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.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


TheMasterTimekeeper left a comment on a prior post that was long enough to need a post of its own. His comment is first and my reply, after.

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.

Neutralism has many problems, but I believe they are less than Imperialism. The Marxist term, correlation of forces, means that the moon has to be in the seventh house and Jupiter must align with Mars for the age of Aqarius to occur. Similarly, for the Switzers to fall, someone has to win the whole ball of wax.

I haven't read Buchannan's new book, but long ago, I heard that Churchill's big strategy was too get the US into the war. If the Brits had absolutely no hope of US involvement, they may have done a deal with Dolph. We cannot speculate what that would have led to in history for good or ill, but it would have left Helvetia standing. If the correlation of forces had been that the war had continued, and the Brits had been knocked out and Germany had conquered Russia, maybe Switzerland would have been Finlandized. It could have been that Germany would have been so drained that it could not have said boo.

All in all, Neutralism has served the Cantons well enough. In fact, though I think it is fighting a rear guard action with its own PC, it is not in the maw of the European Union that appears to be instituting a Reich on its own. The Dutch Prime Minister opined that Wilders could publish, but he hoped to find grounds to prosecute. Come back Seyss-Inquart, all is forgiven.

As to Japan, they were not neutralist, the isolationism stemmed from the upper classes not wishing the people being armed. The early Brit imperialism meant having an army in France that was invincible, but Wat Tyler's archers almost overturning everything. The Japanese were defenceless against the outside world, but impervious to revolution. Engaged with the world, they did the Imperialism thing. China was too big a meal and still they took the bait FDR put out and went too far. Imperialism ruined them.

The point is, that even if Neutralism runs chance, Imperialism is a sure loser. Whether it is Athens and the Delian League, or the Soviet Union. Caesar conquering Gaul, led inevitably to Odovacer. Maybe it wasn't a week and a half later, but it was certain.

Our Imperialism is coming a cropper. As Neutralists, we would have more going for us than Switzerland, with our two oceans. If you think bugging the Russkies and Chinese is a brilliant strategy, fine. I would rather let them bug each other, which they might do if we were not in their faces. Maybe there is a way to be engaged in the world and not be imperialists. Unfortunately, sooner or later, you will get neocons.

I think about systems of government. Being a New Englander and former town officer, our direct democracy style of government is enthusiastically supported by, almost no one. It is difficult to get people to come out for the town meeting unless it is about the school budget and then they will mindlessly vote for anything. If you told them they were required to come to the town meeting, they would demand a dictator so they would not have to be bothered. Still I prefer the system we have now.

The point is, there is no philosopher's stone for a system of government, but some work better than others. The founder of a dynasty may bring heaven on earth while his idiot heir can make it hell. I am not a democrat, I prefer to think of myself as republican (small d and r). That is cute, because republicanism gives me enough leeway to say I'm for what works tolerably well constitutionally. So it is with neutralism. There is no magic FP. It has its problems, it is just not the sure loser interventionism is.

I wish I had more the time to give this. Certainly, several paragraphs are in my head. Finland should be addressed. Also, I did a google search for R. Douglas Stuart and found nothing much to look at. When The Neutralist Association attains a lush endowment, I shall assign such tasks to staff more talented than I.

I have treated a neutralist defense policy here. Henri Guisan's biography is an interesting treatment of the Confederation's fancy footwork during the war, but is like Samuel Johnson's comment on the Giant's Causeway, "worth seeing, but not worth going to see."


My son is of military age. He could save the fam a lot of money if he went ROTC. I have not supported that for reasons a reader might get from following this blog. It has bothered me a lot. From the link, you can see I believe everyone should be part of national defense, including my family.

What would I say if he wanted to do the Pat Tillman thing. If he said, I want to enlist for duty in Afghanistan, my answer would be, We have no chance of winning, we have no chance of changing that nation for good and our purported reason for going there no longer exists. There is no way our being there helps anything FP wise. Enlisting under those conditions is wrong.

Say it's your son. What do you answer?


TheMasterTimekeeper said...

I'll respond to your final question first. My son is of the age where he is more interested in being a pirate or a Jedi than a rifleman, so my immediate answer would be an indulgent smile. Nonetheless- I understand the spirit in which the question is raised. We'll proceed under the assumption that he's just finished high school, etc.

I would sit down with my son and examine his reasons for doing so. I would also discuss, as candidly as possible, the trials and travails of military service. If his reasons were sufficient, I would tell him he had my full support; if not, I would try to communicate my objections. In either event I would do my best to make sure he aware of what he was potentially getting in to. Having made sure he had as much knowledge as possible at his disposal, I would be obliged to stand clear and let him make up his own mind. This might sound trite, but it's what my father (a Nam-era draft dodger) did before I began my own military career and that was in the relative safety of the Clinton era.

For the rest of your post, there is a great deal we agree on. It would certainly be nice, for instance, to see China and Putin's Russia back to nipping at each other rather than conducting joint military exercises. Likewise I have a great deal of respect for the manner in which the Swiss have comported themselves, culturally and economically, for the past fifty years. In the final analysis I believe that being able to actively influence events abroad is better to have than to do without. I would not care to leave so many things to chance, as it were. This does not equal imperialism in my book but it is already established that our definitions of the term differ.

Since it wasn't my intention to drop an obscure historical reference, R. Douglas Stuart was the organizer of the America First Committee.

Joseph Moroco said...

" I would not care to leave so many things to chance, as it were."

All life is chance. The only non chance is the sure ruin that imperialism is.

The postwar long weekend that we had as a result of getting into WWII late was an anomaly. We won't get to tie things up so neatly again. Trying to keep that game going forever won't happen.

Not fair, but I'm running away for the weekend. I'm sure we have miles to go.

Think about TheMastertimekeeper and The Neutralist- the book, if not the movie.