Isolationist Foreign Policy?

It is common to label people who don’t support having American military bases all over the world as isolationists. According to this refrain, isolationists would just assume bring all American citizens home from around the world, dig a mote around the country, cease global trade, and associate only with our fellow country men for the rest of eternity. Isolationists want to withdraw from the stage of world affairs and terminate all relationships with foreign people.

This depiction is nothing but absurd rhetoric. I’ll tell you why in a moment, but first allow me to tell a short personal story.

Not long ago my father in law, a Peruvian citizen, tried to get a visa to come to the United States. His daughter, my wife, lives in the U.S. and he wanted to come and see our home. He traveled from the remote Andean mountain town where he lives to the Peruvian capital of Lima. The bus ride took 14 hours and he incurred  considerable expenses.

Upon arrival at the 5 block by 5 block military style American embassy in Lima, he was made to wait for 3 hours. When his number was finally called, he stepped up to the window. The girl at the window took one look at him and, without even reviewing his paperwork, stamped “denied” on the front page of his carefully assembled packet. He made the long bus ride home that same evening, disheartened, and grumbling about the American government.

That is isolationism; and it is the current policy of the American government.

The American government maintains 900 military bases in 150 countries around the world. It spends more on its military than the next 27 closest competitors combined.

There are only 196 countries in the world. That means that the American government has established a military presence in more than 75% of the world’s countries.

Does the lack of such an outrageous policy really constitute isolationism? If so, it would appear that all countries other than the United States have isolationist foreign policies.

Us so-called isolationists prefer a different term when describing how the American government ought to interact with the rest of world. We use the term non-interventionism. The American government should stop intervening in the affairs of countries that do not present a threat to the people of the United States.

Note that I keep referring to the American government, not the American people. The American people, for the most part, have no idea about just how extensive their government’s military is. Even if they did, there’s nothing they could really do about it. The politicians pretty much do as they please anyway. This is not an anti-american people position. Its an anti hugely unnecessary, wasteful, dangerous, foreign policy position.

Non-interventionism is also not a policy of cutting off relationships with people from other countries. It merely proposes a different type of relationship. In the place of interaction based on force and the interchange of weapons technology, non-interventionism offers friendship based on commerce and the flowing of exquisite and exotic goods from around the world easily across international borders.

Military action everywhere and at all times gets in the way of international trade. It drains away the resources that people need to conduct commerce. Taxpayers must be taxed in order to build and maintain a base. Every dollar spent on on building and maintaining bases, is a dollar that can’t be spent on tourism in the very same country where the base is built. Instead of providing jobs for poor people in impoverished nations, we store tanks and warplanes in their neighborhood.

In many places around the world, a military base is the only exposure that residents have to Americans. All they know about the United States is that there are American soldiers stationed on their land. Given that they know nothing about the people, the culture, or the history of U.S., it easy to understand how American soldiers are seen as invaders. This creates a backlash and leads to terrorism. This ultimately makes us less safe than if the were no presence at all. People from other countries would have no reason to hate America.

Imagine if people in other countries were only exposed to the goodness that exists in the United States. Who could hate an individual who visits a foreign country, enjoys the local delicacies, treats the people of that land with respect, and  brings gifts from their own part of the world in exchange to share? There would be no basis for hatred and revenge.

Yes, there is violence in the world. But are interventionists prepared to contend that 75% of the world’s countries are threats? Given the strength of the American military, you could make a strong argument that 0% of the world’s countries are genuinely threatening to the American people.

Another truly shameful fact is that in exchange for stationing troops in many countries, the American government supports ghastly dictators. Take the case of Uzbekistan, the American government’s ally in the war against Afghanistan, and its gruesome dictator Islam Karimov.

Wikipedia writes:

“Non-governmental human rights watchdogs, such as IHF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United States Department of State and Council of the European Union define Uzbekistan as an authoritarian state with limited civil rights and express profound concern about wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights. According to the reports, the most widespread violations are torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms: of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly. The reports maintain that the violations are most often committed against members of religious organizations, independent journalists, human rights activists and political activists, including members of the banned opposition parties. In 2005, Uzbekistan was included into Freedom House’s “The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies. In October 2002 Craig Murray, the British Ambassador to the country, made a speech at a human rights conference hosted by Freedom House in Tashkent in which he asserted that Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy and that the boiling to death of two members of Hizb ut-Tahrir is not an isolated incident.”

Does taking a position against authoritarianism make you an isolationist? Of course not. It makes you a civilized human being and a non-interventionist.

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