Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Does Isolationism Work?

With the Ebola virus hitting western Africa hard, there has been increasing talk of isolating ourselves from at least that part of the world. But should we?

Many nations take a more isolationist approach to the world than the US. We’ve been interventionists for a long time, so if we were to shift our focus more inward, the global situation would change pretty dramatically.

Yes, we would help ourselves in the short term, not just with keeping out disease, but also with utilizing the money we save on badly needed infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, sewers, power and rail lines and oil/gas conduits all need work and would greatly benefit from more attention.

But there’s a cost too.

The rest of the world expects us to be their police officers. We meddle and interfere, but we also prevent, to some degree, hostile, expansionist actions by other countries to neighboring nations (see Ukraine and Russia for an exception).

If we were to abdicate that responsibility, how long would it take China, Russia and other aggressive nations to assert their dominance in their sectors? And how difficult would it be to assist subjugated countries if we don’t have a military presence nearby, ready to move at relatively quick notice?

If we like the balance of power the way it is, if we don’t wish to be faced with the empire China and Russia long to become, we have to at least consider whether we should be pulling back from our voluntary commitments to the rest of the world.

I’m no isolationist. I’m not an expansionist either. But there’s a middle ground we can tread that keeps the status quo intact, preserving the balance of power we have grown accustomed to and before we decide to change that situation, we need to think carefully about the consequences of doing so.

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