Saturday, December 01, 2007

Isolationism Confusion

Some readers have expressed concern about my referring to Ron Paul as an isolationist. (See my post) To be clear: I did not use this term as a pejorative or as means of shutting down discussion. I used it as a term that best describes his view.

I understand isolationism to be the foreign policy view that a country should isolate itself internationally. That is, isolationism is the view that a country should not engage in alliances, not provide support for allies, not participate in international organizations, and (or) not get involved in foreign conflicts. It is often used to mean neutrality, non-involvement, or non-interventionism. This looks to me like Paul's view; therefore I am not attributing to him a view that misrepresents him.

The first principle of the foreign policy of free country ought to the protection of the individual rights of its citizen. This view necessitates neither the isolationism as described above nor a policy of involvement. Different historical and circumstantial contingencies will require a consideration of how to best implement the principle of protecting individual rights. At times this might call for neutrality or non-involvement; but it might equally require entering into alliances or providing material and financial support to allies. Indeed, it might require attacking a professed and dangerous enemy.

Given the complexity of recognizing and properly appreciating these different contingencies as well as thoughtfully applying the principle of individual rights to these circumstances, it is no surprise that intelligent, honest, and rational individuals can disagree about what specific policy is best for protecting rights. What I find worrisome about Paul's view, as well as many libertarians, is that the answer appears always to be neutrality and non-involvement. What looks like consistency and principled policy is really just concrete-bound obstinacy regardless of the policy's relation to the principle of protecting individual rights.

I hope this clears up any confusion.

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