Isolationism is a form of foreign policy in which a state seeks to avoid all international entanglements, including political alliances, commitments, organizations, and trade agreements. There are usually two parts to such a policy. First is non-interventionism, meaning the state will not involve itself in international military alliances and will not engage in conflict except to protect its own vital interests. Second is protectionism, wherein the state sets up legal barriers to trade and to cultural exchange. The United States held to a policy of isolationism for most of its history ending permanently only in the 20th century with the Second World War and subsequent Cold War. A number of American politicians, scholars, and a growing number of concerned citizens have begun to advocate a return to isolationism. They cite the risks and costs of American involvement on the world stage and decry its position as de facto world police, which they see as not only an expensive endeavor, but also dangerous to the security of the state. They also argue that the dangers of its trade deficit brought on by a lack of trade barriers create the risk of the United States becoming the economic thrall of its creditors. Opponents of such views point out that the decades since the United States has become the primary actor on the world stage have been marked by an unprecedented degree of stability and prosperity across the globe, and that its withdrawal from world affairs might create dangerous disorder. They also cite the fact that the American economy, dependent on free trade, would contract and its people's standard of living would diminish should it pursue a policy of isolationism. Debates on this issue revolve around the issues of whether the United States has a moral right to withdraw from the international system, whether such withdrawal would be overly harmful to world security and stability, and whether it would be inordinately harmful to the United States' own society.
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