Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Who wants the United States to lead?

Jerry Stratton, November 18, 2015

Liberty wakeup call

Quote courtesy Greg Gutfeld.

After the first or second Republican debate, some friends on Facebook took issue with Republican candidate complaints that under President Obama, the United States no longer attempts to lead the world in promoting peace and democratic values.

I must have missed something. I listened to almost every candidate in the Republican debate last night say “We’re going to lead the world again.” I have never, ever, heard ANY country say they wanted us to lead the world. Must have been napping.

This is a reasonable question, as long as it isn’t asked rhetorically. It’s true, the countries often don’t say it. But the people in a lot of countries do. I doubt my friends were napping during the coverage of the 2009 Green movement in Iran—they just forgot. But the Iranians haven’t. It wouldn’t have taken much leadership from the United States for that to end without bloodshed and with free speech improvements inside Iran, and the protestors knew this: they were asking the United States to get involved. I’m also pretty sure that the government in East Germany would have preferred that we not take a lead in world affairs, but the people of East Germany were well-served by our not accommodating the Soviet Union’s repression.

Imprisoned dissidents used to whisper from cell to cell the lead President Reagan took, that the Soviet Union would rather have been left alone.

More recently the government in Ukraine asked for us to lead, and there would have been much less bloodshed if we had; Russia would have backed down instead of invading. Instead there’s a low-level war still going on there, threatening daily to erupt into a full-fledged bloodbath.

It wouldn’t have taken bloodshed to side with the people of Iraq when they tossed their strongman in 2010. Instead we sided with the strongman who turned out to be too weak to stop ISIS. The people of Iraq would certainly have preferred that we lead, even while their government short-sightedly preferred that we retreat. If we had exercised leadership in Iraq, it’s entirely likely that ISIS would never have grown strong enough to perpetrate this weekend’s Paris attacks. The people of Paris, if they’re thinking about it at all after that horror, are probably wishing we had not retreated from the Middle East and allowed ISIS to grow.

Now, rather than merely having to support a young democracy in Iraq as we did in Germany after World War II, we are likely to see escalating boots on the ground throughout the Middle East.

Those are just a few examples off the top of my head. I’m sure there are other cases where oppressed peoples have asked for us to take a lead even while their governments preferred we look the other way.

None of these could have been handled well by the United Nations (as evidenced by the lack of action when we did not lead) because the structure of the United Nations isn’t conducive to it. There are too many dictatorships in it who don’t want to set a precedence that might be used against them.

If you’d like to read about the benefits of a United States that takes a lead for freedom around the world, I recommend Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy. Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident, and he describes how the people of the Soviet Union were very happy when the United States led, while the government of the Soviet Union was more happy when the United States let United Nations lead.

He also describes how leading does not have to mean military action, and is often more effective without it—as long as we lead rather than wait for history to force us to act.

It’s hard to tell whether the candidates have read Sharansky, because the debate format of the first two debates wasn’t conducive to in-depth explanations and Sharansky is far from the kind of household name worth dropping in a time-limited format.1 Both Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz have in the past talked in that way given the time to voice their views, and Ben Carson was a little muddled but talked specifically about non-military ways to lead during the debate.

We know from history that the longer we delay action—the longer we delay taking the lead in the world quest for peace—the less effective non-military methods are for gaining it, and the more bloody attaining peace becomes.

Here’s the thing: we know what happens when the United States takes a lead: a functioning democracy in Iraq, al Qaeda on the run throughout the world, bloodless revolutions spread freedom throughout Eastern Europe, and once-belligerent nations such as Libya and Iran come to the bargaining table to make real concessions toward peace.

We also know what happens when the United States doesn’t take the lead. Iran regenerates its nuclear program and spreads terror throughout the Middle East; ISIS moves into Iraq and ISIS and other terrorist groups move in throughout the Middle East; freedom dies at birth in Iran and Libya, and struggles in Iraq; the Twin Towers fall; and over a hundred people die in Paris.

Because the United States retreated rather than lead, we have war. We have war and we still have people trying to pretend we don’t. The longer we pretend that this is not a war, the more bloody it will become. That’s the thing about war: when one side wages it and one side does not, it doesn’t go away. A one-sided war is inevitably more of a bloodbath than a two-sided war, because the side that started it is unrestrained.

In response to Election 2016: Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.

  1. Ted Cruz sometimes sounds like he has read Sharansky, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Carly Fiorina has met him.

  1. <- Why Bernie Sanders lost
  2. Countering Trump ->