Someone in Syria appears to have used chemical weapons against someone else. Was it the now disgraced and clearly disreputable regime of Bashar al-Assad that unleashed deadly poison on its own citizens? Was it one of the rebel groups that did so, either hoping to force the West to intervene and unseat Assad, or because it has as little concern for human suffering and human life as do Assad and his minions?
Someone in Syria appears to have used chemical weapons; that should be enough to trigger a response. It should not matter who did so. It only matters that the use of such weaponry is crossing over a line that must never be crossed by anyone. Crossing that line is an action that must not be tolerated by the rest of the world.
It surely must not be tolerated by the United States.
Politicians here lightly throw out such campaign-heated slogans as “America is not the world’s policeman.” They know better, or, if they do not, they have no right holding public office or running for office.
The world needs a “policeman,” and for better or worse, the only power on earth capable of fulfilling that role today is the United States of America.
It is not a pleasant prospect. It is not a role we would choose for our country. It is a risky proposition both from the astronomical monetary cost, and in the almost certain cost in blood.
Yet, unless the world has its policeman, there will be no one to stop whomever from using chemical weapons with abandon against civilians and enemy combatants. Without a policeman, there will be no one to bring to a halt Iran’s nuclear threat. Without a policeman, there will be no one to stop the next Adolf Hitler from rearing his evil head, or the mini-Hitlers who crop up every decade from Argentina, to Cambodia, to Bosnia-Herzogovina, to Darfur, to wherever the next one crops up.
A policeman does not always have to rely on his gun. The fact that he is prepared to use it and is clear about his willingness to do so are often a sufficient deterrence.
The United States has been anything but clear with Iran, and the result is that Iran keeps slinking forward with its development of a nuclear bomb. This country has been anything but clear about its willingness to intervene in Syria, and the result is that no one there takes it seriously when it warns that the use of chemical weapons is a red line for it.
Yet the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. The United States was perfectly clear in word and deed in its warnings to North Korea, and now it appears as if the threat of imminent war in the Korean peninsula has diminished as a result.
The United States, of course, has the right to choose its battles, but it must recognize that there is no one else out there to pick up the slack. Choosing where to make a stand and where to stand down only encourages evil; it does not deter it.
Of course, there are those who would argue that the job of world’s policeman belongs to the United Nations. In theory, that is true. In fact, it is an assertion worthy of loud laughter. Perhaps some day, the United Nations will find a way to convert theory into fact, but that day is in the far future, if it is there at all.
The United States has been the de facto policeman, in any case. The problem with that, however, is that it is a role assumed reluctantly and not always forcefully enough to do any good.
Do we want another Vietnam? Of course not. Do we want to fight yet another war in yet another Muslim country? Of course not.
Do we want to sit idly by the blood of our fellows as they are slaughtered in the name of political hegemony, or religious fanaticism, or tribal rivalries?
Someone in Syria appears to have used chemical weapons against someone else. There are many valid reasons people can present to explain why the United States should not get involved.
There is only one valid reason why it must. Human life is at risk in Syria today and, if the perpetrator is not stopped, human life will be at risk somewhere else tomorrow.
Is that really in the best interests of the United States and its people? Is that really in our best interests?