Isolation Moderation and Military Theory

This article will examine the military doctrines of Isolation Moderation alongside the teachings of past military theorists such as Sun Tzu, Kautilya, and Niccolo Machiavelli.

Isolation Moderation is a modern 21st century political philosophy that provides solutions to solve some of the world’s most complex challenges. There have been many voices over the years calling for a more inward approach for nations to adhere to, but nothing concrete has emerged from them until now. Isolation Moderation gives those voices a more structured meaning, through its four key principles in how nations should navigate the international system. If the world were to follow this approach, nations would be dealing with significantly fewer problems. Many of the ancient political and military theorists alike believed in the general ideas of Isolation Moderation, although they did not formally come up with such a term as a political expression.

Sun Tzu and the Art of War

Sun Tzu, the most famous ancient military theorist, was a definite supporter of Isolation Moderation without knowing it. If he were alive today, he would strongly align himself with this philosophy. We know this from his teachings that have been immortalized in the form of his famous book, “The Art of War”. Sun Tzu believed that the best way to win war is to avoid it as much as possible. He believed in moderation and considered wars to be costly, even for the victors. In his writings, he discusses at length on how to avoid casualties and win battles with as little bloodshed as possible. He suggests tactical maneuvering instead of direct warfare, and only recommends the latter when it can no longer be avoided. The concept of armed neutrality was one of the foremost peacetime suggestions by Sun Tzu that would lead to a war-free atmosphere for nations, which is also shared by Isolation Moderation.

He was not a fan of complex international alliances, or anything that would closely bind nations to each other. He believed that unexpected preemptive attacks on enemy forces should be carried out, and that these kinds of strategies can save lives in the long-term. Sun Tzu detested war, but approved of its use for defensive reasons. All of these elements are an important part of the military strategy of Isolation Moderation.

Kautilya and the Mandala Theory

Kautilya (commonly called Chanakya), was the most famous political and military theorist of ancient India. Many of his teachings continue to validate the importance of Isolation Moderation in the modern age. For example, he developed the "Mandala Theory" of politics, believing that neighboring states would most often end up in conflict with one another. Kautilya believed that the clash of interests between states was inevitable, and would very easily escalate into full-scale war. He was not incorrect in the observation that most wars have been fought between neighboring states. Through his Mandala Theory, Kautilya believed that “the enemy of your enemy is your friend." This means that the countries that encircle your enemy neighbor should be your allies, as they are in a better strategic position to attack your enemy and wage warfare on more fronts. However, he stressed that these entanglements should not be permanent or long-lasting.

One example of the Mandala Theory would be to examine the complex alliance system in Europe both before and during both World Wars, in where many nations aligned themselves with one another against other neighboring states. During the Second World War, Nazi Germany was waging war on different fronts, fighting the western Allied forces from one direction and the Soviet Union on the other. The western Allies worked closely with the Soviets during the war in order to successfully defeat the Axis Powers. However, once the Allied forces won the Second World War, and western Europe now shared a border with the Soviet bloc, they became each other’s enemies. So the two former allies became enemies almost as soon as they defeated their common enemy and became neighboring states. 

The Mandala Theory has generally been accurate in the majority of political scenarios throughout history. The theory put forth by Kautilya is very much in line with the ideas of Isolation Moderation, which does not recommend forming long-term military alliances. Even if nations do opt for these kinds of long-term alliances, eventually they will break down at some point in time. (Nazi Germany ended up invading the Soviet Union not long after entering into a peace treaty with them, leading to one of the most destructive parts of the war). Long-term alliances are flawed by nature due to the many costs and conditions that come from being apart of them. The best kinds of military alliances are those that are temporary in nature, and designed for short-term objectives. This validates just how potent Isolation Moderation is in explaining the true political nature of the world.

Kautilya was a supporter of armed neutrality, another important element of Isolation Moderation. He knew how important a military was to safeguard a nation so he stressed heavily on maintaining an efficient military force to deter aggressors. India had developed a mastery in the art of elephant warfare, and served as one of the main suppliers of war elephants. Indian princes provided Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Empire with numerous war elephants in return for money and protection. Indians employed and maintained a large force of elephants in their military, which were considered to be a powerful weapon of the ancient world. In doing this, India went to great lengths with the goal of maintaining a strong military. India ensured its survival for hundreds of years by being prepared for war through its own form of armed neutrality. Even the armies of Alexander the Great refused to invade India upon learning that they would come against a force consisting of thousands of elephants. Ancient Indian leaders did not interfere in the affairs of outside nations, preferring a more inward focus. Kautilya also agreed with Isolation Moderation on another point, as he was a proponent of preemptive and preventive strikes. 

Niccolo Machiavelli and Isolation Moderation

Lastly, Niccolo Machiavelli was also a proponent of the principles of Isolation Moderation centuries before the book was even written. Machiavelli was a highly pragmatic thinker and is regarded as one of the most influential political theorists of all time. His famous book “The Prince”, which was written to serve as a guidebook for the national leaders was all about pragmatism and maintaining power. He stressed on the importance of putting the interests of the state above anything else. For Machiavelli, everything was fair if done for the sake of broader national interests and survival. Machiavelli highly recommended the use of preventive or preemptive strikes in order to achieve political and military objectives. For Isolation Moderation, the end goal is always the broader interests of the state, a sentiment that Machiavelli would have agreed with wholeheartedly. The concept of unilateralism is also endorsed by Machiavelli. The premise behind this is that a nation should not be bound to seek the approval of other states before going forward with a decision that is necessary for its survival or well-being. Every country on earth is sovereign, and should have the freedom to take appropriate actions against a potential aggressor in order to safeguard its citizens. 

Isolation Moderation believes in a strong national defense to ensure a peaceful internal environment. When the citizens of a nation live without fear for their security and well-being, they will be more productive. There will be increased economic opportunities—and, as a result of these dynamics—the nation will thrive. 

Isolation Moderation: An Inward Peaceful Approach for Nations

Isolation Moderation is an innovative and forward-thinking political framework. People have been calling for such ideas for a long time, but none of them have ever been developed into a simple and concrete guidebook as exists today. Isolation Moderation gives these progressive and vital voices a name. Nations need to look within themselves to advance instead of continually focusing on the affairs of other nations. In the ancient world, military expansion was common and somewhat dependent for survival, as the world was mostly still unexplored at that time. Advanced nations benefitted from colonizing and expanding outward through military endeavors. Ancient political-military juggernauts such as the Roman Empire conquered much of the known world and established modern civilization. However, the world today struggles with overpopulation and there is no real need for colonization or military expansion. Also, the progressive and highly-interconnected free world of the modern age would never allow for any nation to dominate other nations anymore. Spending money on military expansions with the goal of invading and conquering other nations has become mostly redundant. Many modern dictators have tried doing this and have ended up destroying their own nations and losing their power. Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler are just two of many such examples of this. On the opposite end, autocratic leaders like Fidel Castro managed to stay in power for decades simply because he never tried to expand the territory of Cuba. Even the modern unipolar nations like the U.S. have largely failed in their bid to exert their power internationally. The U.S. failed in Vietnam and has been unsuccessful in their military campaigns in the Middle East.

The aforementioned political-military theorists devised their philosophies during war-ridden ancient times. They had no idea what the modern world would look like, and yet even then, their works to a large extent advocated the ideas of restraint and peace. Even when war, expansion, and colonization were widespread, they considered ideas similar to Isolation Moderation as the best approach for a progressive nation to live by. War brought wealth in ancient times, but it did so at the expense of many lives. If even the ancient philosophers were prone to adopt the principles of Isolation Moderation, then it can be said that these same concepts can be applied in the modern system of international politics as well.

If you are interested in learning more about these ideas, please order your own copy of Isolation Moderation.

Ash G. Witt

Ash is an international relations policy analyst, focusing on military affairs. He has worked for several public policy institutes and has had the opportunity to deeply understand the practical political and foreign policy structures of the modern world.