The original America First was a movement appearing shortly before the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941. It was the ending act of the American withdrawal from foreign commitments after World War I.
Americans had rejected President Woodrow Wilson’s idea for a League of Nations to prevent future wars. World War I had seen an awful slaughter of young men, and Wilson wished to avoid such conflicts in the future.
Most Americans, however, wanted to rid themselves of the world beyond their borders and concentrate on life in the golden twenties and eventually the miseries of the Great Depression.
As Europe slid toward yet another war, the suffering of Europeans touched some Americans. But the America First movement said the war wasn’t ours. Instead, we should put America first and stay out. A few, like the aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh, even found much about Hitler to admire.
Regardless, sentiment against involvement ended with the Japanese attack on the U.S. navy installation at Pearl Harbor.
Some paint the current America First movement as the proper reaction against the cost of money and lives the United States has paid in championing, first, the free world against Communism and lately the democratic world against terrorism.
In fact, our foreign policy has always put “America first.”
The money spent by the United States on defense and foreign policy for the safe navigation of oceans and skies benefited us more than any other nation. It gave American businesses access to other countries. It assured plentiful oil for our country. What we spent was, first and foremost, for us.
We can withdraw again, of course, and pretend we don’t need to concern ourselves with the needs of anyone but ourselves. It will only be so long, however, before reality calls with a Pearl Harbor or a September 11th.