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  • Writer's pictureDr. Larry E. Johnson

Neutrality Is Our True Legacy

I understand those who take the "times have changed" approach when they argue for Wilsonian Interventionist foreign policy. They argue that WW2 is the reason everything is different. Their rationale is that the world is filled with bad actors and we learned that not agreeing to Wilson's League of Nations lead to WW2. They argue we need these alliances to be safe ourselves, that we must cast a worldwide net of interests to keep our freedom and status as a Superpower. I simply reject this faulty historical narrative.

I do not deny that we became a superpower by the force of events. I simply perceive that the premise those proponents of Wilsonian Interventionism are pushing a narrative that is not axiomatic. I doesn't necessarily follow, for me, that WW2 and the policies of interventionism that have gone on for the last 80 years -- particularly in the post cold-war era -- necessarily have to continue to flow from that evolution. We can still decide whether to have alliances or not, and nothing that happens in the world extricates us from choices.

Our Founders gave us the doctrine of Neutrality. They believe in the America of the New World, that our place was in the nature of a new nationality that would not be European nature in policy. They wanted an Independent and Neutral nation that could develop its own approaches to national life and international relationships. Our ancestors were not perfect, but in my view, they believed their best vision was of an Independent and Neutral nationality, separate from the other world powers.

Neutrality was the tool they use to keep America within the Hemisphere of the New World to keep old world powers out. It is true, there was always tension between this vision of Independent neutrality and expansionism (Manifest destiny) , but the American first instinct was a disdain for colonialism and imperialism. Our founders and many leaders thereafter wanted an unfettered national liberty to be the engine of a New World America. What I call, the New America.

The soft , independence power of Neutrality strengthens or moral position in the world. That soft power of neutrality provides us with the ability to be a true world intermediary. Alliances to which we give away our independence deprives us of that soft, independence power. Our military becomes the tool of others to wield for their interests morphed into a false idea of America's interest.

Neutrality on the other hand, is always linked to necessary national defense action, and being a superpower only amplifies our ability to discourage foes (and friends alike) from seeking to take advantage of our neutrality. Countries which fall under our Neutral interests are convinced America's actions are truly neutral and not selfish.

Being a superpower doesn't mean we are required to have alliances that obligate us to other nations. Neutrality, like a magnet, attracts to be within the ambit of our true national defense interests. That is a premise that is historically correct for America, not that post ww2 narrative.

History shows that alliances of great powers, leads to their demise. The Athens/Sparta alliances that led to the Peloponnesian war that destroyed Athens, the first great Democracy, is a perfect example. The Founders were very much aware of this danger, and crafted Neutrality to avoid these very kinds of entanglements, especially European ones. They saw us as the New World, Independent and free of Europe's history and the mistakes of past nations. WW2 was an anomalistic necessity, but what followed got us off course from our New World vision of ourselves.

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