When the President kept referring to the specter of isolationism around this time last year, I wrote this piece in response, noting that
The term “isolationist” didn’t arise until the late nineteenth century, when it was made popular by Alfred Thayer Mahan, an ardent militarist, who used the term to slur opponents of American imperialism. As historian Walter McDougall has pointed out, America’s “vaunted tradition of ‘isolationism’ is no tradition at all, but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.”
Bizarrely, libertarians, even given our support for unrestricted trade and extremely liberal immigration policies, have been victimized by the epithet. So in some ways I think Jim Henley put it best when he pointed out that in many contexts today,
“isolationism” means a reluctance to travel a long distance to kill foreigners at great expense. I say, let’s have some of that.