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Difference Between Isolationism and Interventionism

What is Isolationism and Interventionism

Both isolationism and interventionism are doctrines of either isolating or intervening in the affairs of other countries. The points of difference between the two have been discussed below.


Isolationism (Literal meaning – a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups) is when a state/country tries to not get involved in political affairs. It is believed that when the American state refused to offer aid to patriots in Hungary in 1849, it was actually isolating them. The forcible overthrow of the social order and government in the Hungarian kingdom grew into a war independence from the Australian Empire who was being ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy at the time. 

The US was already caught up in the Civil War during this, so it was already a very tense time. The US limited its involvement in any affair of other countries. So, with Hungary, US only freed representatives of the country (Hungary). The American State decided to not intervene with distant countries affairs. 


Intervention is the involvement of foreign power in another nation. The open-door policy that the US proposed in 1899 was an example of intervention. The policy stated that all EU nations, and the American State could trade with the Republic of China. The European nations (EU countries) were seizing territories of Republic of China by occupation (annexation). So, the United States of America feared that they would be eliminated from all trade with the Republic of China and begun the process of the open-door policy (a statement of principles initiated by the United States in 1899 and 1900). Allowing them to partake in the trading with the European nations and China. 

Difference between Isolationism and Interventionism



Theory promoted by the Americans that believed the US should remain neutral and not get involved in any foreign war.


Theory promoted by the Americans that believed the US should physically enter WWII to stop the Axis Powers

Viewpoints (Isolationist vs Interventionist)


Isolationist viewpoints include;

  • The United States should not get into any collaboration or alliance with other countries
  • The U.S citizens should focus on issues at home, such as anxiety and depression
  • Complete neutrality was the way to keep the U.S citizens safe
  • Intervention in a foreign war would be a mistake, just as World War I was


Interventionist viewpoints include;

  • The United States should get into collaboration with other countries for promoting security arrangement (to stop wars) or collective security.
  • Axis aggressions (“Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis”) were wrong and threatened American interests
  • The American state should aid the Allies, who were fighting for democracy and freedom
  • The U.S should put pressure on the Axis Powers (“Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis”) and prepare for war. 



  • Reject League of Nations
  • Reject membership in world court
  • Washington Naval Agreements (also referred to as the Five-Power Treaty, was a treaty that took birth in 1922 among the countries that were victorious during the World War I, and came to an agreement to prevent an arms race by restricting naval construction)
  • Kellogg Briand Pact (a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states committed that no war will be used to resolve any disputes)
  • Immigration restrictions
  • Hawley-Smoot Tariff (The Tariff Act of 1930 (codified at 19 U.S.C. ch. 4) regulation that implemented protectionist trade policies in America)
  • Nye munitions investigations
  • Neutrality Acts, 1935, 1936, 1937 (laws to limit U.S. involvement in future wars)


  • Should accept article 10 (Article 10 of the European Convention)
  • Should join the League of Nations (also named as LON, was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation)
  • Stimson doctrine (the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine)
  • Reciprocal trade agreements (The Reciprocal Tariff Act between the American State and separate countries, particularly nations of Latin America)
  • Offer aid short of war
  • Should join world court (The International Court of Justice)
  • Provide lend-lease



  • The extension into the world economy – economic internationalism of the criteria of the (regulated) free market (a political idea that advocates maximum political or economic cooperation among masses and the countries)
  • Avoid political/military offshore associations
  • Keep US’s freedom of action abroad
  • Reached pinnacles with Neutrality Acts (a series of acts passed by the United States Congress in the 1930s)


  • Reeling during nineteen twenties from the League of Nations defeat (because of aggressor nations undermining its authority)
  • In nineteen thirties, first priority was economic recovery
  • No EU support against Axis (“Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis”)
  • Roosevelt unwilling to challenge isolationist in congress
  • When France fell in June of 1940, the internationalists gained political strength


The points of difference between Isolationism and Interventionism have been summarized as below:

Isolationism Vs. Interventionism

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References :

[0]Boyle, P. G. (1972). The roots of isolationism: A case study. Journal of American Studies, 6(1), 41-50.

[1]Economides, S. (2007). United Nations Interventionism, 1991–2004. Cambridge University Press.

[2]Johnstone, A. (2011). Isolationism and internationalism in American foreign relations. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 9(1), 7-20.

[3]Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B. B. (2011). Interventionism: An economic analysis. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

[4]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/33931010908_9b178df61a_c.jpg

[5]Image credit: https://api.ndla.no/image-api/raw/sydb2cce.jpg

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