Sunday, October 26, 2008

Non-Interventionism v. Isolationism

Is non-interventionism the same as isolationism? Kirk Johnson, fellow DC United fan, on his Bosnian blog sort of equates the two. And I can understand why. But I wonder is that is really the case?

I was something of a neo-Wilsonian when I was in college but then I began to drift toward non-interventionism. (9/11 changed stopped my drift for a while, but I have since continued drifting that way). But I do not think non-intervention is the same as isolationism. I do think the US has a role to play internationally. I believe for example that the US should take the lead in fighting piracy.

I do not, however, have much faith in most international institutions. For example, on Darfur, I have not had much hope for the UN, and would have preferred that the US (and West) properly fund an African solution to the problem. But I also believe that if the US and other western nations get too heavily and directly involved, the situation turns from one of humanitarian concerns into issues of power politics between nations. With China feeling her oats and Russia trying to maintain some influence, those two may oppose anything the US and the West suggest.

Yes, I am opposed to Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO. But that is not due to wanting to isolate myself from the troubles of that region. Rather, I believe that Western efforts should be spent on trying to reintegrate Russia back into the West. I think that will do more to protect Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty than threats of NATO membership at some future time. And that definitely is not isolationism.

Even my feelings about winding up NATO are not driven by isolationism but by a desire to see Europe take more responsibility for its own security. As the Bosnian crisis showed, Europe will not take anything seriously as their leadership knows that they will be able to rely on US security guarantees. In the end, all US intervention in Europe continues to do is subsidize the European welfare state.

But Kirk has a point. At its extreme, non-interventionism does become isolationism. But until that point is reached, I would argue the terms represent two different foreign policies.

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