Action Alert:

Tom Friedman, Consider the Obvious

Re Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column, “The Man With Pink Hair” (Sept. 18):

Friedman offers interesting ruminations about why Americans said No to an attack on Syria.  But he gives short shrift to the most obvious explanation:  after three disastrous Middle East wars, Americans no longer want the US to play the world’s policeman.    They no longer think it works, and they no longer think we can or should afford it.

“I guess worrying about Syria is the tax you pay for being an American or an American president — and coming from the world’s strongest power that still believes, blessedly in my view, that it has to protect the global commons,” Friedman writes.  But what the Syria debate really shows is that Americans are increasingly questioning our self-appointed role as the world’s “peacekeeper”. 

No country wants to be invaded by a foreign power, and nobody elected the U.S. to settle the world’s problems.  Interventionists like Friedman usually say that the alternative to U.S. hegemony is American isolationism and world anarchy.  But in fact, international cooperation, reflected in a reformed and strengthened United Nations linked to regional security systems and a network of international institutions, would offer a far more democratic, inclusive, and effective alternative.

In the case of the Syria chemical weapons attack, the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. has not acceded to; an arms embargo to all sides of the Syrian conflict; and assertive diplomacy ending at a pact among Syrians to settle their civil war; offer a more effective and humanitarian solution than an armed attack by the United States which would in itself be a violation of international law while purporting to punish another violator.

I know that Friedman does not agree with this approach.  But a large number of Americans evidently do.  Friedman should make the case for U.S. as global policeman in his next column so that there can be a fair discussion of his unilateralist, interventionist position.