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What Some Call 'Isolationism,' Others Call Common Sense

May 2, 2013 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

In a recent op ed, former Senators Joseph Lieberman and Jon Kyl darkly warned of the dangers of “isolationism.” They never actually define what isolationism is, nor who supposedly believes in it, aside from a link to a single speech delivered earlier this year by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at the Heritage Foundation. The article raises a host of questions, and answers none. Here are just a few:

Are those people who believe that the primary object of the U.S. military is to defend the United States and its vital interests isolationists? Is it “isolationist” to believe that a government’s most sacred obligation is to defend its people from harm, and therefore that other countries should take responsibility for their own security?

If we continue on our current path, with other countries growing more and more dependent on U.S. military power and less inclined to develop their own, the burdens on American taxpayers and U.S. troops will only grow heavier.”

When people point out that many of our Cold War-era alliances amount to a particularly generous form of foreign aid, with Americans paying to defend other countries that could defend themselves, is that isolationism? Many of these free riders — most recently France — have chosen instead to plow money into bloated welfare states, generous old age pensions, and subsidized transportation, housing and health care. Is it isolationist to observe that such an arrangement imposes unfair burdens on the Americans who pay the bills?

Or what about other forms of foreign aid? Are the people who question the wisdom of sending tens of billions of dollars to foreign governments isolationists? The late economist Peter Bauer characterized foreign aid as “a process by which poor people in rich countries help rich people in poor countries.” Others have shown that a few trillion dollars spent over the course of five decades has had little, if any, impact on stimulating long-term economic growth, and more likely retards it. Do Lieberman and Kyl disagree?

How would Lieberman and Kyl describe those Americans who oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria? A recent Rasmussen Poll finds that just 17 percent of Americans want the U.S. to become more involved, while 50 percent want us to leave the situation alone. A New York Times/CBS News Poll found that 24 percent of Americans believed that the United States had a responsibility to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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