America: The World’s Policeman?


Prager University has a new video out, and it could be considered timely, since today is Memorial Day–the day set aside in America to honor all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in military service to our country.

Should America be the world’s policeman?  In one sense, the answer to this question is very easy…and in another, it is very difficult. That is why you find both liberals and conservatives on both sides of this issue, though usually for very different reasons.

I’m a life-long conservative who spent 10 years in the military, often being a part of “police duties” overseas.  The first half of those 10 years was during the Cold War, with three of those first five years spent overseas staring down the Soviet Union, and I was in Europe when the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989.  Though my duties were varied, I spent considerable time working on a Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) base that was put in place specifically to make it clear to the Soviets that their belligerence would not go unchallenged. By the time I left Europe, the Soviet Union’s economy was stumbling, unable to keep up with America’s powerhouse resources and defenses, and millions of Europeans were becoming free for the first time in decades. On New Years Eve 1989-1990, as I celebrated with friends, I had my hand shaken by many British men and was hugged and kissed by many British women I didn’t even know–all thanking me for being there in Europe to help bring down The Wall and free their East European brothers and sisters.

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world_map_Soviet_aggressionWe did a good thing in Europe under President Ronald Reagan–the first president ever to really have the guts to stand up to the menace of communism and make it clear that we would not allow it to continue its march across the world. We did a necessary thing, because if there is one thing Marxism (including its most violent brand called communism) had taught us, is that it is a deadly cancer that will spread if not dealt with firmly. For our own security, if not that of our allies, we had to fight it.

Having said all this, do I believe America should be the world’s policeman?  No.  No way. At least, not in the sense that many mean it. If by “world’s policeman” you mean “intervene in every squabble and evil that takes place worldwide,” then the answer is definitely “NO!”  Even with America’s dynamic economy before Leftists crippled it seven years ago, we do not and did not have the resources to stop evil everywhere on earth–nor should we sacrifice our servicemen in fights all over the world–fights that other regional nations should be dealing with.

One such regional conflict with which the United States became involved during the 1990s was in the Balkans–an area so divided and schizophrenic, it’s name–“Balkanized”–has become a word to describe division and conflict. There were legitimate problems in the Balkans that needed to be dealt with, but they did not threaten to spill over into a larger regional conflict, they should have been dealt with by the European powers who were the next-door neighbors to this troubled area, and they did not represent a threat to American national interests.

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I believe American national interests is the best rule of thumb for determining which world problems we get involved in.  Can we provide ideas or render humanitarian aid in most if not all world problems?  Sure.  But if there is no American national interest at stake in the problem, why should we spend our money and our blood dealing with a problem that should and usually can be dealt with by those closest to it?

The founders of our great nation used a similar rule of thumb.  While they wisely cautioned against United States involvement in foreign entanglements (something easier to do in their day than in ours, since in ours you can fly anywhere in the world within hours, or have a ballistic missile reach you within 30 minutes), at the same time, they recognized that sometimes the United States will have to flex its muscle overseas, for our benefit as well as that of other nations. The Barbary Wars began a little more than a decade after our Constitution was put in place, and were carried out by presidents who crafted our nation’s founding documents.

As the Barbary Wars were necessary to protect American interests, so were more recent conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though the “mainstream” media has done their best to obfuscate the dots, the student of history may recall that in 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans in one day, and that attack was launched by a group being given safe harbor in the Islamic extremist nation of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan refused to turn over the terrorists after we gave them a chance, so we invaded to deal with those who had attacked us, and as a byproduct, toppled one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

And regarding Iraq, despite a long trail of propaganda by the Left, there were extremely compelling interests for the United States to become involved in the Iraq conflict–both in 1990 and 2003. I was in the military and remember when the classified message came across the wire about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait–an act which destabilized the flow of oil from the Middle East (a great deal of which we depended on). Iraq further threatened Saudi Arabia (perhaps the world’s leading oil producer), and the Saudi’s begged for our help. We set up bases in Saudi Arabia, eventually pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, and forced Saddam Hussein into a surrender agreement that included getting rid of his WMD programs and verification of that.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Saddam reneged on his agreement, refused to cooperate with weapons inspectors, and even began to fire on American and British planes patrolling the no-fly zone (set up to prevent Saddam from annihilating some of his own people)–he fired on our planes more than 200 times in the year prior to the 2003 invasion. After some 17 UN resolutions (backed by the credibility of U.S. military might) were ignored, we had to go in, for multiple reasons, not the least of which were (1) enforcing the 1991 cease fire agreement, (2) ensuring the WMD programs had ended, (3) stopping Saddam’s regional belligerence, and (4) dealing with another supporter of terrorism in our declared war on terrorism.

It’s a pity our sacrifices in Afghanistan and Iraq have now been squandered by the glaringly broadcast weakness and fecklessness of the United States under Barack Obama, but we did the best we could to do what was necessary.

So should the United States be the world’s policeman?  In the broadest sense, no. But is it sometimes necessary–when you are the most powerful nation on earth, and when your nation usually has the clearest sense of moral right–for the United States to deal with evil that threatens U.S. interests?

Absolutely. Sometimes there’s just no escaping the reality that sometimes, someone has to stand up and be the grownup in the room.


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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