Rep. Ron Paul is fond of saying that the United States shouldn’t be the world’s policeman, and thanks to irresponsible stewardship of America’s resources and horrific maintenance of its ideals, his wish has already come true. One result is a world that has no functioning opposition to evil, a world at the mercy of chaos with no champion or guiding inspiration in sight. The other result is a United States that no longer stands for its own founding principles.
For proof, we have only to look as far as Syria, where a brutal dictator is killing his own people at an accelerating rate. Although his people have tired of his tyranny, Hafez al-Assad, like Gaddafi before him, seems determined to kill as many of his own countrymen as he has to in order to stay in power. Our President, Barack Obama, has delivered stern admonitions and disapprovals, which is this President’s style and approximately as effective as tossing water balloons. The Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, expresses frustration, for all the good that does. The killing, of course, goes on.
If you think I’m going to advocate U.S. action in Syria, you are wrong. Quite simply, we can’t afford it—not with a Congress and an Administration that appear unwilling and unable to confront rising budget deficits and crushing debt with sensible tax reform and unavoidable entitlement reductions. Yesterday Congress and the President passed yet another government hand-out of money it doesn’t have and refuses to raise elsewhere, among other things continuing to turn unemployment insurance, once a short-term cushion for job-seekers, into long-term government compensation for the unemployed. Part of the reckless debt escalation was caused by the last President unconscionably engaging in overseas combat in multiple theaters without having the courage or sense to insist that the public pay for it, and the current administration is incapable of grasping that real money, not just borrowed funds, needs to pay for anything. The needle is well into the red zone on debt; we don’t have the resources for any discretionary military action.
Ron Paul thinks that’s a good thing, as do his libertarian supporters. President Obama, it seems, thinks similarly. They are tragically wrong. Though it is a popular position likely to be supported by the fantasists who think war can just be wished away, the narrowly selfish who think the U.S. should be an island fortress, and those to whom any expenditure that isn’t used to expand cradle-to-grave government care is a betrayal of human rights, the abandonment of America’s long-standing world leadership in fighting totalitarianism, oppression, murder and genocide is a catastrophe for both the world and us.
There are, you see, three choices: 1.) No world policeman, meaning no entity with the power and the resolve to lead the world to take effective pro-active measures to prevent atrocities, aggression and brutal oppression; 2.) The U.S. in that role, or 3.) Another nation in that role. You will note the prominent omission of a fourth option, the United Nations. The U.N. is corrupt, weak and feckless, with no prospect of being anything else in the foreseeable future. Its unwillingness to enforce and live up to its own resolutions regarding Iraq (with prominent members and officials secretly undermining economic sanctions by under the table dealings with Saddam Hussein) helped propel the U.S. into its Iraq debacle. It is doing nothing to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and is, predictably, deadlocked regarding Syria. An impotent, conflicted and corrupt U.N. is arguably worse than none at all. No, sadly, the choices are only three.
Ethically, it is an easy choice in my opinion. #1 is capitulation to chaos, and chaos is what we will get, in fact what we are getting. There is no Superman, no Avengers; there is no objective champion who can say and mean, “Enough is enough!” in a Rwanda, a Congo, a Syria, during an ethnic cleansing or a Holocaust. When a nation with power, credibility and resolve doesn’t do it, it doesn’t happen, and evil gets a dangerous and deadly head start.
#3 would require that another nation have military power, influence and resources superior to the U.S., which means that it could, in fact police us. It would also require a nation with national ideals that go beyond self-interest to a genuine commitment to human interest, human rights, human dignity, and human freedom.
There is no such nation. Only, in theory at least, America.
Which leaves the United States as the only possible champion to embrace the essential role as, in Paul’s pejorative term, the world’s policeman, or, as defined in the words of many great and wise Americans, “the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world”:
“We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves; that is our only commitment to others.”—President John F. Kennedy
“The issues of the world must be met and met squarely. The forces of evil do not disdain preparation, they are always prepared and always preparing… The welfare of America, the cause of civilization will forever require the contribution, of some part of the life, of all our citizens, to the natural, the necessary, and the inevitable demand for the defense of the right and the truth.”—President Calvin Coolidge.
“A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”—George William Curtis, writer and orator (1824-1892)
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”—Ben Franklin
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”—President John F. Kennedy
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”—Martin Luther King
“There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.“—Archibald MacLeish, author, playwright (1892-1982)
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.”—President Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world.”—President Woodrow Wilson
Well, it used to be.
Now I am beginning to wonder if there is such a nation any more. It takes security, wealth, power, courage, sacrifice and confidence to be an idealist in anything but words, and generations of reckless leadership and inattention to principles have placed the United States in a position where it cannot act on its idealism, because it cannot afford to. This means that its ideals are a fraud.
A world that does not have the United States as it champion has no champion, and a United States that will not be the world’s champion is no longer the United States.
Happy President’s Day.