World Policeman? Ask Captain Phillips

By | September 16, 2013 | 0 Comments


America is not the world’s policeman.
Pres. Barack Obama

We can’t always be the policeman of the world.
Sen. Rand Paul

They’re impossible men doing an impossible job, and they did the impossible with me …They’re at the point of the sword every day, doing an impossible job every day.
Capt. Richard Phillips, thanking SEALs who rescued him

The photo shows the crew of the container ship Maersk Alabama, thanking the U.S. Navy who rescued them from Somali pirates. Not the U.N., not the “world community,” not a gaggle of pacifists, not a convocation of professors, but the U.S. Navy. The ship is owned by the Danish Maersk lines, and is crewed by an obviously multiethnic crew.
Just before I watched President Obama and Senator Paul giving their views on Syria, I saw a trailer for the upcoming film “Captain Phillips.” I noted Obama’s and Paul’s negative views on America as world policeman, as contrasted with Phillips’ positive views. The very fact that Phillips is still around to express his views is thanks to America acting as world policeman.
When a person − or a nation − undertakes a job, is it because of a narcissistic assumption that no one else can do the job as well? Or is it because of a realistic appraisal that no one else will do the job at all?
Why is America the world’s only superpower? Is it because we destroyed the other superpowers in aggressive wars? No, it’s because we have − at least for a while − the world’s most successful economic system, and we devote about 4% of our gross domestic product, or about 18% of our federal budget, to defense.
Many other nations saddled their economies with the inefficiencies of socialism. So they had to leave the burden of defense to somebody else − anybody else.
When “ethnic cleansing” broke out in Bosnia and Kosovo, did the U.N. or NATO take effective action? No, they left us to do the heavy lifting.
When Iraq developed weapons of mass destruction and invaded its neighbor, Kuwait, the U.N. responded with resolutions and threats of “serious consequences.” What? No TV for a week? So who kicked Iraq out of Kuwait? We did, with the help of Britain and a few others.
And where we do not intervene, what happens? Who stopped the ethnic slaughter in Rwanda, or the massacre and enslavement of blacks in Sudan? Nobody did. And who is blocking Iran from developing nuclear weapons? Nobody is.
As we weaken our military, we are already seeing an upsurge in piracy off the east coast of Africa and in waters off Southeast Asia. A world without the U.S. military will resemble not the place of universal brotherhood in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” but the deck of the Maersk Alabama when pirates came aboard.
We didn’t grab the badge of world policeman and rip it off the shirt of the U.N. We found it lying in the gutter. We picked it up, cleaned it off, and looked around to see if anyone wanted it. When no one did, we pinned it on our own shirt.
● Was that hubris, or shouldering a responsibility that no one else wanted?
● Was that arrogance, or recognition of a need that no one else was filling?
● Was that imperialism, or realization that an amoral world can’t last long without a policeman? Surely it can’t in the age of nuclear bombs, nerve gas, biological weapons, and long-range missiles.
The far Left doesn’t want us to be the world’s policeman, because it believes we aren’t worthy to be. The far Right and libertarians don’t want us to be, because they believe the world isn’t worth policing. But the result is the same − we do nothing, and the world sinks into anarchy.
The far Left believes people wouldn’t hate us, if only we shackled our economy with socialism. But they would hate us even more, because then we couldn’t afford to bail them out of their wars, famines, and other disasters.
The far Right and libertarians believe people wouldn’t hate us, if only we retreated behind closed borders. But they would hate us even more, because then we wouldn’t care enough to bail them out of their wars, famines, and other disasters.
Extremes of both Left and Right make the error of thinking that extremists hate us for what we do. But extremists hate us for who we are − Americans who believe in political freedom, economic freedom, religious freedom, women’s rights, and the importance of the individual. The haters believe in the opposite values.
To stop being hated, we would have to stop being who we are.
The U.N. should be called the D.G. − the disunited governments. Many of its members are thugs and dictators. We are fortunate that the U.N. has no credible military force; it would be misused. Pakistan and Libya sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council, and Iran sits on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Would you want such an amoral organization to police the world? Amoral policemen are dangerous.
Perhaps some future world body will be composed of free nations. Until then, let the U.N. remain weak − it’s safer that way.
And that leaves us as world policeman by default. True, we are tired of war. Our armed forces are depleted, as is our treasury. We surely can’t do everything everywhere. But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing anywhere. We are not excused from doing what we can, if we can answer these questions: (1) Does the situation demand action? (2) It is within our capabilities? (3) Does the risk of doing nothing exceed the risk of intervening? (4) Do we have confidence in the president to define a political goal and a military strategy to achieve it?
What about Syria?

1. Using poison gas on civilians, or on troops, does demand action. But can we be certain that it was used by the Assad regime, and not by the rebels for the purpose of deceiving us into attacking the regime?

2. We can crater Assad’s runways and take out his aircraft and missiles. But we can’t bomb the poison gas factories or storehouses without releasing the gas and killing thousands. Removing the gas would take hundreds of inspectors and many thousands of troops to protect them and destroy the gas. So no, we can’t do it without a major commitment of ground troops.

3. Putin’s plan depends on the cooperation of his client Assad. It is most unlikely that this will result in all the chemical weapons being destroyed. But what if Assad moves the chemical weapons to Iraq, just as Saddam may have moved his to Syria? What if Assad again calls Obama’s bluff and continues to use chemical weapons? What can we do then? The risks will exceed the benefits, and it will be painfully obvious that we have been neutered – which may be exactly what Putin intends.

4. Obama, with his “leading from behind”? Kerry, with his “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort”? Hegel, with his “America is the world’s bully”? If these three are unable to inspire confidence in Americans, what makes us think they can inspire confidence in our friends – or fear in our enemies?

The time to have intervened is when Syria first began to produce poison gas. Now, when Syria has over 1000 tons, Secretary of State Kerry’s “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort” looks like what it is – a pitifully empty gesture. The weakness of the current administration encourages wrongdoers and makes serious trouble more likely. Speaking loudly and carrying a twig is not a recipe for a long and healthy life, for a person or for a nation.
To be clear, we are talking about being the world’s policeman. John Kerry noted that the Saudis are offering to pay for our Syrian operations. We are not talking about being a mall cop, for sale to the highest bidder.
The cop who disgustedly throws away his badge is a Hollywood staple. Throwing away one’s badge makes a self-righteous gesture, but it accomplishes nothing − except to remove a policeman from the world. The fact that crime is a continuing problem is a reason to keep the badge, not to throw it away. The fact that he isn’t Superman is a reason to do what he can, not to quit and retire to a gated community.
If you doubt this, ask Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama. When his ship was seized by pirates and he was taken hostage at gunpoint, who rescued him? Captain Phillips was rescued, and the pirates were killed or captured, by the USS Bainbridge and Navy SEALS.
If we continue on our current path of weakening our military, we will all become like the men on the Maersk Alabama − unarmed, and sailing in dangerous waters. But when pirates attack, which they surely will, who will come to rescue us?

Captain Phillips comes home

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