'Are We the Isolationists?' North American Isolationism in a Comparative Context

By Haglund, David G. | International Journal, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

'Are We the Isolationists?' North American Isolationism in a Comparative Context


Haglund, David G., International Journal


Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Studies, Queen's University, Kingston. The author is grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Security and Defence Forum of Canada' Department of National Defence for research funding.

INTRODUCTION

Arecent report from the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has tarred Canada with an unusual brush, one bearing a trademark more commonly associated with the country's southern neighbour. The committee members, seeking to mobilize support for a significant increase in defence spending, do not mince words, for they believe that, as a result of a long and sorry period of underfunding of Canada's military, the country has reached a point at which it is appropriate to ask: 'are we the isolationists?'(1)

There are two ironies in their cri de coeur. The first is evident in the italicization of the question's pronoun. Normally, it is the United States that is so often viewed suspiciously by those who worry about an inward turn in foreign policy in North American (I will exclude Mexico from the discussion here, though when it comes to playing the ostrich in foreign and security policy, if that is what is implied by isolationism, it needs no instruction from either of its partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement) accompanied by a rejection of the burdens of multilateralism. Note the senators: 'Many citizens - including Canadians - have found cause to worry over the years that U.S. leaders might back away from this team responsibility, bending to the strong strain of isolationism that has always run through American political thought. It would be more useful if thoughtful Canadians started directing their anxiety at the strong strain of isolationism that has been running through Canadian political practice in recent years.'(2)

The second irony inheres in the senators' remedy for the problems stemming from chronic underspending on defence: the withdrawal of all Canadian military personnel from duty overseas effective upon the completion of current tours, after which there should be a moratorium on any further overseas deployments for at least two years. The Canadian forces currently deploy about 2900 personnel in a variety of coalition, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and United Nations missions outside North America. The single largest commitment is some 1600 troops serving as part of NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, under the Canadian designation of 'Operation Palladium.' The irony here is that one historical hallmark of (North) American isolationism was an unwillingness or inability (or both) to make a commitment to a security presence overseas, particularly in Europe; thus the senators would perforce implement that which they denounce.

The committee members are not oblivious of this second irony, but they believe that a failure to retrench and recover will render the forces even less able to function as a factor in international security in years ahead. They liken the means by which such recovery can begin to a tactic popularized by former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali, the 'Rope-a-Dope,' which saw the fighter cunningly retrench into the ropes, whence he would bob and weave, avoiding the punches of his hapless and tiring adversary, all the while restoring his own strength for his next, usually decisive, sally of punches. The committee members advocate a similar 'strategic retreat,' acknowledging that in the past it would have been taken as conclusive proof that the country had, indeed, gone isolationist.(3)

Absent from this controversial and strongly worded report, which restates an earlier call by the committee for an immediate injection of $4 billion in defence spending (in addition to the current amount of nearly $12 billion), is any inquiry into what, presumably, the new money is supposed to prevent or, in the extreme case, reverse - namely, the danger of Canada becoming (or remaining, as the case may be) 'isolationist.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'Are We the Isolationists?' North American Isolationism in a Comparative Context
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.