:
Nonintervention is the state or policy of not intervening (nonintervention in the affairs of other countries)
While noninterventionism abstains from entangling military alliances, it is distinctly different from isolationism in that other international political and economic relations are maintained.  In other words, nonintervention is the policy of friendly political and economic relations, of free trade and communication, of honest diplomacy.  It is what we generally use when we deal with our allies, such as Britain, France, Germany, and even those we consider rival nations, Russia and China.  Nonintervention is the policy of diplomacy over military action, of reason and persuasion over force.  Nonintervention is the policy that protects us from becoming involved in wars or other conflicts where no threat to our national security exists, and where we do not understand the culture or character of the people.  Nonintervention is the tenet of rational men.
"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."
- John Quincy Adams
Rational men are able to apply reason - they are able to examine facts and reach conclusions that work within the framework of those facts.  No rational man could examine the facts associated with intervention and conclude that it works. 

Many have discussed this issue, and I encourage you to read what they have to say as well: