US Isolationists are Doomed Because They Have to Argue for Isolationism, or, Eisenhower’s Middle East Doctrine is Now Trump’s Middle East Doctrine

The Eisenhower Doctrine

Eisenhower singled out the Soviet threat in his doctrine […]

The administration also saw the Middle East as being critical for future foreign policy regarding the United States and its allies. The region contains a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves needed by the allies. […]

…meant that the US was the lone western power in the Middle East and placed US oil security in danger as the USSR filled the power vacuum.

The Trump Doctrine  –

Trump singled out the China threat in his doctrine […]

The administration also saw the Middle East as being critical for future foreign policy regarding the United States and its allies. The region contains a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves needed by the allies. […]

…meant that the US was the lone western power in the Middle East and placed US & allied oil security in danger as China filled the power vacuum.

Eisenhower’s Doctrine of preventing the creation of a power vacuum in the Middle East that would be filled by Soviet Russia was the same doctrine Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan followed in Europe, America-aligned Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. Their doctrine’s are now Trump’s doctrine in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere, but with the goal of preventing China from filling a power vacuum over those areas instead of the Soviet Union.

Well, this will be the Trump Doctrine unless American Isolationists do something they don’t want to do, something they are incapable of doing.

The moment Isolationists have feared, tried to delay, and avoid making an honest case for during the last 29 years has finally arrived:

The moment when they have to defend Isolationism.

Isolationism means America withdrawing everywhere outside its own territory, without exception.

The straightforward definition of Isolationism is not what American “Isolationists” have been arguing for.

What they have been arguing for since 1991 are actually tactical withdrawals outside primary American spheres of economic influence such as Syria and Afghanistan.  Withdrawing from a particular theater of operations is not  sufficient to constitute Isolationism. I enthusiastically agreed on leaving Assad in power and viewed withdrawal from Afghanistan as a reasonable option out of numerous bad options.  Yet, I am not an Isolationist.

But the naive post-Cold War, “post-history” days of arguing over narrowly targeted, minor league conflicts like those are over.

The return of multipolarity means the division of the world between American spheres of influence and Chinese spheres of influence.

In that context, the absolutely certain result of America adopting Isolationism would be China replacing American hegemony with Chinese hegemony over all of Europe, Chinese hegemony over all of Asia, Chinese hegemony over all of the Middle East, and Chinese hegemony over all of Latin America.

And by abandoning American hegemony, America is also abandoning the economic negotiation leverage it has over the world economic order.

The Military-Industrial Complex is an economic system before it is a military and diplomatic system. Since the 19th century, the primary purpose of the US military (second only to the physical defense of the United States) has been to expand America’s economic spheres of influence for the sake of American businesses.  19th century American trade protectionism, which resulted in America’s unprecedented rate of industrialization, would have been impossible without American military expansionism during the Mexican-American War, the Spanish American War, and other early expansionist gambits.  That expansionism in turn created the industrial base which led to 20th century America becoming the greatest military power of all time.

What was true in the 19th century is as true today: America’s Military-Industrial Complex is a powerful, self-reinforcing system that enhances American economic and diplomatic power by incentivizing America’s wealthy allies to accept American economic dominance in exchange for America acting as guarantor of their physical and commercial security.  That economic and diplomatic power in turn strengthens America’s military capabilities.

Trump’s recent victories in the tariff battles were possible because the military alliance system Trump inherited from Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan gave the economic and diplomatic leverage Trump needed in trade negotiations.

By abandoning America’s military dominance over the world’s economic chokepoints via Isolationism, America’s economic dominance (and the ability to shape a trade protectionist policy) will be abandoned along with it to be replaced with Chinese military and economic dominance.

But, one might ask, weren’t Isolationists right about the second Iraq War?

Their getting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein correct was more of a” stopped clock eventually has to be right twice a day” type of situation: Almost every nation in history, be they great or small, has entered a military campaign that turned out to be a mistake. If Isolationists always answer that America should never get involved in any conflict, over time, they have to be correct at certain times because mistakes are made in everything involving human decision making.

Nor are the stakes the same: Getting Iraq right the second time (they were wrong the first time about Operation Desert Storm) is of no use if they are wrong about handing China the power from hell vacuum (in exchange for nothing) over all Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East: The latter promises to be a mistake orders of magnitude more disastrous than invading Iraq.

And, as Alexander Hamilton pointed out, Democratic nations have not historically been Pacifist. The Roman Republic was every bit as war crazed as the Empire. So were the Greek Democracies.

The only “nations” that can really afford to practice Isolationism, such as Switzerland, are more luxury resorts that exist only by the fiat of more powerful neighbors

These were, however, purely political manoeuvres intended to guarantee Switzerland’s passiveness. Nazi Germany planned to end Switzerland’s independence after it had defeated its main enemies on the continent.[2]

In a meeting held with Fascist Italy’s leader, Benito Mussolini, and foreign minister, Galeazzo Ciano, in June 1941, Hitler stated his opinion on Switzerland quite plainly:

“Switzerland possessed the most disgusting and miserable people and political system. The Swiss were the mortal enemies of the new Germany.”[2]

In a later discussion, the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop directly alluded to the possibility of carving up Switzerland between the two Axis powers: “On the Duce’s query whether Switzerland, as a true anachronism, had any future, the Reich Foreign Minister smiled and told the Duce that he would have to discuss this with the Führer.”[2]

This high stakes question demands the serious answer that American Isolationists have proven completely incapable of delivering.  And they cannot hide from the question any longer because the implications will remain reality, and reality exists no matter how much Isolationists want to pretend it doesn’t.

2 thoughts on “US Isolationists are Doomed Because They Have to Argue for Isolationism, or, Eisenhower’s Middle East Doctrine is Now Trump’s Middle East Doctrine”

  1. Hard to imagine there will ever again be a real war in Asia or elsewhere,

    My dear fellow, risk analysis of one scenario is all relative to other scenarios.

    It is much more likely there would be a war in Asia, and elsewhere, as China gains hegemony in the absence of the United States than if we simply keep the status quo.

    In case multiple wars did not break out (when was the last time a geopolitical power vacuum was created that didn’t lead to war?) it would just mean that every other developed nation previously under America’s security system simply acquiesced to Chinese hegemony rolling in.

    Those are awfully big risks for America to take in exchange for nothing.

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