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Venezuela: Is Non-Intervention the Same as Isolationism?

A non-interventionist foreign policy would save the US a lot of money and grief.

President Donald Trump may be apprehensive about putting boots on the ground in Venezuela to finally quash the President Nicolas Maduro regime and install a new government. But some of his closest associates in the White House seem more than willing to either offer military support or extend some covert action to undermine the empanada-eating socialist and install Juan Guaido as the new head of state.

Bolton Like a Hawk

John Bolton

The fear that the United States is going to get bogged down in another war has been aggravated by National Security Adviser John Bolton. He revealed to Fox Business Network that the Trump administration is interested in the outcome in Caracas because of the nation’s vast untapped crude oil reserves. According to Bolton, the Oval Office is in discussion with major energy firms about the issue, adding that “it would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela.”

But this is to be expected. Neoconservatives will use any reason to justify an invasion, a bombing campaign, or a regime change. Yet the neocons, as well as their new ally on the left, are still paraded on television to convince the American people that some new foreign conflict requires the help of the United States. Put simply, intervention by the U.S. is still a necessity.

Iraq. Libya. Russiagate. Why do these people still have jobs?

The foreign policy establishment has contended for the last 60 years that U.S. forces need to be stationed around the globe and trillions must be spent to fend off any threat to national security. This objective has been complemented by other excuses for meddling in the domestic affairs of nations, like securing the world for democracy or overthrowing democratically elected governments deemed too unsafe for neighboring states or the entire planet.

This long-held principle of seeking dragons to slay has led to significant blowback for the United States. It turns out that policing the world, invading lands, and telling others how to live is costly – politically and financially. Yet Washington has not learned its lesson, choosing to apply the status quo that has led to a trillion-dollar bill and a death toll in the thousands.

Is it time the United States heeded the wisdom of the founding fathers who warned against the type of adventurism that neoconservatives in the swamp perpetually advocate? Former President George Washington informed the world that “it is our true policy to steer clear of entangling alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Don’t tell that to the Bill Kristols, the David Frums, and the Max Boots of the world; they will accuse you of being an isolationist, a philosophy, these men predictably will declare, that facilitated the rise of Adolf Hitler or created al-Qaeda.

Referring to non-interventionists as isolationists has been common in the 21st century. In the media, on the campaign trail, and in lecture halls, proponents of intervention routinely conflate isolationism and non-intervention. In fact, these are contrasting concepts.

What’s the difference?

Non-Intervention vs. Isolation

A non-interventionist is someone who wants a nation to talk, trade, and permit travel. An isolationist wants the opposite: no diplomacy, zero trade, and shielded borders – no one can leave and no one can enter. These are distinct ideologies, yet people confuse them all the time.

According to the press in 2008, 2012, and 2016, anyone who suggested that NATO is superfluous, that nation-building is a flawed policy, and that paying for other countries’ defense is costing taxpayers too much was labeled an isolationist. Just take a gander at some of these headlines pertaining to the campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and President Donald Trump of the last few years:

It is apparent that the media are mistaken about what these foreign policy philosophies are. Even the eminent conservative commentator Ben Shapiro made the rare error on a recent podcast of conflating the two, suggesting that because Tucker Carlson is against intervention in Venezuela or the continued bombing overseas that he is an isolationist.

For real-world examples, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Singapore are non-interventionist countries. These prosperous states do business with every country while refraining from interfering in any other country’s business. Meanwhile, North Korea and Cuba are insulated jurisdictions. For much of their histories, these nations have closed themselves off from the rest of the world by restricting free trade, limiting innovative breakthroughs to the masses, and barring citizens from leaving the country.

So, using the logic of the Washington elite, are the Swiss isolationist because they do not drop bombs on territories thousands of miles away? Is Singapore isolationist because it concentrates on commerce instead of the internal strife in Iraq?

The United States is far from being an isolationist as much as it is far from being a non-interventionist.

A Humble Foreign Policy

The major polls, particularly the opinion surveys of the last year, show that the American people are in favor of the proposals put forward by the neoconservatives and leftists. For instance, a January 2019 poll of registered voters found that 59% opposed President Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria.

However, when elections take place, they have a different viewpoint; it is why anti-war candidates, or less hawkish individuals, win these contests. Former Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush were victorious because they vowed to end wars, stay out of conflicts, and focus on the issues at home, not 3,000 miles away. President Trump, while not exactly a stalwart of non-interventionism, was considerably less hawkish than some of his GOP rivals and Hillary Clinton. The ones who desired more adventurism and had an atrocious record on foreign policy, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), crashed and burned in 2016.

Otto von Bismarck wrote: “Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.” The neocons sell wars like they’re a John Wayne film where everyone is an unscathed hero. But this is a grand illusion: War is hell.


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