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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

18 November 2005

American isolationism?

A poll by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations, quoted in today’s Financial Times, reports that 42% of Americans believe that the United States should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own” (1). This news worried the Financial Times and has sparked a tiny debate on isolationism.

My own feeling is that there is nothing in these numbers: the country’s mood over Iraq is surely skewing the poll. I doubt that many of the respondents understand what it means to “mind your own business” in world politics, nor do they appreciate the complexity of the relations that America has with other countries. The nature and extent of America’s commitment abroad is surely an interesting subject to reflect upon, but isolationism is simply not an option.

References:
Edward Alden, “Iraq war sparks an isolationist backlash,” Financial Times, 18 Nov 05
Walter McDougall’s Promised Land, Crusader State has a nice interpretation of US isolationism in the nineteenth century—Chapter 2 called “Unilateralism, or Isolationism (so called)”

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