By In Politics

Against “Alienationism”

Guest Post by Mark Nenadov

The Isolationists Are Coming!

Western politics has never had an irony deficiency. One recurring irony has been the label “isolationist”, usually applied in attempts to discredit grassroots opposition to war. I would say that my position is more accurately labeled “non-interventionist”.

It’s hard to believe that a politician who supports protectionism, trade embargoes, strict immigration laws, border fences, and unilateral military strikes, can with an absolutely straight face, turn and chuck the “isolationist” grenade at his non-interventionist opponent.

You can take a whole laundry list of things to isolate your country, and that’s fine! But argue against wildly unpopular and non-defensive bombing campaigns? Isolationist!

The Alternative To Non-interventionism is “Alienationism”

I’ll be reasonable. You can call me an “isolationist” under one condition. All I want is permission to bring “alienationist” into common usage.  An “alienationist” avoids being an “isolationist” through actions characterized by a swagger and a lack of caution. They bomb first and ask questions later. This approach, I might add, alienates its populace from peace, freedom, prosperity, virtue, and usually the rest of the world.

An “alienationist” foreign policy is intended to be non-insular, but the unintended consequence is actually isolation and alienation. As Frédéric Bastiat said, there are seen things and there are unseen things. The unseen things are rarely accounted for in strategic calculations. In foreign affairs, however, the unseen becomes seen pretty quickly!

Reviewing recent history, it isn’t hard to see how “interventionism” and “alienationism” are, if not synonyms, at least twins. Intervene often and everywhere, and you will create more enemies than a mosquito in a den of dragonflies. And dragonflies are fierce predators, by the way.


Recognizing The Alienationist In The Wild

Here are some helpful memes and traits to help you identify Alienationists.

1. The Giant Slayer. The Alienationist is, if nothing else, a Giant Slayer. Nothing like David. Well, sort of. In 1971, before joining the War Party, John Kerry astutely observed that military intervention becomes “a sort of messianic enterprise”. Contrary to the advice of John Quincy Adams, Alienationists go about “in search of monsters to destroy”. Whether it is Assad or Saddam, there must be some bad guy, often a former ally.

2. The Ticking Bomb Of Destruction. Alienationists usually require something more than mere death to make the masses gasp and reach for their gas masks. People and elected representatives will not became pliable by such “trifles”as reports of conventional warfare. Fearful weapons of mass destruction are required, actual or rumored, preferably rumored. If real, they probably came from the Alienationist! Sort of like the ones that the Reagan administration helped Saddam acquire and use in the 1980’s. Or the nuclear weapons that Iran will have produced by 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007……or 2015?

3. Depersonalization: Pronoun Squeamishness And Euphemisms. When the Alienationist talks about his legislative or administrative accomplishments, he liberally uses the personal pronoun.  However, when the war effort is invoked, he often subtly transforms to collectivism (“our nation”, “our military”, and “our troops”).  Also, the consequences and raw “feelings” of war are masqueraded by devices, including technology (drones) and verbal technology, namely euphemisms (discrete, surgical, defense, deterrent).

4. The International Community Of One Or A Few. Often, illusions of universal consensus are manufactured. And, of course, it must be the world that drew the red line and it must be the international community that is outraged, as we’ve seen in Obama’s Syria rhetoric. The question of the day becomes: If 189 countries have signed the Chemical Weapons Treaty, why do so few support this military action? And why has a close ally, Israel, signed but not actually ratified this treaty against chemical weapons? Ah, details, details!

5. A Friend Of The Devil Is The Friend Of Ours. As long as you are slaying Giants, you can enlist evil Giants on your side. Even Efraín Ríos Montt, the man Reagan once said had “great personal integrity”. Tell that to Guatemala now!

This would be what one might call the “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.” factor.  I suppose you can just call the rascals “freedom fighters” or “revolutionaries”, but hopefully they don’t cross you and become “terrorists”! We see this in the support of questionable rebels against Assad in Syria. And history provides us many other examples, such as FDR’s coverup of Stalin’s crimes, Cold War era support of Bin Laden against the Soviets, and supporting Saddam against Iran.

6. Short And Selective Memory. He who repeats history is doomed to not remember it. Or something like that! There is a chronic inability to see patterns in history and learn from them. In the Alienationist’s book, history starts at a convenient location and, of course, forgets injustices perpetrated by the home team. For instance, when many Americans think of Iran, they start with the hostage situation in the late 1970’s, completely ignoring the CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953. And the assistance provided to Saddam in using chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980’s is conveniently forgotten.


We would err if we saw the U.S. as the only “alienationist” country. It’s just a contemporary example. Don’t forget France’s recent bombing campaign in Mali. The French have an extensive history of meddling in Africa and the Middle East.

If our nations trample the Golden Rule and fight without just cause, we should expect to go the way of poverty, culturally, economically, and morally. As A.A. Hodge said, war is “an incalculable evil, because of the lives it destroys, the misery it occasions, and the moral degradation it infallibly works on all sides”.

We’d do well to expose alienationism. A healthy dose of non-interventionist sentiment will be necessary if we are to foster a just, peaceful, and prosperous society.  Bearing the reproach of the “isolationist” label is a small price to pay for this good end. So, sit down with Mr. Twain (isolationist cigar optional) and say to yourself “let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way”.

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3 Responses to Against “Alienationism”

  1. Ian Clary says:

    This excellent essay has given me a new word to add to my vocabulay: alienationist. Thanks!

  2. Mark Nenadov says:

    You’re welcome, Ian. On occasion, we do need to invent some new words!

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