Net result of complete isolationist US position?

Disclaimer: NOT trying to create a political debate or pissing contest.

What would happen, locally, and globally, if the US were to announce: "Many folks around the world hate us, so we’re bringing everyone home. All military personnel abroad, along with all of the nice high tech gear. Oh, and by the way, all of the foreign aid is done, too. Have a problem? Deal with it yourself. Instead of giving away billions to other countries, we’re gonna invest that in alternate fuel research, and more aggressive drilling in US waters, so OPEC can go suck it, too.

What would happen if the US concentrated on its own problems and told the rest of the orb to take a hike?

An interesting question. Not sure how the phrasing of your OP fits with your desire not to create a pissing contest, but still.

I definitely think it’s in the US’s and everyone else’s interest to develop cleaner energy technologies.

In the spirit of not wanting to spark any debate (that’s not going to work), I agree with the previous poster.

If the US did that and poured their money into technology and solved a couple of basic problems (infrastructure, energy independence, poverty/homelessness) then we could help do the same thing in other places, like Asia or Africa.

Great idea. Except for the part that the whole industrial apparatus of the US would crumble without the war machine creating demand for it. It would be nice to see the government workig on domestic poverty, though.

US development aid amounts to about 25% of the total, so losing that would have a significant effect. But the USA is not a particularly generous contributor per capita, and certainly not as a proportion of GNP.

If it meant an end to cheap oil from the Middle East, cheap imports from east Asia, and China propping up the value of the US dollar, the US economy would be in serious trouble.

We’d have to get SERIOUS about recycling; we’re not home-supplied self sufficient in all sorts of metals and minerals. And we wouldn’t have fresh fruit in the wintertime. :frowning:

Only if you read the OP as a call for erecting trade barriers between ourselves and the rest of the world. I read it as a call for our government to stop involving itself in foreign affairs, but that private individuals would still be free to trade, invest, and make charitable contributions to foreign countries as they wish.

No-I wasn’t suggesting trade barriers, just saying that we would adopt a “take care of our own, first” attitude. As to the collapse of the industrial structure without the war machine, isn’t there sufficient demand by other folks who wish to wage war in their portion of the planet? I’m not calling for an end to the US military, either. Active duty personnel could augment DHS and do a much more effective job of sealing our borders than is presently being done.

Things would look essentially like they look today. The problem with it is you don’t seem to realize that the US’s interests go far beyond our borders. Oh, we could probably save a billion here, a billion there…but I seriously doubt that if we cut back to just our bare bones international interests it would free up enough money to do anything significant wrt making us energy independent (this leaves aside the point that I think the government sucks at such efforts anyway).

Right now and for the foreseeable future the US has strategic interests in the stability of, say, South Korea…so we won’t be able to just cut and run pulling up all stakes. Not unless we don’t care about trade with the far east anymore. We have interests in the Middle East as well, so we won’t be pulling out of there either. We have interests in a strong Israel, so we can’t exactly pull the plug on funding there. I suppose we could cut our (already dwindling) military commitments to Europe and bring home whatever is left there…but I don’t see that this is going to bring in enough cash to do much of anything. We could also cut funding to Africa I suppose…again, though it sounds like a lot of money its really a drop in the bucket. Same with what we give away in Central and South America.

You have to understand something…America doesn’t do many of these things out of the (sole) goodness of our collective hearts. We do them because its in our INTERESTS to do them. Its as simple as that. Unless the US wants to basically become a completely isolated nation we have interests overseas…and protecting those interests in todays world (without some other nation to do it for us) means that its going to cost money. Lots of money.


What interest do we have in a strong Israel that wouldn’t be solved by making ourselves less dependent on Middle Eastern oil?

Well, I could think of a few (starting with the fact that they are an ally). However, lets assume you are right and there is nothing in our relationship that matters except giving us an ally in the ME.

Fine. How do you solve the problem in either the short or medium term of our dependence on oil? Do you wave your magic gubberment stick at it and it goes away? The devil is in the details. Freeing us from our dependence on oil isn’t going to happen in a year or even a decade. Its going to take a LONG time. So…what do you do in the mean time? Have happy thoughts and hope your interests stay protected, relying on the good natures of other nations?


Well, I was following the premise of the OP, which appeared to be “screw all of you,” friend or foe.

As far as the dependence on oil goes, I start building nuclear reactors for electric power, tighten up fuel economy standards for automobiles, and drill the fuck out of Alaska. I’m not saying that any of my well-thought-out measures would pass Congress in the real world, but on the other hand, neither would the policy of complete isolationism brought up by the OP. I’m just trying to think of how it could be made to work, stipulating the OP’s situation.

I’ve never understood why our dependence on oil forces us to form military alliances with, and provide military aid to, countries in the Middle East. We get oil by paying for it. Friendly governments don’t give it to us, and no hostile government has tried to withhold it from us since 1973. Switzerland, Japan, and Argentina (to name three countries at random) manage to import oil from the Middle East without any military or diplomatic involvement.

Well, except for the Alaska thing I agree for the most part. Problem is that these are all long term projects. Take nuclear reactors. I’m a HUGE fan of nuclear power in the US. However, the reality is that it takes about a decade to plan and bring a reactor on stream (and this is if you get the fucking eco-fascists out of the way). Building enough to make a difference would take a major effort on the US’s part…and time. Same goes for tightening up fuel standards. In THEORY this would be a great thing…but are you going to mandate that everyone much buy a new car tomorrow? If not then its going to take quite a long time before the current fleet of vehicles are replaced with your more fuel efficient designs (and this leaves off the time it will take for manufactures to design and build cars to your new standard and make them widely available).

The OP is basically unrealistic and disregards the fact that the US is dependent and interconnected to The World™ in so many ways that it would be impossible to disengage in any kind of realistic way. Sure, if we as a nation decided tomorrow that we didn’t want to deal with the world anymore we could start the process of disengagement (assuming that American’s could actually stay the course on such a program for any reasonable period of time :dubious: )…and we MIGHT be pretty well disengaged by, say, the middle of this century. At least WRT oil. But what about all our OTHER ties and interests (trade other than oil)? Do we completely disengage from those too? Well, then we’d need to somehow rebuild our manufacturing capabilities as well ( :dubious: )…and learn to live with crappier goods that cost a lot more.


There are plenty of other countries in the world that could teach us how to trade without being a superpower. The first is not dependent on the second.

Which one’s will protect our interests for us?


None. We’ll protect our own interests, and other countries will protect their own.

Is North Korea threatening South Korea? Sounds like a problem for South Korea. Is Iran threatening to go nuclear? If they attack us, we’ll invade them and overthrow their government, as we did in Afghanistan. If they attack somebody else, that’s somebody else’s problem.

In the meantime, if you want to buy from us or sell to us, we’re open for business–just like every other country in the world.

Well…yeah. How is that different than today?

Ever looked at a map of trade routes through the eastern Pacific? This leaves aside the fact that South Korea is one of our major trading partners (as well as Japan which, last time I checked was uncomfortably close to the Korean peninsula).

So, its not our problem if Iran attacks Iraq? Or Kuwait? Or Saudi Arabia? Or…well, just about anywhere in the Middle East? Look…as long as we need oil it IS our problem if Iran or anyone else goes to war over there. An attack on, say SA by Iran IS an attack on the US…same with an attack by Iran on any of their other neighbors (with the possible exception of Afghanistan which actually has no strategic value to the US afaict).

Well, except (using your two examples) if a war in Korea shuts down and/or disrupts the trading lanes into and out of Asia, or embroils Japan, etc. Oh, and except if a war in the ME shuts off all that oil stuff. Other than that, yeah…we are good to go. Sure hope everyone is willing to play nice, ehe? I’m sure THAT will happen…


I don’t know. You’re the one who asked which countries would “protect our interests” under an “isolationist” foreign policy. I agree–no other country protects our interests today, and none would under isolationism. So no loss.

Trade with South Korea accounts for less than one-half of one percent of our Gross Domestic Product. We can’t afford to defend every country in the world with whom we have a trading relationship of that size. No other country attempts to do so.

Our attempt to shelter South Korea under our defense umbrella has bred nothing but resentment, and polls show increasing numbers of South Koreans want the United States to leave their country and blame the United States for increasing tensions in the region.

South Korea has twice the population and 15 times the gross domestic product of North Korea–they should be able to defend themselves. Likewise with Japan–they have six times the population and more than 100 times the GDP of North Korea. If they can’t defend themselves, shame on them. In the extremely unlikely event that either falls to a foreign conqueror, then we’ll trade with the conqueror.

No. Iraq attacked Iran in 1980, and it was great–they both pumped oil like banshees for eight years to earn revenue, and drove the price down below $10 a barrel. Plus, they were so pre-occupied with each other for eight years that they couldn’t bother anybody else. If they’re up from Round II, I don’t see why it need concern us.

No, those are two of the most repressive dictatorships on the planet. I don’t want to be allied with their governments in any way, shape, or form. Allying with their governments only incurs the resentment of their populations.

Why? There have been wars before in the Middle East, and the supply of oil didn’t dry up. On the contrary, as I say, during the Iran-Iraq war it flowed more copiously than ever.