Courtesy Reuters

Isolated America

Seventy-FIVE years ago, Archibald Gary Coolidge, who later became the first Editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote a book with a theme and title entirely novel at that time, "The United States as a World Power." In it he made the first attempt to define the new role in the world then rapidly being assumed by the United States. He remarked that all nations divide mankind into two categories-themselves and everybody else. And he said that Americans would be just as prone as others to cherish the pleasing belief that they had grown great by their own virtues and the favor of a kindly Providence, whereas the progress of other states was marked by unscrupulous rapacity; hence, they would demand that American statesmen keep sharp watch lest nefarious foreigners take advantage of their good nature and honest simplicity. The accuracy of Mr. Coolidge's analysis was corroborated before long by the alacrity with which the American people accepted the idea that they had come into World War I altruistically, in order to make the world safe for democracy ("American" democracy); and again by their readiness to suppose that President Wilson and his advisers at Paris had been bamboozled by wily European statesmen. The latter conception was promoted by American isolationists who depicted the League of Nations as a naïve and useless affair and a trap to involve us in Old World power politics.

The war in Vietnam has been the longest and in some respects the most calamitous war in our history. It has rent the American people apart, spiritually and politically. It is a war which has not been and could not be won, a war which was pushed from small beginnings to an appalling multitude of horrors, many of which we have become conscious of only by degrees. The methods we have used in fighting the war have scandalized and disgusted public opinion in almost all foreign countries.

Not since we withdrew into comfortable isolation in 1920 has the prestige of

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