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Posted by on Mar 16, 2014 in Blog, Politics | 4 comments

Isolationism Redefined




Global conflicts don’t unfold in black and white anymore.  They never did.  The world is an increasingly indistinguishable shade of grey.  It sure seemed we were on the right side back during World War II.  The same can be said of the Cold War, too.  But since then, American hegemony hasn’t changed much, while many parts of the world have morphed into a vast landscape without borders, tariffs, and restrictions. 


Typically defined as it applies to American foreign policy, isolationism means disengaging from international affairs.  For the United States, it means reducing America’s overseas commitments.  It means decreasing international responsibilities — usually in favor of domestic priorities.  Yet somehow along the way, isolationism also becomes conflated with cowardice.


Given the excruciating costs of our last two wars — currently estimated at $6 trillion and climbing, or put into more painful terms $75,000 for every American household — we might expect that a majority of Americans would become increasingly wary of playing 24-hour night watchman constantly patrolling every corner of the globe.  Moreover, given America’s massive debt load and crumbling infrastructure, one would anticipate more Americans being in favor of realigning our priorities closer to home

See Footnote 1

And that’s exactly what seems to be happening.  At long last.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, for the first time in 50 years, a majority of Americans believe the United States should be less involved in foreign affairs.

See Footnote 2

Yet at the same time, we’ve never been more involved in foreign affairs.  Most Americans chose to interact with others who live across borders and oceans.  We have stronger connections to different parts of the world than ever before — both personally and indirectly.  We’ve become intricately linked by economics to almost every region of the globe.  We’ve also become tethered together as one vast network by high-tech and emerging communications systems, most notably via the Internet and the exploding popularity of social media.  If something happens in Bangalore, it can be seen on our smartphones within 30 seconds.

Foreign affairs have also come to apply to the people we interact with inside our own borders.  Within the last generation or two, our country has changed, as a far more diverse pool of new immigrants has come to these shores than before in order to build new lives here.  People who talk with accents aren’t looked down upon anymore.  After all, the person who talks a little funny is just as likely to fix your computer as be your doctor.

So, why the apparent inconsistencies?  Why do we favor stepping back from macro-world problems while getting more involved in what we think are micro-world solutions?  No doubt, we like broadening our options and diversifying our horizons — even when it’s something as simple as dining out on Italian food on Monday, Chinese on Tuesday, Thai on Wednesday, Mexican on Thursday, and Lebanese on Friday.  On the other hand, we no longer trust our nation’s most powerful entities to do the right things or necessarily make the world better.  We no longer want our military engaging in other people’s business and then sticking us with the cleaning bill.  Nationally-syndicated columnist David Brooks perhaps put it best recently when he wrote the following:

What’s happening can be more accurately described this way:  Americans have lost faith in the high politics of global affairs.  They have lost faith in the idea that U.S. political and military institutions can do much to shape the world.  U.S. opinion is marked by an amazing sense of limitation — that there are severe restrictions on what political and military efforts can do.

See Footnote 3

There are two primary explanations for these changes in public attitude.  First, the world has changed.  Second, we’ve changed.

Global conflicts don’t unfold in black and white anymore.  They never did.  The world is an increasingly indistinguishable shade of grey.  It sure seemed we were on the right side back during World War II.  The same can be said of the Cold War, too.  But since then, American hegemony hasn’t changed much, while many parts of the world have morphed into a vast landscape without borders, tariffs, and restrictions.  Meanwhile, the same Big Brother power structures, notably giant corporations and the military establishment, continue acting according to the old model and struggle to maintain their dominance over global affairs.  Many people, including average Americans, simply aren’t going for it anymore.  We don’t want the burdens, the costs, or the headaches.

As faith in our most powerful institutions has deteriorated, those old allegiances which were once held in place by a hierarchical top-down command structure have been replaced by a broader cohesion of individual interests and initiatives.  Many of us no longer trust our elected officials, government, corporations, the military-industrial complex, and other power brokers to act in our best interest.  Over the years, time and time again, they’ve blown it.  They’ve violated our trust to the point where we now realize the only thing we can really count on is ourselves.

David Brooks said it best when he wrote, “This is global affairs with the head chopped off.  Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm.”

So, isolationism isn’t what it once was.  More precisely, isolationism redefined means backing off from the old way of doing things — with battleships by sea, military bases on land, and covert actions in the shadows of the night.  Instead, individuals can be trusted to broker their interests one conversation or mouse click at a time.  We don’t need our government telling us what our relationship with another country is because we now have the power to develop our own relationships.

New Isolationists favor learning from other counties and cultures, especially when it comes to the things they do better than us.  New isolationists favor trading with other nations, especially when it comes to getting things we don’t have here.  New isolationists welcome diversity because newcomers often bring new ideas and energy to solve problems.

At the same time, new isolationists oppose continuing to risk (and lose) lives in seemingly endless foreign entanglements.  New isolationists oppose wasting mind-boggling sums of money that we don’t have on policies that produce little or no positive change nor value to us.  New isolationists oppose trusting those in power any longer, especially in the arena of American foreign policy.  Perhaps the best example of this institutional ridiculousness can be summed up in one country, and the way we continue to deal with them.  That place is Cuba.


Footnote 1 — The $6 trillion price tag for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from the latest figures available, which were reported in today’s The Telegraph (London) which can be read in full HERE.

Footnote 2 — Read the Pew Research Center survey findings in more detail HERE.

Footnote 3 — David Brooks’ full column titled “The Leaderless Doctrine” which initially appeared on March 11, 2014, can be read HERE.


  1. I think that more Americans would be isolationists if they spent a little time digesting foreign media (such as BBC, London Times, etc.). Ironic, isn’t it?

  2. Excellent post and I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, there are too many on the right wing, primarily, who buy into the U.S. “exceptionalism” malarkey thus believing the U.S. can do no wrong and should interject its desires on the rest of the world. Think Dick Cheney ever questioned whether the U.S. should cram its objectives down other countries’ throats if they objected? You’d think that some lessons would have learned from the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan but everytime something happens in Iran/Syria/Libya/Ukraine etc. there is a drum beat of criticism from the right condemning Obama’s “weakness”. I guess we should go to war in all those places too.

    • It’s all a scam for cash!

      Cmon PEOPLE – FOLLOW the dirty money!

      12 hour work days – people addicted to TV – Families taught to hate one another – (Ironically on TV, – the Walking Dead..) lol –

      It’s a shell game where the corrupt, just keep blowing my mind with the depths they will go.. (Showwww me the moneyyyyy!)

      You blamed Bush’s 2nd in command – yet seem to think Obama is doing something different? (?? really) Where is all that CHANGE we were promised?

      I know, it must have gotten stuck in the BULLSHIT vending machines that is “Anything” American Government/Too big to fail corporations RUN.

      Corruption is at unprecedented levels all over, and the American people just keep downing their over priced coffee’s and Shamrock Shakes.. work six days a week.. 40-80 hours.

      The media is run by the big money, we have private “for mega profit” prisons. Kids for cash scandals.. Outsourcing for tax collections in my county.. Right here in the good old USA.

      Outsourcing of jobs since Clinton (That piece of shit!) NAFTA was it? Yeah – that worked well.. 4 jobs.

      Junkyards over seas are owned by Afghanistan business people crammed with 100 foot high mega ton piles of hummers, drive shafts, hammers,engines, planes, and “what-ever-thing-a-ma-jigs..” Pieces intentionally ruined to keep that money train a rolling.. but, “for the “relatively lucky few.”

      It’s been 30 years of FUCK John Q. Public – AGAIN. lol

      I’d love to know how much money we spend a day on private contractors over-seas.. (All departments) Around the world. Must be great work if you can get it.. 6 months on – 6 off is it? Pay so high, it would make your eyes bleed. (So I’ve been told in many a back room poker games.. by retired special forces guys)

      Nobody is being held accountable for ANY of IT! lol.

      Just a joke now.. lol – People just laugh it off! FUCK IT! It’s FUBAR!

      These corrupt fucks will scramble for even last penny too – unless we hit critical mass of critical caring thinkers – Who actually love what the flag of our country actually stands for.. FAST.

      We can send money all over the world – and not take care of our VETERANS… Are we insane? Social Security (Our MONEY! NOT THEIRS) is almost GONE! ***WELL SURE IT IS SUCKERS!!!!

      Many people in many high places, need to be brought to justice. My heart tells me 75% of the bums in Washington and about 40% of the top big corporations..

      This whole almighty buck thing done spun outta control in the late 80’s – this more more more thing has to stop stop stop. Especially when your paying for ALL of it with money we aint got!

      Seriously big time positions (too many to count) sold us out, and then had the balls to lie to our faces time and time again, and they even covered each others asses FOR the few that got caught red handed.. YOU know.. “to keep that money machine” of a super sonic train a going as long as possible.


      Sick crazy times!

      And now some good news.

      People – pretty much have had it.. and are organizing all over the world and America. Smart mo fo’s all of em, too. – What goes around comes around they say, Am I right? – We shall see.

      I know this.. Every breathing soul will have hard choices to make in the not too distant future, and for some, “major moves to take..” (Make) and, because of the size of this daylight robbery.. I’d wager much money on the fact that soon.. some major “ass hat” sell outs – “heads will be facing serious consequences” *the sooner the better* for their corrupt actions.

      The kids today know the shit sandwich the’re being asked to eat. And the 30/40 and some 50 somethings know the score too.

      The whole freaking system is shit. It’s BROKE!

      Wait for the next bubble to break. “Student Loans.. baby!” You think all these kids are EVEN trying to pay all these predatory school bills/education loans.. HA HA! Yeah right! (I got some swamp land just south of KEY WEST to sell SUCKERS!) *Well – It used to be swamp land I think. lmao

      Most of the student that will pay off their higher education bookies/bankers – have already re-financed, at crazy back breaking, bank account OWNING interest rates…

      These poor young bastards n bitches will be paying their student loans until a few years after they’re dead.

      What the FUCK is FUNNY about that AMERICA?

      It’s a system that CAN NOT sustain itself… Something is going to give.. and it’s going to rock the Richter Scale big time folks!

      The poor people, the middle class (You and I) – Yet again will be left holding the trillions of turds caused by all this corruption from UP the LINE..

      Trickle down.. Yeah.. Don’t look up! They are pissing on us all and laughing their bloated balls off at everyone of us.. The cock suckers!

      When the haves have it all.. It’s Hell’s Bells time folks. Duck and cover! Protect your fireside. And wait it out.. I guess.. It’s going to be ugly.

      Hey – Peace.

      P.S. When Obama turns this shit sandwich around – get back to Big Daddy – Until then, we all better get serious about who we elect. And we best hold all parties involved accountable for any more corruption.

      Can we even trust our elections at this point?

      Ron Paul was right too.

      Rant OVER. 4 now.

  3. The solution here is to work for or invest in a private military contractor. All that war money goes somewhere…

    I agree though that the military-industrial complex has had way too much of a stranglehold on government spending for too many decades now..


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