America's Isolationist Temptation

WASHINGTON: For over a month now, I have been working at one of the best-known American think tanks, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, funded before World War I by Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant who became one of the richest - and certainly the most generous - men in America. At that time, the United states was just beginning to understand that their power and wealth bestowed upon them a major international responsibility. It was this understanding which finally led them to participate in World War II and to lead the Western World to security and prosperity after that war.

But today, America is moving away from the convictions which sustained its international involvement over the past five decades. While Washington is still an exciting city for internationalists, in terms of the number of institutions like the Carnegie Endowment and the richness of its intellectual community the last capital city of the world, the country itself is increasingly shying away from anything that smacks of international responsibility, even at the expense of its own national interests.

The most telling, and the most disturbing, evidence of this trend was recently provided by the controversy over America's support for neighboring Mexico. That country of 93 million people is one of the only two immediate neighbors the United States have, and a problematic as well as a promising one: it produces a stream of immigrants which cause increasing social problems along the Southern border of the US, and it promises to be a major market for American goods in the future. Hence when last December the Mexican currency, the Peso, suddenly dropped one third in value, this threatened to produce not only more immigrants but also panic in the international financial markets. President Clinton and the leaders of Congress - both from the party that opposes Clinton - quickly agreed that a major support operation would have to be launched, the more impressive and therefore more effective if this could be done with the explicit endorsement of the Congress.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

    The Brexit Surrender

    European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have given the go-ahead to talks with Britain on post-Brexit trade relations. But, as European Council President Donald Tusk has said, the most difficult challenge – forging a workable deal that secures broad political support on both sides – still lies ahead.

  2. The Great US Tax Debate

    ROBERT J. BARRO vs. JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS on the impact of the GOP tax  overhaul.

    • Congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax-reform package that will reshape the business environment by lowering the corporate-tax rate and overhauling deductions. 

    • But will the plan's far-reaching changes provide the boost to investment and growth that its backers promise?

    ROBERT J. BARRO | How US Corporate Tax Reform Will Boost Growth

    JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS | Robert Barro's Tax Reform Advocacy: A Response

  3. Murdoch's Last Stand?

    Rupert Murdoch’s sale of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney for $66 billion may mark the end of the media mogul’s career, which will long be remembered for its corrosive effect on democratic discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. 

    From enabling the rise of Donald Trump to hacking the telephone of a murdered British schoolgirl, Murdoch’s media empire has staked its success on stoking populist rage.

  4. Bank of England Leon Neal/Getty Images

    The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

    Since the hyperinflation of the 1970s, which central banks were right to combat by whatever means necessary, maintaining positive but low inflation has become a monetary-policy obsession. But, because the world economy has changed dramatically since then, central bankers have started to miss the monetary-policy forest for the trees.

  5. Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel Measures the GOP’s Tax Plan

    Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, outlines the five criteria he uses to judge the efficacy of tax reform efforts. And in his view, the US Republicans’ most recent offering fails miserably.

  6. A box containing viles of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

    The Holy Grail of Genetic Engineering

    CRISPR-Cas – a gene-editing technique that is far more precise and efficient than any that has come before it – is poised to change the world. But ensuring that those changes are positive – helping to fight tumors and mosquito-borne illnesses, for example – will require scientists to apply the utmost caution.

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now