The Bullies Wake Up as America Goes to Sleep

Remember what it was like in high school, or middle school, with roving school bullies. They had a knack for identifying the weakest kids and picking on them, sometimes mercilessly, supplanting learning for survival for the kids getting bullied. Fortunately in most schools, teachers and principals were attentive to bullying, catching it early and reining in the bully before they caused much harm. Many schools had little tolerance for bullies, offering them the simple choice of stopping or leaving the school.

Bullies exist on a world stage as well. Since World War II, America has played the role of school principal, containing bullies across the globe. We have over 1000 military bases or installations worldwide, with a U.S. military presence in 156 countries. We have actual military bases in 63 countries and over a quarter of a million military personnel deployed around the world. Does such a presence serve our imperialist nature? Are we annexing these countries as U.S. territory? Hardly. The U.S. last added a state over 50 years ago when Hawaii joined the Union in 1959. Instead, our military presence keeps the world’s bullies from punching other countries in the nose.

Playing the role of world cop, the U.S. influence on world stability allowed countries such as India, South Korea, and Poland to join the first world by giving them the freedom to flex their economic and demographic muscles. If these countries were always looking over their shoulder for the next bully, their economic output would be directed toward their defense rather than their growth. It is the umbrella of the American military protecting these countries that enabled them to join the global economy.

Over the past six years however, the role of America as the school principal is diminishing. After apologizing for America, President Obama is now pulling America away from her previous role as a global leader. The result is predictable and not pretty. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, an ideological cousin to the president, looks out on the landscape of a withdrawing U.S. and declares, “The world is a mess.” No kidding. During her tenure as Secretary of State, her worldview was, “We very much don’t want to be out there by ourselves as the organizer and as the only superpower.” How is that working out?

Russia annexes Crimea. Their missile, given to Ukrainian separatists, shot a passenger plane out of the sky. The president’s response was big talk, calling the downing of the Malaysian plane an “outrage of unspeakable proportions.” Yet Russian President Putin remains defiant. China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea. The Taliban has its own surge in Afghanistan. Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuates its personnel. Israel is at war with Hamas. Germany is spying on the U.S. for the first time since World War II. ISIS has transformed from a militia to a state in just a few months. And this list only scratches the surface of Ms. Albright’s observation of the world being a mess.

Contrary to the views of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that America is the problem, and that a kinder and gentler America will solve the world’s conflicts, we are seeing the opposite play out. The more America withdraws from her historic role as the school principal, the more the students misbehave. The bullies, no longer under scrutiny and potential punishment by teachers or principals, are free to do what they do best --threaten, intimidate, or invade.

Thinking back to high school, what would have happened if the teachers and administrators tuned out? One only needs to look at inner-city schools where indifferent or absent school officials tacitly allow violence to replace learning. Imagine an entire world as violent as the Philadelphia public schools. But where armies, bombs, and nukes replace knives and guns. Nature abhors a vacuum. The vacuum left behind by the current administration’s indifference to world affairs will be filled in a very bad way. And not only America, but also much of the rest of the world will reap the consequences.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.

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