Isolationism

Context: The Trump administration’s ban of immigration from several countries and other countries following suit.

Blanket bans represent simplistic solutions to problems that demonstrate administrations, wherever they may be, are unable to successfully grapple with the *actual complexities* of international travel, migration and security. In a world characterised by the ubiquitous access to information and communication tools, banning people from travelling to specific nations does not stop ideas and information freely flowing across borders and it is in the final analysis the ideas of people which may be a greater issue than their physical proximity.

Should a nation ban global information (i.e. internet) access because “bad ideas” might get into their country ? This would be about as sensible as attempting to isolate a country economically: it is through the progressive sedimentation of material complexity, information and international interdependence that the progressive historical growth of technology and economic development occurs. A fundamental international interdependence is very likely the root of what stability exists (such as it is) in international relations – I would not doubt that the potential economic consequences of major wars is one significant reason for the general avoidance of large, open conflicts between “superpowers” at least since the mid-to-late 20th Century. Any country that could notionally “win” a major war or regional conflict in the contemporary world would face many decades of economic hardship (and all the problems that come with this); military victory may represent economic suicide.

International insecurity and the emergence of various flavours of rogue actor on the global stage is an essential (and unfortunate) element of what it means to have an international community at all in the contemporary world. Simplistic responses to “Wicked problems” (i.e. problems without clear or uncomplicated causes or solutions) do little more than displace the problems to other places where they will fester and grow, regardless. Sovereign states have a right to protect themselves but more than this – they possess an implicit obligation to develop and nourish intelligent, innovative responses to the actual complexities of the world through which to seek to protect their citizens.

Manufactured populist caricatures and jingoistic isolationist slogans translate into simplistic policy declarations which represent classically “head-in-the-sand”, short-term, not particularly intelligent and effectively selfish political thinking. We, the global community, are on this journey together and similarly we need to seek solutions together.

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