Unnecessary involvement with other nations

Non-interventionism or non-intervention is a foreign policy that holds that political rulers should minimize relations with other nations but still retain diplomacy and trade, while avoiding wars unless related to direct self-defense. A 1915 definition is that non-interventionism is a policy characterized by the absence of "interference by a state or states in the external affairs of another state without its consent, or in its internal affairs with or without its consent".

  • Imperialism - Domination or control, by one country, of one or more other countries or territories


9/11 Could Have Been Prevented, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Apr 2004
Counters the claim that Islamists hate the U.S. because Americans love freedom
"The very inability to prevent terrorism is a powerful argument against the interventionist polices they followed for decades. If there is no way to stop a decentralized network of suicidal killers from murdering innocent civilians using low-tech means, that is all the more reason to stay out of foreign hornets nests. The Founders of this country were right. Intervention leads to trouble."
A Forgotten Day & a Forgotten Country, by Harry Browne, 28 Oct 2003
Reflections on the United States in 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was unveiled, and the current (2003) status
"In 1886 America had an open hand to the rest of the world. America didn't fear anyone and no one feared America. Today Americans live in a state of siege. The idea of invading the Philippines or bombing the Sudan or intervening in Nicaragua or overturning a government in the Dominican Republic or starting a war with Iraq would have seemed ludicrous to the American people in 1886. As John Quincy Adams put it, America didn't go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. Today America has troops in over a hundred foreign countries."
Again, the Isolationist Smear, by Sheldon Richman, 17 Jul 2014
Comments on the targeting of Rand Paul by Rick Perry, Dick Cheney and other Republican hawks on Paul's stance about sending ground troops to Iraq
"Someone who simply doesn't want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. The proper word is 'noninterventionist.' ... The wish to isolate the government from foreign wars does not translate into a desire to isolate the American people from commerce and other peaceful exchange. ... The noninterventionist case boils down to this: U.S. aggression abroad makes enemies and provokes blowback."
A Lesson from Vietnam, Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Mar 2004
Relates key events in Vietnam mostly from the start of the Kennedy in 1961 to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, and a few concluding paragraphs on this three part series
"'Counterinsurgency' became the new American buzzword and Vietnam became the testing ground, with American leaders looking to apply its lessons elsewhere — for example, in Cuba. The Kennedy administration developed a policy which broke the containment of revolution into three stages: first, military aid programs; second, counterinsurgency by which American troops and money would suppress revolutionary movements; and, third, limited war ... America was stymied by the lack of a better replacement for Diem and so their relationship was redefined to mean simply that one party would not take action without consulting the other."
American Hawks Risk Escalating the Ukrainian Crisis, by Sheldon Richman, 5 Mar 2014
Discusses the potential expansion of the 2014 Ukrainian conflict due to those who advocate a "get tough" stance
"The theme of the Obama-goading is that Putin wouldn't have dreamed of intervening in Ukraine had America not 'retreated from the world.' The problem with this claim is that it is utterly without foundation. ... Not only is the U.S. government exerting influence, however ineptly, in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, it's been heavily involved in the very location under examination, Russia's backyard."
But Foreign Aid Is Bribery! And Blackmail, Extortion, and Theft Too!, by Jacob Hornberger, 26 Sep 2003
Did Team Obama Blunder or Conspire in Ukraine?, by Sheldon Richman, 20 Mar 2014
Discusses whether the 2014 Ukraine/Crimea situation was engineered by the Obama administration purposely or with unwanted consequences, as an example of U.S. meddling in foreign nations
"While no one ever lost money overestimating the capacity of the U.S. government to blunder, we cannot rule out that American officials knew exactly what they were doing when they helped provoke the crisis in Ukraine. ... Meddling in other countries' affairs is nothing new for America. We can learn much from ... neoconservative brain-truster Robert Kagan, whose 2006 historical work, Dangerous Nation urges Americans to realize that their country is an empire now and always has been ..."
Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Feb 2015
Comments on threats against Americans from al-Shabaab and recounts U.S. intervention in Somalia
"When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments' invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans. ... We can live without the fear of terrorism — but only if the U.S. government stops antagonizing foreign populations that have never threatened us."
Related Topic: Somalia
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788 [PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1980
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
"Indeed, America would certainly become more susceptible to foreign corruption under a centralized system ... James Winthrop ... thought it no coincidence that some of the Federalist leaders had 'formed pretty strong attachments to foreign nations,' since their policies would soon sell out the republic. ... And with the seat of government so far from the electors, members of Congress would be all the more able to cloak their treason. 'We shall see ourselves bought at a publick market, in order to be sold again to the highest bidder. We must be involved in all the quarrels of European powers, and oppressed with expense ...'"
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere, by Sheldon Richman, 17 Feb 2015
Reviews what several decades of American intervention around the world has wrought
"Despite President Obama's assurances that America's combat role in the unceasingly violent Afghanistan is over, we know it is not. ... There was no ISIS in Iraq or Syria before America invaded the former and called open season on the regime in the latter. ... Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine ... has not had the intended effect ... Despite the current ceasefire, a war between nuclear powers Russia and the United States is not impossible."
Free Cory Maye, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, May 2006
Further discussion and commentary on the case of Cory Maye (see "More Drug-War Victims", Dec 2005)
"Another horrendous aspect of prohibition is the pretext it provides for U.S. intervention in foreign countries. It is outrageous, not to mention criminal, for the U.S. government to bully farmers in Latin America and elsewhere and to eradicate their coca and poppy crops. ... All the bullying does is create enemies for America, driving aggrieved peasants into the waiting arms of terrorists and Marxists. (See what's happening in Bolivia and Colombia, for example.) "
Freedom, Security, and the Roots of Terrorism against the United States, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, Oct 2001
Reflections on the 11 September attacks a few weeks after, discusses the reasons for the terrorist attacks and proposes certain measures to deal with the situation
"There is only one way to end this cycle and that is to end the interventions. ... The U.S. government must stop providing political and financial assistance to governments or political factions in their lands. We must accept the fact that we cannot make over the world in our own image, if for no other reason than that the vast majority of people want to determine their own destinies ... As a nation we should ... try to serve as an example of a just and free society for others around the world, as we did in the 19th century when we avoided foreign entanglements in other countries."
Improve the CIA? Better to abolish it, by Chalmers Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Feb 2004
Lists countries where the CIA conducted subversive operations and recommends abolishing the agency.
"Since the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, the CIA has engaged in similar disguised assaults on the governments of Guatemala (1954); the Congo (1960); Cuba (1961); Brazil (1964); Indonesia (1965); Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-73); Greece (1967); Chile (1973); Afghanistan (1979 to the present); El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua (1980s); and Iraq (1991 to the present) -- to name only the most obvious cases."
In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is the Thing to Do, by Sheldon Richman, 24 Jul 2014
Comments on the arrogance of those who believe the President of the United States should intervene in any crisis around the world
"Anyone who still thinks a U.S. president with expert advisers can determine the opportune moment to send armed forces into a country to effect regime change — or to arm a presumed moderate opposition — and have everything come out as planned fails to grasp this and hasn't been paying attention for the last dozen years. The same goes for anyone who still believes America's latest brain trust can smoothly dictate political events in another country, say Ukraine, from behind the scenes with money funneled through innocent-sounding organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy."
Kerry's Entangling Alliances, by Michael Badnarik, 28 Oct 2004
Cautions antiwar voters (particularly Iraq War opponents) on voting against Bush and for John Kerry, considering the possibilities of the latter waging a more "successful" (and "more efficient") war
"The Founding Fathers warned against entangling alliances. Jefferson and Washington made the point loudly and clearly. When countries tie themselves together in mutual defense pacts ... they end up participating in foolish wars out of diplomatic obligation, rather than limiting themselves to legitimate self-defense. One or two belligerents, so long as they are popular with enough other countries, can transform a regional squabble or a petty conflict into a global holocaust. This is ... what happened in World War I ... Getting other countries involved in defending and extending U.S. aggression is the wrong strategy."
Michael Badnarik Thinks You're a Libertarian: Texas' Other Presidential Candidate Talks to the Dig, by Joe Keohane, Weekly Dig, 30 Jun 2004
Quotes from and commentary on Badnarik based on an interview with a reporter of a Boston weekly newspaper
"Asked how he would deal with the specter of terrorism, Badnarik points to a hostile environment crated by US intervention in the Middle East and speculates that were the US to abandon all our international entanglements, the threat of stateside terror attacks would disappear virtually overnight. "All Americans want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit. And we as Libertarians believe that other countries are justified in doing the same thing, even if we do not agree with the way those countries are living their lives.""
More U.S. Intervention in Libya?, by Sheldon Richman, 22 May 2014
Discusses the 2014 state of affairs in Libya, three years after Obama's "humanitarian intervention"
"The threat of civil war is not the only result of Western intervention in Libya. The overthrow of Gaddafi is a lesson in the dangers of interfering with other countries. ... outsiders can never know what will follow their intervention. In this case, regime change produced a flow of weapons and jihadi training opportunities that in turn led to violence in Mali and the horrific abductions in Nigeria by Boko Haram."
Related Topic: Libya
Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Reason, Feb 1976
Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
"It should be noted that the five critics of America's interventionist foreign policies discussed above were consistent in their criticism of both U.S. involvement in World War II and foreign policy in the cold war. They were unanimous in denouncing the vast system of 'entangling alliances' which U.S. policymakers had constructed in the postwar period and, in particular, they vigorously criticized the U.S. role in the Korean War. In contrast, many other isolationists abandoned their earlier position in favor of active support for U.S. cold war foreign policies."
On the English Foreign Policy, by John Bright, 29 Oct 1858
Speech given to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce; criticises British militarism and imperialism, pointing out the effects of several 19th century wars on national debt, poverty and families
"Soon after this an intimate alliance was entered into between the queen of England, through her ministers, and the emperor of the French. ... An alliance was entered into and a war was entered into. English and French soldiers fought on the same field, and they suffered, I fear, from the same neglect. They now lie buried on the bleak heights of the Crimea, and except by their mothers, who do not soon forget their children, I suppose they are mostly forgotten."
Related Topics: Imperialism, Taxation, War
Open Letter to Barack Obama, by Walter Block, 16 May 2008
Explains why foreign policy is more important than economics or civil liberties when it comes to choosing between the major presidential candidates and offers some advice to then Senator (and candidate) Obama
"I think you are the least likely to utilize nuclear weapons against a country (Iran? China?) that has not attacked us. I think you are the most likely to withdraw our troops from Iraq most quickly and expeditiously. ... Foreign policy in my view is more important than either economics or civil liberties. For it is in wartime that rights in these two other areas are typically abrogated ... Getting out of Iraq? Good. No, excellent! But why, pray tell, go into Afghanistan? ... We have some 700 plus military bases in over 100 different countries. Does that sound like defense to you?"
Related Topics: Economics, Barack Obama
Road to Empire, by Justin Raimondo, 28 Nov 2007
Discusses the "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America" signed on 26 Nov 2007, after the U.S. Congress went into recess
"So you don't believe the U.S. has any business stationing its troops in 100-plus countries? What are you, some kind of isolationist dinosaur? Don't you realize that we have a moral obligation to be "engaged" in the world? It scarcely merits mentioning that this sort of "engagement" means a policy of perpetual war, and that, in particular, the neoconservative dream of a remade Middle East is a prescription for a regional conflict that would dwarf the current level of conflict in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. Which is why it is never acknowledged, at least in "mainstream" venues, yet that is the future being mapped out for us."
The American Disease, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Mar 2014
Citing examples in the Ukraine and Russia, explains how U.S. government meddling in foreign countries is generally counterproductive, even when genuinely attempting to advance liberty
"If the purpose of U.S. intervention in the affairs of other countries is really to help suffering people, the program has a fatal flaw. ... Opposition movements have a hard enough time fighting authoritarian regimes without the U.S. government's 'help.' After so many years of U.S. intervention throughout the world, one reasonably suspects that whenever opposition arises in a country not allied with the United States, that opposition is assisted by the American administration, even if the dirty work is done by so-called nongovernmental organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) ..."
Related Topics: Russia, Ukraine
The American Heritage of "Isolationism", by Gregory Bresiger, Future of Freedom, May 2006
Criticizes the use of the word "isolationist" by the media, "internationalists" and other foreign intervention promoters, looking at the heritage of noninterventionism as exemplified by Washington's Farewell Address
"This fascinating address then came to a key point ... Who are America's permanent friends and enemies? Should America have permanent friends and enemies? How one approaches this foreign-policy question is at the heart of any serious debate over what the United States should be ... Washington counseled flexibility. He criticized 'permanent, inveterate antipathies' as well as 'passionate attachments' for other nations. 'The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.'"
The "Boomerang Effect": How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy, by Sheldon Richman, 26 Sep 2014
Reviews the essay "Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Controll" by Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall
"Advocates of foreign intervention—whether conservative or progressive—seem to believe that foreign and domestic policies can be isolated from each other and that illiberal methods used in foreign lands, such as bombing and military occupation, need not disturb domestic policy. ... Coyne and Hall demonstrate that this is no more than wishful thinking that is contradicted by experience, both past and present ..."
The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Jun 2014
Considers the effect of U.S. involvement in the Middle East in the past two decades, in view of the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner exchange
"... bin Laden ... succeeded in drawing the United States deeper into the Muslim world, especially Afghanistan (the bane of earlier empires), because that was right where he wanted America. Iraq was icing on the cake, compliments of Bush, since it gave Arab jihadis a place to fight Americans and learn their trade, which they could later ply in Libya and Syria — strangely, with American assistance."
The Latest Defamation of Jefferson, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 31 Mar 2006
Criticizes a conference titled "Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East" and implying that George W. Bush is somehow Jeffersonian, by contrasting Jefferson and Lincoln's (and by extension Bush's) policies and actions
"... the Europe of Jefferson's time was comprised of "nations of eternal war," he wrote to James Monroe in 1823. Thus, "I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe." Jefferson wished "well to the progress of liberty in all nations," but still, "Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto," he wrote to Thomas Lomax in 1799. This flatly contradicts the theory put forth by neocons (and even a few libertarians) that America somehow has a duty to intervene militarily in the affairs of other countries in the name of preserving our liberty at home."
The Lethal Legacy of U.S. Foreign Intervention, by Sheldon Richman, 12 Feb 2014
Presents examples of the deadly lasting effects of U.S. foreign intervention: continuing sectarian conflicts in Iraq and unexploded bombs in Laos
"Americans seem to believe that once the U.S. military exits a foreign country, its moral accountability ends. But the deadly consequences ... continue long after the last soldier leaves. ... arrogant American policymakers lumbered into a foreign country thinking they could remake it in their image — apparently without knowing anything about the cultural or social context. This is hardly the first time, which is why Eugene Burdick and William Lederer's 1958 novel, The Ugly American, still packs so much power. ... Remember this the next time you hear ... American foreign intervention lauded as a blessing to mankind."
Related Topics: Iraq, Laos
The War System and Its Intellectual Myths, by Murray Rothbard, Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, 1968
Originally titled "Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War"
"For his policy recommendations, Barnes recalled. 'the traditional American foreign policy of benign neutrality, and the wise exhortations of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay to avoid entangling alliances and to shun foreign quarrels,' ..."
They Don't Mean Well, by Sheldon Richman, 15 Jan 2014
Reviews Barry Lando's article "The American Legacy in Iraq", which describes U.S. government intervention in Iraq since 1990
"Americans have a strange need to believe that their 'leaders' mean well. Nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy. Even when the horror of some government operation is revealed (usually after being kept from the American people), solemn pundits and elder statesmen will drone on about unintended consequences and the fog of war ... Yet when one examines the U.S. government's bloody record in foreign affairs, it is tough to come away thinking that the long trail of death, mayhem, and devastation is anything but the result of malevolence in the pursuit of political and economic interest."
Related Topic: Iraq
Thinking about Foreign Policy, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Dec 2006
Analyses why most people tend to think about foreign policy as if it were decided upon by "the people" and attempts to correct the misunderstandings
"America' s geographic position and wealth made nonintervention highly practicable and low-risk, yet successive governments refused to abstain from meddling in foreign affairs, which served only to endanger the people they claimed to protect. Keeping in mind the full context of how foreign policy is formulated, we can easily see through the popular fallacies that undermine so much thinking about war and peace."
Related Topics: The State, Taxation
Trivial Dispute: Obama versus the Interventionists, by Sheldon Richman, 30 May 2014
Examines the scant differences between President Obama and those advocating military intervention, in arguments for continued U.S. meddling in other countries' affairs
"... Obama tried to position himself in what he likes to portray as the reasonable center. On the one side is "isolationism": "It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option. We don't have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders." ... Isolationism — the appropriate term is noninterventionism — does not naively suppose that what goes on in the rest of the world is of no possible interest to those of us who live in the United States. Rather, it is based on the understanding that U.S. government entry into other people's conflicts can be counted on to make things worse ..."
Related Topics: Barack Obama, Syria, Terrorism
Understanding the Paris Violence, by Sheldon Richman, 14 Jan 2015
Examines the statements of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed several people at a kosher grocery in Paris
"... judging by the recording, what was on Coulibaly's mind was not his hostages' religion but their support for the French government's violence against Arabs and Muslims. ... Coulibaly responded that 30 percent of tax revenues go to France's military. He also said that if a march could be held for Charlie Hebdo, why not one to oppose France's foreign intervention. ... The way to end Muslim violence in the West, therefore, is for the West to end its violence against Muslims."
U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Shambles, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Jan 2014
Examines the 2014 status of United States foreign policy in various Middle East countries
"McCain and Graham, who never saw an opportunity for U.S. military intervention they didn't like, continue to operate under the absurd illusion that American politicians and bureaucrats can micromanage something as complex as a foreign society. Their hubris knows no bounds, but, then, they never pay the price for their foolishness. Who pays? The Americans they cheer off to war, but even more so, the people in foreign lands who are on the receiving end of American intervention."
Washington, George (1732-1799), by Jonathan Rowe, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"During his presidency, he cautioned against America's becoming involved in foreign entanglements. The advice Washington gave in his Farewell Address underscored his presidential policies of neutrality and diplomacy: 'The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. ... The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.'"
Washington's Farewell Address, by George Washington, 19 Sep 1796
Published in the American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia; facsimile of Washington's final draft and transcript available at The Washington Papers, hosted by the University of Virginia
"Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. ... Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European Ambition, Rivalship, Interest, Humour or Caprice? 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign World ... I repeat it therefore, Let those engagements. be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them."
Related Topic: Militarism
We Were Warned about the Rise of Empire, by Sheldon Richman, 13 Jun 2014
Revisits Garet Garrett's 1952 essay "The Rise of Empire" discussing Garrett's five traits "that belong only to empire" and their applicability to the United States in 2014
"The subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy is accomplished by claiming that without national security, nothing else matters. So domestic concerns must take a back seat to foreign affairs. The national-security establishment's sheer demand for goods and services — which produces the military-industrial complex — diverts the economy from serving consumers to serving the state. As long as the president can keep the people in fear of foreign enemies, he can justify the transfer of resources from the private sector to the government sector."
Wilson in the Mirror, by John M. Peters, 23 May 2006
Compares George W. Bush to Woodrow Wilson, drawing multiple parallels between the two
"Both men campaigned upon slogans which promised no foreign entanglements. Wilson's re-election campaign slogan, 'He kept us out of war,' is credited with his narrow re-election victory. Campaigning for election in 2000, George Bush promised not to send the armed forces abroad for what he called nation building, a direct criticism of Clinton's armed interventions in Somalia and Yugoslavia. Instead, Bush promised to bring troops home from their many foreign deployments, leaving nation building up to the people of those nations."
Related Topics: George W. Bush, War, Woodrow Wilson


The Antiwar Republican, by Ron Paul, Scott Horton, 4 Apr 2007
Transcript and MP3 audio recording; topics include foreign policy principles, isolationism, the Bush Doctrine, the "war on terror", the British sailors captured by Iran, presidential authority over state National Guard units and Guantanamo Bay detainees
"... along with the advice of not getting involved in entangling alliances and into the internal affairs of other countries, the Founders said – and it's permissible under the Constitution – to be friends with people, trade with people, communicate with them, and get along with them – but stay out of the military alliances. ... So I claim the policy of those who charge us with being isolationists is really diplomatic isolationism. They are not willing to talk to Syria. They are not willing to talk to Iran. They are not willing to trade with people that might have questionable people in charge."
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran, Terrorism, War


Peace and Freedom: Foreign Policy for a Constitutional Republic
    by Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute, 2002
Partial contents: U.S. Security Strategy After 9-11 - Responding to Terrorism - Balkan Policy - NATO Policy - Relations with East Asian Allies - Relations with China - Relations with the Soviet Union and Russia - Middle East-Persian Gulf Policy


Bush Speaks the Truth (Election 2000 Debates), by George W. Bush, 2000
Audio clips and photos of then Governor George Bush during the Presidential debates, particularly about nation building and a "humble" foreign policy

Leonard Liggio: A History of Foreign Policy from a Libertarian Perspective, by Leonard Liggio, 1981
Lecture at the Laissez-Faire Supper Club, New York City, about the history of foreign intervention from Enlightment England to the Cold War

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Non-interventionism" as of 8 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.