By Richard Bleil
Here’s something that I’ve not seen discussed recently: isolationism increases the risk of war.
In the early years of his term. our president walked out on free trade pacts with the Pacific nations (TPP), and within the Northern Americas (NAFTA). He further initiated, without offering negotiations, trade wars most notably with China, but with other nations, including EU nations, thereby damaging the trade of goods. To make matters worse, he has been denigrating the UN and NATO.
It seems like, if you’re an American, you must know that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, but I’m not sure how many people understand why. This act drew us in to a two-front war. We were already helping to defend England, and were working on plans to counter-invade Europe, but while Japan may have been friendly to the fascist German regime, to the best of my knowledge, they were not involved in the expansionist war that Germany had begun. As Germany had expanded into and conquered much of Europe, and was busy expanding its war into Africa and Russia, Japan was still half a world away from the fighting. So why would they pull the US into a conflict?
Many people don’t realize that the US had imposed oil and rubber imports to Japan and an embargo on the island nation. In the ’30’s, Japan assumed an expansionist stance claiming divine right to reunite the Asian continent and was encroaching into the Chinese territory. Their actions lead to the second Sino-Japanese war which began in 1937.
In 1931, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, which was internationally condemned by the League of Nations, the predecessor to the UN. Further tensions rose when Japan was not given equal footing in other international organizations, and in support of the condemnation, the US stopped providing rubber and oil to Japan, components critical to their war manufacturing. In response, Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, as well as other League of Nation countries, essentially expanding the war already engulfing much of the world.
Questions of right or wrong, justified or unjustified aside, the attack was a direct result of an interruption in trade. I am in no way suggesting that the strain between the US and China today will inevitably lead to another war (world or otherwise). Rather, I am saying that international security is weaker than it was just a few years ago.
Japan felt it had to respond to the US sanctions threatening the materials needed for it to fight its war with China, and as long as they were not getting the materials they needed anyway, what did they have to lose? The plan was military dominance in the Pacific. By knocking out the US fleet (which they very nearly did), they could block shipping, threaten the US west coast, and keep the US at bay until there was no choice but for the US to “sue for peace” and resume trade of these critical materials.
The more dependent nations are on one another, the more reasons they have to maintain peace. While the president frets about “unfair tariffs” (which they may be; I don’t know), he has successfully crippled a lot of trade, including basic materials such as food and aluminum. The nations that historically traded with the US are now forced to build new and more reliable trade partners with other nations. By the time the trade war ends, normal trades will still not bounce back to where they had been, because these nations now have new relationships and no longer are dependent on imports from the US. What’s worse, now they no longer have these needs being met, so peace with the US becomes less important.
You and I both know that American military strength will protect us. It’s not my intention to scare anybody. The point, though, is to point out the corrosion of support for the US, and the dangers of loss of the interconnectedness that did play a key role in keeping peace not just for the US, but for the world as well. As the US becomes increasingly isolationist and alienated from our allies, what are the odds of other nations coming to our aid as they did after 911? As our trade weakens, if it does not bounce back, how much erosion will our economy suffer? And if our economy begins to erode, how will that affect our military funding? The president won on a platform of being a business man, not a politician, and many people liked the idea of getting politicians out of politics, but in his time, not only has he harmed many US businesses and citizens with his reckless trade wars and taxation policies, he has also demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding the importance of international relations.