Amer­ica as sher­iff, not a po­lice­man In Syria, Trump is steer­ing be­tween iso­la­tion­ism and in­ter­ven­tion­ism

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Iso­la­tion­ists on the right say: “So what? Be­yond our bor­ders, it’s not our busi­ness.” They will ap­pear to be cor­rect un­til it be­comes ob­vi­ous they were dis­as­trously wrong, as they were in the 1930s when they con­tended that the United States should do noth­ing to stop the Nazis and Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ists. (The most hard­core iso­la­tion­ists on the right still be­lieve that.)

Iso­la­tion­ists on the left agree but for a dif­fer­ent rea­son: They see Amer­ica as op­pres­sive, and they are oddly un­con­cerned about what Chi­nese com­mu­nists do to Uighurs and Ti­betans, what But he will ap­point deputies, and raise a posse to stop the worst out­laws from rid­ing roughshod through­out the ter­ri­tory.

This con­cept is not new. Back in 1997, a time when most peo­ple still be­lieved Rus­sia was de­moc­ra­tiz­ing and China mod­er­at­ing, a time when ji­had was a word sel­dom heard, Richard Haass, a diplo­mat and scholar, now pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, wrote a book ti­tled “The Re­luc­tant Sher­iff: The United States Af­ter the Cold War.” In it, he noted that the po­lice­man has “a greater de­gree of author­ity, a greater ca­pac­ity to act alone and a greater need to act con­sis­tently than is be­ing ad­vo­cated here. By con­trast, a sher­iff must un­der­stand his lack of clear author­ity in many in­stances, his need to work with oth­ers, and, above all, the need to be dis­crim­i­nat­ing in when and how he en­gages.”

Mr. Haass likened posses to coali­tions that “will vary from

Un­like the cop on the beat, the law­man in the Wild West isn’t ex­pected to make ar­rests for ev­ery trans­gres­sion. He doesn’t worry about the painted ladies and the gam­blers in the sa­loon.

sit­u­a­tion to sit­u­a­tion, as will the pur­pose and even author­ity; what will be con­stant is the re­quire­ment for Amer­i­can lead­er­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion from states and ac­tors will­ing and able to con­trib­ute in some form.”

In an email ex­change with me last week, Mr. Haass wrote: “The bot­tom line is that the U.S. as sher­iff is es­sen­tial be­cause the world doesn’t or­der it­self and there is no other can­di­date with the ca­pac­ity, habits, etc.” He added: “What Trump seems to miss is that the ben­e­fits of our ful­fill­ing that role far out­weigh the costs, and the costs are high if we do not as­sume that role.”

Yes, but with prod­ding from Sen. Gra­ham and other wise men, the pres­i­dent’s views ap­pear to be evolv­ing. No less con­se­quen­tial, Euro­peans may be rec­og­niz­ing that they some­times have to load their six-shoot­ers, sad­dle up and join the posse. The al­ter­na­tive is to be left alone watch­ing the sher­iff ride off into the sun­set.

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