Supporters of US military adventurism abroad often refer to their political opponents as “isolationists.”
While it’s true that support for economic and cultural isolation can be paired with opposition to US imperialism and military interventionism, that need not be the case: Many non-interventionists hew to the prescription of Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
If we want to find policies which truly tend to isolate the United States, we need look no further than the non-military imperialist policies of the same US administrations which persist in their efforts to turn the entire globe into an American military garrison.
Three recent examples come to mind:
- Levying “sanctions” on various Russian officials over the Ukraine affair, an affair which need not have had any implications whatsoever for US national security. Among other things, this has already seriously affected US government ambitions in space, given that the US does not at present have the (publicly known) capacity to send manned vehicles to e.g. the International Space Station and relies on the Russian government for such transportation.
- Indicting Chinese state actors in US courts for espionage-type activities which the US government itself is reasonably assumed to engage in itself. To put a finer point on it, the Obama administration’s “Asia pivot” seems intended, on both military and economic fronts, to provoke a new Cold War with the world’s largest economy.
- Extorting huge sums of money from Swiss banks on the bizarre claim that it is the job of foreign banks, operating on foreign soil, to enforce US tax law.
All of these actions rest on the supposition that the US not only is, as Samuel P. Huntington put it, “the sole state with preeminence in every domain of power –economic, military, diplomatic, ideological, technological, and cultural,” but will retain that advantage in all eventualities.
That’s not a safe supposition to make.
At what point does the US effectively isolate itself politically as more and more foreign governments cease to credit it as in any way trustworthy or reliable?
And at what point does the US effectively isolate itself economically as foreign enterprises begin to judge that the risks of capricious political extortions outweigh the potential profits to be made in and from the American marketplace?
The real American isolationists are those who turn Jefferson’s dictum on its head, seeking entangling alliances with every rogue regime who will have them on one hand, while meddling with commerce and honest friendship any time the voices in their heads tell them to on the other.