POTUS Is Not The World’s Police Chief

On Friday, President Obama said the U.S. may sometimes have to police the world.  Mr. President, I respectfully beg to differ.

Police officer (U.S.) taking fingerprints

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where did this notion come from, that the USA, being the last superpower standing, should be the police force of the world? That we should zoom from continent to continent, fighting crime and bringing bad guys to justice? By what authority?

What is this obsession with “punishing” regimes in far-away places? How do you right a wrong by going to somebody’s country and destroying their “command and control” systems, in the process killing and maiming untold numbers of people, mostly innocent bystanders?

In fact, aren’t ALL the people killed in such a military police action innocent, by our own legal standards? “Innocent until proven guilty” is the standard of justice in the U.S.

The most illogical part of the police-the-world notion is that it makes the U.S. not only police officer, but also prosecutor, judge and jury. No defense attorney necessary!

Who gave the president authority to summarily convict rogue dictators and then impose the death penalty? If Congress votes to authorize military intervention, does that constitute due process? It seems painfully obvious that no Higher Power has appointed the U.S. to police the world. If a world police officer is needed, wouldn’t that be some international agency, for instance the United Nations?

I am sick of hearing about “red lines.” Is this all about saving face? No matter how outrageous and reckless it would be to attack Syria, risking unknowable consequences and repercussions, up to and  including World War III, the U.S. must attack simply to avoid looking weak in public?

The pundits are undoubtedly right. President Obama, having bungled to the brink of setting fire to a powder keg, will appear weak and uncertain if he changes his mind now.

Nevertheless, Mr. President, the only right thing to do is to change your mind! Congress and the American people have already given you a virtual vote of no confidence with regard to starting another war, even before a vote is taken.

I have always supported you up until now, Mr. President. Please just admit you were wrong on this one. Peace now.

— John Hayden

8 thoughts on “POTUS Is Not The World’s Police Chief

  1. I’d argue that the last time there was no world policeman – in the 1930s and prior – you had endemic chaos in Europe. A policeman keeps small conflicts from becoming bigger. What if there’d been some kind of power to stop Hitler in the Rhineland in the 1936, or Japan in Manchuria in 1931? America doesn’t deserve to be in the role; it just is. Therefore, it has a responsibility to bring as much order as possible to what is otherwise an anarchic international system.


    • You make an interesting point. History is full of wars. Since World War II, there have been many wars that were not prevented by a referee or policeman. How can there be one unilateral, all-powerful policeman in an anarchic system?

      How would you feel if Russia or China unilaterally appointed itself to police the world. That’s what makes intervention in Syria so dangerous. Syria certainly does not recognize the police authority of the U.S. Neither does Iran, or Russia. The Syrian regime can be expected to resist U.S. intervention, and other countries could take their side, leading to larger war.

      A legitimate international organization, such as the United Nations, would seem to be the only sane way to intervene in another country’s civil war.


      • I agree with your point that only an organization like the United Nations can truly solve the problems of the international system. But the UN as built was designed to defuse tensions between great powers rather than solve smaller problems inside of countries. The option is to radically reform (or even dismantle and supplant) the UN, but would Russia go along with giving up its veto? Would the U.S.? The problem, I think, is that we’re still organized into nation-states. Until such time as nation-states can viably be dismantled or supplanted, we’re going to still see these problems.

        At the end, it comes down to power. America is more powerful than all other nation-states and therefore can act in ways that other states can’t. Russia won’t go to war over Syria with the United States; neither will Iran. Russia knows that such a thing will result in MAD, and Iran knows it will lose. Again, I don’t think it makes it right, I just think that because America is positioned currently to do the most, it has a greater responsibility to sort world problems (but doesn’t have the responsibility to sort every problem because that’s beyond even its formidable power).


      • Sorry – forget your first point! There have been no major wars since World War II directly between superpowers or great powers, just proxy wars that could always be walked away from. The possibility of a great war recedes so long as one power is stronger than all the others. As soon as one nation-state thinks they can upend the system, they often do. That, I believe, is the nature of a nation-state.


  2. Re: wars in the 20th century. There have been quite a few major wars since WWII. Korea, Vietnam and Iran-Iraq were major wars, though not on the scale of WWII. Several brief wars have been fought between Israel and its neighbors. Countless regional and civil wars that most of us hardly were aware of. War is war; men, women and children are maimed and killed in all of them, large and small, long or brief.

    Re: American power and responsibility. We’ve proven in Vietnam and Iraq that American military power is not as great as we thought. Even if we are the most powerful remaining nation-state, we are not powerful enough to be successful in places like Vietnam and Iraq.

    Russia probably wouldn’t want to be involved in a war. But the truth is, once war is unleashed, EVERYTHING becomes unpredictable. No one can reliably predict Iran’s response. In the age of terrorism, mutual assured destruction is an obsolete notion. Violence tends to spread in any and all directions.


  3. If the world’s most powerful nation-state has an international responsibility, and I hope it does, it would be to respect the U.N. and the sovereignty of other nations. In short, do no harm.


  4. Pingback: An Angry Letter to Mr. Obama from a fed-up American | My Life In Color

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