There can hardly be a more “pro-American” foreign policy than that espoused by America’s Founding Fathers. The guiding principles and actions of early U.S. foreign policy are a powerful testament to America’s commitment to securing liberty at home and prudently defending it abroad. America was the leading country in the world supporting the cause of republican self-government for the Latin American republics in 1821, Greece in 1823, and Hungary in 1848.
Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase “entangling alliances with none,” committed American troops in a military coalition with England, Sweden, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to fight the Barbary Pirates and protect peaceful American commerce. Jefferson understood these actions to be consistent with America’s interpretation of the “Law of Nations,” which the Constitution granted the U.S. government the power to define and enforce. America’s character, interests, and principles animated American engagement abroad, which has proven an indispensable good throughout most of our history.
Those who advocate withdrawing America from engagement in the world through a strict non-interventionist doctrine may not be isolationists properly understood (meaning they do not embrace all of the elements of an isolationist grand strategy). But they are most certainly isolationists as the term is commonly understood.
We should have a prudent foreign policy committed to America’s Founding principles, and that will probably mean employing a policy of neutrality from time to time. However, those who want to advance a traditional American statecraft should call the isolationist doctrine of non-interventionism what it is — a return to the naïve and dangerous isolation Coolidge warned against.
— Marion Smith is a graduate fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).