World Affairs Councils Podcast

Cover to Cover: Charles Kupchan on Isolationism

March 16, 2021

Listen now to WACA's Cover to Cover from Wednesday, March 3, at 2:00-3:00 PM ET, featuring Charles Kupchan, 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.

Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself From the World

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. From the founding era until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States shunned strategic commitments abroad, making only brief detours during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Amid World War II and the Cold War, Americans abandoned isolationism; they tried to run the world rather than run away from it. But isolationism is making a comeback as Americans tire of foreign entanglement. In this definitive and magisterial analysis—the first book to tell the fascinating story of isolationism across the arc of American history—Charles Kupchan explores the enduring connection between the isolationist impulse and the American experience. He also refurbishes isolationism’s reputation, arguing that it constituted dangerous delusion during the 1930s, but afforded the nation clear strategic advantages during its ascent.

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