A persistent strain of isolationism in the American psyche goes back to the founding of the country.
Proponents generally cite George Washington in his farewell address to the nation, claiming that he warned against “entangling alliances.” He didn’t actually quite say that. Most of his address was introspective about his life of service, warnings about encroachment by one of the three branches of government into another, and fervent warnings against political parties. As for alliances, he said that the United states must faithfully keep her existing treaties with Great Britain and Spain. But in the future, the old statesman said, enter into treaties with caution and the realization that no alliance can be permanent. As Churchill would say more than a century later, there are no permanent alliances, only permanent interests. Washington, speaking of Europe’s constant warring, pointed to the oceans that protect our hemisphere from spillover of Europe’s bloodletting:
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel... Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?...Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
Those distances soon began to shrink. President Thomas Jefferson, who did not want a standing military at all, built a navy and sent it halfway around the world to crush the Barbary pirates preying on American merchantmen on the high seas. James Monroe, our fifth president, sent the US Navy to blockade Africa and catch slavers. The African Slave Trade Patrol, comprised of American warships and cutters, continued until 1861, when it was called home for service in the Civil War.
Isolationism, however, still coursed through the bloodstream of America. With the War to End All Wars raging in Europe, Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” Not even the sinking of the Lusitania brought the US into the war. Then the Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted by US intelligence--the Germans were offering Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to Mexico if it would join the war on Germany’s side. Two million Americans shipped out to European shores, and another two million were on the way when the war ended. One hundred thousand American troops did not come home—killed in combat or by disease (the Spanish flu was as deadly as enemy bombs, bayonets and bullets.)
World War One was ended by exhaustion and an armistice, not by a decisive victory. Inevitably, it resumed as World War Two in less than two decades. Again, America stayed out of it until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, followed immediately by Germany’s declaring war on the United States. This time the war ended in total victory by the Allies and unconditional surrender by Germany and Japan. Despite wars breaking out continually in some corner of the world ever since--two of them, Korea and Vietnam, fought by American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen—isolationists still clamored for America to withdraw into its fortress at home.
Politicians, editorial writers and writers of letters to the editor, demonstrators, academics, PTA moms, clergy, actors, Liberals, Libertarians, Conservatives and atheists loudly or plaintively declare that “We can’t be the world’s policeman!”
OK, so who would you rather have as the world’s policeman?
Because somebody will be.
You might not like it, but it will always be as it always has been the guy with the biggest army—the guy strong enough to lay down the law. Nature abhors a vacuum; the absence of world order means world chaos. The Assyrians, Egyptians, Byzantines, Romans, Incas, Ottomans, British, Mayans, Manchus, Mongols, Mughals and other powers kept their world’s order at one time or another. Look them up. They weren’t nice cops. All practiced slavery, many practiced human sacrifice, they controlled their subjects with brutality. Their ships of state floated on seas of blood. No such thing as rights or civil liberties. There’s always another wannabe King of the Hill watching, an equal or rising power on the edges of the ruling empire, waiting for the top cop’s sword to grow dull.
The United States of America has held that position, Policeman of the World, since the end of the Second World War. We didn’t choose the job, didn’t seek it, we were just the strongest of those left standing in the free world when the war ended. Before the smoke even cleared, our erstwhile ally Stalin was already moving to seize an empire, reneging on promises to liberate the countries his army occupied in the course of defeating Nazi Germany, liquidating, imprisoning or relocating millions who stood in his way. For America’s European allies, the war was a Pyrrhic victory—financially exhausted, they watched their empires collapse. The Soviet Union, which had been kept alive and in the war by American largess—food, war machines, materiel, fuel--now trained, sponsored, and encouraged Communist revolutionaries in the former colonies to seize power and/or lead liberation movements.
By default, the United States of America became the leader of the free world and top cop in the West. Although President Harry Truman allowed an unmanaged military demobilization after V-J Day that would prove catastrophic in five years, America still had the strongest economy in the world at the end of the war. Europe lay in ruins with millions of their citizens interred in mass graves. Our homeland was virtually untouched, our farms and ranches were producing bountifully, and our industry quickly demilled to again produce consumer goods.
Now America is abdicating its leadership role. Our culture is degenerating, our military power hollowing out, the shadow of a Dark Age looms. A new Axis of Evil--China-Russia-Iran-North Korea--is muscling up and watching us like a pack of jackals measuring a tiring buffalo. No great civilization ever fell to outside force until it was thoroughly rotted within, and we are doing it to ourselves just as the Romans, Athenians, and other once-great world powers did to themselves.
Consider the alternatives. Look at the cultures of those who seek right now to replace America as Policeman of the World. China? Russia? Iran? Do you like what you see? Is that what we want for our grandchildren?
If it’s not, we’d better get a grip on ourselves and renew the United States of America as founded: faithful to a Constitution based on Judeo-Christian principles and values, a country and people morally and fiscally sound.
If we accept that we, America, must continue to be the World’s Policeman simply because there is no one else in the free world capable of doing it, then we have got to resume leadership in the world: moral leadership, economic leadership, educational leadership, and most of all, military leadership. We have got to project power. Our armed forces have to be so strong and so ready to fight that nobody will want to mess with us and everybody will want to be on our side. Our people have to be self-reliant, resourceful, hard working and moral. God must be returned to the public square, back in the schools, back in civil discourse. Our country must be self-sufficient, energy and food independent. We must be unapologetic about our power and wealth, while stretching out a helping hand to those genuinely in need. Our borders must be secure; legal immigration must be based on merit and our national interests, with allowance for genuine refugees.
Not least, as President Washington said in his farewell to the nation, “Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ?... Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war.) The Fourth Century Roman Flavius Vegetius Renatus, observing with dismay the decline of the Roman legion, was not the first nor the last in history to express the axiom of “peace through strength.”
The Father of our Country warned about “throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear” as a result of “unavoidable wars.” Nothing else justifies going into debt. America must cultivate peace but remember that “timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it.” Benjamin Franklin would say that is the stitch that saves nine.
So what’s our security situation today? Staggering debt that will crush our grandchildren’s grandcildren. Disrepected by both ally and enemy. A Woke Department of Defense obsessed with “DEI” (letters better arranged as “DIE) and CRT, with promoting and paying for “transgenderism,” with “Pride” celebrations, with eradicating “white supremecism” in the ranks, with kicking out of service anyone who refused to take the experimental COVID shots.
Not only do we have too few ships, we don’t have the sailors to man them; too few combat aircraft and too few pilots to fly them; too few artillery pieces and too few operators to fire them. Our Strategic Oil Reserve has been wasted for political ends. We are dependant on our enemies for strategic materiel and almost everything else our military and civlian population need. Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, North Korea and Iran are building massive sea, air and land forces—and they are jerking us around on and over the Seven Seas, staking out the Arctic, infiltrating the American homeland and Europe. They are at war with us—the shooting just hasn’t started yet.
Weakness is a provocaton, and our enemies see us as weak. If we would have peace, we had better get on a war footing NOW. Ohterwise, as Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, “War cannot be avoided; it can only be postponed to the other's advantage." If we would keep peace, we must wear that Policeman of the World badge. As Thucydides said, The strong do what they can. The weak do what they must.