American Foreign Policy: Isolation to Interventionism

Isolationism was United States of America’s longstanding policy of not intervening in the issues related to the continent of Europe. She did not want to be part of the wars, the alliances, and in general the political affairs of Europe. America did want to be part of, and be involved in the trade and economic affairs of the European nations, to have ties with them but only limited to the social-economic dynamics.

George Washington in his Farewell Address placed the accent on isolationism in a manner that would be long remembered:

“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities”.

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The isolationist point of view was still viable in 1823 when President James Monroe gave voice to what would later be termed the Monroe Doctrine, “In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy, so to do.”

During World War I, The United States was forced to leave behind and abandon her policy of isolationism due to the submarine warfare of the Germans upon their vessels. United States, then, putting aside, but not in actuality discarding their prominent foreign policy did what was necessary. The end of the war proved this to us that when the Treaty of Versailles ended the Great War, and the League of Nations was formed, The United States of America did not become a part of it. They did not fail to acquire this position but actively refused to be a part of it, staying true to the ideology of Isolationism.

The question then arises of what went wrong? Why was United States, in World War II forced to abandon this policy and take a more active role in the major political affairs of Europe, and in extension, the world?

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The answer lies in two-fold from the Americans perspective. Their domestic affairs would be affected by the shift of power that was taking place in Europe. Also, their international influence would take a major hit both commercially and politically, however little the latter might be at that time compared with today.

The American population and their government collectively believed that if the dictatorial and controlling regime of Hitler coupled with the similar views of Italy in alliance with the Japanese won the war, they would want to expand and even if America was to stop their invasions in the Western Hemisphere, they would become a garrisoned stated, a state in complete isolation surrounded on all sides by opposing and conflicting ideology. This very threat to the American way of life, and by extension their complete freedom, forced them into the global arena in a way that was not their choice but their essential requirement to live life in the way they choose to, free from all and any external fear or pressure.

The Interventionism policy taken up by the United States this time stuck with them. They did not just go back to their policy of Isolationism after winning the war but their reasons were, even if controversial, significant.

The defeat of the fascist Nazi dominance, through a series of eventful conferences and actions, brought forward a new strong ideology of Communism that was about to engulf the world being backed and exported by one of the strongest post World War II nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Communism, as seen by America was a direct threat and perhaps the most dangerous one to her since freedom. This was due to the fact that it was an ideological war between the two super powers of the world and the one which brought the larger number of nations under it would evidently, eventually rule the world.

The United States response was quick and effective. The induction and execution of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was direct and explicit signal of the brand of foreign policy the United States was going to adopt for the decades to come.

The Policy of Interventionism, the pro-active involvement of the United States in the affairs of every nation showing signs of falling to Communism and the ‘Godless’ way of life of the soviets or evening hinting to adopt this policy was what brought on The Cold War. The Korean War is the first of many examples including the Vietnam War, the Afghan War, and the contemporary situation in Syria can be by some extension linked to this very reason.

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Communism was without a doubt a threat to the Americans way of life and their Ideology, but what was it that led the United States to continue with this policy long after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic? The threat of global terrorism might be the obvious answer. Many would believe it was their greed for natural resources, mainly oil or their covert and concealed views of world dominance, but that would be wandering into the realm of conspiracy theories.

The façade, as it has now become popular in a sense, of terrorism is in reality a true threat to the United States. They had but one choice after the September, 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, United States: to go to all ends and by any means necessary, root out the disease of terrorism from the world.

The world, the countries most affected by terrorism would also want this and they also allow and want the United States to actively root terrorism out, but then why is there an anti-American sentiment in the region of Middle East? Why do the people of this region show hatred toward the American foreign policy? If the goals of the United States are so benign, why have we not seen an end to the war on terror? The great wars ended in four and five years respectively, but why has war on terror after fifteen years of continued fighting involving the greatest military forces in the world led by the strongest and largest of them not been able to defeat these bunch of low-lives? Is the United States foreign policy wrong, or is it really true that they have ulterior motives and they have been deceiving the world for this lengthy period of time?

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The answer would be that it is neither an ulterior motive nor a staged war. The threat of terrorism is very real and the foreign policy of the United States “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community” is in essence true. The fault lies in the execution of this policy. It lies in the adopting of military interventions in other nations putting in front and giving more importance to the benefit of the American people and not to the country that is going to go through war and evidently not the international community. They have themselves created the policy but have effectively failed to execute and implement it in the nature it should have been and thus brought about the virtual collapse of their nation.

They American foreign policy has failed mainly as said before, due to adopting the method of military intervention. They go in disregarding almost every aspect of the country in which they meddle except that of terrorism and fight the latter expecting it to be eradicated while having no exit strategy. They in proper implementation do not leave a system behind that is self-sufficient and has growth potential, a system that can combat terrorist ideas that might erupt after the United States leaves.

And as to disregard to the country’s own cultural and history, to its own ideology, its own set of ethics and morals, and their own way of life, they generate for themselves a natural hate that would occur when one’s sentiments are sidelined, even if in their own interest, by a foreign power.


We have these past fifteen years filled with the blunders that the United States have made which have led to their interventions being ineffective. They fought in the Afghanistan from the start of the war on terror but have achieved nothing of substance that would truly last to curb and exterminate terrorism.

They went into Iraq, not on the basis of terrorism but the policy of securing democracy in the world. They went in despite the objection of the United Nations, despite the international body’s disapproval on the invasion of Iraq, they went in. They have as of yet, still to prove that the reasons for which they went ahead with the invasion, the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a dictator.

They went in Libya; they intervened in the matter of a sovereign state, to dismount the ‘cruel’ dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But a ruler, a dictator of forty years, had now become cruel or had the people of Libya not been important enough to have democracy before?

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All these questions that I have asked on the foreign policy of the United States, all the answer I have given in favour of the United States and then again questioned my own answers is to show that they in fact have lost the edge to maintain their international influence, that their foreign policy at some level does not coincide with their own ideology.

The move of United States from isolationism to interventionism from my perspective is a failed approach on their foreign policy. They, even if holding the capacity to implement interventionism, have failed to prove that they can. This policy has done more damage to the State then it has yielded benefits for them and their agenda.

Had the United States, at the end of World War II, not excluded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic from their already agreed upon help in defeating Japan, had they not dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had they opted for a more political solution than the extreme one of a military solution, they might have been able to maintain a balance of power in the world and the last war the world might have seen would have been the Second World War.

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In a nutshell, the United States policy of intervention was not wrong in theory but was in practice. She should have opted to go through, even if active, political intervention. A peaceful method should have been adopted rather than the one involving fire and blood. They, as the strongest nation upon earth, had the responsibility of making it a better place but have failed in that task not in that they made the wrong policies, but in the fact that they implemented them incorrectly which in the global arena is a costly mistake that causes heavy collateral damage.

One can now only expect that the new administration set to take control of one of the finest and most powerful nation on earth can cut back to a passive intervention policy or bring about a new one that will allow the world to prosper and that we might see the proposals of perpetual peace become a reality.


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