In his Farewell Address of 1796, President George Washington admonished the young nation “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Isolationism thereafter became one of the most influential political trends in American history, international politics professor Charles Kupchan says, and that has benefits and challenges.
In Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World, Kupchan explores the enduring connection between the isolationist impulse and the American experience. He joins us now for a livestreamed discussion with American academic Walter Russell Mead to share insight from what may be the first book to tell the story of isolationism across the arc of American history. He traces isolationism’s staying power to the ideology of American exceptionalism. Strategic detachment from the outside world was to protect the nation’s unique experiment in liberty, but there have been moments in history where a more interventionist approach has been considered necessary. Kupchan believes that the United States is hardly destined to return to isolationsm, yet that a strategic pullback is inevitable—and that Americans need to find the middle ground between doing too much and too little. Join Kupchan and Mead as they consider the allure of both intervention and nonentanglement.
Charles Kupchan is Professor of International Affairs in the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University, and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. From 2014 to 2017, Kupchan served in the Obama administration as Special Assistant to the President on the National Security Council. He also served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. He is the author of The End of the American Era, How Enemies Become Friends, and No One’s World.
Walter Russell Mead is the Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship at Hudson Institute, the Global View Columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College in New York. Before joining Hudson, Mead was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has authored numerous books, including the widely-recognized Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. His next book is entitled The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People.
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