President Obama today announced his administration's reluctant agreement to work with Russia and Iran to defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East. This will no doubt be met with howls of "Weakness!" and "leading from behind" by Mr. Obama's Republican detractors.
We may even hear the tired "appeasement" argument trotted out regarding both Russia's and Iran's supposed ambitions to expand their territories.
Republicans have consistently criticized Obama for not being aggressive enough on the world stage and for pulling back too early from Iraq and Afghanistan. With the emergence of ISIS, the GOP has seized the opportunity to quash more reasonable foreign policy positions from candidates like Rand Paul and push for sharper increases in military spending and even more aggressive foreign intervention.
The argument we hear repeatedly from Republican presidential candidates is that Obama has "eviscerated the military" and "led from behind." If the United States is not "engaged" (i.e., bombing or invading) in all crises at all times in every part of the world, emerging powers like Russia or China are going to fill the resulting vacuum. That raises an obvious question:
Personally, I don't buy into the worldview that "grown-up" nations like the United States or Great Britain are either justified or capable of policing anyone. Just take a look at their results so far. But if there is any benefit to the so-called First World policing the Third, why can't Russia shoulder some of the responsibility for the regions just outside its borders? Why can't China police the South China Sea?
Interventionists from both parties talk about international relations like they're playing Stratego, where one nation has to win and every other has to lose. Voters are too willing to accept that ridiculous assumption, instead of asking some pretty obvious questions:
How do American taxpayers benefit by subsidizing Syrian rebels?
How are they harmed if Assad stays in power?
Why should they care if China is the dominant naval force in the sea bearing its name?
What benefit did they derive from the Ukranian revolution and how will they be harmed if it is reversed?
All of these are derivative of the ultimate question every American should be asking their elected officials, in both parties:
How did American taxpayers become financially responsible for the liberty and security of every soul on the planet and when will this responsibility end?
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC) posited that the United States had twenty years to do anything it wanted on the world stage before a new superpower would likely emerge to challenge it. One key objective of PNAC was to topple Middle Eastern governments and "remake the Middle East" into a region dominated by new, Western-style democracies.
The United States has pursued this insane vision under both the Bush and Obama administrations, deposing Saddam Hussein, Muammar Ghaddafi and Hosni Mubarak among others. Have American taxpayers benefited from the results? How?
They are now pushing hard to continue with Assad in Syria and Khamenei in Iran. While there is plenty to say against both regimes, how could any sane person believe the results will be different than they were in Iraq, Libya or Egypt?
The reality is the "exceptional nation" has made a holy mess of the international order during its tenure as the sole superpower. Americans have derived no benefit from its interventions anywhere, including Afghanistan, where the Taliban continues to reclaim the territory it lost after the 2001 U.S. invasion.
Democrats want to blame all of this on Bush, while Republicans want to blame Obama. The truth is this has been a completely bipartisan disaster. The Obama administration has been every bit as interventionist as Bush's; in total countries "engaged," even more so.
Its arming of Syrian rebels may have done more to create ISIS than pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. And if you think U.S. intelligence operations had nothing to do with starting the so-called "Arab Spring" revolutions in the first place, I have a bridge to sell you.
While continuing and expanding Bush's disaster in the Middle East, the Obama administration has managed to antagonize both Russia and China into allying more with each other and with Iran. This under the pretense that Russia and China are expansionist, based on Russia's rather restrained reactions to conflicts on its border fomented, at least in part, by U.S. intelligence.
While spending nearly a trillion dollars a year on the military, when all spending hidden in federal departments like Energy are included, the U.S. government has the audacity to point to China's modest military spending increases as proof of its aggressive tendencies, never once stopping to ask why China might perceive a need to spend more. Could it be because China is one of ten countries who combined don't spend as much as the U.S?
As for Putin's expansionism, American taxpayers would be well served to compare the list of Russian military bases outside its border to the corresponding U.S. list. How can American politicians keep a straight face while calling Putin aggressive?
Twenty years of "exceptionalism" has provided zero benefits to American taxpayers. All they have received for their money is a $4 trillion government with an $18 trillion debt, a far more dangerous world and the added benefit of a domestic police force that behaves as if it's patrolling the streets of Fallujah instead of New York or Boston.
If taking on some of the burden of fighting ISIS simultaneously allows Russia to maintain its single military base in the Middle East, more power to them. If it thwarts U.S. attempts overthrow the Assad regime, even better. Americans certainly aren't better off with ISIS running Iraq and Syria, as its name aspires to.
And if China wants to waste its money pouring sand onto reefs in the ocean off its coast, American taxpayers derive no benefit from trying to stop them.
Besides, they'd never loan us the money.