Not a day had passed since the last American non-combat troops withdrew when the first bombs went off in Iraq. Shiite and Sunni sectarian violence was back.
A country that had only just started to taste US-like democracy had its hopes dashed in flames and blood.
Why? Violence in Iraq is no real news, especially with insurgent forces threatening the local community, American troops and innocent civilians worldwide.
About 4,500 American troops learned that lesson all too well, as did their grieving families in the United States. However, this violence was brought on by the withdrawal of US troops, like two siblings promising their mother that they’ll behave after she leaves — only to set the cat on fire, flood the kitchen and max out her credit card before she even clears the driveway.
With no strong military presence backing the comparatively inexperienced Iraqi military and police forces, there’s really nothing to stop the fighting.
Over the holidays, I happened to hear this topic being highlighted on a local radio station. Some early morning anchor was making a semi-coherent argument for Ron Paul’s foreign policy which was summarized as returning America to its isolationist roots.
The anchor made the point that if America were to withdraw from foreign affairs for the next four years, the rest of the world would realize how much it needed the US.
As easy as it is to criticize that thought as I did then, the heart of the argument was incredibly poignant.
America needs to draw itself back from the world stage and become an isolationist nation minding its own affairs, not risking the life of its citizens overseas in military or economic gambits, just so that the world will learn its lesson about criticizing the US and labeling its foreign policy as invasion of a country’s sovereignty.
First, it must be made clear: America must never become isolationist. It would be as devastating as a nuclear apocalypse because, for all intents and purposes, America would be removed from the world just as if such a calamity had actually happened.
Take the threat of North Korea. The Chinese, being their Communist allies, have their hands tied if the North Koreans decide that they could take on South Korea with America withdrawn from Asia. South Korea would be severely crippled.
Taiwan, never officially recognized by China as a separate nation, would possibly be the first to go.
China, armed with aircraft carriers, would roll over the nation before even setting its sights on Japan, then wrap up South Korea for the North Koreans. All because America didn’t keep the Cold War going.
Imagine the gap if America were to pull itself out of international affairs. Our states function at the capacity of other nations in the world. For us to leave the world stage would subject the international community to complete turmoil. America’s economy tanking is bad enough to send ripples. To disappear completely is to drop a nuclear weapon into a very small lake.
Unfortunately, this is Ron Paul’s darkest mark. Despite his favorable stance on many other things, I cannot fully support him.
This is neither a case of American Imperialism or American Exceptionalism. America must intervene in global politics every day because it is necessary to our survival. Though sometimes we overextend ourselves and sometimes we just get plain out of hand, our presence is not to be taken for granted by the international community.
A line needs to be drawn where the US can protect our interests without violating international law and common sense. Until either that line has been drawn or some old line has been found, the rest of the world just needs to sit back and let America enforce the status quo.
James Wang is a history freshman and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.