Non-interventionists and isolationists are right, still shoved aside

Lately there has been a lot of criticism of the libertarian approach to defense and foreign policy. It is derided as isolationist and somehow “dangerous for America” to not be all amped up to bomb Iran. Isolationism has been a dirty word in American politics for around 70 years, for some fairly well thought out reasons. This pose has long out-worn its utility, however. It continues because most of our leaders and pundits are historically ignorant. Let’s help them out.

In the run up to World War II there was a significant portion of the US population that had no interest in getting involved. They remembered the 100,000 Americans that died in World War I and had no desire to add to their number. Even after Adolph Hitler demanded part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, they were not interested. The UK Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, seeing no help from the US, and remembering the British Empire’s 1,000,000 war dead, flew to Munich and signed an embarrassing peace treaty giving Hitler what he wanted. This came to be known as “appeasement”. The treaty turned out to be a worthless piece of paper, and the ensuing decade revealed just what a monster Hitler was. The justly reviled appeasement is paired with the concept of isolation in the minds of our pundits. World War II was one of our best wars, fought to rid the world of one of history’s greatest abominations.

But why did Hitler exist in the first place? The last veteran has died, it’s time to look at this honestly. Hitler would never have come to power without Woodrow Wilson’s disastrous decision to jump into World War I. The war started with the assassination of the heir to the throne of one of Germany’s allies. Looking back through the lens of Hitler, though, the Germans have been made out to be the bad guys. This is not fair.

In 1914 European civilization decided to kill itself. Every major power in Europe made the decision that “national honor” was more important than millions of lives. After three years, and an atrocious cost, the war was finally beginning to exhaust itself. Wilson jumped in and picked a winner. The European powers were equally guilty, but because of our participation Britain and France got to impose the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, with massive war reparations, and a loss of territory to go with its 2 million dead soldiers. Germany went insane.

So yes, appeasement is a bad thing, and we should not go for Tokugawa-style isolation. It is important to remember, however, that while our glorious arms did rid the world of Hitler, Woodrow Wilson’s military adventurism also created him. This knowledge of the root causes of WWII is something that our foreign policy establishment lacks. This hobbles them. Everything becomes about appeasement and isolation. 1938 is the only relevant year in history according to too many. In our half-century struggle with the USSR (another fight Wilson picked BTW ), this was occasionally useful. Now that the main enemies are preachers in caves and tin-pot dictators who occasionally mouth off about Israel the mental handicaps of our leaders need to be addressed. Our military might is capable of solving some problems, but it also creates them. More people in power in the US should be aware of that.

Robert Morris Tweets @TheFederalGovt, posts video as the More Freedom Foundation, and has written a quick pamphlet that can be found here.

posted by MoreFreedomFoundation
  • chafed

    Fans of isolationism should know that even the venerable Dr. Suess was once a massive ass about it.

    Time clearly had a way of changing his mind, and it appears as though as Horton Hears a Who was his most memorable retelling of coming around on the subject (remember they want to boil the whos in oil, and Horton saves them).

    The subject is still up for much debate though.

  • Vragumili

    hmmm. Some questionable assertions in this. Wilson picked a winner? We were much more in step with the allied powers through the war. Italy negotiated with both camps. The US did not.

    The European powers were not equally responsible for the start of the war. Austria Hungary and Germany brought it on. The reparations were severe, but they were also severe in Austria, and it took a German invasion to bring the Nazis. Italy managed to go fascist long before Germany and was one of the winners. Versaille and the related treaties were problematic but not the cause of WWII 

    • http://twitter.com/TheFederalGovt Leviathan

      Wilson absolutely picked a winner, and he did it in the form of loans and financial support, long before we had the casus belli of un-restricted sub-marine warfare.  On what basis do you find Germany or Austria-Hungary more at fault in the run-up to war?  Germany was rising as an economic power, which Britain and France found threatening, but its kind of hard to find that morally wrong. My hunch is that its just warmed-over propaganda, but I’m always eager to be proven wrong.   I think its far enough in the past now that we should try to look at it objectively.  

      Austria-Hungary was finished as a country, and had been for some time. Your interpretation of the Anschluss is over-kind to the Austrians, who were eager participants in Nazi crimes.  Mussolini-type Fascism is a terrible idea, elements of which we always need to look out for at home and abroad.  Hitler-type Nazism, with its demonization of jews, and de-valuing of all Slavic life, is its own kind of twisted animal.  I hold that it would not have been possible for it to gain power in Germany without the extreme humiliation brought on by Wilson’s choice to go to war.

      • Vragumili

        Regarding WW I culpability, there was little or no connection between the group behind the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and the Serbian government. Austria wanted to go to war with Serbia, and Germany eagerly jumped in. You might find parallels with the use of the 9/11 attacks as reason to invade Iraq. Iraq has as much to do with those attacks as Serbia did with actions of the Black Hand. I’ve never read a historian who disagrees with this.

        Then there is the conduct of the war. One side invaded Belgium, a neutral. One side featured democracies. If Wilson picked a side, I think he picked the right one. 

        As to the aftermath, the peace terms were dictated by the French and English, not Wilson. If anything, they would have been more severe without US involvement. And it was not just the financial crisis that created the environment for Hitler. It can be argued that isolationists, unwilling to support action by the League of Nations in Ethiopia or a response to crisis in Czechoslovakia, gave fascist powers the confidence they needed. 

         

      • Vragumili

        Regarding WW I culpability, there was little or no connection between the group behind the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and the Serbian government. Austria wanted to go to war with Serbia, and Germany eagerly jumped in. You might find parallels with the use of the 9/11 attacks as reason to invade Iraq. Iraq has as much to do with those attacks as Serbia did with actions of the Black Hand. I’ve never read a historian who disagrees with this.

        Then there is the conduct of the war. One side invaded Belgium, a neutral. One side featured democracies. If Wilson picked a side, I think he picked the right one. 

        As to the aftermath, the peace terms were dictated by the French and English, not Wilson. If anything, they would have been more severe without US involvement. And it was not just the financial crisis that created the environment for Hitler. It can be argued that isolationists, unwilling to support action by the League of Nations in Ethiopia or a response to crisis in Czechoslovakia, gave fascist powers the confidence they needed. 

         

        • http://twitter.com/TheFederalGovt Leviathan

          You’re right on the start-up.  Austria-Hungary was pretty unreasonable with the Serbians.  How reasonable do you think we would be if someone shot one of our Presidents?  Claiming Germany or Austria-Hungary was more eager to fight is just picking a side.  They were all looking for a fight, which is the tragedy.  

          My point is we took this tragedy and made winners.  France and Britain were certainly unreasonable, but they would not have had the upper hand in negotiations without the US military.  WIthout Wilson, the war would have ended with a stalemate, rather than an unearned victory.  To look at the negotiations without looking at what made the negotiations possible is a bit silly. 

          Also, neither France nor Britain at that time were what we’d recognize as modern representative democracies.  They were further along the evolution towards it than the Central powers were, but those powers were changing dramatically as well.  I suppose you could say that WWI sped up that evolution, but at the cost of Hitler as an intervening step.  Not worth it.

        • http://twitter.com/TheFederalGovt Leviathan

          You’re right on the start-up.  Austria-Hungary was pretty unreasonable with the Serbians.  How reasonable do you think we would be if someone shot one of our Presidents?  Claiming Germany or Austria-Hungary was more eager to fight is just picking a side.  They were all looking for a fight, which is the tragedy.  

          My point is we took this tragedy and made winners.  France and Britain were certainly unreasonable, but they would not have had the upper hand in negotiations without the US military.  WIthout Wilson, the war would have ended with a stalemate, rather than an unearned victory.  To look at the negotiations without looking at what made the negotiations possible is a bit silly. 

          Also, neither France nor Britain at that time were what we’d recognize as modern representative democracies.  They were further along the evolution towards it than the Central powers were, but those powers were changing dramatically as well.  I suppose you could say that WWI sped up that evolution, but at the cost of Hitler as an intervening step.  Not worth it.

  • http://vforvandyke.com vforvandyke

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism

    Basically Europe was full of dumb racist jerkoffs who got led by their clever leaders into an era of pan-imperialism with massively organized machinery of death because stealing from conquered neighbors is always en vogue when jealousy rears its ugly head.

    Hannah Arrendt is far more eloquent and cites her writing beautifully.

    • chafed

      It’s required reading for most political science degrees at US universities. Why it doesn’t seem to stand out more is probably because it can just as easily be used as a how-to for truly evil bastards.

  • Martae

    The American public will not question the policies of the federal government, until they start paying attention to what is going on around them.  When people start losing everything they have, they start paying attention.  In four years, Ron Paul’s proposed policies will appeal to many more people than now.  The deals China is making to trade with it’s Asian neighbors, including Japan, and Russia, without the use of the dollar, and it’s issuing of Yuan based bonds signals that the dollar will soon lose it’s status as the international reserve currency. Once that happens, overseas dollar holders will start trying desperately to spend their dollars on any and everything in a rush to get something for them.  Everything traded on international markets, oil, food, coal, lumber, gold, will become hideously expensive in dollars, resulting in enormous consumer inflation, which will probably lead to price controls, and thus shortage.  Stock up on everything you can’t make yourself, and learn to grow food.