Monday, November 26, 2012

A History of Isolationism Gone Awry

     The United States of America had a very simplistic view when it came to foreign policy from its origin: isolationism.  America had fought in a bloody war against England to gain its independence and many authors of the Declaration of Independence wanted to steer clear of foreign affairs.  Thomas Jefferson cut the Army and Navy's budget and stayed as far away from the Napoleonic Wars as he could.  Another example of the isolationist motif was the Monroe Doctrine.  This defined acts of Europe to colonize in the Western Hemisphere as acts of aggression.  Reciprocally, the United States could not enter into the Eastern Hemisphere for the same reasons.  The Monroe Doctrine basically set a barrier between the Eastern and Western Hemisphere.  This set in stone that the United States wanted to stay out of foreign affairs to the most extreme extents.
     So when did the United States stray from this notion?  Our nation has been involved in many global conflicts throughout our brief history such as the war of 1812 in which we again went to battle with, now our closest ally, England.  If we look through the scope of history, we notice that some wars are made from built up steam and ulterior motives.  The war of 1812 was brought on by taxes and trade altercations.
     It wasn't until the turn of the 20th Century in which the tides began to change with the Spanish-American War.  American intervention into the Cuban independence from Spain as well as attacking Spain's Pacific possessions led to our involvement in the war.  The war was justified by trying to stop some of the atrocities occurring in Cuba.  This was a direct violation of the Monroe Doctrine and in some ways was its extinction.  President McKinley's administration began the war and President Roosevelt took the helm after McKinley's assassination.  Theodore Roosevelt's administration was the beginning of the end of the isolationist ideology.  Roosevelt was famous for his phrase "speak softly and carry a big stick."  Roosevelt wanted to make sure that the United States was strong militarily in case diplomacy was not achieved.  Roosevelt's administration saw many global projects such as the Panama Canal which propelled the United States into the global rat race.   
     This type of administration paved the way for an emerging American super power.  The United States then became involved in conflicts such as World War I and World War II.  After the Second World War, President Harry Truman gave birth to the Central Intelligence Agency.  The CIA's inception was the final demise to the founders' isolationist ideology.  The CIA engaged in hundreds of clandestine operations to overthrow dictators who did not subscribe to pro-American ideals.  Several of these operations were utter failures and led to the deaths of several agents from our nation as well as many others.
     The CIA brought us into the modern era where the United States tried to eliminate any leader who posed a threat to our nation politically (communists) and an era where we are deemed as the world's police force.  The United States now feels "obligated" to intervene when there are issues of human rights-most notably the Spanish-American war, and more recently, Iraq.  The United Nations is supposed to deal mainly with human rights violations but the United States has used it as an excuse to wedge itself into conflicts in which our leaders had ulterior motives.  Republicans will say that we went into Iraq to get rid of a ruthless dictator and liberate an oppressed nation.  Undoubtedly, we did do that, but why didn't we go into North Korea, or Syria for that matter?
     "Arm the rebels," is another familiar argument right wingers have used on issues of human rights. Without knowledge of what the views or ideals these rebels have, we want to arm them to take out those who may oppose our nation.  This backfired miserably in Afghanistan when we armed those in conflict against Russia.  Now those who we armed are using those weapons against us.
     The United States wanted to oust former Egyptian President Mubarak.  Now that the nation has a new president, Morsi, we are fearful that he may not be friendly to us.  The fact remains that beggars cannot be choosers in this complicated global political game.
     The United States went from a nation of isolationism to becoming the world's police force.  Neoconservatives such as John McCain have stated that we could be in Iraq for 100 years and if it were up to him, there would be no time table to the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan.  Somewhere along the line, our nation's leaders became drunk with power and ambition.  This ambition turned into ideas of wedging ourselves into the middle east with the hopes of instituting democracy and one day gaining the whole region.                                   

1 comment:

  1. Iraq was weak militarily, especially after their protracted war with Iran. President George W. Bush and his neo-con cohorts wanted to establish their version of a Jeffersonian democracy. This would drive a wedge into the Islamic Califate that Bush, et. al. thought was on the horizon. Instead, chaos, death, and carnage ensued (where in Baghdad is the location of George W. Bush Square?). We didn't attack Iran, North Korea, or Syria because of their formidable standing armies, nuclear capabilities (in the case of North Korea), and their powerful allies (Russia and China). In a modern world where there is so much "wrong," some of our executives and legislators believe that we are the only "right" and we'll fight to somebody's death to prove it!