U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now — A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Earlier this week, after Trump spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, and later the Security Council, I asked our Canadian friend, John Fioravanti, if he would be interested in doing a guest post from the perspective of how Trump’s “America First” isolationist policy will affect the rest of the world.  He did me the honour of accepting my request, and so, without further ado, I turn this stage over to John …

U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now

john fioravantiI thank Jill Dennison for her generous invitation to host me on her amazing blog site. Every day I read and enjoy Jill’s posts because she always gives her readers food for thought. I hope my offering below will do the same.
Those of us living outside the USA know how dangerous American isolationism is to world peace and prosperity. The current Trump administration is determined to turn the clock back more than a century in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy. The President emphatically denounced ‘globalism’ in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25th this year. As a retired high school history teacher in Canada, I’d like to enlarge on my first statement that U.S. isolationism is a very dangerous path to follow.

Tuesday, President Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Some historians would argue that the United States was the most powerful nation on the planet in 1900 but no one knew that yet – not even the Americans themselves. While the great European powers of the day were engaged in a struggle for supremacy and jockeying for the most advantageous position by way of formal alliances, America remained entrenched in her isolationism. Her only concern with the looming European conflict was how it would impact trade and her own economy. Attacks on American shipping by German U-boats in European coastal waters roused the U.S. Congress to declare war in 1917. President Wilson understood that America needed to adopt a global perspective in foreign policy and suggested the creation of the League of Nations at the end of World War I. The idea was embraced by the Allies but the U.S. Congress turned their backs on the world by refusing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Without American participation, the League was doomed to failure. The rise of Hitler, the fall of France, and near-defeat of Britain were not enough to compel Congress to emerge from the comfortable cocoon of isolationism. No, it took a direct attack on U.S. territory in Hawaii by Japan to trigger American entry into World War II in 1941. The costs of that war in blood and money were monumental – not to mention the unleashing of two atomic bombs in 1945 that brought Japan to its knees and ushered in the age of nuclear deterrence. I do not blame the American people for the horrors of these wars – that would be preposterous. However, I do blame the idea of isolationism. The United Nations was established at the end of World War II and survives to this day. It’s main mandate was and is still to prevent a third world war. If America had turned its back on the idea of isolationism in 1919, or America First as it is styled today, would the League of Nations have failed to maintain peace in Europe? We’ll never know, of course, but it is a chilling question nonetheless. For the next seventy-one years after World War II, America turned her back on isolationism and took on the mantle of the global policeman. Her newly-minted atomic weapons gave her the military authority. In 1945 American military power was awe-inspiring and unprecedented in world history. American wealth rebuilt western Europe from the shambles of warfare in order to shore up her Allies. The United Nations, headquartered in New York, became the embodiment of the ascendance of globalism in human affairs. Over the next several decades, the UN established World Courts to bring war criminals to justice all over the globe. The Security Council embraced a Canadian suggestion to create Peacekeepers in order to keep opposing military forces separated in areas of crisis until diplomacy could establish solutions. UN agencies were created to address human suffering from natural disasters as well as from the devastation of local wars. The UN took the lead in supporting policies of freedom and equality throughout the world by taking strong stands against discrimination suffered by women and the LGBT communities. The UN evolved from just a tool to avert another world war to a force for fairness and justice in every aspect of living in the modern world. Isolationism is an ugly policy. It turns a blind eye to the evil that is perpetrated outside of its national borders. In other words, your suffering is none of my business. I am not my brother’s keeper. This is not to say that the American people are ugly. They are not. I have lived beside the United States all of my life and consider us to be like brothers and sisters. Like all siblings, we have our differences, arguments, even fights. Unfortunately, Trump has allowed his distaste for Justin Trudeau to play itself out in the worst way. That is ugly. In a little under two years, the Trump administration has bullied and alienated America’s allies. Trump berated NATO leaders about their levels of contributions to the alliance after President Obama had negotiated a process for those contributions to be increased over time. Many of these same allies are also America’s best trading partners. Trump decided that these partners were treating America unfairly and hammered them with tariffs. He used the same bullying tactics with Mexico and Canada in the talks to update the NAFTA treaty. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would not be bullied by American tariffs, Trump retorted with rhetoric normally reserved for enemy countries. American policies in the Middle East have served to further destabilize an already dangerous part of the world.

Trudeau makes a point while talking to Trump at G7 Summit.

As America withdraws from her traditional role as leader of the free world and alienates her allies, one doesn’t have to look too far into the past to see a likely outcome. America First is driving anti-immigration policy in the Trump administration as well. The people who are being barred from entering the land of freedom and opportunity are refugees from the Middle East, Central America, and South American countries where life has become unbearably dangerous. Trump’s policies are hurting a lot of good people around the world. History has also proved that restricting immigration is self-defeating since many immigrants and children of immigrants have made significant contributions to the growth of technological innovation and the overall economy in the United States.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of the Apple computer, son of a Syrian political science professor.

Many thanks, John, for your words of wisdom … keep that pencil handy, for I may want another soon!  Meanwhile, I have an open stage here and would love to hear from some of my other friends outside the U.S.: Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany … please let me know if you’re interested in contributing a post from your perspective!

108 thoughts on “U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now — A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

  1. Excellent post. I read it out loud to my husband also. We agree wholeheartedly. This day and we should be the opposite of isolationists. We are Americans who live on the East Coast and have not yet found anyone among our friends and acquaintances who agree with trumps policy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative post. As Mark Twain said : “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” We are in the midst of one of the worst rhymes in history. Thank-you!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Ellen! I agree the last two years have been difficult to watch from this side of the border. Actually crossing the border into the US has become more tricky. I heard a couple of stories where Canadian businessmen were invited to be keynote speakers at conferences in the States. At the border, they told the customs officer that was the reason they were visiting. They were refused entry and were told they were stealing jobs from American businessmen. That never happened before “America First” took over the US government.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent summation John. It’s frightening stuff indeed what’s going on the other side of our border. The republican party is long gone it’s been taken over by the greed mongers and the tRumpian party. Canada to him is now a ‘national security risk’. If Putin has his way it will soon become the Soviet States of America. Chilling! 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  4. John, well said. This is the message that is lacking in US news discourse. I shared with staffers for my two GOP senators that not only is Trump’s stance on retrenchment the wrong direction, it flies in the face of what Republicans believe. These relationships, commerce, and agreements make us safer. When Trump’s more studious cabinet members tried to tell him this, he balked. He is a transactional man who thinks in a binary way. What other leaders have seen is his poor grasp on trade and global commerce. This is contrary to the image he cultivates. Thanks for sharing this, Keith

    Liked by 2 people

      • John, the sad part is it is not funny. It is embarassing. There is a great business book called “Play to your strengths.” This President is slowly dismantling the US’ strengths. He is enabling an ascendant China and Russian comeback. Putin is one happy camper with Trump. Keith

        Liked by 3 people

        • You’re absolutely correct – there are so many dangers in his ridiculous policies. America’s allies are worried sick that as America grows weaker on the world stage, the allies are weaker too. I can’t imagine how much more damage that man will do in the next 2.5 years – IF the voters toss him out in 2020. I pray daily for a huge blue wave in November that will give the Dems control in both houses in Congress.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. A very interesting read. I also am Canadian. I am in stride with your POV, as are many. Not sure where the tariff wars are headed, or NAFTA, but I don’t want Trudeau to cave to trump’s outrageous bullying!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Meet the #Reviewers – Friday September 28th 2018 – Jill Dennison with John Fioravanti, Pamela Wight, Resa McConaghy with Shehanne Moore | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  7. Excellent post thank you John. My father was already in the Royal Navy by the time war broke out and he served on ships throughout the Second World War and Korean conflict. He met many American servicemen and liked them and he said that most were angry that their country waited so long to get into the fight. There were many Americans and Canadians of course who joined the Royal Air Force from the start and that has never been forgotten.

    I look at my network of contacts for the blog and on the Internet and 75% are from North America. That is not going to change whatever policy happens to be in place at the top. I cannot understand in this day and age of global networks how any nation can still be isolationist. None of us are self-sufficient and require two way trade alliances to survive. In the UK for example there is only a week’s worth of food in reserve at any given time and there is no way our farming industry could sustain 64 million. I doubt that the US farming industry could fully support the health and needs of 360 million either. And being a very consumer related society, denying access to the goods from the rest of the world they currently enjoy is not going to win votes.

    There are certainly cultures that still exclude the rest of the world but even they are beginning to emerge and develop. And on the issue of immigration, at the last count in 2012, there were 35million Americans claiming and proud of their Irish Ancestry. Those immigrants along with millions of other immigrants from Europe and beyond have formed the basis of the nation today. It was very welcome, wasn’t it, when the infrastructure needed to be built! Now with automation and higher unemployment, only the hands on jobs are available and they are usually the ones that incoming immigrants are more willing to take on. A black market had developed so there is no money to be made. It would seem to me that it would make more economic sense to acknowledge millions of illegal immigrants and get them into the tax system.

    I also think that there is some cherry picking going on with regard to what is isolated and what is not. For example advances in medicine, or other sciences. I am sure if someone in Syria discovered the cure for cancer they would be feted and given carte blanche to go and live in the USA or the UK for that matter.

    Anyway thanks for the post and sorry about the lengthy response.. I will include the post in the Blogger Daily this evening.. Sally

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you for sharing this post, Sally. I appreciate your entire comment. I have long been a proponent of establishing the UN as a world government, knowing full well that very few nations would willingly surrender some of their sovereignty to a global government. And yet, that might be the only viable key for humanity to survive. Perhaps humans don’t deserve to survive. I’d hate to be convinced of that.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It would be great if people would drop their own agendas and appreciate that this world is not as robust as it used to be and that its minerals and other life sustaining elements need to be managed on a global scale. I doubt that it will be in our lifetime. I also think that trying to find another planet for humans to move to and decimate at a cost of billions of dollars, might be spent on keeping earth viable. Anyway in the Blogger Daily this evening John and I hope others will come over to comment.

        Liked by 4 people

        • I am 100% in agreement with you, Sally! We need to turn our efforts toward cleaning up the only home that we have or likely ever will have, planet Earth! And yet, the U.S. seems all too content to sit by and ignore the problem, even though we are the largest producer of CO2 on the planet! Thanks again, Sally, for sharing this post!

          Liked by 1 person

      • Between the populist movement that is dividing so many nations on both sides of the pond, and the environmental concerns that the U.S. seems determined to ignore, I have to wonder about the fate of the human race. Sigh.


    • Very astute observations, Sally … thank you! You said it all when you said “none of us are self-sufficient”. Those days are long since over, but unfortunately, there are some in this nation who wish to return to them, or else don’t realize we’ve moved on … I’m never quite sure which. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. John’s post encapsulates a truly global and mature view of the USA’s position in the world. Large stable nations with a wealth of resources have responsibility and a measure of self-interest in remaining in touch with as much of the world as possible. Not only does a nation have much to other, but the ‘importing’ of relationships with other nations enriches that nation…and that’s before we get onto the subject of trade and tariffs.
    (Please can I contribute….and how the heck do I do it?….you’re dealing with a cyber cave-man here)

    Liked by 4 people

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