Sunday, September 1, 2013

We Cannot Be the World's Sugar Daddy and Policeman

After I posted a link to Elan Journo's book Winning the Unwinnable War just under my comments to Let's be certain about Syria, a correspondent took issue with the book and my comments, saying that I, the book, and Ayn Rand's theory of rational self-interest calls for "isolationism" in foreign policy. The correspondent wrote, in part:

Closing your eyes and yelling 'I can't hear you' isn't a valid option. Because either we get proactive by bringing the fight to our opponents, or you willingly and totally accept responsibility for the next 9/11.

Is the correspondent, who apparently supports Obama's impending strike on Syria as well as, more broadly, the neo-conservatives' "realist" foreign policy, advocating contextless involvement in every instance of atrocity anywhere in the world? Judging by everything he has to say here and here,  the answer is yes.  

I left this reply:

Ayn Rand's concept of rational self-interest is based on an objective scientific study of reality, derived from perceptual, perceivable facts of human nature. In practice—for individuals and by extension for nations—it means clearly and objectively identifying what and why something is in our long-term self-interest based on objective facts integrated by principles. As it relates to foreign policy, rational self-interest most definitely does not mean "isolationism"—turning a blind eye toward the rest of the world. 

The book's criticism of the neo-cons' "realism" is that it is actually not realistic, because it ignores the fundamental role of ideas in motivating human actions. The book is not a series of floating abstractions. Rather, it objectively makes the case for a principled, moral foreign policy, as against the "realists'" pragmatic, range-of-the-moment thinking that leads to endless, victory-less wars. The history of the last dozen years supports the book's thesis and at least calls into question the neo-cons' policies (among other war theories).

It is true that we "live in a world where chemical weapons can be delivered in an almost infinite number of ways." That's why we need to be vigilant about leaving no doubt in our enemy's minds that any threat to our national self-interest will result in immediate and total destruction. This requires world engagement, and as much intelligence gathering as we can muster, but also a clarity about our intentions.

To say "virtually everything is in our rational self-interest" is to obliterate any basis for an objective, rational foreign policy. Being the world's sugar daddy and policeman will not deter our enemies. Neither will half-hearted half-measures. That will encourage them. Only a foreign policy of uncompromising rational self-interest—one that clearly articulates our goals and the certainty of our government protecting Americans' lives, liberties, and property—will protect America from aggressive enemies, wherever they may reside in the world.

The primary contemporary threat to America and the non-Muslim world is imperialistic Islamic totalitarianism. If we engage in endless contextless involvements in every instance of atrocity anywhere in the world, where will that leave our ability to respond to actual threats to America?

Related Reading:

What is the Moral Purpose of America's Military?

Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea—by C. Bradley Thompson with Yaron Brook

Obama's Hideous Moral Equivalence Toward Israel

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