American Interventionism and Isolationism
From the foundation of our nation up to World War II, America had a foreign policy based on not becoming interwoven with other world powers, speaking on America's state of neutrality with most European nations, George Washington states in his 1796 address "why forego the advantages of such a peculiar situation?" Washington, as did Americans for well over a century believed that to become too politically involved with other nations was a threat to freedom itself, freedom to act as America chose on the world stage, without getting entangled in alliances which inevitably would lead to forcing America to come to the aid of allies in the continuous wars that were always breaking out in Europe. Washington firmly believed that a foreign policy based upon strong alliances would inevitably endanger our "peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition." This belief clearly was a deeply entrenched one in the American populace, in fact in 1920 when Woodrow Wilson attempted to enter the League of Nations, the United States membership in the intergovernmental organization was shut down by congress due to the plethora of unwanted alliances that would be forced upon America through joining, Americans, weary of Europe's inability to stay at peace, worried that forming alliances with European nations would inevitably lead to America being dragged into European conflicts. Jefferson reiterated this mindset of isolationism in his 1801 inaugural address, "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."
World War II would mark a changing point in America's stance on isolationism, as France fell to the Third Reich and Great Britain and China were loosing their footing against Germany and Japan, Americans began to feel that the western hemisphere would be the next target if Germany and Italy gained hegemony over Europe and Japan over Asia. Americans became increasingly more supportive of foreign aid to the opponents of the Axis, signaling a significant turn in American foreign policy. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, America declared war.
At the conclusion of the war, American's favored the establishment of the United Nations. This change occurred as Americans, weary of entering another war so demanding as WWII, decided that it would be more efficient to enter a global organization rather than stay isolated in an increasingly globalized world. With Global trade, communication, and travel advancing at a rapid pace, Isolationism seemed more and more outdated as foreign relations, which had already been forged when America entered WWII and were strengthened through America's efforts to rebuild western Germany and much of Europe, became to valuable to America's national security to throw away. This national security of course being of utmost importance with the rise of a hostile Soviet Union.
Americans were heavily weary of the Soviet Union due to its communist values and truly evil dictator, Joseph Stalin. The USSR, angry at America's unwillingness to accept the Communist dictatorship as a legitimate member of the global community, was fully willing to interpret America's arms buildup and involvement as a threat. The distrust between the two nations that would quickly develop into the sole nuclear powers in the world meant Americans were deeply concerned about keeping the Soviet Union at bay by any means possible. American officials, worried by the Soviet unions expansion into Europe felt that the most effective way to counteract this threat was to prevent Soviet expansion. For four decades, American's supported the policy of containment against the Soviet Union, partially due to fear of nuclear warfare, but also due to the moral beliefs that Communism was evil, depriving humans of their most basic rights and establishing the State as god, and that Capitalism and the West were the civilizing forces in the world. America's involvement in the Korean war and Vietnam war would both largely be initiated by not only the American populace's fear of the Soviet Union, but also the American populace's moral will to curtail the expansion of communism and to spread democracy to the corners of earth where human rights were even more scarce than food.
With the fall of Communism on the world stage, new threats arose, in the middle east, Radical Islam was becoming much more prevalent. America, having become involved in the middle east during the cold war and having chosen it's very close ally, Israel, to be the bulwark of western civilization in the middle east, was deeply hated by many nations in the middle east, many of which saw the establishment of Israel, the Jewish state, as an abomination, the rates of anti-antisemitism in the middle east being incredibly high according to the anti-defamation league. With many passions aroused in the middle east, it was almost inevitable that anti-American prejudice would lash out at some point. Attacks against American embassies came first, but the anti-American rage culminated in Al-Qaeda's attack on the World trade center on September 11, 2001. This provoked America to essentially re-initiate a policy of containment, but instead of against communism, it was against radicalism in the middle east.
For a few years, American's were convinced that America's war on terror was moral, yet that slowly decayed as Americans once again proved that since the Vietnam War, America is incapable of entering a war and actually sticking it out to the end. Obama's weakening of American forces in the middle east led to an opening for radicalism to gain a foothold once more, this lead to the rapid rise of the Islamic State which would take years for America and its Allies to finally recapture the vast amount of land that hand been captured.
One of the best examples today of the American stance on foreign policy is Israel. Despite mainstream media's anti-Israel bias, American's remain far more supportive of the Israeli state than the Palestinian state, that support actually growing consistently. While the UN Human Rights council, widely perceived as a joke as its members include nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, and Saudi Arabia, all of which are constantly home to egregious human rights violations, continuously passes anti-Israel resolutions (the Human Rights council passed more resolutions targeting Israel than any other nation by a large margin, more than the rest of the world combined, despite constant human rights violations in nations such as Syria or North Korea), Americans continue to favor Israel. Despite heavy anti-Israel sentiments in Europe, American's view Israel in a different light. Americans tend to lean towards moral absolutes, which should be no surprise since America is much more religious than European nations, therefore when America see's a nation such as Palestine with dismal human rights, heavy anti-women, and anti-LGBT discrimination, and on top of that the government is heavily swayed by a terrorist organization with the stated goal of wiping out Israel, and then compare that with the only westernized nation in the middle east, Israel, Americans see Israel as objectively more moral nation. Therefore, while Europeans highlight how Children have been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but refuse to recognize Israel's intense focus on only targeting terrorists and the fact that Palestinian terrorist organizations do everything in their ability to mix terrorists with civilians to ensure civilian casualties, Americans are more apt to recognize that a government that builds terrorist bases in hospitals, and pays civilians to charge a border, knowing full well that any Palestinian trying to break through the border fence will be shot, is an evil government.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America is shown to be a unique nation. Our foreign policy, largely guided by public sentiment, is swayed heavily by moral objectivity that Americans tend to hold. Today we see that much in the same way as Americans were convinced we were protecting South Korea from communism, and we were, Americans remain convinced that supporting Israel is protecting a bastion of freedom in the middle east.
Now we arrive at the paramount question, should America intervene in foreign affairs. As history has pushed America onto the world stage, this remains the moral question of the age, is it right to intervene in other nations? America has examples of intervention that have turned out right and wrong. The Korean war was perhaps the most moral war ever fought, and today South Korea can thank America for saving them from the hellhole that is North Korea, on the other hand, tragedies that occurred during the Vietnam War remind us that civilian lives are lost when we attempt to force-ably change another nation. While it is true, American intervention in Iraq for instance, may have lead to many lives being saved if America had not largely withdrew and allowed ISIS to form, and that American intervention has prevented many dictators from abusing their people, it is also true that the outcome of any foreign intervention is unknown. Americans believe in morality, to favor a nation that upholds it's peoples rights over a nation that commits horrid crimes against humanity is something that I believe Americans will always hold to, yet when it comes to forceful intervention in another nation, things become much more complex. A going rule for foreign intervention should be that without the necessity of immediate intervention, whether to save an ally, or to halt a genocide or some other vile human rights abuse, America should never intervene in the affairs of other nations. Just as Americans despise Russia becoming involved in our elections, we must understand other nations despise us when we become involved in their affairs, and that the only time America should become involved is when it is to save a great many human lives.
History has forced America into a position of international power, as the world's sole superpower, America has forced itself to be the world's police after its policy of containment against the Soviet Union, and then involvement in the middle east against radical Islam. the objectivity in American moral standards has allowed American's to be much more favorable of intervention as the ability to paint an entity as either good or evil greatly lightens the pressure of whether or not force is necessary, however this has also lead to American's being fickle in our foreign policy and swaying against war as soon as possible human rights abuses from America arise, worrying Americans that America may also have committed evil. The infusion of morals in foreign policy is unique in the western world and should not be discarded, however, if America is to ever serve as the world's police force, Americans would have to be a lot less fickle, America's only interest now in staying at the top of world affairs is the fear of allowing China and Russia to expand their own foreign policies, which means that like it or not, America is going to have to remain strong on the world stage no matter what, however it is an unanswerable question of whether intervention in the middle east is necessary, that must be on a case by case basis. While it does appear that American intervention can weaken terrorism, it also grows anti-American sentiments in the region that can lead to future terrorist activities arising.
While America must stay the most powerful player in world politics as we have the unique situation of being the sole superpower, and one of the few truly moral nations at the head of the world community, the question of whether interventionism or isolationism in any situation is the right answer is unknown. In the end, Americans are going to have to look at any situation that arises and say, "is this going to be another Korean war, or another Vietnam War."