World Wars and the Fall of Isolationism

Published 08 Sep 2017

Aftermaths of the First and Second World Wars have caused severe political, economical and social changes in the global arena. The occurrence of the war created different allies and established contacts to promote solidification amongst them. The concentration of power also changed after the two wars.

After the First World War, the defeat of the Central Powers (Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman Empires) by the Entente Powers (France, Russia, United Kingdom, Italy and USA) created a new balance of power. Same thing with the Second World War, the balance of power was dispersed between USA and the Soviet Union, which in the process have reformed so many changes in the political and economic arena.

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The two world wars created a massive global impact in the economy. Having surpassed the war, US economy came to a boom. The post-war recovery created jobs and the civilians tend to develop a more sophisticated spending pattern as a means of coping from the scarcity that they endured during the war. The government also on the other hand spent more for education, healthcare and government programs that in turn also added to their economic prosperity.

Following the World War trends, isolationism in USA has declined. The First World War prompted the USA to formally end its isolationist ideology by entering the League of Nations. Further, the US government formed allies and started to offer monetary and military support towards the course of the world wars.

Although the consequences of the war made the civilians more inclined towards retaining being isolationist, but the Great Depression and other political occurrences in the global arena made the US government to abandon isolationism and move towards the trend of internationalism. This resulted, at the end of the Second World War for the US to join the United Nations. It also followed their engagement to a military alliance, as exemplified by their involvement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And the offset of such involvement in international organizations prompted US to become more involved in wars outside US, in particular the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

The emergence of US as a superpower after the Second World War marked the total fall for isolationism, hence started internationalism. Their international involvement in political and economical issues rendered internationalism the formal ideology prevalent at that time. The US becoming too concerned with the containment of communist ideas perpetuating in the Soviet Union and their allies, and indulged in restructuring the cities damaged by war through the Marshall Plan were two of the most important factors for the fall of isolationism and the rise of internationalism.

The interval between the two world wars has been critical to the development of the new internationalist ideology of the US government, giving them the notion “commitment” to world law, acting as the “international police” thus really ending the isolationist era.


  • Cole, Wayne S. (1983) America, Roosevelt, and the Isolationists, 1932–1945. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Leffler, Melvyn and Painter, David. Ed. (1994) Origins of the Cold War: An International History. London: Routledge.
  • Manfred Jonas. (1966) Isolationism in America, 1935–1941.
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