Johnson, James A.
October 1970
Foreign Affairs;Oct70, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p136
This article focuses on the impact of the concept of isolationism on U.S. foreign policy in the 1970s. The reaction to the war in Vietnam, the demands of domestic problems and the seeming hollowness of traditional assumptions of international involvement, all give rise to this outlook. The isolationists are heterogeneous by age, ideology and temperament, however, the most rapid increase in converts is among the under-thirty generation. The anti-Vietnam war statements of a broad spectrum of peace groups challenge U.S. foreign policy throughout the world. Many commentators, however, misunderstand the current isolationist sentiment. The central issue for the new isolationists is the use of American military power. The companion issues of economic and diplomatic presence are important, but not as important. The current definition of American military policy, though distorted by our involvement in Vietnam, remains firmly rooted in the experience of World War II. For many years the isolationists were said to be willing to risk repeating the mistakes that led to the Second World War, to turn their backs on international realities. Today among young people the pendulum has swung dramatically in the opposite direction. Interventionists have taken on the burdens of a major military mistake in Southeast Asia. They also are considered responsible for the anti-Americanism of major portions of opinion in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. They are criticized- for their unwillingness to discard what are considered outmoded assumptions about the communist threat. Even among the not-so-young, many persons have a sense of past errors. A new internationalism based on a peaceful response to human needs is the only effective response that the new generation of isolationists will heed.


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