Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Switzerpan and a closer look at neutralism vs. isolationism

Last week Michael Blowhard of 2Blowhards linked to the post on the progress of John Derbyshire. One of the group over there, Donald Pittenger awarded me the "It's 1928 Forever" award. He also congratulated me on “being an Isolationist (though he doesn't seem to realize it yet).” At first, I thought of finding him and confronting him with a taunt (Son, your shirt is hanging out) to provoke him into challenging me to a duel so I could choose water pistols at any distance and have my satifaction by soaking him to the bone.

Of course, neutralists know that we do not want to get into a neverending cycle of violence, for who knows what strategem he might have then employed to cause me to challenge him.

Instead, I answered him on the nature of neutralism versus isolationism.

I think we have to get a handle here on what is an Isolationist. The Japanese before Perry were Isolationist, the Swiss are Neutralist. The difference is vast.

Mr. Pittenger was not completely satisfied,

I'm not intelligent enough to grasp that the difference between pre-Meiji Japan and modern Switzerland is "vast" especially when geopolitical settings are taken into account. At the core, both countries decided to pull back their horns. Japan later became aggressive -- because they were able to. The Swiss haven't -- because they are not able to, among other factors. (And yes, I'm familiar with the Swiss military system -- it is defensive, in nature.)

Because of his comment, I feel compelled to analyze neutralism versus isolationism in a tad more detail.

Japan up until Perry’s arrival was a hermit kingdom. It did not have a neutral foreign policy, it had essentially no foreign policy. It was like a hermit living in a hut in the forest who screams and yells and throws stones when anyone approaches.

Switzerland is a good neighbor. A neighbor who does not interfere with your business, but is glad to cooperate in cleaning up after the mess left by a storm. He might even have you and the missus over for dinner and accept a return invite, but he won’t insist you change the drapes or rearrange the furniture to his taste, nor will he league with the neighbors to make you. The gulf between the hermit and the good neighbor as between the isolationist and neutralist is thus vast.

He also avers that, “Japan later became aggressive -- because they were able to. The Swiss haven't -- because they are not able to, among other factors..” This assertion is interesting and has caused me to give it some thought. Alright, you are the hermit and somebody comes up to your hut with a gun and tells you that you have no choice but to live his way. What lesson do you come up with. Maybe the only reason we’re so bad is we can be. They really couldn’t be neutralist because we would not let them be. I could argue this in greater detail, but suffice it to say, if you have a choice, be Swizerland.

Neutralism is grateful to Michael and the folks at 2Blowhards for the notice and to Mr. Pittenger as well.

3 comments:

TheMasterTimekeeper said...

For the sake of discussion I'll grant you the term "Neutralist" even if it sounds like R. Douglas Stuart with a new coat of paint.
It seems, in the Finnish example, to require subcontracting one's foreign policy to a behemoth neighbor. In the Swiss example it means becoming, in essence, a free rider. What do you think would have become of the Swiss had Hitler taken Western Europe? If Stalin or any one of the fellows between him and Gorby had sent the motor-rifle divisions West? It's quite clear- the Swiss would, like the Finns, exist at the pleasure of whoever was running Europe. If things came down to a fight, the Swiss would have been reduced to banditry by any patient foe who could gain air superiority and interdict supply lines. Twice Western Europe faced such a foe, and twice the Swiss were spared this fate by American intervention.

The Japanese example you cite is similar in many respects. The Tokugawa regime, having "insulated" Japan from most outsiders, had little industrial or military capability. Thus Japan existed at the sufferance of her contemporaries for many decades.

Finally we come to my point- if the United States adopted similar policies and withdrew our influence from the outside world, we would eventually be in a similar situation; existing at the whim of whatever foreign powers stepped up to take our place.

If avoiding this fate means NATO membership and a military presence abroad, so be it. It's a price I'm already paying and I prefer it to the alternative.
Having said this, I eagerly await a response. I believe you've posted elsewhere that our military capabilities shouldn't extend much further than what is required to protect our borders, but I fail to see how this is compatible with a "Neutralist" foreign policy.

Joseph Moroco said...

I shall reply with a post.

TheMasterTimekeeper said...

That's very kind of you, I look forward to it.