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    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Imperialism versus Isolationism

    Tony Blair recently called on the world to start a global alliance to defend the universal values of justice, fairness, and freedom from fear. He is correct.

    People in the United States argue for isolationism. It is the trendy view. The progressive view. But I do not think it is the right view. I will couch my opinion in a couple differing reasons.

    First, the status of the United States gives it the ability to do things no other country can do. The United States is often called the lone superpower. I disagree, I think China is a semi-superpower, but symantics are beside the point. America has the cultural power to export everything from MTV to videogames to English to jeans, and the military might to clear the earth of every living thing. Not many people truly realize that--nothing, not even China's huge standing army, has the firepower to fight the USA right now. Our technology, even without a draft, would leave everything in ruins.

    So, we are the older brother. Like the older brother, we obtained our position through chance (to be born first or to wade through WW2 realitively unscathed) and through hard work (obeying parents and studying at school or obtaining freedom and developing industry). Like the older brother, when asked by a younger sibling to help pick up toys or make dinner, we can do one of two things: help or walk away. If we walk away, what have we done, but left someone without the ability to accomplish the task working futily at it, possibly to be burned as they try to make the mac&cheese? Or do we use our power and position to help them learn to make mac&cheese by themselves, even if it means putting down whatever we were doing first, getting our hands dirty, and leading our younger sibling through the motions, maybe many times, until he or she finally can do it on his or her own.

    No one of you would argue for the sibling to be left on his or her own, and the same logic applies. We know democracy. We know human rights. We know economic liberalization. We are the only country others can turn to for help in teaching how to mix these volatile ingredients together into a good-tasting and healthy meal.

    Second, we have the moral responsibility to do so. The older boy down the street has no responsibility to help anyone with his or her mac&cheese if he vocally says often how he hates mac&cheese, how he hates little kids, and how he hates others with little kids. You don't expect him to help. You won't ask him to help. If he does help you our surprised and if not, you don't care. But the older brother that says often, how he was born making mac&cheese, and how his family raised him to always help others, gives a different impression. If that boy, who is known through the neighborhood for championing the ability of kids to make their own mac&cheese, for teaching others how to do it, and for preaching the importance of eating mac&cheese--if that brother does not help, you stand shocked, shake your head, and whisper about how wrong it is. He is a hypocrite. He said he would help and had helped before but this time did nothing when much was expected.

    The USA preaches freedom, democracy, and human rights. To not advance those causes to the world in every opportunity is to play the hypocrite.

    Finally, we have the self-interested reason. The phrase "he who strikes first, laughs last" applies. As we get older, we get more responsibilities. Time becomes precious. Mac&cheese, once the favorite meal, becomes harder and harder to make--we need time. Making it for ourselves, ok, but to have to feed the whole family? Gee wiz. Taking the time over one week to teach the siblings how to make mac&cheese allows them to make the dish for the whole family in the future thereby freeing up the older brother to do something else. Once the siblings know how to make mac&cheese they can be taught how to set the table, and then how to clean the dishes, and finally how to do something altogether different--like laundry. But the point is, the older brother doesn't have to do it for them anymore. He has time to focus on his own laundry, or he gets them to do it as practice while he has an extra 30 minutes to study for his med school exams, etc.

    People forget that the USA taught these issues to Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Like teaching how to make mac&cheese, it's taken a long time. We still have a significant military presence in each of these three countries. But does anyone worry about democracy, human rights, or economic liberalization working in these countries? No. Rarely, if at all. Because of it, we have better electronic goods, and mobile phones. We have Hondas and Sandisk, and Siemens. We have anchors of stability in North Asia and Europe. And we have more time to focus on the new chores, the "table settings" and "dishwashers," as well as teaching the new siblings (Iraq & Afghanistan) what their older siblings learned 50 years before. And we have incredibly low unemployment, rising graduation rates, a steadily increasing GDP, and an incredible lifestyle because of it.

    So don't knock Iraq. Don't knock Afghanistan. Don't knock Imperialism. We aren't lashing people with whips and chaining them together to build a sphinx. We are teaching correct principles and eventually, eventually, they will be able to govern themselves.
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    Pradeep Aggarwal said...

    Nice blog

    And good information too. I’ll keep visiting often.


    Triet said...

    Thanks, Pradeep. I take my blog seriously ("too seriously," says my wife) and am glad you find it worth your time to read. Comments and suggestions are always invited!