Isolationism is the idea that a nation will not make alliances, will not interfere in the politics of other nations, will be self-sufficient, and will avoid trade as much as possible.
As an ideal it is seldom perfectly attained. Even some of the world’s most closed off countries have often maintained ties with at least one other nation (North Korea and China for example).
Some nations like North Korea, Bhutan (pre 1999), and Japan (pre 1853) have focused on cultural purity. They restricted imported media (newspapers, magazines, books, television) and enforced the speaking of a national language. Other nations were subject to isolationism as a result of war (Albania during the Cold War and communist rule). Still other nations have adopted isolationist policy for a period of time for various reasons.
Whether America has exemplified isolationism at certain times in its history is a matter of great debate. Probably the closest they ever came was the 1930s. The economic crisis of the Great Depression along with the great damage and loss from World War I had left the nation vulnerable and reluctant to enter foreign affairs.
The concept of isolationism never made much sense to me. Granted, I am an idealist and having grown up overseas I recognize how interconnected this world really is. The concept of, “ We will protect ourselves, even if others are suffering,” infuriates me. Now I understand that politics are complicated, and I certainly have never run a country. But I also think there are more important things in this world than safety, prosperity, or even comfort. I understand that America is not the “international police” nor should they be. That is not what I am saying. I am not laying out any specific policy for any specific country. As a human being in this world, I don’t like to see anybody in any country suffering under injustice. But even beyond that, I think that we all have so much to learn from each other. (If you want to read some interesting thoughts on international relations try Bertram Russell’s “Political Ideals.” You can get it on Kindle for free!)
In the future, I don’t really think that countries are going to cut themselves off from each other. But I do think it’s very possible that some clear lines will be drawn between domestic and international matters.
What do you think? Do you think countries need to be more involved in each other’s affairs? What boundaries do you think need to be in place?