Courtesy Reuters

The New Generation of Isolationists

The decade of the sixties has produced a new school of isolationism. The reaction to the war in Vietnam, the demands of domestic problems and the seeming hollowness of traditional assumptions of international involvement- all give rise to this outlook. The isolationism is sometimes incoherent, occasionally inconsistent, and very attractive to a large portion of the younger generation.

Essentially, the isolationists are assaulting the cherished lessons of the thirties, the war years and the aftermath of the cold war. Alliances, so valued in the fifties, have no more appeal than the ideas of the men responsible for them. The threat of communism to U.S. security no longer seems real. Like their fathers who rejected the isolationism of the twenties and thirties, their critique of American foreign policy is straightforward and all-inclusive, and, like their fathers they guarantee that when they control foreign policy they will not repeat the tragic errors of the present.

The isolationists are heterogeneous by age, ideology and temperament; however, the most rapid increase in converts is among the under-thirty generation, which is my own. In February of 1969 the Gallup Poll released a report with the following headline : "Isolationist Viewpoint Gains in Appeal." Respondents in their twenties accounted for the significant increase from 1967 to 1969. In 1967 only 11 percent of the persons between 21 and 29 said the United States should "keep independent in world affairs." In 1969 that percentage jumped to 28 percent, due-in Gallup's estimation-to discouragement caused by the war in Vietnam. A June 1970 report by Louis Harris and Associates on college students verified the important shift in attitudes of young people currently enrolled in college. It emphasized the dramatic differences between the students and their parents on the threat of communism to American society, the conduct of the war in Vietnam, and President Nixon's success in the handling of American foreign policy. Youth is not alone, however. The anti-Vietnam war statements of a broad spectrum of peace groups challenge American foreign policy throughout the world. The "Vietnam is no accident"

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