In This Review

Isolationism Reconfigured: American Foreign Policy for a New Century
Isolationism Reconfigured: American Foreign Policy for a New Century
By Eric A. Nordlinger
Princeton University Press, 1995, 335 pp

Nordlinger, who taught at Brown until his premature death last year, is an isolationist with a difference. Like the old isolationists, he believes that the interventions and commitments the United States undertook in this century made it more insecure, led to complicity with evil regimes, and deformed liberal ideals at home. He departs from the isolationist tradition, however, in wanting to promote human rights and democracy through economic sanctions and believes that the free hand restored by shedding alliances would allow the United States to pursue liberal activism more effectively. The desire to promote "international security, human rights, and democracy," paired with the conviction that this will never--well, hardly ever--require force; the abstract commitment to multilateralism, joined with a profound distrust of particular allies; the belief that world leadership falls effortlessly to those who occupy the moral high ground--all these attitudes mark the author, most strangely and paradoxically, as a Wilsonian, with all the attendant deficiencies. But you can say this much for Mr. Nordlinger: he loved an argument and would pursue its logic to the ends of the earth, even when it imperiled his own position. This fearless iconoclasm and dogged analytical rigor command admiration. His voice will be missed.