A New Isolationism?

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump made the controversial claim that the world would be “100 percent” better with Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi still ruling Iraq and Libya respectively. While stopping short of saying he should remain in power, Trump also spoke critically of efforts by the Obama Administration to oust Syrian President Bashir al-Assad by supporting rebel movements in Syria.

In evidence of his claim, Trump asserts that Iraq and Syria have become “the Harvard of terrorism,” a veritable training ground for the world’s leading terrorist groups. He also claims that the United States doesn’t really know which groups it is supporting in Syria, and that much of the money and equipment provided by the United States to Syrian rebels is actually making its way in to the hands of the Islamic State.

Trump’s call for a renewed focus on the domestic economy in the United States and a shift away from interventionist policies in the Middle East echoes historical calls for greater isolationism after World War I. It also draws on a growing sentiment among the American people that the United States should reduce its global footprint. A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 52 percent of respondents believed the United States “should mind its own business and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” This was up from about one-third of respondents 10 years ago.

What do you think? Was the world better off when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya? Should the United States be supporting the opposition in Syria? Would you support a more isolationist foreign policy for the United States? And under what conditions, if any, should the United States become involved in other countries?

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