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So-Called Isolationists Are the True Internationalists

March 12, 2009
Doug Bandow

Among supporters of the American empire, there is no more vicious insult to toss than “isolationist.” Advocate making U.S. security and prosperity Washington’s priority, and you will be attacked for “isolationism.” Never mind that restraining U.S. intervention around the world would be the best way to promote peace at home and abroad.

The United States began its life as a minor player in a warlike imperial system. Conflict was constant, causing Thomas Paine to argue for independence as a means of staying out of Britain’s wars. He wrote in Common Sense: “any submissions to, or dependence on Great Britain, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial connection with any part of it. It is the true interest of America to steer clear of European contentions.”

The Founders took the same stance. They wanted a strong nation able to defend itself, to preserve Americans’ hard-won independence. But they did not expect the United States to meddle in other nations’ affairs. As George Washington famously argued, America’s policy should be to “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.” Obviously, war might still be forced upon the new country, but George Washington would have the U.S. government reduce the likelihood of conflict by avoiding “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Temporary cooperation, as with France against Britain, might be necessary, but it should be directed at advancing America’s interests. Said Washington in his Farewell Address: “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded.” After all, he asked, why “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?”

If George Washington were alive today, he would be attacked for being an isolationist.

The story continues …..

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