Well, very soon we will know what it is. And I might add it is a great pity there is not more of it around. Loss of it caused the Korean and Vietnam wars; too much of the opposite caused Britain, France and Israel the opportunity to deal practically with the Middle Eastern Question. Far too much of the lack of it allowed the United States to enter, and encourage others to enter, an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. But these are merely examples.
Isolationism used to be the USA’s policy aimed at avoiding alliances with other countries (especially if they should be European) or becoming involved in any way with the affairs of other countries, wherever they should be on the map.
To find the source of this policy we must go back to George Washington, first President of the US who advised Americans to ‘steer clear of permanent alliances with other nations’. Later Thomas Jefferson joined the isolationist club when he became President in 1801: ‘Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations: entangling alliances with none.’
In 1823 the whole concept became official, with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, warning other countries not to interfere in the American continent, and stating that the United States had no intention of intervening in the affairs of European powers.
But then, in 1917, when Britain and France were exhausted and practically bankrupt after three years of the World War with the Kaiser’s Germany, American isolationism was relaxed – for a brief period. US forces arrived in the nick of time and Europe could afford to relax vigilance and dance into the madness of the 1920s. Meanwhile in America the Doctrine was re-adopted and American could think of Europe as a holiday destination only. Of course it couldn’t last, but that is hindsight.
When Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 the States turned a blind eye. Senate and Congress turned down President’s plea to allow the US to join The League of Nations. Italy was soon to invade Ethiopia, and Adolf Hitler pointed a middle finger at the Treaty of Versailles. America stayed Monrovian. Isolationism reached its zenith when Americans agreed with their Neutrality Acts of 1935 – 1937. A lot of young Americans headed for the Spanish Civil war at this time, but it was not official. Most of them failed to return.
When World War II began in 1939 the Doctrine was modified slightly, however, and after a secret visit by George VI and his Queen (in that year) to see President Roosevelt, the latter showed his spirit by sending aid, armaments and old destroyers to Britain, but he stayed well short of declaring war on Hitler’s Third Reich (q.v.).
Oddly enough, it was the Axis powers (Germany including Austria, Italy, Japan, Vichy France etc.) that forced the Americans to change their minds. Japan, against Hitler’s pleas, attacked the United States without warning at Pearl Harbor (7 December, 1941). Germany and Italy had little choice to join Japan, both declaring war on the States a few days later. It was the end of the Monroe Doctrine, as the USA has done nothing else but entangle itself in often mistaken alliances with other countries since. In South and Central America the secret services have involved themselves with the promotion or removal of Presidents and Governments. There is virtually no place on earth where the States has not been involved at some time or other with interference in politics, sometimes thousands and thousands of miles from Washington.
Nobody can or should deny that without America’s aid and the spilling of American blood Germany would have had no need of a Second World War, because the 1914 -18 Allies were trounced by the 1917 entry of the United States. The entry changed the map of the world, as would the Peace Conferences in 1945/46.