As I speak these words the Gaza Strip in the Middle East is literally exploding. Even a cursory review of the news demonstrates how crazy this world has become. Amidst ongoing international turmoil, the United States has some important decisions to make – not the least of which is the answer to the question of our role in the world.
The state of Israel is capable of taking care of its own defense in limited ways. But what would the United States do if the entire Muslim world united in Israel’s destruction? Would we step back and watch the entire Middle East become engulfed in the chaos created by tactical nuclear war? Would we intervene on behalf of Israel? In other words, would we send American men and women to fight and die in Israel’s defense? We have sent Americans to fight and die for a lot less reason than Israel’s future.
Early America was distinctly non-interventionist. George Washington famously warned about foreign entanglements in Europe. James Monroe created a doctrine of foreign policy that limited U.S. interests to the Western Hemisphere. Only more progressive leaders began to intervene in world affairs – Woodrow Wilson in World War I and Franklin Roosevelt in World War II. And, even then, conservatives were hard to convince that America should step foot on European soil. Of course, few of us today would look back on those events and regret our involvement.
Evidently, the justness of the cause determines our involvement. Or not.
As an example, I remember counseling my congressional boss in 1991 to vote no on the resolution to support President Bush’s decision to engage the first Gulf War. I felt strongly that the war was simply about blood for oil. I thought it was immoral. By the time of the second Gulf War, I had changed my mind. The threat of weapons of mass destruction made all the difference in the world to me.
So what cause reaches the threshold for Americans to engage overseas? Is it the million-plus genocide in the Sudan? Is the current threat from North Korea any less than the threat posed formerly by Saddam Hussein? Continue reading