2002 September 14 Saturday
John Hawkins: Confessions of an Isolationist Wannabe

While he doesn't flesh out the exact reasons why the world would go to hell-in-a-handbasket if the US became isolationist I agree with Hawkins' argument here:

So spare me your comparisons to Rome and understand that I don't want to hear about your secret fear that we might try to create a 'Vichy Europe" someday. We wouldn't take over the world if every nation begged us too. Our ancestors came to America in the first place to GET AWAY from everyone else in the world and it's very easy for us in this age of global communications to understand why. You have people protesting in France for shorter mandatory workweeks, Morocco and Spain fighting over a rock outcropping inhabited by goats, and the UN letting Gadaffi get elected as chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. You think we WANT to be forced to deal with those sorts of things any more than absolutely necessary? Take it from a hawkish right-winger who makes George Bush look like a bigger weenie than Jimmy Carter, we're not an 'empire' and we have no desire to become one.

It is just a matter of time before suborbital aircraft put all major cities in the world just 3 or 4 hours away from each other. Communications and transport costs will continue to fall while technological advances make it increasingly easy for even non-governmental groups to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We can't protect ourselves at home. We can only protect ourselves abroad. Even with a considerable amount of involvement in the world we are still going to be at increasing risk of attacks by terrorists using WMD.

The isolationist argument is that if we did not have troops stationed abroad then, for instance, the people in the Middle East wouldn't have as much hatred and resentment of the US. But here's the rub: it doesn't take that many of them to have that hatred and to desire to act on it to cause us big losses of life and property. So could we withdraw from all our military bases abroad without a loss in security? It seems like an awfully large risk to run. The risk is greatly magnified if regimes over there are free to run programs to develop WMD.

We were far more isolationist in the 1930s. The historical lesson from that experience is that it was a bad idea for us and for the rest of the world. Is that still a valid lesson? Well, the US relies on trade with other countries much more today than it did then. At the same time, those distant places are closer now and technological advances are making them closer every day. That means our affairs are more intertwined with theirs and the rises and falls of their fortunes affect our own security, economy, and well being than was the case then. Plus, the threat that WMD pose is growing and world with WMD in the hands of nasty dictators and private groups is not a world that is safe for Americans.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 September 14 04:33 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment


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