Without the current and past American security umbrella, for instance, I believe much of Asia would be a far less free place than it is today, starting but not ending with Taiwan and South Korea.
I give Tyler credit for raising this issue in a forum least likely to be sympathetic to it. This is Brink Lindsey’s growth forum hosted by Cato, where Brink is inviting contributions from the liberaltarian crowd.
I have to say that when looking at places like Russia, Hungary, or the Middle East, my appreciation for the civilization vs. barbarism axis tends to increase. On my list of books to sample (not necessarily read the whole thing) is Bret Stephens’ latest, where he argues that the U.S. should act as the world’s policeman. I wonder whether he explains how the U.S. could do that without also becoming the world’s social worker.
UPDATE: Here is how Stephens starts out:
Where do you fall on the spectrum between internationalists and neoisolationists? Ask yourself the following questions:
Does the United States have a vital interest in the outcome of the civil war in Syria, or in Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, or in Saudi Arabia’s contest with Iran?
Should Americans take sides between China and Japan over which of them exercises sovereignty over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands? Similarly, should we care whether Ukraine or Russia controls Crimea?
Is America more secure or less secure for deploying military forces in hot spots such as the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea?
My views on these issues are mixed. On the Middle East, I see the Syrian civil war as barbarism vs. barbarism. Similarly, the contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran. On Israel and the Palestinians, I understand that many people explain the Palestianians’ barbaric behavior as being caused by oppression, but I see it more the other way around. They could end oppression by being less barbaric. And I believe that the U.S. ought to support civilization in that contest.
On the second issue, my memories of the Vietnam era are salient enough to make me wary of pushing conflict on the basis of domino theory. Uninhabited islands strike me as dominoes that can be allowed to fall. Note that Stephens in effect equates Crimea to uninhabited islands, which suggests that it, too, is a domino that should be allowed to fall. I do not think that caving in there means that next thing you know Putin will be at the gates of Paris.
I think we are more secure for deploying military forces in the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea. If you press me, I will tell you that I believe that the U.S. navy and air support are the true world government, and without world government we would have major war.
If you think that pacifism and non-interventionism are ways of preventing major war, you have company. But my concern is that those policies only work if there is someone else doing the work of the world’s policeman. Being Swiss seems fine now, but if the U.S. had not intervened in World War II, it might not have been so peachy. And ultimately not so peachy for the U.S., either.
UPDATE: I wrote the foregoing before yesterday’s massacre in Jerusalem. If I have my geography right, the attack took place far inside the 1967 borders. It is an area where young observant American Jews go to study. The sight of Palestinians celebrating cold-blooded murder is something that I cannot put out of my mind. Even the Germans did not celebrate when they murdered Jews.