Rarely a day passes on the internet without another article being written that claims America is a “hegemon,” that we’re “like Rome,” or that we want to “create an empire.” Take it from a Conservative, ultra-nationalistic, America-first hawk: Americans on the whole would rather drive bamboo shoots under their fingernails than “rule the world.”
To the contrary, isolationism is so ingrained in the American culture that it might as well be genetic. You have no idea how much I, like most Americans, would enjoy totally withdrawing from the world.
But let’s face it, the United States is mired in every region of the globe. We protect Taiwan from China & South Korea from their belligerent former countrymen in North Korea. We still even protect Japan and have countless military bases in Europe, for crying out loud.
Don’t even get me started on the Middle East. The amount of aid we give to nations in the region and the amount we’ve spent on military conflicts and maintaining the peace over there is staggering. But if we were buying oil from Iraq today instead of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, would it make that much of a difference? It would be so tempting just to bring our troops home and find out.
Every time I see a disingenuous representative of the Saudi government talking about how much his government loves the US or some stupid Palestinian blowing himself up while his mother declares that he’s a hero, I just want to wash my hands of the whole damn planet — and to be able to let Africa and Latin America fend for themselves would be a dream as well. You don’t know how much I’d love to hear Bush say, “Well, I guess Zimbabwe and Argentina created their own problems so it’s their responsibility to come up with a solution.” Oh, and how sweet it would be to tell the United Nations and everyone in the EU except for Britain to take a hike. Let them figure out how to deal with the next Somalia or Bosnia without our help.
To be honest, the rest of the world is a throbbing pain in our neck. Sure, there are a few nations we like: Britain, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and a handful of other nations we could add to the list if we were desperate to get into double digits. But even those nations are no picnic. You think America is annoying? We have to deal with the Aussie & British press, Israeli spies, New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy, Russia’s sales of nuclear material to our enemies, Canada’s desperation to prove that they’re not just “America North,” South Korea getting mad at us over the Olympics, Japan getting angry over our military bases, and we know that if Taiwan ever reunites with China they’ll turn on us in five seconds flat.
So, how the hell did we end up with our fingers in every bowl of soup from Bahrain to Brazil? It’s because we’re not content to sit around on our behinds while the entire planet collapses without us. If we actually did kick back in our hammocks for a ten-year rest, the Middle East would explode, Taiwan would get swallowed by China and France and Germany would probably be at each other’s throats again. Hell, if we took twenty years off it wouldn’t surprise me to look at a map and see nothing but a giant swath of China red covering all of Europe, skulls & crossbones covering all of Africa, and nothing but a green patch with the words “Forbidden Zone” where the Middle East used to be. We’re the only thing keeping the planet from reverting back to an early 1800′s style plunder, war, and rampage philosophy.
If you want to put it in perspective, it’s like we’re the guy who ended up being the designated driver for the planet. Sure, we’d love to sit back and drink ourselves into a stupor with the rest of the globe but we’re responsible for getting as many people home safe and sound as possible. Ever so often while we’re sitting around wishing we could kill a few beers like the rest of the planet, a sloppy drunk, drooling Europe comes over to where we’re sitting. Then they take another swig of Vodka straight out of the bottle and tell us not to worry about a thing because they’ll drive everyone home in their “international law” van. But we know if we go ahead and drink up, we’ll just get a call at 4 A.M. asking us to bring our tow truck and the “jaws of life” to clean up the bloody mess on dead man’s curve. That’s the burden of being an American.
So spare me your comparisons to Rome and understand that I don’t want to hear about your secret fear that we might try to create a “Vichy Europe” some day. We wouldn’t take over the world if every nation begged us to. Our ancestors came to America in the first place to GET AWAY from everyone else in the world and it’s very easy for us in this age of global communications to understand why. You have people protesting in France for shorter mandatory work weeks, Morocco and Spain fighting over a rock outcropping inhabited by goats, and the UN letting Gadaffi get elected as Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. You think we WANT to be forced to deal with those sort of things any more than absolutely necessary? Take it from a hawkish right-winger who makes George Bush look like a bigger weenie than Jimmy Carter: we’re not an “empire” and we have no desire to become one.