Insertion vs. Isolation
Argentina is “increasingly more isolated from the world” is one of most repeated phrases when criticizing the Kirchnerista administration. In an editorial recently published in a major newspaper, this status is attributed to the trade barriers put in place by the Government as well as the impact of internal factors - inflation, functionality of institutions, fiscal accounts, foreign exchange restrictions - that could disincentivize the interest, precisely, “the world” could have in our country.
One commonly attributes this meaning to isolation and, by contrast, to insertion. Such meaning forms part of an idiosyncratic language that requires translation. There is probably no Argentine political and world theory such as those held by other countries and cultures. From classic Greece to the United States found themselves, in certain moments of their history, with groups of intellectuals that formed schools and traditions of thought.
Nonetheless, we can identify some political concepts that are characteristics of and original to Argentina’s essence. The majority of these concepts stem from geopolitics since the great distance that separates us from the planetary centers determines them. Argentina and Chile are the southern most countries on the planet with territories almost united with Antarctica. From any airport in “the world”, a flight to Buenos Airs is the most costly and lengthy in travel time. This great distance conditioned us from birth.
Once our nations were created after gaining independence from Spain, the search for international recognition figured among the first tasks of the new patriotic governments. These governments sent their best available men as ambassadors to ‘the metropolis’, realizing the relevance of the latters’ missions. Argentina, a remote land from which immigrants probably would not return, was defined by its isolationism.
From this remoteness arises one the great contributions of the Southern Cone - Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay – to the international political thought: the theory of insertion. This is a concept absent from international relations texts, almost all of which are written in the Northern Hemisphere. One must bear in mind that, as an academic discipline, International Relations was conceived to address the problems and challenges faced by countries that already found themselves in the mainstream of “the world”. For these countries, the notion that country must look to “insert” itself in to “the world” was inconceivable. International isolation, as understood by Paris or Washington, gennerally consists of nation states actively carrying out policies that close off the world’s flows. Anti-immigration laws, fortified borders, no adhesion to multilateral institutions, disobedience of international law, control of capital flows or strong protectionist barriers are some of the mechanisms that operate in this regard. However, countries already “in the world” do not seem to cut ties with isolationist governments, no matter how deep or shallow these ties may be. The "world" gets through all unsealed cracks.
The question of insertion is our greatest contribution to political thought. That is how our greatest intellectual products about the world tried to respond to the questions of how we insert ourselves in it.The genesis of dependence, development and close relations points to the same thing. Our political debates about globalization, in fact, were very different from those countries already in “the world” since the latters’ political programs oscillated between the administration openness and the protection and defense of their interests. Globalization was an inexorable fact.
For us, on the other hand, globalization occurred outside. We passed through its door like one jumps on to a train at the last moment so as not to lose it. Again, the idea that a country could “insert itself” in the global process is totally inconceivable for those that were born in a country that is already actively in the world. But part of this discourse has already lost its topicality and sounds like the repetition of that evolved in another era. The idea that Argentina is naturally isolated, save that its carries out all the necessary duties necessary to obtain recognition from the world that really exists, came about once it became evident that “the world” is much bigger that what we had previously thought. Argentina is not isolated simply because it does not follow almost any isolationist policies adopted by countries that are on the defensive from globalization. Rather, it is quite the contrary.