I do this so that you, as a voter, can see through the rhetoric and smear being spewed by candidates who either don't know the meaning of the words they use (not a good sign for someone running for President) or are using such verbiage in a disingenuous manner (yet again, not a good sign for someone running for President). Those of you who are not voters, whether an American who does not vote or a non-American, this attempt at clarity is for you too, since both words cater to actions taken or not taken in YOUR countries.
To add some weight to my explanations, I have enlisted the help of Princeton University, as well as a former President of the United States of America. After all, we can't just simply take that pesky Ron Paul fella's word for it, right?
Allow me to introduce my first guest, Antony Lewis, creator of WordWeb, a dictionary-thesaurus-word database based on a WordNet project at Princeton University:
Nonintervention - n. A foreign policy of staying out of other countries' disputes.
Isolationism - n. A policy of nonparticipation in international economic and political relations.
Do you notice the difference? Let's hear what Ron Paul has to say about that difference, in his book A Foreign Policy of Freedom (located on my National/World links list):
"Noninterventionism is not isolationism. Nonintervention simply means America does not interfere militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations."
That sounds suspiciously like the definition presented by WordWeb! Coincidence? I think not. Speaking of the Founders as Paul has, let me introduce my next guest, former President George Washington, and let's hear what he has to say about Paul's interpretation of what the Founders advocated:
"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; "-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796)Apparently, there are an awful lot of people, particularly 2008 Presidential candidates, who do not understand what they are talking about when they say nonintervention is the same thing as isolationism, with the exception of Rep./Dr. Ron Paul. On the GOP side, particularly, it looks like John McCain needs to be given a reading assignment just like Rudy Giuliani needed one.
Isolationism we don't need, for obvious reasons. Trading with other nations helps all who are involved. Talking to other nations and understanding their culture, while sharing yours, helps all who are involved. Visiting and spending time in other nations increases understanding, friendship, and even economic relations (tourist money) for all involved. Isolationism prevents all of that from happening. No one is advocating that.
Nonintervention we DO need. We can't be a free country if we conduct our foreign policy in a manner that is not consistent with being a free country. Examples of not being consistent with being a free country include nation building and intervening in foreign affairs that have no direct effect on us. Using force to tell others how to live is not the mark of a free country and that is the opposite of nonintervention. That's not freedom. That's tyranny. I want to be able to say:
It's a Free Country!