In his speech to the nation on Syria last week, the president twice emphasized that America is not the “world’s policeman.” According to polls, most Americans agree.
Unfortunately, however, relinquishing this role assures catastrophe, both for the world and for America.
This is easy to demonstrate. Imagine that because of the great financial and human price the mayors and city councils of some major American cities decide that they no longer want to police their cities. Individuals simply have to protect themselves.
We all know what would happen: The worst human beings would terrorize these cities, and the loss of life would be far greater than before. But chaos would not long reign. The strongest thugs and their organizations would take over the cities.
That is what will happen to the world if the United States decides – because of the financial expense and the loss of American troops – not to be the “world’s policeman.” (I put the term in quotes because America never policed the whole world, nor is it feasible to do so. But America’s strength and willingness to use it has been the greatest force in history for liberty and world stability.)
This will be followed by the violent death of more and more innocent people around the world, economic disruption and social chaos. Eventually the strongest – meaning the most vile individuals and groups – will dominate within countries and over entire regions.
There are two reasons why this would happen.
First, the world needs a policeman. The world in no way differs from cities needing police. Those who oppose America being the world’s policeman need at least to acknowledge that the world needs one.
Which leads to the second reason: If that policeman is not the United States, who or what will be?
At the present moment, these are the only possible alternatives to the United States:
a) No one
e) The United Nations
The first alternative would lead, as noted, to what having no police in an American city would lead to. Since at this time no country can do what America has done in policing the world, the world would likely divide into regions controlled in each case by tyrannical regimes or groups. China would dominate Asia; Russia would re-dominate the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union and the East European countries; Russia and a nuclear Iran would dominate the Middle East; and anti-American dictators would take over many Latin American countries.
In other words, a) would lead to b), c) and d).
Would that disturb those Americans – from the left to the libertarian right – who want America to stop being the “world’s policeman”?
Note well that Europe is not on the list. Europeans are preoccupied with one thing: being taken care of by the state.
As for e), the United Nations, it is difficult to imagine anyone arguing that the United Nations would or could substitute for the United States in maintaining peace or liberty anywhere. The U.N. is only what the General Assembly, which is dominated by the Islamic nations, and the Security Council, which is morally paralyzed by Chinese and Russian vetoes, want it to be.
Americans are retreating into isolationism largely because of what they perceive as wasted American lives and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this conclusion is unwarranted.
It is leaving – not fighting in – Iraq and Afghanistan that will lead to failures in those countries.
Had we left Japan, what would have happened in that country and in Asia? Had we left South Korea, would it be the vibrant democracy and economic power that it is today – or would it have become like the northern half of the Korean peninsula, the world’s largest concentration camp? Had we left Germany by 1950, what would have happened to Europe during the Cold War? We did leave Vietnam, and communists imposed a reign of terror there and committed genocide in Cambodia.
American troops around the globe are the greatest preservers of liberty and peace in the world.
To return to our original analogy of cities without police: Thinking that we can retreat from the world and avoid its subsequent violence and tyranny is like thinking that if the police go on strike in Chicago, the suburbs will remain peaceful and unaffected.
We have no choice but to be the world’s policeman. And we will eventually realize this – but only after we, and the world, pay a terrible price.
In the meantime, the American defeat by Russia, Syria and Iran last week means that the country that has been, for 100 years, the greatest force for good, is perilously close to abandoning that role.