A large-scale instance [of political smear-tactics], in the 1930’s, was the introduction of the word “isolationism” into our political vocabulary. It was a derogatory term, suggesting something evil, and it had no clear, explicit definition. It was used to convey two meanings: one alleged, the other real — and to damn both.

The alleged meaning was defined approximately like this: “Isolationism is the attitude of a person who is interested only in his own country and is not concerned with the rest of the world.” The real meaning was: “Patriotism and national self-interest.”

What, exactly, is “concern with the rest of the world”? Since nobody did or could maintain the position that the state of the world is of no concern to this country, the term “isolationism” was a straw man used to misrepresent the position of those who were concerned with this country’s interests. The concept of patriotism was replaced by the term “isolationism” and vanished from public discussion.

The number of distinguished patriotic leaders smeared, silenced, and eliminated by that tag would be hard to compute. Then, by a gradual, imperceptible process, the real purpose of the tag took over: the concept of “concern” was switched into “selfless concern.” The ultimate result was a view of foreign policy which is wrecking the United States to this day: the suicidal view that our foreign policy must be guided, not by considerations of national self-interest, but by concern for the interests and welfare of the world, that is, of all countries except our own.

Observe the double-standard switch of the anti-concept of “isolationism.” The same intellectual groups (and even some of the same aging individuals) who coined that anti-concept in World War II — and used it to denounce any patriotic opponent of America’s self-immolation — the same groups who screamed that it was our duty to save the world (when the enemy was Germany or Italy or fascism), are now rabid isolationists who denounce any U.S. concern with countries fighting for freedom, when the enemy is communism and Soviet Russia.

“The Lessons of Vietnam”
The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 24, 4
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