Our allies in Europe free-ride on the security we provide while declining to support us in our own time of need and expressing mock outrage with the methods by which we ensure their safety. We try at every turn to help the people of the Middle East, and they actively work for our destruction. Iraq invited us to leave in 2011, and now we’re going back in because they couldn’t control their own country.
We are the only thing standing between the people of Afghanistan the return to power of the backwards and brutal Taliban, but the leaders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan actively work to undermine our efforts. We sent thousands of US combat troops to Africa to risk their lives and health combating Ebola, a disease that has killed almost no Americans, and we are chastised for not doing more. In all of these cases, the US is like that cartoon giant, holding back destruction and being attacked as a result.
As a nation we often find ourselves the only thing standing between a group of people and their utter oblivion, yet we are still seen as the bad guy. It’s reminiscent of the situation laid out in a famous diatribe made by Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “A Few Good Men:” no one wants America around, until the situation is desperate. And then all they want to do is complain about the unintended collateral damage or how much, how little, or what kind of assistance we gave them.
What if America became like that stone giant, tired of being attacked when we’re just trying to help? What if we get tired of saving the world from itself, and constantly being attacked physically, verbally, politically, and economically as a result? What if we just… moved out of the way?
As a small part of what made up the giant that helped hold back the juggernaut of Islamic extremism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world, and who like the giant was relentlessly attacked for it, I too am tired. I’m tired of being called upon to be the “someone” called upon when the world says “someone ought to do something!” I’m tired of that “something” that the world wants done evolving into half-measures that bankrupt my country and put the lives, health, and sanity of my comrades in arms at risk. And most of all I’m tired of a world that cries out for my help, and then complains about the manner in which it was provided.
The perpetually-failing state of Haiti is a good example. Haiti is trying to sue the United Nations over a cholera outbreak that occurred while the UN was on the ground after the big earthquake there in 2010.
Let’s be realistic here, Haiti. If you’re suing the UN, you’re really suing the US, given that the US had the lead for the UN effort in Haiti since the beginning, and provides the bulk of the UN’s funding and the majority of political will to make things happen. So, tell you what, just to make sure there aren’t any future outbreaks of cholera, the UN (sorry, I mean the US) won’t be sending anyone at all. Good luck with that. You can still have our old t-shirts, though.
Iraq is another great example. When we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the world wondered why we didn’t do more. After we set up and maintained a no-fly zone, the world attacked us for not helping the Shias and the Kurds. When we finally did go in heavy in 2003, the world soon turned against us and pressured us to leave. When we left, we were blamed for the chaos that followed. After getting unceremoniously booted out of Iraq by a government that we inexplicably decided was both sovereign and viable, we now find ourselves sending thousands more troops back in to help settle the borders of not only Iraq but also Syria.
There are many good reasons why America should not engage in a policy of isolationism, but a little retrenchment might be in order. As a nation, we need to do a better job of decided when to intervene, what form that intervention will take, how much it will cost, how long it will last, and how often we’ll do it for specific countries. It’s not America’s job to be the world’s conscience, its police force, its fire brigade, or its insurance company. Right now, we are all of those things and more. And unfortunately, we’re doing a pretty crappy job at all of them.
One of the major issues is, of course, that the people responsible for creating and ordering the half-baked foreign policies are not the ones who pay the price when those schemes go astray. People on the ground like aid workers, foreign service personnel, and US troops are the ones who bear the costs. The ones who sent them there in the first place, or who failed to provide for their safety, go on to get re-elected, make millions of dollars off of their memoirs, or run for President. That’s a damnable shame.
We are trying to do too much, in too many places, with too little thought to the future. We need to identify, articulate, and defend our national interests, and only provide assistance and relief when it supports those interests. In all other cases, we should just let that boulder roll.