In the 2004 film, Team America: World Police, the United States’ anti-terrorist force “Team America” goes around the world kicking terrorist ass. While Team America is portrayed (correctly) as a force for good, taking out bad guys, they also wreak a lot of havoc and create unintended consequences. The film was directed and written by Trey Stone and Matt Parker, the creators of the hit animated comedy, South Park. Just like in their TV series, Stone and Parker speak in undeniable truths about the realities of America today, both culturally and politically. In the film, they used the idea of America as the World’s Police to demonstrate the power we have that can be used for good, but also how the world sees us when things don’t go as well as we intended.
America is a force for good in the world, yet we can’t force this good upon the rest of the world. And let’s face it: much of the world is a very bad place. There are leaders with less checks on their power then we have here. There are lots of bad weapons and ideas in the hands, hearts, and heads of some corrupt evildoers.
Syria is one of those places right now. Reportedly over 100,000 people have died over the past two years in what has been classified as a civil war, with some outside forces trying to have influence. The government led by Bashar al-Assad is certainly corrupt and there is very strong evidence he has used chemical weapons in this war. But it is unclear if the rebels fighting him are any better. Some might be. But when the vacuum of power that will be there once he is gone is filled – it may be filled with groups who are not likely to be friends and allies with America (even if we help them overthrow Assad). It is heartbreaking to see so many Syrians die, including women and children. But why should America be the one to lead this intervention?
If the atrocities are this bad, you would think the rest of the Western world would unite and go in and help remove Assad and put an end to this bloody war. But they have not. This time, our closest allies, the Brits, have decided this is a conflict they do not want to intervene in. Instead, once again, the burden is placed on Team America to be the World Police.
But let’s go back 10 years. I am not sure I would be writing this same piece. After all, it was 10 years ago that we entered Iraq (under I believe somewhat different, but similar circumstances). I supported our invasion of Iraq for multiple reasons. There were, of course, the humanitarian reasons. Who wouldn’t want to see an evil dictator like Saddam Hussein removed? It was a great day to see his statues torn down, an even greater day to see him found hiding in a hole in the ground, and perhaps an even greater day to see him move on from this world. While there is still much struggle in Iraq, overall it has been a success to see more peace and freedom in that nation then there was before 2003.
In 2003, we were also still living in the wake of 9/11. And, even though Iraq had nothing to do with that tragic day of terrorism on our homeland, our mindset of allowing enemies of America to persist had been altered. We believed Saddam had WMDs (there was also clear evidence he had once used them on rebels in his own country) and we were told that we had very strong evidence he still had WMDs and was in the process of selling them to terrorists who could use them against us in the future.
In addition, we were technically in a prolonged “cease fire” with Saddam since Operation Desert Storm ended in 1991. As part of this cease fire agreement, Saddam was supposed to submit to many demands, including weapons inspections. He violated these sanctions over and over.
These were some of the many arguments the George W. Bush Administration made in selling the nation that Team America needed to act in Iraq. I believe they were sincere in their reasons for going. They were putting together a case and perhaps got a few details wrong – but those were not details the world disagreed on at the time. I do believe the Bush Administration had good intentions. I also believe the Obama Administration has good intentions on why we need to act in Syria now. They too are putting together a case to sell to the American people.
But it might not matter. Because of our prolonged conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the cost in both the thousands of American lives lost and tens of thousands injured, America is war fatigued. But don’t get me wrong, if we need to fight, we will fight. We are Americans. However, we are just not sure this fight is our fight. Mostly, because, we are unclear of what the end game will be. Will our blood and treasure be a waste? Will we create more enemies in the process? We are tired of being the world’s policeman. As good a job as many police do, not many people like to be policed. We are happy to step up and defend our soil and defend freedom. We are just not sure we need to solve every problem in the world.
Before we consider stepping into Syria, a few questions must be answered effectively:
First, why Syria? There are plenty of other conflicts in the world. There are thousands of people dying in the Congo, for example. And that war is one that is now spilling over into Rwanda.
Second, we should not go if we are acting alone or in a small coalition. We need a larger coalition. The rest of the world both burdens America with leading the fight, but also blames America when things go wrong. And trust me, it’s a battlefield. Things will never go exactly as planned. Fingers will be pointed at America for any imperfections. Syrians are dying now and Syrians will die if America intervenes. Why should we put that blood on our hands if the world forces us to go alone without other major powers like the Chinese or the British?
Finally, is this worth it? As a Washington Times editorial asked this weekend, “Are U.S. taxpayers financially responsible to defend Syrians?” We are not obligated. Syria has not attacked us. They are not a national security threat to us at this moment. They are half way around the world and are in an area that has been torn by war and conflict since the world began. If the conflict spills outside its borders and they attack another one of our allies, then more obligation would certainly shift to us.
America’s number one national security threat is ourselves. We are a nation saddled with nearly $17 trillion in debt (and this doesn’t count future obligations by our entitlement programs). There’s a reason the Chinese don’t involve themselves in as many international conflicts as we do. They’re letting us go broke and borrow from them to finance our world police state. Speaking of police state, let’s not let our own government and media distract us from the problems here at home. As the lead singer of the Tallahassee band, Tobacco Road, said at a concert I saw them at the other night: “There’s a lot of crazy news going on in the world. Sometimes, I think America just needs to stick to America.”
Ten years ago, I never imagined I’d be quoting musicians and their social commentary. Experience changes us. And for America to survive, America needs to get our own act together so we can continue to be the strongest force for good in the world.