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Isolationism is an anachronism

Jan 18, 2024 | The View From Here - Walter Kish, Featured

Since Russia began its renewed imperialistic aggression about a decade ago, there has been a conspicuous emergence of politicians and world leaders voicing the opinion that their countries should not get involved in conflicts that are far away and do not directly involve them. Why should the U.S. or Canada care about the war in Ukraine and help it with significant military and financial aid. Why should Europe and NATO help Ukraine in a conflict that the Russians would like the world to believe is an “internal” matter. After all, isn’t it a given when it comes to world affairs, that countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries? Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been a particularly vocal proponent of this thesis, vowing on numerous occasions to pull the U.S. out of NATO and dragging America into a new round of isolationism.

As attractive as that may seem to some people with a limited understanding of how the world currently works, this kind of thinking is demonstrably, short-sighted, impractical and a recipe for disaster. One should understand that here and now in the 21st century, the whole concept of nation states as being relatively independent and self-sufficient countries is an anachronism. We are living in a highly interdependent and integrated world in terms of economics, resources, politics, health, climate and virtually every other sphere of our existence. What happens in China, or Japan, or India or the Middle East or Africa or Ukraine has a direct bearing on our every day lives, though regrettably, few people appreciate just how much.

Over the past century, individual national economies have become tightly integrated into a global manufacturing, logistics and financial network. In metaphorical terms, the fluttering of a financial “butterfly’s” wings in Indonesia or Japan, can create a virtual financial “storm” in the U.S. or Canada. There are no countries anywhere in this world that can be said to be self-sufficient and that can shut themselves off from what is happening in the rest of the world without suffering dire consequences. A fluctuation in the value of the Euro or the American dollar can have a major impact on world financial markets affecting the lives of people in even the remotest corners of this globe. This applies equally to military conflicts. Wars in the Middle East, for example, can severely impact the world’s oil supply causing grievous harm to national economies everywhere.

It is not just in the sphere of economics and finance that we have become tightly integrated internationally. Media, communications, arts and culture have become global in scope and influence. Travel and immigration have grown exponentially over the past century. First world countries have become increasingly more diverse with huge influxes of immigrants and refugees from the so-called “third world”. Linguistic and cultural homogeneity in North American and European countries is eroding rapidly. Trying to remain isolationist and avoiding responses to events happening anywhere else on this planet is as futile as it is unrealistic.

Perhaps the greatest challenge we face internationally is the rapidly looming climate crisis. If all the countries in the world do not start co-operating really soon, we literally risk dooming our civilization and species to extinction, and not just in some far distant future, but within the next few generations.

We need to take our heads out of the sand and start putting our affairs in order now, and not “fiddle while Rome burns”. What is happening in Ukraine, or the Gaza strip or in North Korea is and should be the concern of everyone. There is no such thing any more as a “local” problem. If we do not find ways to avoid destructive conflicts, to foster economic equity between nations, and cooperate in finding solutions to climate change, world hunger and poverty and health care we, or our children and grandchildren, will pay a heavy price in the not-too-distant future.

The war in Ukraine or in the Gaza strip is not just Ukraine’s problem or the Palestinians’ problem. It affects us all whether we like it or not. These are issues that we must all face globally and that we all share responsibility for. I cannot continue to think like just a Canadian, or a Ukrainian, I need to think globally for I am a citizen of the world, as we all are. My back yard or neighbourhood now includes all 195 nation states on this planet.

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