The impatient isolationist mindset has served us well in the past. America is strategically located: a huge chunk of productive land, completely separated from Europe and Asia, bordered by a pacifistic Canada in the north and a weak Mexico in the south. Because of geography and culture, America became a world power; America gained a world empire by sitting still and allowing the mechanisms of capitalism to flourish. During the first half of the 20th century, isolationism was a boon for America: We entered wars late, we suffered comparatively few losses and we were victorious. During World War I, America suffered about 320,000 casualties; the Soviet Union suffered well over nine million. During World War II, America suffered just over one million casualties; the Soviet Union suffered over 20 million.
But now, America faces a crossroads. Since the death of the Soviet Union, we are unquestionably the world's only superpower, the world's remaining empire. Acquiring an empire requires a different mindset than maintaining and expanding one. Empires either decline or they grow. If America is to survive and flourish, Americans must realize that empire isn't a choice: It's a duty.
Some, like arch-isolationist Pat Buchanan, wish to ignore this simple point. In his tome "A Republic, Not An Empire," Buchanan protests that isolationism should remain America's policy. Buchanan points to British involvement in World War I as the cause of the empire's destruction. No doubt he is partially correct. But it was British indecisiveness that allowed Germany's escalating militarism in the pre-World War I era. And after World War I, Britain remained the world's most powerful empire. The British Empire did not truly collapse until after World War I, when through appeasement and dereliction, it allowed Germany to rearm. It was World War II that signaled the death knell for the British Empire. For an empire, inaction and isolation allow the cancer of rebellion to grow and spread.
That is why impatient isolationism serves us ill in Iraq. Did Iraq pose an immediate threat to our nation? Perhaps not. But toppling Saddam Hussein and democratizing Iraq prevent his future ascendance and end his material support for future threats globally. The same principle holds true for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and others: Pre-emption is the chief weapon of a global empire.
No one said empire was easy, but it is right and good, both for Americans and for the world. Forwarding freedom is always important, but it is especially important where doing so ensures America's future security -- as in Iraq. Maintaining American empire will require Americans to recognize the dangers of impatient isolationism.
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