Should the U.S. Pursue Isolationism?

By Demetrios Ventouratos

As violence continues to exist throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, one question remains: What should the U.S. do about it? From the end of World War II to today, the U.S. has had an extensive history of being entangled in foreign affairs. We were involved in conflicts within Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Israel, and we also undertook covert actions which involved toppling a few South American governments such as those of Chile and Nicaragua. By contrast, pre-Cold War policies relied heavily on isolationism during a time when the global threat of Communism seemed to be a good enough incentive to intervene in foreign affairs.

As of 2016, isolationism remains as a crucial foreign policy for a large segment of the American population. A Pew Research Poll in April 2016 found that 69% of Americans think we “should concentrate more on our own national problems,” while 43% believe that the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally,” and 7% said they did not know or were unsure.  To give a comparison to the Cold War, the same Pew Research Poll showed that in 1964 69% of Americans disagreed that the United States should “mind its own business internationally.” Despite the fact that 43% is not the majority of Americans, it still indicates that a sizeable percentage of the American population favor isolationism.

This rise of Isolationism can be partially explained by our recent expenditures into the Middle East. A Ramussen Survey in 2015 found that 61% of Americans viewed the Iraq War as a failure, and many also viewed it as a fruitless attempt for the U.S. to expand our interest into the region.

The decision to invade Iraq also leaks its way into the current presidential race. Current candidate Hillary Clinton as well as former candidates like Jeb Bush faced immense criticism for voting in favor of the Iraq War, and current Republican nominee Donald Trump has often brought up the topic and has stated in Republican Debates and interviews that Iraq was a mistake. Trump has espoused ideas of isolationism, and his “robust” new foreign policy of “America First” emphasizes the feelings of many Americans who feel as if our tax money is being spent overseas for costly ineffective wars.

On the other hand, many politicians and the rest of the American population who thought that the U.S. shouldn’t mind its own business internationally, fight for more involvement in the world. Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton has supported involvement in the Middle East, and former Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz have supported sending more soldiers into the Middle East. With both sides of the spectrum debating, the question remains and extends to debating which side is better. Realistically, economic investment is probably the best. Absolutely leaving the world stage would be impractical for the U.S., and interventions in other countries cause tension and mistrust. The U.S. should instead give aid to developing countries like Nigeria in order to help the region develop and to gain greater influence and closer ties.

A major world power that is doing this is China. In fact, China is investing more around the world than what the U.S. invests. China accounts for 57% of all foreign investment in Ecuador, 82% in Zimbabwe, and 69% in Guinea. These investments not only help Chinese companies, but they also help China diplomatically in those countries. Total isolationism is impossible and impractical for the U.S., but unchecked military interventions are just as bad. In this case, we should aim to focus more on foreign investment rather than foreign interventions or bombings.

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