The original American foreign policy of the USA in the first decades of its existence was one of non-interventionism. The idea was to trade with all nations and stay out of all squabbles between other countries. The policy was strict neutrality much like the Swiss have followed since 1815; always ready to defend against invasion but never ready to invade another people’s territory. The old idea of non-interventionism in foreign policy as been a dead letter issue in the USA for generations now. Advocates of America’s modern foreign policy of interventionism, as well as most common citizens, believe that World War II occurred because America returned to its policy of “isolationism” after World War I and that is said to prove that the USA needs to police the entire world.
The first thing to understand is that “isolationism” is not the same as non-interventionism and the term “isolationist” is used mainly as a slur to stifle debate on foreign policy. The USA has engaged in trade and otherwise interacted with other countries throughout its history. The USA has never been a “closed” society like the modern North Korea. Non-interventionism simply means that a country minds its own business and does not use force or coercion to make other countries do its bidding.
The second thing is that many today argue that our failure to adopt the Versailles Treaty and to join the League of Nations allowed Hitler to come to power. They then claim that the “appeasement” of Great Britain and France led Germany to launch WWII. If the USA had been true to the non-interventionist foreign policy of its founders and had refused to enter World War I then there would not have been the horrendous end to the war that the USA’s entry caused. There would have been a negotiated treaty in 1917 as all parties to the war were exhausted and tired of conflict. There would have been no harsh Versailles Treaty forced on Germany and that means there would have not have been the great discontent in Germany that provided the fertile ground for the German Nazi Party and its leader Adolf Hitler.
Additionally, If the war had ended in 1917 with a negotiated truce and then treaty, there would have been no successful Russian Revolution. The great evil that was totalitarian communism would have not appeared on the world scene. Think about that one for a while. There would have been no successful birth of Communism.
If the USA had followed its founder’s non-interventionist policies then there would have been no World War II. There are those would would argue otherwise, but Winston Churchill himself believed that the USA should have stayed out of WWI. It was reported by the New York Enquirer in August of 1936 the following that Churchill claimed the following:
America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the World War. If you hadn’t entered the war the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the Spring of 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, no breakdown in Italy followed by Fascism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned Nazism in Germany. If America had stayed out of the war, all these ‘isms’ wouldn’t to-day be sweeping the continent of Europe and breaking down parliamentary government, and if England had made peace early in 1917, it would have saved over one million British, French, American, and other lives. ~ Winston Churchill
We can not go into the past and change the actions of the USA, but with millions upon millions of deaths caused by our failure to follow a non-interventionist policy we should at least learn from what happened. When we take action, even with the best of intentions, the law of unintended consequence comes into play. In the modern era the USG has kept its military forces in the middle east and now there is death and destruction all over the region. There is rebellion in the air and peace is nowhere to be found in the region. Coincidence? Of course not, it is the logical outcome of the invasion by the USA of so many countries in the region.
The USA must drop its ambitions to rule the world and it must stop intervening in places that it has no business in. I would like to see the breakup of the USA into smaller regions, but even if that is not in the cards we must work to stop the military/industrial/political complex from setting the world on fire with war.