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Isolationism and Open Borders


In an implicit rebuke of President Trump, former President Bush delivered a speech this week in which he warned against “isolationism sentiments.”

Isolationist sentiments? Is he kidding? Don’t make me laugh. Trump has made it very clear that he is firmly committed to continuing the forever wars that Bush launched in Afghanistan and Iraq more than 15 years ago and Bush’s perpetual “war on terrorism,” which he used to justify the adoption of such totalitarian powers as indefinite detention, torture, and assassination.

Trump has taken actions that have brought the United States dangerously close to war with North Korea and Iran. He also intends to continue America’s participation in the old Cold War dinosaur known as NATO, which succeeded in bringing about a new Cold War with Russia. He favors the expansion of U.S. military prowess all over the world, most recently reflected by U.S. troops being killed in Africa. Surrounding himself with generals, Trump has effectively been absorbed into the old Cold War institution known as the national-security establishment.

If that’s “isolationism,” I wonder what Bush would consider to be interventionism.

In principle, Bush’s concept of “isolationism” is no different from that of Trump or, for that matter, former President Obama, who coincidentally also launched an implicit broadside against Trump this week. They all embrace the concept of interventionism into the affairs of other nations and consider any reduction in the current level of interventionism to be “isolationism.”

Here is the ideal of interventionists, including Trump, Bush, and Obama: a U.S government that wields the power to intervene in the affairs and conflicts of foreign nations and establish military bases in countries all over the world.

Such a power necessarily requires a gigantic, permanent military establishment — or what President Eisenhower called a “military-industrial complex” — and a secretive agency like CIA that wields the power to assassinate foreign leaders and initiate coups in foreign countries.

The means used to intervene abroad include invasions, occupations, assassination of foreign leaders, sanctions, embargoes, coups, kidnappings, indefinite detention without trial, and extra-judicial executions.

One of the problems with interventionism is that it naturally makes people in foreign countries angry. Generally, people don’t like to be invaded and have their family members or countrymen killed, maimed, injured, bombed, shot, or tortured, especially by big, powerful foreign regimes. They also don’t like it when they lose a large portion of their net worth or even the lives of their children as a consequence of sanctions or embargoes. They don’t like living under the cloud of drone assassinations. And they don’t like it when their democratically elected leaders are assassinated by the CIA and replaced with U.S.-approved stooges.

All that anger ultimately manifests itself in retaliation, oftentimes in the form of terrorism. The terrorism is then used as the excuse for more interventionism, which then produces more terrorism, which then produces more interventionism.

Once the terrorists retaliate on American soil, U.S. officials then impose an ever-increasing array of totalitarian measures on the American people to keep safe from the terrorist retaliation that the interventionism produces.

That’s where the NSA comes into play — the secretive government agency that spies on Americans, monitors their telephone calls, emails, and Internet activity to keep them safe from the terrorists.

It’s also where the government walls, travel controls, and visa restrictions on foreigners come into play. U.S. officials say such measures are necessary to keep Americans safe from the terrorists (who are retaliating against the interventionism) or other official enemies that are opposing or resisting the interventionism.

It’s also where the travel and trade restrictions on Americans come into play — through the use of sanctions and embargoes. If Americans travel to forbidden lands or trade with foreigners they’re not supposed to trade with, they are prosecuted, incarcerated, and fined by their own government.

It’s also where infringements on privacy, including financial privacy, come into play.

This is the paradigm that Bush, Obama, and Trump favor — a paradigm that entails unleashing the Pentagon and the CIA to do whatever they want in foreign countries and destroying the freedom and privacy of the American people. This is the paradigm under which Americans have lived for decades.

Contrast that paradigm with the libertarian paradigm, which is the exact opposite. We want to rein in the federal government in foreign affairs and unleash the American private sector so that Americans are free to interact with the people of the world.

Thus, the libertarian paradigm necessarily entails bringing all the troops home, closing all the foreign military bases, and ending intervention into the affairs of other nations, including invasions and wars of aggression, occupations, assassinations, kidnappings, coups, sanctions, and embargoes.

Interventionists call that “isolationism.” They say that the libertarian paradigm would isolate America from the rest of the world.

But the interventionists always fail to note the other half of the libertarian paradigm — free trade and open immigration or “open borders,” which would enable the American people to freely interact with everyone in the world in mutually beneficial ways.

The libertarian paradigm of non-interventionism and open borders is the key to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony. If Americans want these things, that is the way to achieve them.


This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.