Isolationism is a term, used since middle of the 19th century mainly for denotation of US foreign policy direction, which is based on the idea of non-involvement in European affairs and in armed conflicts out of the American continent in general. The world changed much, as well as concept of isolationism did. The modern process of globalization is pushing the development of the world; and it becomes a new reality that should be adequately accepted. Contemporary influence of US isolationist policy and desire to take unilateral decisions, connected with it, could harm not only the US, but to the whole world.
A theory and practice of isolationism, the origin of which ascends to the period of Independence War of 1775-1783, formed under the influence of a number of factors: geographical apartness of the American continent; creation of the capacious internal market, causing disinterestedness of a considerable part of bourgeoisie in transatlantic expansion; relative military and economic weakness of the USA in the first decades after their creation. Early isolationism was a kind of American nationalism’s reflection; it played a substantial role in protection of the USA from interventions of monarchist Europe, foremost of Great Britain, aspiring to renew lost positions.
Principles isolationism, actually applied only in regard to Europe, did not mean political and much less economic isolation of the USA in general. The leaders of the American foreign policy saw practical sense of isolationism in a their own benefit to use contradictions between European states, refusing to conclude long- term military-political unions with them and proclaiming neutrality of the USA in wars in Europe (first in 1793), but at the same time departing from isolationism during largest armed world conflicts. Thus, practice of isolationism generated policy of “discretion”ť.
Isolationist principles and Monroe doctrine were the cradle of Pan-Americanism; they served a curtain for covering the US expansionist aspirations in Latin America. With entering of the USA into the epoch of imperialism, monopolistic circles aimed at using isolationist principles for spreading the expansion to other regions of the world, applying for this purpose new possibilities conditioned by the world industrial superiority the USA obtained.
In 1920s isolationism of the USA was associated with the refusal from the Versailles Treaty ratification of 1919 and from participation in the League of Nations, and also with the increase of tariffs and strict immigration laws. The large outbreak of isolationist moods marked 1930s.
Neutrality legislation (1935-37), conducted under the guise of non-interference in European affairs, was used by the American reaction for “appeasement”ť of fascist aggressors, and so contributed to triggering the WWII off. After the WWII, isolationism (in traditional understanding) stopped playing a significant role in the US policy.
In the middle of 1950s and in the end of 1960s the outbreaks of isolationist mass moods took place in public life of the USA, called “neoisolationism”ť, which were caused by the increasing competition of other developed capitalist countries, dissatisfaction of different social layers with the expansionist foreign policy of the USA and by a number of other reasons. In particular, “neoisolationism”ť found its expression in criticism (from liberal positions) of NATO and other military alliances of capitalist countries, in arguing against excessive attention to the foreign policy (in the prejudice of domestic problems), in demands to shorten military aid to other countries, “go away from Europe”ť, and stop aggressive war in South-East Asia, etc.