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Posts Tagged ‘Isolationism’

The Pandemic Led To The Biggest Drop In U.S. Life Expectancy Since WWII, Study Finds : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

Posted by M. C. on June 28, 2021

NPR screams “racism” when their own article screams “lockdown” and “isolationism”.

What is a “simulated estimate”? A “government guess”? A step below a “simulated fact”? Oh wait…it is a joke.

Allison Aubrey - 2015 square

Allison Aubrey

A new study estimates that life expectancy in the U.S. decreased by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the declines were most pronounced among minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people.

In 2018, average life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years (78.7). It declined to about 77 years (76.9) by the end of 2020, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

“We have not seen a decrease like this since World War II. It’s a horrific decrease in life expectancy,” said Steven Woolf of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and an author of the study released on Wednesday. (The study is based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and includes simulated estimates for 2020.)

Beyond the more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S. directly from the coronavirus, other factors play into the decreased longevity, including “disruptions in health care, disruptions in chronic disease management, and behavioral health crisis, where people struggling with addiction disorders or depression might not have gotten the help that they needed,” Woolf said.

The lack of access to care and other pandemic-related disruptions hit some Americans much harder than others. And it’s been well documented that the death rate for Black Americans was twice as high compared with white Americans.

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Neither the Wars Nor the Leaders Were Great | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on June 1, 2021

Herbert Spencer, the most widely read philosopher of his time, was squarely in the classical-liberal tradition. His hostility to statism is exemplified by his assertion that, “Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression and by aggression.”

Frank Chodorov, the last of the Old Right greats, wrote that “Isolationism is not a political policy, it is a natural attitude of a people.” Left to their own devices, the people “do not feel any call to impose their own customs and values on strangers.” Declining to dodge the scare word, Chodorov urged a “return to that isolationism which for over a hundred years prospered the nation and gained for us the respect and admiration of the world.”

Ralph Raico

The king of Prussia, Frederick II (“the Great”), confessed that he had seized the province of Silesia from the Empress Maria Theresa in 1740 because, as a newcomer to the throne, he had to make a name for himself. This initiated a war with Austria that developed into a worldwide war (in North America, the French and Indian War), and went on to 1763. Of course, many tens of thousands died in that series of wars.

Frederick’s admission is probably unique in the annals of leaders of states. In general, rulers have been much more circumspect about revealing the true reasons for their wars, as well as the methods by which they conduct them. Pretexts and evasions have proliferated. In today’s democratic societies, these are endorsed — often invented — by compliant professors and other intellectuals.

For generations, the unmasking of such excuses for war and war making has been the essence of historical revisionism, or simply revisionism. Revisionism and classical liberalism, today called libertarianism, have always been closely linked.

The greatest classical-liberal thinker on international affairs was Richard Cobden, whose crusade for repeal of the Corn Laws triumphed in 1846, bringing free trade and prosperity to England. Cobden’s two-volume Political Writings are all revisionist accounts of British foreign policy.

Cobden maintained that

The middle and industrious classes of England can have no interest apart from the preservation of peace. The honours, the fame, the emoluments of war belong not to them; the battle-plain is the harvest-field of the aristocracy, watered by the blood of the people.

He looked forward to a time when the slogan “no foreign politics” would become the watchword of all who aspired to be representatives of a free people. Cobden went so far as to trace the calamitous English wars against revolutionary France — which went on for a generation and ended only at Waterloo — to the hostility of the British upper classes to the antiaristocratic policies of the French.


Castigating the aristocracy for its alleged war lust was standard for liberal writers of earlier generations. But Cobden’s views began to change when he observed the intense popular enthusiasm for the Crimean War against Russia and on behalf of the Ottoman Turks. His outspoken opposition to that war, seconded by his friend and coleader of the Manchester School, John Bright, cost both of them their seats in the Commons at the next election.

Bright outlived his colleague by 20 years, witnessing the growing passion for empire in his country. In 1884, the acclaimed Liberal prime minister, William Gladstone, ordered the Royal Navy to bombard Alexandria to recover the debts owed by the Egyptians to British investors. Bright scornfully dismissed it as “a jobbers’ war,” war on behalf of a privileged class of capitalists, and resigned from the Gladstone cabinet. But he never forgot what had started him on the road to anti-imperialism. When Bright passed with his young grandson in front of the statue in London, labeled “Crimea,” the boy asked the meaning of the memorial. Bright replied, simply, “a crime.”

Herbert Spencer, the most widely read philosopher of his time, was squarely in the classical-liberal tradition. His hostility to statism is exemplified by his assertion that, “Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression and by aggression.”

While noting the state’s inborn tendency toward “militancy” — as opposed to the peaceful intercourse of civil society — Spencer denounced the various apologias for his country’s wars in his lifetime, in China, South Africa, and elsewhere.

In the United States, anarchist author Lysander Spooner was a renowned abolitionist, even conspiring with John Brown to promote a servile insurrection in the South. Yet he vociferously opposed the Civil War, arguing that it violated the right of the southern states to secede from a Union that no longer represented them. E.L. Godkin, influential editor of The Nation magazine, opposed US imperialism to the end of his life, condemning the war against Spain. Like Godkin, William Graham Sumner was a forthright proponent of free trade and the gold standard and a foe of socialism. He held the first professorship in sociology (at Yale) and authored a great many books. But his most enduring work is his essay “The Conquest of the United States by Spain,” reprinted many times and today available online. In this ironically titled work, Sumner portrayed the savage US war against the Philippines, which cost some 200,000 Filipino lives, as an American version of the imperialism and lust for colonies that had brought Spain the sorry state of his own time.

Unsurprisingly, the most thoroughgoing of the liberal revisionists was the arch-radical Gustave de Molinari, originator of what has come to be known as anarchocapitalism. In his work on the Great Revolution of 1789, Molinari eviscerated the founding myth of the French Republic. France had been proceeding gradually and organically towards liberal reform in the later 18th century; the revolution put an end to that process, substituting an unprecedented expansion of state power and a generation of war. The self-proclaimed liberal parties of the 19th century were, in fact, machines for the exploitation of society by the now victorious predatory middle classes, who profited from tariffs, government contracts, state subsidies for railroads and other industries, state-sponsored banking, and the legion of jobs available in the ever-expanding bureaucracy.

In his last work, published a year before his death in 1912, Molinari never relented. The American Civil War had not been simply a humanitarian crusade to free the slaves. The war “ruined the conquered provinces,” but the Northern plutocrats pulling the strings achieved their aim: the imposition of a vicious protectionism that led ultimately “to the regime of trusts and produced the billionaires.”

Libertarian revisionism continued into the 20th century. The First World War furnished rich pickings, among them Albert Jay Nock’s The Myth of a Guilty Nation and H.L. Mencken’s continuing, and of course witty, exposés of the lies of America’s wars and war makers. In the next generation, Frank Chodorov, the last of the Old Right greats, wrote that “Isolationism is not a political policy, it is a natural attitude of a people.” Left to their own devices, the people “do not feel any call to impose their own customs and values on strangers.” Declining to dodge the scare word, Chodorov urged a “return to that isolationism which for over a hundred years prospered the nation and gained for us the respect and admiration of the world.” Chodorov — founder of ISI, which he named the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, later tamed down to “the Intercollegiate Studies Institute” — broke with the “New Right,” the neocons of the that era, over his opposition to the Korean War.

Murray Rothbard was the heir to this whole legacy, totally familiar with it and bringing it up to date. Aside from his many other, really amazing contributions, Murray and his colleague Leonard Liggio introduced historical revisionism to the burgeoning American libertarian movement (including me). This is a work now carried on with great gusto by Lew Rockwell, of the Mises Institute, and his associated accomplished scholars, particularly the indefatigable Tom Woods.

The essays and reviews I have published and now collected and mostly expanded in this volume are in the tradition of libertarian revisionism, animated by the spirit of Murray Rothbard. They expose the consecrated lies and crimes of some of our most iniquitous, and beloved, recent rulers. My hope is, in a small way, to lay bare historically the nature of the state.

Tangentially, I’ve also taken into account the strange phenomenon, now nearly forgotten, of the deep affection of multitudes of honored Western intellectuals in the 1930s and ’40s for the great experiment in socialism taking place in Soviet Russia under Josef Stalin. Their propaganda had an impact on a number of Western leaders and on Western policy towards the Soviet Union. To my mind, this is worthy of a certain revisionism even today.

[This article is the introduction to Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal (2010).] Author:

Ralph Raico

Ralph Raico (1936–2016) was professor emeritus in European history at Buffalo State College and a senior fellow of the Mises Institute. He was a specialist on the history of liberty, the liberal tradition in Europe, and the relationship between war and the rise of the state. He is the author of The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton.

A bibliography of Ralph Raico’s work, compiled by Tyler Kubik, is found here.

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Murray Rothbard on War and “Isolationism” | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 4, 2021

Well, the Progressive period begins around 1900 with Teddy Roosevelt and so forth. Woodrow Wilson cements it with his so-called reforms, which totally subject the banking system to federal power, and with the Federal Trade Commission, which did for business what the Interstate Commerce Commission did for the railroads. In other words, he imposed a system of monopoly capitalism, or corporate state monopoly, which we now call the partnership of the government and of big business and industry, which means essentially a corporate state, or we can call it economic fascism. It culminated in World War I economic planning, for the war consisted of a totally collectivized economy headed by the sainted and revered Bernard Mannes Baruch, head of the War Industries Board.

Murray N. Rothbard

[These edited extracts, from an interview in the February 1973 issue of Reason magazine, first ran in the June 1999 issue ofthe Rothbard-Rockwell Report.]

Q: Why, in your view, is isolationism an essential tenet of libertarian foreign policy?

A: The libertarian position, generally, is to minimize state power as much as possible, down to zero, and isolationism is the full expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of whittling down state power. In other words, interventionism is the opposite of isolationism, and of course it goes on up to war, as the aggrandizement of state power crosses national boundaries into other states, pushing other people around etc. So this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population. I see the two as united.

The responsibility of trying to limit or abolish foreign intervention is avoided by many conservative libertarians in that they are very, very concerned with things like price control—of course I agree with them. They are very, very concerned about eliminating taxes, licensing, and so forth—with which I agree—but somehow when it comes to foreign policy there’s a black out. The libertarian position against the state, the hostility toward expanding government intervention and so forth, goes by the board—all of a sudden you hear those same people who are worried about government intervention in the steel industry cheering every American act of mass murder in Vietnam or bombing or pushing around people all over the world.

This shows, for one thing, that the powers of the state apparatus to bamboozle the public work better in foreign affairs than in domestic. In foreign affairs you still have this mystique that the nation-state is protecting you from a bogeyman on the other side of the mountain. There are “bad” guys out there trying to conquer the world and “our” guys are in there trying to protect us. So not only is isolationism the logical corollary of libertarianism, which many libertarians don’t put into practice; in addition, as Randolph Bourne says, “war is the health of the state.”

The state thrives on war—unless, of course, it is defeated and crushed—expands on it, glories in it. For one thing, when one state attacks another state, it is able through this intellectual bamboozlement of the public to convince them that they must rush to the defense of the state because they think the state is defending them.

In other words, if, let’s say, Paraguay and Brazil are going to get into a war, each state—the Paraguayan government and the Brazilian government—is able to convince their own subjects that the other government is out to get them and loot them and murder them in their beds and so forth, so they are able to induce their own hapless subjects to fight against the other state, whereas in actual practice, of course, it is the states that have the quarrel, not the people. The people are outside the quarrels of the state and yet the state is able to generate this patriotic mass war hysteria and to call everybody up to the colors physically and spiritually and economically and therefore, of course, aggrandize state power permanently.

Most conservatives and libertarians are very familiar with—and deplore—the increase in state power in the American government in the last 50 or 70 years, but what they don’t seem to realize is that most of these increases took place in giant leaps during wartime. It was wartime that provided the crisis situation—the spark—which enabled the states to put on so-called emergency measures, which of course never got lifted, or rarely got lifted.

Even the War of 1812—seemingly a harmless little escapade—was evil, and also in the domestic sense, in that it ruined the Jeffersonian Party for a long time to come, it established federalism, which means monopoly state-capitalism in essence, it imposed a central bank, it imposed high tariffs, it imposed domestic federal taxation, which never existed before, internal taxation, and it took a long time to get rid of it, and we never really did get back to the pre–War of 1812 level of minimal state power.

Then, of course, the Mexican War [Mexican-American War, 1846–48] had consequences of slave expansion and so forth. But the Civil War was, of course, much worse—the Civil War was really the great turning point, one of the great turning points in the increase of state power, because with the Civil War you now have the total introduction of things like railroad land grants, subsidies of big business, permanent high tariffs, which the Jacksonians had been able to whittle away before the Civil War, and a total revolution in the monetary system so that the old pure gold standard was replaced first by greenback paper, and then by the National Banking Act—a controlled banking system. And for the first time we had the imposition in the United states of an income tax and federal conscription. The income tax was reluctantly eliminated after the Civil War as was conscription: all the other things—such as high excise taxes—continued on as a permanent accretion of state power over the American public.

The third huge increase of power came out of World War I. World War I set both the foreign and the domestic policies for the twentieth century. Woodrow Wilson set the entire pattern for foreign policy from 1917 to the present. There is a total continuity between Wilson, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, and Nixon—the same thing all the way down the line.

Q: You’d include Kennedy in that?

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Murray N. Rothbard

Murray N. Rothbard made major contributions to economics, history, political philosophy, and legal theory. He combined Austrian economics with a fervent commitment to individual liberty.

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Getting Rid of the Myth of ‘Isolationism’ | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on October 1, 2020

The key thing to remember in all this is that the U.S. has never been isolationist in its foreign relations. The thing that Kupchan calls America’s “default setting” is not real. Isolationism is the pejorative term that expansionists and interventionists have used over the last century to ridicule and dismiss opposition to unnecessary wars.

You can buy and sell most anywhere on the planet, you travel most anywhere, you read most everyone’s media. But…

If you are opposed to war you are isolationist.


No one claims to be an isolationist, but foreign policy analysts keep imagining and fearing a “resurgence” of isolationism around every corner. This fear was on display in a recent Atlanticarticle by Charles Kupchan, who tries to rehabilitate the label in order to oppose the substance of a policy of nonintervention and non-entanglement. Kupchan allows that a policy of avoiding entangling alliances and staying out of European wars was important for the growth and prosperity of the United States, but then rehearses the same old and misleading story about the terrible “isolationist” interwar years that we have heard countless times before. This misrepresents the history of that period and compromises our ability to rethink our foreign policy today.

Kupchan’s article is not just an exercise in beating a dead horse, since he fears that the same thing that happened between the world wars is happening again: “If the 19th century was isolationism’s finest hour, the interwar era was surely its darkest and most deluded. The conditions that led to this misguided run for cover are making a comeback.” Kupchan wants to borrow a little from the people he calls “isolationists” so that the U.S. will remain thoroughly ensnared in most of its global commitments.


At the same time that he warns that “U.S. statecraft has become divorced from popular will,” he seems to want to keep it this way by rejecting what he calls the “isolationist temptation.” If “a majority of the country favors either America First or global disengagement,” as he says, the goal seems to be to ignore what the majority wants in favor of making a few tweaks to the same old strategy of U.S. primacy. Those tweaks aren’t going to lessen popular support for a reduced U.S. role in the world, and they will likely make the public even more disillusioned with the remaining costs and demands of U.S. “leadership.”

The key thing to remember in all this is that the U.S. has never been isolationist in its foreign relations. The thing that Kupchan calls America’s “default setting” is not real. Isolationism is the pejorative term that expansionists and interventionists have used over the last century to ridicule and dismiss opposition to unnecessary wars. Isolationism as U.S. policy in the 1920s and 1930s is a myth, and the myth is deployed whenever there has been a serious challenge to the status quo in post-1945 U.S. foreign policy. Bear Braumoeller summed it up very well in his article, “The Myth of American Isolationism,” this way: “the characterization of America as isolationist in the interwar period is simply wrong.” We can’t learn from the past if we insist on distorting it. As William Appleman Williams put it in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, “It not only deforms the history of the decade from 1919 to 1930, but it also twists the story of American entry into World War II and warps the record of the cold war.” Williams also remarked in a note that the use of the term isolationist “has thus crippled American thought about foreign policy for 50 years.” Today we can say that it has done so for a century.


Our government eschewed permanent alliances for most of its history, and it refrained from taking sides in the European Great Power conflicts of the nineteenth century, but it never sought to cut itself from the world and could not have done that even if it had wished to do so. The U.S. was a commercial republic from the start, and it cultivated economic and diplomatic ties with as many states as possible. You can call the steady expansion of the U.S. across North America and into the Pacific and Caribbean “isolationism,” but that just shows how misleading and inaccurate the label has always been.

Post-WWI America was a rising power and increasingly involved in the affairs of the world. Its economic and diplomatic engagement with the world increased during these years. If it wasn’t involved in the way that later internationalists would have liked, that didn’t make the U.S. isolationist. Braumoeller makes this point explicitly: “America was not isolationist in affairs relating to international security in Europe for the bulk of the period: in fact, it was perhaps more internationalist than it had ever been.” The U.S. was behaving as a great power, but one that strove to maintain its neutrality. That was neither deluded nor disastrous, and we need to stop pretending that it was if we are ever going to be able to make the needed changes to our foreign policy today.


Kupchan acknowledges that there has to be an “adjustment” after the last several decades of overreach, but he casts this as a way of preventing more significant retrenchment: “The paramount question is whether that adjustment takes the form of a judicious pullback or a more dangerous retreat.” No one objects to the desire for a responsible reduction in U.S. commitments, but one person’s “judicious pullback” will often be denounced as a “dangerous retreat” by others. Just consider how many times we have been warned about a U.S. “retreat” from the Middle East over the last 11 years. Even now, the U.S. is still taking part in multiple wars across the region, and the “retreat” we have been told has happened several times never seems to take place. Warning about the perils of an “isolationist comeback” hardly makes it more likely that these withdrawals will ever happen.

He recommends that “judicious retrenchment should entail shedding U.S. entanglements in the periphery, not in the strategic heartlands of Europe and Asia.” Certainly, any reduction in unnecessary U.S. commitments is welcome, but a thorough rethinking of U.S. foreign policy has to include every region. Kupchan is right to criticize slapdash, incompetent withdrawals, but one gets the impression that he thinks there shouldn’t be any withdrawals except from the Middle East. He cites “Russian and Chinese threats” as the main reasons not to pull back at all in Europe or Asia, but this seems like an uncritical endorsement of the status quo.

It is in East Asia where the U.S. might be fighting a war against a major, nuclear-armed power in the future, and it is also there where the U.S. has some of the wealthiest and most capable allies. If the U.S. can’t reduce its exposure to the risk of a major war where that risk is the greatest and its allies are strongest, when will it ever be able to do that? Reducing the U.S. military presence in East Asia will make it easier to manage U.S.-Chinese tensions, and it will give allies an additional incentive to assume more responsibility for their own security.

The U.S. has far more security commitments than it can afford and far more than can possibly be justified by our own security interests. That includes, but is not limited to, our overcommitment to the Middle East. Our foreign entanglements have been allowed to grow and spread to such an extent over the last seventy-five years that modest pruning won’t be good enough to put U.S. foreign policy on a sound footing that will have reliable public support. There needs to be a much more comprehensive review of all U.S. commitments to determine which ones are truly necessary for our security and which ones are not. Ruling out the bulk of those commitments as untouchable in advance is a mistake.

There is broad public support for constructive international engagement, but there is remarkably little backing for preserving U.S. hegemony in its current form. In order to have a more sustainable foreign policy, the U.S. needs to scale back its ambitions in most parts of the world, and it needs to shift more of the security burdens for different regions to the countries that have the most at stake. That should be done deliberately and carefully, but it does need to happen if we are to realign our foreign policy with protecting the vital interests of the United States.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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[Essay] The Old Normal, by Andrew J. Bacevich | Harper’s Magazine

Posted by M. C. on July 8, 2020

For the United States today, the problem turns out to be similar to the one that beset the nation during the period leading up to World War II: not isolationism but overstretch, compounded by indolence. The present-day disparities between our aspirations, commitments, and capacities to act are enormous.

The core questions, submerged today as they were on the eve of U.S. entry into World War II, are these: What does freedom require? How much will it cost? And who will pay?

Why we can’t beat our addiction to war


Addressing the graduating cadets at West Point in May 1942, General George C. Marshall, then the Army chief of staff, reduced the nation’s purpose in the global war it had recently joined to a single emphatic sentence. “We are determined,” he remarked, “that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.”

At the time Marshall spoke, mere months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces had sustained a string of painful setbacks and had yet to win a major battle. Eventual victory over Japan and Germany seemed anything but assured. Yet Marshall was already looking beyond the immediate challenges to define what that victory, when ultimately— and, in his view, inevitably—achieved, was going to signify.

This second world war of the twentieth century, Marshall understood, was going to be immense and immensely destructive. But if vast in scope, it would be limited in duration. The sun would set; the war would end. Today no such expectation exists. Marshall’s successors have come to view armed conflict as an open-ended proposition. The alarming turn in U.S.–Iranian relations is another reminder that war has become normal for the United States.

The address at West Point was not some frothy stump speech by a hack politician. Marshall was a deliberate man who chose his words carefully. His intent was to make a specific point: the United States was fighting not to restore peace—a word notably absent from his remarks—nor merely to eliminate an isolated threat. The overarching American aim was preeminence, both ideological and military: as a consequence of the ongoing war, America was henceforth to represent freedom and power—not in any particular region or hemisphere but throughout the world. Here, conveyed with crisp military candor, was an authoritative reframing of the nation’s strategic ambitions.1

Marshall’s statement captured the essence of what was to remain America’s purpose for decades to come, until the presidential election of 2016 signaled its rejection. That year an eminently qualified candidate who embodied a notably bellicose variant of the Marshall tradition lost to an opponent who openly mocked that tradition while possessing no qualifications for high office whatsoever.

Determined to treat Donald Trump as an unfortunate but correctable aberration, the foreign-policy establishment remains intent on salvaging the tradition that Marshall inaugurated back in 1942. The effort is misguided and will likely prove futile. For anyone concerned about American statecraft in recent years, the more pressing questions are these: first, whether an establishment deeply imbued with Marshall’s maxim can even acknowledge the magnitude of the repudiation it sustained at the hands of Trump and those who voted him into office (a repudiation that is not lessened by Trump’s failure to meet his promises to those voters); and second, whether this establishment can muster the imagination to devise an alternative tradition better suited to existing conditions while commanding the support of the American people. On neither score does the outlook appear promising.

General George C. Marshall at the headquarters of the War Department, 1943 © Bettmann/Getty Images

General Marshall delivered his remarks at West Point in a singular context. Marshall gingerly referred to a “nationwide debate” that was complicating his efforts to raise what he called “a great citizen-army.” The debate was the controversy over whether the United States should intervene in the ongoing European war. To proponents of intervention, the issue at hand during the period of 1939 to 1941 was the need to confront the evil of Nazism. Opponents of intervention argued in the terms of a quite different question: whether or not to resume an expansionist project dating from the founding of the Republic. This dispute and its apparent resolution, misunderstood and misconstrued at the time, have been sources of confusion ever since.

Even today, most Americans are only dimly aware of the scope—one might even say the grandeur—of our expansionist project, which stands alongside racial oppression as an abiding theme of the American story. As far back as the 1780s, the Northwest Ordinances, which created the mechanism to incorporate the present-day Midwest into the Union, had made it clear that the United States had no intention of confining its reach to the territory encompassed within the boundaries of the original thirteen states. And while nineteenth-century presidents did not adhere to a consistent grand plan, they did pursue a de facto strategy of opportunistic expansion. Although the United States encountered resistance during the course of this remarkable ascent, virtually all of it was defeated. With the notable exception of the failed attempt to annex Canada during the War of 1812, expansionist efforts succeeded spectacularly and at a remarkably modest cost to the nation. By midcentury, the United States stretched from sea to shining sea.

Generations of Americans chose to enshrine this story of westward expansion as a heroic tale of advancing liberty, democracy, and civilization. Although that story certainly did include heroism, it also featured brute force, crafty maneuvering, and a knack for striking a bargain when the occasion presented itself.

In the popular imagination, the narrative of “how the West was won” to which I was introduced as a youngster has today lost much of its moral luster. Yet the country’s belated pangs of conscience have not induced any inclination to reapportion the spoils. While the idea of offering reparations to the offspring of former slaves may receive polite attention, no one proposes returning Florida to Spain, Tennessee and Georgia to the Cherokees, or California to Mexico. Properties seized, finagled, extorted, or paid for with cold, hard cash remain American in perpetuity.

Battlefield memorial for a dead U.S. soldier, Normandy, France, 1944 (detail)

Back in 1899, the naturalist, historian, politician, sometime soldier, and future president Theodore Roosevelt neatly summarized the events of the century then drawing to a close: “Of course our whole national history has been one of expansion.” When T.R. uttered this truth, a fresh round of expansionism was under way, this time reaching beyond the fastness of North America into the surrounding seas and oceans. The United States was joining with Europeans in a profit-motivated intercontinental imperialism.

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When in Doubt, Blame Imaginary ‘Isolationism’ | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on January 1, 2020

The argument, such as it is, is that because the U.S. refused to fight a war it was not obligated to fight to defend a state that isn’t actually an ally, it is therefore “isolationist.”

Referring to Saudi Arabia as an “ally” has been commonplace for a long time, but it was never true. The Abqaiq attack forced many U.S. politicians and analysts to acknowledge the truth that the U.S. owed the Saudis nothing.

The U.S. has approximately 50,000 military personnel in Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf, and our military is involved in wars in Syria and Yemen, but the headline we get as 2019 ends is this: “US isolationism leaves Middle East on edge as new decade dawns.” That is the headline for a report from The Guardian, but it could easily have come from many other newspapers. There is a congealing consensus that the U.S. is “disengaging” from the region at the same time that our government’s military presence keeps increasing.

There are just a couple small problems with the story they are telling: the Middle East is the last region in the world where one can argue that the U.S. is behaving in an “isolationist” fashion, and the region has been repeatedly destabilized by U.S. interventions big and small for at least the last 30 years. If the region is “on edge,” it is not because of our government’s “isolationism,” because that doesn’t exist. If the region is “on edge,” the heightened tensions and anxieties probably have something to do with the reckless U.S. economic war against Iran, the ongoing U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen, and the continuation of the war in Syria. Pretending that the U.S. is “disengaging” when it is doing just the opposite misinforms readers and distracts us from the real problems with U.S. foreign policy in the region. It treats a hyperactive, excessively involved America as the stable norm that has to be maintained, and it pejoratively casts anything that hawks don’t like as “isolationism.”

The chief piece of evidence for “isolationism” offered in the report is the decision not to go to war over the Abqaiq attack in Saudi Arabia. The argument, such as it is, is that because the U.S. refused to fight a war it was not obligated to fight to defend a state that isn’t actually an ally, it is therefore “isolationist.” The report is not very good if one wants to come away from it being better informed about the world, but it is a useful example of how lazy stereotypes and inaccurate definitions muddle and distort our foreign policy debate. The vocabulary of our foreign policy discourse is so impoverished that correspondents routinely use the wrong words to describe what is going on, and we are all worse off because of it.

Consider this section of the report:

The impact of the US failing to respond to an attack on Saudi oil facilities was that an act of war on a US ally had gone unpunished, and that ally was now willing to talk with the country that Washington had been determined to bring to its knees.

Referring to Saudi Arabia as an “ally” has been commonplace for a long time, but it was never true. The Abqaiq attack forced many U.S. politicians and analysts to acknowledge the truth that the U.S. owed the Saudis nothing. What are the terrible consequences of not rushing to fight for Saudi Arabia? It turns out that it has meant that Saudi Arabia is looking for a way to reduce tensions with their neighbor. That may be undermining the pressure campaign against Iran, but then the pressure campaign is what created the crisis that led to the attacks in the first place, so what exactly is the problem?

If the U.S. had attacked Iran on Saudi Arabia’s behalf earlier this year, the Persian Gulf would be a shooting gallery, the Saudis and the UAE would be getting pummeled with Iranian missiles, and many Americans and Iranians would already be dead in a war that would still be going on. Choosing not to escalate from one attack into a regional war was not a “failure,” and it certainly doesn’t mean that the U.S. is “isolationist.” The absurd framing and inaccurate language used in this report help to obscure America’s overly militarized, extremely meddlesome foreign policy from public view. Reports like this make it that much harder to advance an alternative foreign policy in which the U.S. is not constantly starting or escalating wars in a region where it has few real interests.

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Interventionism and Isolationism – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on October 26, 2019

No more sanctions, embargoes, trade wars, travel restrictions, immigration controls, or other government measures that prevent Americans from interacting with foreigners or that punish them for doing so.

That’s not “isolationism.” That’s the opposite of isolationism because although the U.S. government is prevented from interacting with the world through death and destruction, the American people are free to interact with the rest of the world with tourism and trade.


When President Trump decided to relocate a few troops on Syria’s northern border and announced that he would withdraw all the other U.S. troops from Syria, interventionists went ballistic. They said that Trump was leading America to “isolationism.”

That’s pretty funny, given (1) there is still no assurance that the Pentagon and the CIA are going to permit Trump to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria; (2) Trump is sending troops that he withdraws from Syria into Iraq and Saudi Arabia; (3) Trump continues to maintain troops in Afghanistan despite having had three years to have taken them out; (4) Trump continues to partner with the Saudis in their brutal war in Yemen; (5) Trump imposes sanctions and embargoes against any regime that bucks his will, including Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, and others; (6) the Pentagon and the CIA continue to maintain foreign imperial bases and secret prison camps all over the world; (7) Trump has kept the United State in NATO and other entangling alliances; and (8) foreign aid continues flowing into foreign regimes, dictatorial ones.

If that’s “isolationism,” I’d hate to see what interventionism looks like!

When we talk about foreign policy, there are two different systems from which to choose — the system of the statists, both Republican and Democrat, and the system that we libertarians favor.

The statist system

The statists have brought us a system in which the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA wield the unlimited power to intervene anywhere in the world they choose. Such interventions can take the form of coups, assassinations, invasions, wars of aggression, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, and partnerships with dictatorial regimes.

Under this system, there are no external limitations on the power to intervene and meddle in the affairs of other countries. No one even enforces the requirement in the Constitution that the president secure a congressional declaration of war before he, the Pentagon, and the CIA wage war.

That is the system under which we Americans live today, thanks to the statists, both Republicans and Democrats.

But it is more than that. The statist system is also one in which the American people in the private sector are prohibited from freely interacting with the people of the world. That’s what the sanctions, embargoes, trade wars, trade restrictions, travel controls, border restrictions, and Berlin fences and walls are all about.

Thus, the system under which we live today unleashes the power of the federal government to intervene in foreign affairs while, at the same time, isolates the American private sector from the rest of the world.

Ironically, one justification for isolating the private sector is to protect it from the threats that the  Pentagon’s and CIA’s interventionism produces abroad. Thus, if the Pentagon and the CIA invade a country and kill thousands of people in the process, U.S. officials say that it’s necessary to keep Americans safe from the threat of retaliation. That’s how the secret surveillance schemes and travel restrictions come into play, for both foreigners and Americans.

The libertarian system

There is another system, however — a better one — one that we libertarians favor. It is the opposite of the system under which we live, with respect to both the government sector and the private sector.

Our system calls for no more governmental interventionism in the affairs of other nations. No more coups, foreign military bases, CIA prison camps, invasions, occupations, assassinations, alliances with dictatorial regimes, wars of aggression, sanctions, embargoes, entangling alliances, foreign aid, and the like.

At the same time, our system calls for a dismantling of the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the military-industrial-congressional complex, the CIA, and the NSA. Our system calls for the restoration of a limited-government republic, which was America’s founding governmental system.

Ironically, that’s what interventionists call “isolationism.” They say that such a system “isolates” America from the rest of the world because it prevents the military and the CIA from “interacting” with the rest of the world with invasions, coups, warships, troops, bombs, missiles, and the like.

The interventionists forget the other half of the libertarian paradigm — the American private sector, the sector that they strive to isolate under their system. With our system, we do the opposite. We unleash the private sector to freely interact with the people of the world.

No more sanctions, embargoes, trade wars, travel restrictions, immigration controls, or other government measures that prevent Americans from interacting with foreigners or that punish them for doing so.

That’s not “isolationism.” That’s the opposite of isolationism because although the U.S. government is prevented from interacting with the world through death and destruction, the American people are free to interact with the rest of the world with tourism and trade.

The best American diplomats are American tourists and businesspeople. Foreigners love them because they bring friendship and commerce. The worst American diplomats are federal bureaucrats, especially those in the Pentagon and the CIA. Foreigners hate them because they bring arrogance, death, and destruction to foreign lands.

The American people have a choice. If you want more death, destruction, and isolationism of the private sector, just keep supporting the system that Republicans and Democrats have foisted upon our nation. If you want peace, prosperity, normality, and harmony with the people of the world, join up with us libertarians.



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Peace Expert George W Bush Says ‘Isolationism’ Is Dangerous To Peace – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on October 19, 2019

For those who don’t speak fluent neoconservative, “isolationist” here means taking even one small step in any direction other than continued military expansionism into every square inch of planet Earth,…

Humanity was treated to an important lecture on peace at a recent event for the NIR School of the Heart by none other than Ellen Degeneres BFF and world-renowned peace expert George W Bush.

“I don’t think the Iranians believe a peaceful Middle East is in their national interest,” said the former president according to The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin, whose brief Twitter thread on the subject appears to be the only record of Bush’s speech anywhere online.

“An isolationist United States is destabilizing around the world,” Bush said during the speech in what according to Rogin was a shot at the sitting president. “We are becoming isolationist and that’s dangerous for the sake of peace.”

For those who don’t speak fluent neoconservative, “isolationist” here means taking even one small step in any direction other than continued military expansionism into every square inch of planet Earth, and “We are becoming isolationist” here means “We have hundreds of military bases circling the globe, our annual military budget is steadily climbing toward the trillion-dollar mark, and we are engaged in countless undeclared wars and regime change interventions all around the world.”

It is unclear why Bush is choosing to present himself as a more peaceful president than Trump given that by this point in his first term Bush had launched not one but two full-scale ground invasion wars whose effects continue to ravage the Middle East to this very day, especially given the way both presidents appear to be in furious agreement on foreign policy matters like Iran. But here we are.

From a certain point of view it’s hard to say which is stranger: (A) a war criminal with a blood-soaked legacy of mass murder, torture and military expansionism telling Trump that he is endangering peace with his “isolationism”, or (B) the claim that Trump is “isolationist” at all. As we’ve discussed previously, Trump’s so-called isolationism has thus far consisted of killing tens of thousands of Venezuelans with starvation sanctions in an attempt to effect regime change in the most oil-rich nation on earth, advancing a regime change operation in Iran via starvation sanctionsCIA covert ops, and reckless military escalations, continuing to facilitate the Saudi-led slaughter in Yemen and to sell arms to Saudi Arabiainflating the already insanely bloated US military budget to enable more worldwide military expansionism, greatly increasing the number of bombs dropped per day from the previous administration, killing record numbers of civilians in airstrikes for which he has reduced military accountability, and of course advancing many, many new cold war escalations against the nuclear superpower Russia.

But these bogus warnings about a dangerous, nonexistent threat of isolationism are nothing new for Dubya. In his farewell address to the nation, Bush said the following:

“In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.”

As we discussed recently, use of the pro-war buzzword “isolationism” has been re-emerging from its post-Bush hibernation as a popular one-word debunk of any opposition to continued US military expansionism in all directions, and it is deceitful in at least three distinct ways. Firstly, the way it is used consistently conflates isolationism with non-interventionism, which are two wildly different things. Secondly, none of the mainstream political figures who are consistently tarred with the “isolationist” pejorative are isolationists by any stretch of the imagination, or even proper non-interventionists; they all support many interventionist positions which actual non-interventionists object to. Thirdly, calling someone who opposes endless warmongering an “isolationist” makes as much sense as calling someone who opposes rape a man-hating prude; opposing an intrinsically evil act is not the same as withdrawing from the world.

Nobody actually believes that US foreign policy is under any threat of anything remotely resembling isolationism. The real purpose of this buzzword is to normalize the forever war and drag the Overton window so far in the direction of ghoulish hawkishness that the opposite of “war” is no longer “peace”, but “isolationism”. By pulling this neat little trick, the propagandists of the political/media class have successfully made endless war seem like a perfectly normal thing to be happening and any small attempt to scale it back look weird and freakish, when the truth is the exact opposite. War is weird, freakish and horrific, and peace is of course normal. This is the only healthy way to see things.

It would actually be great if George W Bush could shut the fuck up forever, ideally in a locked cell following a public war tribunal. Failing that, at the very least people should stop looking at him as a cuddly wuddly teddy bear with whom it’s fun to share a sporting arena suite or a piece of hard candy or to hang award medals on for his treatment of veterans. This mass murdering monster has been growing more and more popular with Democrats lately just because he offers mild criticisms of Trump sometimes, as have war pigs like Bill Kristol and Max Boot and even John Bolton for the same reason, and it needs to stop. And in the name of a million dead Iraqis, please don’t start consulting this man on matters of peace.


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