The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

The United States ought to be Isolationist

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/20/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 815 times Debate No: 67353
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)




Standard Debate Rules

No new arguments in the last round. First round is for acceptance, no semantics.

Ought: moral obligation

Isolationist: the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.

This is a debate on obligations and which is more beneficial for the progress element of society. The Pro affirms the resolution the Con negates.




I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent is basically godlike status with his W/L ratio, but I wish him luck regardless :).

"Don't get involved in other people's affairs," because I agree with the advice of Switzerland's popular saint, Nicholas of Flüe, I strongly affirm the resolution.

Isolationism (accepted standards for existing Isolationist countries):
- Decreased Foreign affairs
- No Intervention
- Neutrality


The definition of ought implies the side that best shows moral obligation should earn your vote in todays debate. Inevitably, this debate will come down to the major point of helping other countries citizens vs helping your own citizens. Also, keep in mind, I am advocating for the idea of Isolationism, but not necessarily absolute Isolationism. I run off the model of Switzerland and past "Isolationist" countries. The standards for these countries allow trade, allies, and humanitarian organizations, but remain neutral in politics.

My foundation for future arguments will hinge on three introductory contentions.


A governments obligation is to protect their country and their overall societal welfare. Their obligation ought to be to their citizens, as without citizens, a country has no foundation. While protecting citizens of their own country and helping other countries aren't mutually exclusive, putting resources towards the benefit of another country hinders a governments ability to care for their own citizens.

Not to say the defense budget would be eliminated, but it would be reduced drastically with a more Isolationist philosophy. Our current spending in defense is 16% of our overall economic expenditures. This could be drastically reduced by less intervention in global politics. In turn, this will allow the government to allocate more of our resources towards current issues within the United States.

Education is the key to a future of a country. With a decrease in costs such as International affairs, we can allocate more of our money to the education of our students. The United States has at its disposal the most powerful military in history, and is comparatively more powerful than any single state has been in history. Yet its forces are stretched thin across the globe and embroiled in ongoing conflicts in several regions, particularly its seemingly endless wars in the Middle East. The cost of such military output and the number of soldiers stationed on over 800 military bases around the world is unsustainable.

Benefits to the United States

A - United States:
Originally, the United States was conceived as a strict isolationist country. George Washington was very careful in avoiding the affairs of the current European countries. American foreign policy has been based squarely in the principles of non-interventionism. While huge amounts of European economy was allocated towards their conflicts, the United States had room to flourish in it's own areas. The amount of improvement we saw during this time period was huge, and to allow for this development again the United States must seek to disengage itself and to pursue once again a policy of concern for its own interests without concern for the happenings of other states.

Success in countries

A - Switzerland:
Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of modern day isolationism.
They adopted Isolationist practices in the 1550s. As a result, Swiss neutrality runs deeper than some other neutral countries in Europe: Sweden (1815), Eire (1921), Finland (1948) and Austria (1955). This neutrality is an important tool in development for the country, as it has allowed protection in the past from conflicts. WWII being a good example. Isolationism has also helped the country fairly recently if we look at their decision not to join the EU. The EU is a union containing European countries which share a common currency of Euros. According to Foreign, "The euro should now be recognized as an experiment that failed. This failure, which has come after just over a dozen years since the euro was introduced, in 1999, was not an accident or the result of bureaucratic mismanagement but rather the inevitable consequence of imposing a single currency on a very heterogeneous group of countries. The adverse economic consequences of the euro include the sovereign debt crises in several European countries, the fragile condition of major European banks, high levels of unemployment across the eurozone, and the large trade deficits that now plague most eurozone countries." Switzerland, by choosing to avoid the euro entirely (despite being invited multiple times) to remain neutral, see their own currency of the Franks flourish.

B - Japan:
From 1641 to 1853, the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan enforced a policy which it called kaikin. The policy prohibited foreign contact with most outside countries. The culture of Japan was able to develop with small influences from the outside world and had one of the longest stretches of peace in history. During this period, Japan developed thriving cities and towns and increasing commodification of agriculture and domestic trade, wage labor, increasing literacy and print culture, laying the groundwork for modernization, even as the shogunate itself grew weak.

C - China (early history):
Early China was very isolationist. The affairs of the Western world did not influence their development. They traded silk, but trade was the only connection until much later in history. This led to China becoming a major superpower.

I urge a vote in affirmation

[1] Gaddis, John. 2004. Surprise, Security, and the American Experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[3] Weinberg, Albert. 1935. Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


If we find that Isolationism is not moral, than by Pro's definitions, the resolution can not be affirmed.

Argument I: Evidence Against Isolationism.

Pro's first argument assumes that because the US wouldn't get involved in other nations, that we are safer. This has been proven false in almost every era of history.

The US practiced isolationism for much of it's early life, including before World War I and World War II (1). We found that this led to a weak US power, with a nearly non-existent military. When Pearl Harbor happened (read: attacked during isolationist period), the US wasn't ready, and had little to any military (2). This made the war incredibly expansive, and caused the US to send an inexperienced army up against and encounter numerous major defeats against Italian and German soldiers in Africa. Isolationist principles became popular because of the troubles of war, but as WWII shown, Isolationist principles lead to greater problems. Isolationism didn't protect the US here at all (3). Many were, rightly, concerned that despite US isolationism during World War II, if Germany/Italy had established hegemony in Europe. and Japan did the same in Asia, the US would be in danger.

As Australia and Canada shows, world affairs like ISIS affect one's nation, regardless of how much you ignore them. There is further evidence against Isolationism that exceeds war, but I'll explain those in my next few Arguments/Rebuttals.

Argument II: US Interests.

Not all National Interests are caused by a lack of isolationism. This includes trade, and the maintaining of strategic locations. To becomes isolationist, the US would lose billions, if not trillions, of dollars worth in interests a year. This includes maintaining Oil in USDs. While many think this attitude is bad, in reality, if China were to intervene and nationalize oil, selling it in their currency, it would have negative effects on Europe, and would cripple the US economy. By maintaining a high demand for USD's, the US keeps the value of the dollar high, and ensures other nations want to buy the dollar. Maintaining this interest is vital for the US economy.

Nations depend on a secure external enviroment for things like trade. Assuming ISIS conquered Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia (4), and Syria (the four most likely to be attacked), it would own literally 20.98% of the World's oil production (5). They could cripple Europe, who gets 25% of their supply from that region. If it conquered the surrounding nations, it could own as much as 30% of the world's oil production. The group has already began selling oil from it's conquered areas (6). For any given group to conquer that small region would endager the US greatly, if the 1973 Oil Crisis shows us anything.

US Interests (or the Interests of many nations) are built into the world like sand in a beach. They exist because we exist, and isolation doesn't make those interests any less real or serious. The US maintains interests abroad because it must, not because it can't keep out. To think the world only effects the US if the US pays attention to it is a grave error.

Argument III: Moral Obligation.

Isolationism has major moral implications. In WWII, Isolationism was one of 4 issues that led to a lack of empathy towards victims of the Holocaust. Isolationism led to a refugee policy in both the US and Switzerland that harmed Jewish victims greatly (7). Isolationism is often followed by selfishally ignorance of major world problems. To put this into a personal viewpoint. This is like an NRA rally seeing a murder in progress, and not intervening because they had a 'moral' obligation to worry only about their own saftey.

This selfish principle is considerably the opposite of moral.

Rebuttal I: Success Rate.

Pro brings up three nations; Switzerland, Japan, and China. Japan and China are ironic examples. The results of Isolationism on these nations are quite opposite of Pro's assumption. They were forcibly made to break their Isolation by Western forces. Isolationism did not protect them from the rest of the world, but it did make them very vulnerable. The two nations became industrially, militarily, and economically backwards. Isolationism only harmed the nations, and guaranteed their defeats (8).

Switzerland survived world history because of the mountains and a militarized population. But it's questionable if they could survive a major war today, where mountains aren't as influential like in WWII. Switzerland's benefit was that they weren't worth the high cost of fighting them. Even than, Pro's WWII claim is historically wrong. Hitler fully planned to invade Switzerland (9). If Germany hadn't lost on the Eastern Front, Switzerland would have been invaded, and would likely have lost. Switzerland had to enact massive spending increases to hopefully defend against Germany. If not conquered, they would still have been surrounded by German and Italian fascists, a situation worse than most any other. Staying neutral only saved them because of the US and USSR intervention, the formal of which hurts Pro's case. If the US had remained Isolationist, Switzerland's neutrality would have failed.

Rebuttal II: Better Education.

To tackle Pro's concern about Education. The US tops the list as either 3rd or 1st highest spending nation per student (10, 11). Pro's number also lacks context. As ACE puts it, if University A has an 80% graduation rate, and University B has 50%, it doesn't mean University A is bettter. University A might only accept the top 30% of applicants, while University B accepts any application (12). In fact, there are a lot major issues with Pro's use of OCED's study, from the quality of diplomas, to inflated graduation rates (13).

Conclusion: Isolationism did NOT work in WWI, WWII, or for Japan and China. Isolationism also hurts nations in a heavily connected world where the actions in another continent greatly ripples to every other nation (ISIS, for example.) And Isolationism is not moral.

Debate Round No. 2


TheNamesFizzy forfeited this round.


Arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by IllinoisanLibertarian 2 years ago
Although I agree thinking that the USA should adapt a foreign policy more similar to Isolationism, the Tokugawa shogunate period really wasn't beneficial to anyone. It was just Japanese feudalist society, and they were several generations behind every other world power. It wasn't too strictly structured either, as Daimyo would often fight with each other too. The only reason they modernized was after the U.S. Actually went to Japan with Commodore Mathew Perry. This is what spurred them to industrialize, they would not have industrialized on their own.
Posted by IllinoisanLibertarian 2 years ago
Although I agree thinking that the USA should adapt a foreign policy more similar to Isolationism, the Tokugawa shogunate period really wasn't beneficial to anyone. It was just Japanese feudalist society, and they were several generations behind every other world power. It wasn't too strictly structured either, as Daimyo would often fight with each other too. The only reason they modernized was after the U.S. Actually went to Japan with Commodore Mathew Perry. This is what spurred them to industrialize, they would not have industrialized on their own.
Posted by TheNamesFizzy 2 years ago
Sorry. I was lazy.
Posted by donald.keller 2 years ago
Hmmm... That was interesting.
Posted by donald.keller 2 years ago
I saw it too... Damn good film. I don't normally trust documentaries, but EVERYONE I've seen, liberal or conservative, says the film was great.
Posted by TheNamesFizzy 2 years ago
That sounds interesting. I'll check it out.
Posted by Atmas 2 years ago
While I agree with Fizzy on a personal level, I've seen the documentary, The world without US, and I'm almost convinced by it.
Posted by TheNamesFizzy 2 years ago
I just realized I made it three rounds instead of four. I think setting it up like this would be fair.

Pro C
Con C & rebuttal
Pro rebuttal (even though it is last round) & closing
Con closing

Because otherwise, the affirmative could never do a rebuttal xD.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by jackh4mm3r 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited. Too bad, I thought good rebuttals could have been made, especially regarding U.S. entry into WWII and the rise of Japanese imperialism. However, the vote is on what is, and since pro did not defend himself, con stands in refutation of Pro's points, granting arguments as well as conduct.