While this is hardly a case you’d expect to be made here at Coming Anarchy, I’ve come to believe an eventual move to complete neutrality would not only be in America’s best interests, but that the US is particularly well suited for such a policy. In fact, there are far more neutral countries than most people believe. Switzerland is the most famous, followed by Sweden. However, Austria, Costa Rica, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Panama, Turkmenistan (?) and the Vatican are all officially recognized as neutral.*
Some countries of course cannot afford neutrality. Russia is too much of a threat to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for them to be able to remain neutral. Thus, they eventually joined NATO after their neutrality was violated in WWII by Russia. We also know how well neutrality worked out for Belgium in the past century. And yet, for other countries, particularly Switzerland and Sweden, neutrality has worked out beautifully. Indeed, they both consistently rank highly on every possible measure of wealth, security and quality of life. Moreover, they are both well armed and in no danger.
Let us begin with examining why the United States would be well suited to a policy of neutrality such as Switerzland’s. Geographically, America is in a position very conducive to neutrality. Indeed, America’s historical lack of interest and involvement in foreign affairs stems from this. With three bodies of water surrounding the country coupled with two weak and friendly neighbors, there are no immediate physical security threats to the country. In fact, there are no other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and only few worldwide who pose a strategic threat to the United States. Keep in mind we’re speaking of strategic threats, not the occasional nuissance terrorist attack or organized crime or smuggling from Mexico.
Next, the United States military is the most powerful in all of world history. That combined with the second largest nuclear arsenal more than ensures our national security. Lastly, the United States populace has the highest rate of civilian owned firearms per capita in the world (and probably in absolute numbers too). US citizens have more firearms than their own military. Also interesting to note is that per capita, other nations with high rates of civilian gun ownership are Finland (#3) and Switzerland (#4), both of whom are neutral. Even with the closure of all overseas military bases and cutting our armed forces by two-thirds (for example), the United States could still more than adequately deter and defend itself against all potential foes.
Geography, Resources, Space
With great protection geographically and military wise, the United States is also blessed with abundant space and the natural resources that come with it, both on land and sea. America is home to almost every time of climate and is thus able to grow more than enough food for its own needs, though of course we do not. Other natural resources including energy, minerals, flora, fauna and more are all readily available. This is not to say our country is currently setup infrastructure wise to take advantage of all of these (e.g. particuarly to exploit renewable energy) as we are dependent on many imports. However, neutrality in no way prevents international trade nor would it hurt to become more independent and self-sustaining.
America is also a world leader in technology, innovation and education, giving us ample human resources. In the past we had a strong industrial base, and could have one again. It has the best universities in the world and the largest companies. The US still attracts top minds worldwide and has the world’s biggest economy, even during a recession.
Before concluding, I’d like to be clear about what a policy of neutrality is not.
Neutrality is not isolationism. The US would continue to be involved in global trade and international relations. However, it would simply not join alliances nor start wars of aggression. There would be no military aid to others and the US would maintain friendly relations with all, from Britain and Germany to Iran and North Korea. This in no way means we condone their behavior nor have much in common with them, any more than our current buddy-buddy relationship with Saudi Arabia means the same. Our foreign policy would concentrate on US interests first, and neutrality would leave more time, energy, resources and money to do so. No billion dollars a year to Egypt and Israel. No wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. No 700+ military bases abroad.
Neutrality is also not pacifism. In fact, one of the key components to a successful policy of neutrality is our Coming Anarchy motto, si vis pacem, para bellum. Countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Finland are intentionally well armed (both military and civilian) in order to maintain their neutrality. For evidence of how aggressive and just straight up nasty a neutral country can be, see the Winter War when the USSR invaded Finland.
Neutrality also does not mean the United States will have no enemies and will never be at war. The past six decades have seen America involved in plenty of other countries’ business and make many enemies. Naturaly, withdrawal from overseas bases and a stop to alliances and favoring countries like Israel would vastly reduce the current threats and enemies we face. However, there will always be enemies and the US would always remain vigiliant, not ceasing to unleash hell should the US be attacked.
The United States is in a strong position to adopt a policy of neutrality. Its economic, geographic and military strength ensure that such a policy would not only be viable but could indeed thrive. Neutrality would be truer to America’s roots and traditions than our current imperalist policies and would also reduce our threat level, enemies and military expenditures.
It would put America back on track to a stronger position in worldwide and improve its prestige, allowing the country to remain the ‘beacon on the hill’ and leading example of democracy we strive to be, and yet are currently failing at. It would additionally help refocus Americans’ attention and energy on our many domestic problems. Neutrality would make us safer, richer and more prosperous overall, not to mention return to our anti-imperialist roots.
* There is some debate as to countries like Finland and Ireland who have joined the EU and whether they can still technically be called neutral