As the debates and discussions continue to swirl around the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iran, nuclear weapons, and other geopolitical topics, I hear a growing drumbeat within the Republican Party of isolationism. It seems to be coming from those of the libertarian bent. I find that in most instances, I agree with my libertarian brothers and sisters, but in this area, I have to disagree. If I had to sum up libertarian philosophy, in this and other areas, such as the war on drugs, it would be stated thus; “To each his own, and let the chips fall where they may.” I, for one, don’t trust that the chips will fall where I or the citizenry necessarily want them to. I realize that within the sandbox that makes up the world, there are those who would do me harm.
There was a time in America’s past that we could be isolationist, self-contained if you will, but those days are long past. We are intertwined with the rest of the world in many ways, not the least of which is economically. To think we can live in a world, absent the influence of other cultures and nations, is shortsighted at best. What happens throughout the rest of the world matters to us immensely. It is in our best interest to be involved and have as much influence as we can. If we don’t, then someone else will. Can you imagine the impact on our economy if the oil from the Middle East suddenly dried up as if a spigot were turned off? Devastating. I will further explain what I mean through a hypothetical and then use a real life example.
Imagine living in a small town in America. Your neighborhood is on the west side of the tracks; mostly peaceful, but if it isn’t there’s a Neighborhood Watch program. Across town, on the east side of the tracks is a neighborhood, much different from yours, that is featured nightly in the police section of the newspaper. You don’t worry too much about what’s going on over there. It doesn’t affect you. Then you hear that a group of young males from that neighborhood were seen harassing and bullying customers coming in and out of the Wal-Mart. The one where you shop. Still, you don’t worry. You just change your habits and only go to Wal-Mart during the mid-day hours. And you make sure to stay out of their neighborhood. Then you read where these same young males have come into your neighborhood and are robbing elderly people’s homes and beating up some of the neighborhood kids. What do you do? Is this now your problem? How long do you wait before reacting, or should you wait until they knock on your front door?
Chicago has turned into the real life example of the above hypothetical. Gangs that were once limited to terrorizing the south side of the city have now regularly been seen on the Gold Coast, robbing, bullying, harassing, and intimidating law-abiding citizens. In the real life example, as would be applicable in the hypothetical, the police have been called in. Unfortunately for Chicago, the police have been ineffective, not because they can’t, but because there isn’t the political will to stop the violence.
The reality is this: there are “gangs” (terrorists) in the Middle East who are terrorizing their neighborhood. They’ve made it known that they are not only going to continue their ways, but that they are intent on coming to our neighborhood. Do we wait for that to happen before doing anything? Oh, it has happened you say. So what do we do? The isolationists say we should just retreat to our borders and wait. What goes on over there is none of our business. But it is our business. In this real world situation, we can’t call the police. The reality is that we are the world’s policeman. If we don’t fulfill that role, the vacuum left will create conditions that we may not be able to live with. There was a man in England that thought he could just ignore Germany and that the Nazis would stay in their neighborhood. He was content to stay out of Germany’s affairs. He soon saw his error, as the Luftwaffe dropped tons of bombs on the city of London.
Maybe the discussion isn’t so much that we should or shouldn’t, but how we should. I would agree with my libertarian friends to stay out of there if, a. we had no Americans in the Middle East, b. we had no businesses in the Middle East, c. we weren’t purchasing a commodity that we are totally dependent upon for survival from them, and d. if our enemy wasn’t there. I have a son who served two tours in Iraq and saw many of his friends die in the effort. I understand the cost even though many of our politicians don’t. And yet, there is a reason we were and are there. To protect our country. Not just for today, but for generations.
I think I could convince my friends to agree with me if I told them that while over there, our military would do what Samuel Gerard suggested in The Fugitive, “What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area.” I’ll add here, “And once we find them, kill the bastards; every one of them.” I believe that if our military were allowed to do what they were trained to do, the libertarians would have a different opinion. I think what the libertarians are really saying, and I agree with them, is this, “If we’re going to continue our feckless course of action in the Middle East, building schools and roads, training civilians in military maneuvers, and playing politics, then let’s bring the troops home.” If we were truly killing the bad guys, I think most Americans would be all for it, as would most of the military. We either kill them there, or wait until they come into our neighborhood to kill us. They aren’t going away.