Eclectic Autodidact: America's job is to defend weak


I hate when I hear someone say, "America can’t be the world’s policeman," because I don’t see why we can’t. Would America’s mother’s heart be broken if we didn’t go into medicine? No one who spouts that particular cliché ever claims the idea of a world policeman is actually impossible in an international community, nor do they suggest such a pursuit is out of our reach. Instead the general argument is it isn’t our place to police the world.

Our country has a military budget big enough to fight World War I twice a year and yet there is a strange reluctance to use it. For far too many people, America’s staggeringly unnecessary military might exist solely to prevent the events of Red Dawn from happening. Sorry to spoil the hopes of anyone who dreamt of being a Wolverine, but that scenario is never going to happen (and the remake from last year is never going to happen even more).

It is my opinion that the point of having a bloated military machine is to use it. I’m not advocating military imperialism here, but I am an interventionist. I’ve always believed the strong have a duty to protect the weak. I don’t think we have the right to interfere in other countries, I think we have the responsibility to do so, and the civil war in Syria is case in point.

It makes me uncomfortable in my soul any time I agree with John Boehner, but I agree the use of chemical weapons crosses the line. I mean, it would be one thing if the Syrian government was just murdering thousands of people with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and Soviet surplus tanks, but using chemical weapons is different because of Š yeah ... I have no way to complete that sentence. I’ve never understood the policy that the manner in which people are being killed is somehow more important than the fact that they are being killed. I’m sure if I died in a bloody civil war my family would take great comfort to learn I had died from agonizing shrapnel wounds and gangrene instead of sarin gas.

Over the summer, Flo took an international law course at Oxford and she tells me international law does not technically exist. All international "laws" are consensus agreements and anyone who doesn’t agree with them is not bound by them. Thus the only things that can spur a response from the international community are certain crimes deemed particularly heinous, such as the use of chemical weapons. Likewise, nobody minds intervening in cross-border wars, but civil wars are off-limits, which is like being willing to break up a street fight but not to stop domestic violence.

It stuns me that we can live in a world of globalized nations where civil wars can still happen. How is it OK to allow thousands of people to be killed when we have the power to stop it? Edmund Burke is often quoted as saying the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. I would amend that: A man who does nothing in the face of evil is not a good man. Also Edmund Burke never said the first thing.

Currently, all proposed responses for Syria are limited to drone strikes. The rationale for this, as well the rationale for not doing anything, tends to involve the phrase, "the lessons of Iraq," which makes me wince. Much like the villagers in the fable of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" it seems we completely missed the lesson. The moral wasn’t just "Don’t cry wolf," it was "Don’t let jerks watch the sheep." So now rather than checking if the new shepherd is competent we’ll just shoot missiles at wolves from low orbit.

I feel weird advocating a military conflict when I know I would never be called on to serve. I’m not in the military, and I don’t want to needlessly throw people into harm’s way. I have a cousin in the Army and wouldn’t want to see him hurt or killed in action. But the thing is, he and every other American soldier joined the military with the understanding they could see combat and would face risks. Thousands of civilians in Syria were never given that choice but instead had war thrust upon them. America has the capability to end that, we just have to come up with the courage to do so.


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