What’s going on Will “over there” still hit home?
Americans have reason to worry. Galloping inflation. A pandemic that refuses to go away. Closed schools that keep children at home while you have to work.
With so much to focus on at home, who has the time or energy to pay attention to what’s happening on the other side of the world?
But there is great danger in becoming indifferent to worldly affairs. Too often they end up crashing into our lives, turning our homes and our nation upside down.
We have been in this situation before. In the late 1930s, Americans were battling the Great Depression. Hitler’s 1938 occupation of the border regions of Czechoslovakia was barely registered in American kitchen table conversations that year. When he took over Bohemia and Moravia the following year, there were still only crickets on this side of the pond. After all, “it’s their problem; we have enough to worry about.
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The response to events further east was much the same. Japan had seized Manchuria in 1931 and Mongolia in 1936, establishing puppet regimes in both countries. America shrugged. In 1937, Japan invaded China. Few Americans had any idea where Manchuria or Nanking was, and little interest in finding out.
It wasn’t until Japan hit Pearl Harbor that Americans realized that “over there” had suddenly come here.
After our boys went off to war, virtually every American family had a map. By following reports from the battlefield, they could identify places as far apart as Palau and Ploesti. What happened in those remote places would determine when our troops could return from a war we didn’t ask for but had to fight – and win – to preserve our freedom.
If the home front had paid so much attention to what was happening in the world in the 1930s, the United States, together with its friends and allies, could have prevented Armageddon. Instead, America slept and the world descended into chaos.
We cannot afford to make that mistake again. Hostile powers have been on the move for years, meeting little or no effective resistance from Western democracies.
Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia fractured that country, creating two new puppet states for Putin. In 2014, Moscow invaded and annexed Crimea. Putin has now deployed 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border, raising the threat of another major invasion of that country. Even more recently, Russian troops entered Kazakhstan to help put down a revolt against that country’s corrupt government.
China, for its part, has been aggressively building and weaponizing man-made islands in the South China Sea for years, as part of its long-running campaign to expand its territorial claims. It has effectively taken over the governance of Hong Kong and is now threatening to take over Taiwan by military force.
Such hostile actions are not just “someone else’s problem”. They pose a threat to global stability. Left unchecked, they can once again spin the world out of control.
The United States should not try to be the policeman of the world. But America needs a responsible and practical foreign policy that looks out for its interests.
To get this kind of policy, ordinary Americans are going to have to start thinking about it for themselves. And the first step is to start educating ourselves about world affairs, not to ignore it or take as gospel whatever our favorite pundit or politician may say.
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It means doing homework. Nobody likes to do it, but when they do it can make a huge difference. Look what happened last year in Virginia. When people learned about critical race theory and realized it directly affected their children, they ignored those who said parents should have no role in curriculum decisions and demanded that schools drop the CRT propaganda.
This same type of informed activism is needed in American foreign policy. If we can’t make the effort to seriously think about how America should act in the world, then the political leaders won’t care either. They certainly won’t bother to ask us what we think.
We can’t wait for our politicians – or the next Pearl Harbor – to take foreign policy seriously. It’s time to take a careful look at what’s happening in the world and seriously consider the most prudent and effective way to prevent today’s threats from spiraling out of control and ultimately landing on our doorstep.