The Ironies of Neo-Isolationism

“The Ironies of Neo-Isolationism,” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 1973.


To be sure, if the U.S. were to revert to a strictly isolationist position in foreign affairs, then it wouldn’t much matter whether we had a conscript or volunteer army. But the chances of any such reversion are remote, despite Vietnam. Our economy is an integral part of the world economy; our heterogeneous people have strong feelings about different areas of the world (Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Eastern Europe); our “cosmopolitan” civilization. international in its essence, could not reconvert itself into the provincial America of yesterday (“Our Town” is now a suburban city boasting a state university campus); we have too much power to disclaim responsibility for what happens to our friends and neighbors, and as a democratic republic have too much conscience to steel ourselves to utter indifference to the fate of others. The neo-isolationist impulse is, literally, a “reactionary” one—a reaction against Vietnam, a nostalgic yearning for past simplicities.