This essay focuses on the ideals of interventionism v isolationism as a whole, and not specifically in regards to the military. This essay is more concerned with foreign aid and crisis prevention, and does support "trimming down the military" in the many places where a military presence is not necessary and will not be in the near future. There are a host of reasons and underlying beliefs that isolationists or noninterventionists offer to explain why we should remain "uncommitted" or "uninvolved" in global affairs, and this paper will address them as it mentions them. These are:
1) The underlying belief that it is morally acceptable to remain uninvolved politically in regards to crisis areas or target issues with which U.S. companies are already involved with economically. (More common than this belief is the outright failure to realize that political disengagement does not mean commercial disengagement, and along with this failed realization proponents of isolationism also fail to realize that international commercial policies have extremely adverse and at times extremely violent effects among foreign populations.)
- In this case, isolationism is nothing but irresponsibility and a failure to accept the humanitarian burdens that go hand-in-hand with ethical business policies. To permit a company to work abroad, for example, and then to say that no human responsibility is involved, is to allow for forced labor, slave labor, dangerous working conditions, and in the worst cases the emergence or continuance of war or genocide. Foreign governments that depend on U.S. investment are less willing and less able to enforce human rights policies in the workplace. The responsibility, therefore, lies with the investor. This applies to private companies, but it also applies to organizations like the World Bank and IMF.
2) The underlying belief that each nation should be responsible for itself only.
- This is a fallacy in itself. Nations that depend on one another for trade, growth, and jobs, in being responsible for themselves, must acknowledge these connections and then be responsible for the well-being of others. The well-being of others, in turn, supports the well-being of the nation. Autarkic trade policies have failed in the past, are inconceivable in the present, and are not worthy of consideration in the near future.
3) The moral disconnect between nationals of one nation and nationals of another nation, leading to the belief that one American life is ultimately far more significant than the life of any non-American individual. Resulting from this belief is the argument that Americans should not involve themselves in cases of genocide or other widescale human atrocities and crimes against humanity, even, in a rather hypocritical situation, when Americans teach a "never again" story of the Holocaust in public schools. This also leads to the reluctance to attempt to even understand foreign problems, and the refusal to accept valid solutions for these crises even at minimal cost to the United States.
- This argument sustains itself on its own self-invented moral tenants, which are often racist, more often hypocritical, and always inconsiderate of human lives. It is a valid argument in a world where one human has absolutely no interest or obligation in saving the life of another human. It seems natural for any decent and caring human being to reject this argument outright by denying the truth of this worldview and by insisting that humans do hold a natural human obligation to help and care for one another.
4) An aversion to military intervention unless "state security" or "economic interest" is involved.
- Military policies toward situations that are already military or which involve genocide, crimes against humanity, etc., do legitimately merit military responses. The Law of Proportion should always be adhered to in these cases-- if only 2,000 lives are at stake, for instance, we should not risk 2,500 in saving them. Conversely, if 12,000,000 lives are at stake, it is a valid and defensible policy to intervene in real military terms.
- "State Security" and "Economic Interest" are generally defined by individuals and organizations in positions of power and, contrary to popular belief, they actually do reflect the interests of those organizations and individuals rather than the actual and legitimate interests of the nation. It was not in the interests of security to invade Iraq, it was the personal vendetta of GWB and his colleagues. It is not in the interests of security to maintain an aggressive and nuclear Israel on an American budget, it is in the interest of well-funded Zionist fundamentalist organizations like AIPAC. "Economic interest" policies frequently result in mass impoverishment, displacement, and starvation in other countries-- a well-explored example is American farm subsidy policies and international trade policies. These are rhetorical tools utilized by quasi-isolationists that do not account for the real reasons or consequences of American actions.
5) The idea that costs for foreign aid and interventionist programs could be better applied on the home front, and that causes abroad mirror causes at home that are not being given due attention. A common argument in this vein of thought goes something like this: "Why are we feeding children in Africa when there are kids starving here in the United States?"
- There have been no reported deaths due to starvation anywhere in the United States for many years now. The United States wastes more food than any other nation, and its residents are the most well-fed in the world. Meanwhile, one third of the human population lives malnourished, undernourished, or on the outright brink of starvation.
- This argument is valid in regards to certain issue areas. Surely Egypt does not need three billion a year to keep it from attacking Israel? Surely Israel does not need three billion a year to keep it from being destroyed by rock-throwing Palestinian teenagers? Surely Pakistan does not require three billion to fight the Taliban when they are actually training the Taliban? Surely Ethiopia does not deserve 2-3 billion to feed its people when it continually uses those funds to distinguish between political allies, who it will feed, and political enemies, who the state decides to let starve? An overhaul of foreign aid is needed. But there are many crisis areas in the world right now that deserve much more funding; Sudan/South Sudan and DR Congo come to mind the most. The overhaul should carry with it renewed efforts at transparency and requirements for inspectors. All things considered, however, this is the most valid of the arguments against isolationism, if only because so many funds abroad get wasted or lost in channels of official government corruption. This is a difficult problem, as many of the weakest governments, in need of the most aid, are also the most corrupt, so lending x amount of money in aid only actually delivers x-y amount to the people in need of that aid. This is why transparency and inspection must become pillars of a new foreign aid policy.
6) The reliance on the false idea that America invests a huge proportion of its resources to foreign aid.
- In fact, the United States frequently spends only around 1% of its budget on foreign aid, whereas the Department of Defense, in FY 2011, spent an amazing 19% of the United States Federal Budget. This should be the opposite, if we comprehend the now common knowledge that prosperity breeds peace and stability. Trimming down the military, which operates bases around the world that it does not require and maintains bases that are not even occupied, should be a much more pressing discussion than trimming down aid, the little of which we do give generally goes toward preventing large-scale civil wars, setting up refugee camps in war-torn areas, securing allegiances, and providing disaster relief. All of these efforts bolster our security by showing the world that America is not just some collection of heartless military operations that they should hate and fight against.
7) The belief that we can't solve other people's problems.
- Yes, we can. As a wealthy, strong, and ideally independent third-party mediator, we are actually in an ideal position to do so. We need to engage problems on the terms in which they actually exist, and not drag them through the machine of US partisan politics and so distort their reality. Distorting their reality prevents them from being solved. This is the only real conceptual requirement to address "other people's problems". A lot of problems are actually quite simple, and can be overcome by human cooperation. It is only the refusal to cooperate that creates and sustains problems. When we are cooperating and behaving as a single unit, we gain the power to help really mediate and solve "other people's problems." This should be the theory with which we approach mediation. Realistically it will require legal, structural, and budget reform within our own government and in regards to foreign policy, and will also require a dedicated effort on all sides of the political spectrum to actually understand and solve specific world problems, a motivation that Congress usually seems to be rather unfamiliar with.
8) The understanding that it is natural for parts of the world to pass through traumatic stages and that part of a nation's or the world's evolution is to evolve through phases of war and genocide
- This is a disgusting argument to anyone who fully comprehends it. We should not put an end to the summary mass execution of unarmed civilians because "it just happens" and we "have to get over it"? No, I won't get over it. I would not expect any Holocaust survivor to "get over it" and tell me that "it just happens". I would not expect anyone in the eastern DRC or South Sudan or Darfur, 1970's Cambodia or 1990's Rwanda to tell me that I should "just move on" and "forget about it, because it happens to everyone." It should not happen to anyone. People who use this argument have no idea of what they are talking about. There is nothing "natural" about walking for 300 meters on corpses without touching the ground. There is nothing "natural" about seeing baby brains smeared on the floor. There is nothing natural about being forced at gunpoint to pick up your father and throw him into an incinerator and watch him burn. The people who use this argument don't understand what "trauma" even is.
- The fulfillment of "Never Again" requires constant vigilance. This means that when genocide or crimes against humanity are witnessed, we are obligated to act. If one part of the world is experiencing a phase in its history ridden with war, crime, and inhuman atrocities, then it is the duty of another part of the world, experiencing peace, power, stability, and far-reaching influence, to stop that crime in its tracks.
9) "They should just move"
- That would be convenient. Cattle-herders cannot find land for their cattle in another person's property in another country. Farmers who struggle every day cannot leave a season's harvest to find another nation. Emigration and immigration policies often forbid moving in very rigid legal terms. These are the reasons people do not flee before conflict. Once conflict is upon them, the story changes. Conflict can confound these arguments. Conflict can burn the farmer's field, or kill his cattle, and can even burn his home and steal the money from his own pocket. So why don't people move in anticipation of this scenario?
It is in human nature not to move. Humans generally believe that good things happen to good people and that they themselves are more invulnerable to attack than others. In general, they overestimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative events. They also understand the world as meaningful and as operating with certain rules, religious or otherwise, that prevent bad things from happening arbitrarily to good people. These beliefs and precepts create a certain naivety about reality-- "the soldiers might come nextdoor, but they have no reason to come here," or "Whatever happens is God's will, so I am staying here." There is often, as well, an element of denial. For instance, even when rural Jewish communities were warned of the Holocaust by survivors trying to alert them, they would refuse to believe that the Holocaust would reach them. After all, they were only a small rural community and were not bothering anyone-- why should anyone want to bother them?
Furthermore, a very significant part of human meaning and perception of life as meaningful derives from the value of close family and/or friends, or in some cases other human networks. These networks are almost always confined to close psychical spaces and uprooting oneself is extremely difficult; conversely, it is very difficult to uproot the entire network. All of these factors combined lead many individuals to dismiss "just moving" as a possibility at all, much less a viable option.