Neutrality and Isolationism

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Student Question

Why did the U.S. become isolationist in the 1920s?

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The major reason for this was the fact that many people in the US felt that the country had been forced into World War I for no good reason.  They believed that the war had cost the US money and lives even though it had nothing to do with the US.  Therefore, they wanted to avoid another war at all costs.

In the 1920s, these Americans wanted to avoid getting forced into another war.  They wanted to isolate themselves from the rest of the world so as not to have that happen again.  This was the major reason for the isolationist sentiment that arose during the 1920s.

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I think that there could be a variety of answers offered up for this question.  In my mind, I think that the United States pursued isolation because it was convinced that the horrors of World War I could not be experienced again.  Even though that the United States did not suffer as badly as the European nations, it was still a shock to see war on this level.  Many Americans became convinced that interfering or intervening in European affairs was the reason why the war happened.  Europe was seen as a hotbed of rivalries and intensities where only bad could result.  This is the reason why there was staunch opposition to President Wilson's ideas put forth in the Treaty of Versailles, in particular the establishment of the League of Nations.  At the same time, a decimated Europe left America to be the center of the world's attention and the 1920s "Jazz Age" feel helped to create an inward draw that made intervening in world affairs or protecting democracy abroad "uncool."  The pervading self- interest that was such a part of the 1920s from a social point of view helped to create a sensibility that made individual pursuits in terms of wealth, social status, and engaging in consumerism helped to enhance the individualistic view of the United States, making political isolationism an extension of such a selfish mentality.  To put it in the most mundane, Americans were much more content to frequent speakeasies and drink "hooch" than stress about the perilous conditions of democracy in war- ravaged Europe.  Isolationism became the political manifestation of "the Jazz Age."

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