With regard to President Trump’s air strike against Syria, there appear to be two general schools of thought.
School of thought # 1: It’s the right thing to do. Whenever a dictator crosses a line, especially such a blatant line, it’s a free country’s responsibility to punish that dictator. That’s America’s job: to be Superman, and to make the world a peaceful and safe place.
School of thought # 2: It may be the right thing to do, but military force is usually — if not always — wrong. Instead, we should focus on things like racism and economic inequality. The answer involves more open borders, more hooking immigrants on America’s welfare state, more sharing the wealth, and more socialistic government programs throughout the world, financed mostly by the United States.
Notice how these two views have more in common than not. The common theme is that we are the world’s keeper. The underlying principle of both views? The individual’s responsibility is to live for others. Governments exist not to protect the individual, but to uphold the idea that man is his brother’s keeper. Self-sacrifice, not survival or self-fulfillment, is the central moral purpose of any one person’s existence.
If you’re a free (or even semi-free) country, it’s your job (say both views) to take care of the vast majority of countries where people are not free. Sure, point # 1 favors more of a military approach, while point # 2 favors more of a socialistic, spread-the-wealth and handouts approach. But nobody questions that we are the world’s keeper. The debate is not over whether to sacrifice, but rather over what form the sacrifice will take.
In the fighting and hostility taking place between these two points of view, we’re missing out on the opportunity to debate what really matters most: Are we truly the world’s keeper? It’s not an issue of isolationism or nationalism. It’s an issue of individualism, as well as individual rights. What is the purpose of a government, anyway? In my view, the primary purpose of a government is to protect the rights of the individual. That’s what the whole American Constitution was all about, at least initially. The right to free speech, to bear arms and hold property are individual rights. The Constitution neither stated nor implied anything about forming a government to take care of the world. Now we’ve become a place where our primary — if not sole — obligation is to care for others. But why? Why are we permitted, if not obliged, to rescue Syria, while we’re not permitted to rescue ourselves from enemies that threaten our country?
I appreciate the view that America is entitled to defend itself, and should not hesitate in using the full force of its military arsenal in doing so. I recognize that the last President was unwilling to use force, on any significant scale, and it’s highly questionable that he really was ever on the side of the United States at all, in the end. I appreciate how refreshing and inspiring it might be to have a President who isn’t so wimpish, so apologetic, so afraid and so antagonistic toward actual American interests.
But the question remains: toward what end? What does bombing Syria accomplish, and what’s next? Where are we going with this, and why? We tried to make Iraq a beacon for freedom and democracy, and we saw how well that worked out. How will Syria be any different?
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