Charles A. Kupchan

Dec 1, 2020


A History of America's Efforts to Shield Itself from the World

Oxford University Press 2020

In the past few years isolationism, which had long been derided in the national discourse, has been making a comeback as a political force. In Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World (Oxford University Press, 2020), Charles A. Kupchan traces the history of the concept in American politics and considers its future influence on American foreign policy. As he demonstrates, isolationism was long dominant in shaping American foreign policy, as for decades political leaders heeded George Washington’s advice to steer clear of entangling alliances. By the end of the 19th century, however, America’s growing engagement with the world sparked policy shifts as various forms of internationalism were introduced. Though isolationism remained a powerful influence on foreign policy, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 publicly discredited isolationism for millions of Americans, paving the way for the adoption of Franklin Roosevelt’s approach of “liberal internationalism.” While this remained the consensus approach through the Cold War, Kupchan shows how the post-Cold War overreach of American foreign policy offered new life to isolationist concepts, giving it a renewed influence shaping America’s relationship with the world.

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