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Gondor calls for foreign aid

| Thursday, December 4, 2014

One of the highlights of my break, apart from a Black Friday mall-crawl and an initiation into the world of “go,” was the afternoon I spent with my brother watching the director’s cut of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” It’s a wonderful film, and while much of J. R. R. Tolkien’s great prose has made the transition to silver screen, I reserve a special fondness for a scene original to the Peter Jackson film. (Spoilers ahoy!)

After careful consideration, the Ents of Fangorn Forest have decided to remain neutral in the war between the evil Saruman and the men of Rohan. The hobbit Pippin opines that perhaps he and his friend Merry should do likewise, as “It’s too big for us. What can we do in the end? We’ve got the Shire. Maybe we should go home.” Merry angrily prophesies if they do so and Saruman is not stopped, “all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won’t be a Shire, Pippin.” Jolted from his complacency, Pippin cunningly convinces the Ents to march on Isengard and vanquish Saruman.

Much like Pippin, many these days don’t want America to get involved in the affairs of other nations. Rather than proudly wear slogans like “America’s Navy—A Global Force for Good,” these isolationists cynically turn a blind eye to suffering abroad. After all, they insist, we don’t have a dog in this fight or that one. What has such intervention brought us in the past but dead men, lost money and retributory terrorism? Far better that we should hunker down and let the Third World blow itself to bits.

In the past, such logic made sense. Our crises had to be triaged, and the looming threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviets left little room for other considerations. Further, a little dustup on the far side of the globe was unlikely to affect our daily lives. But that time has passed — the Berlin Wall has been down for a quarter century, and our advanced networks of communication and transport mean that the effects of suffering and violence in one part of the world affect every other part.

Other critics of American interventionism point to failed interventions of the past (usually while glossing over success stories like South Korea or postwar Europe). I’m certainly not going to claim that our aid to Saddam Hussein or our coup to install the Shah were the finest hour of American foreign policy. However, the irresponsible actions of our former allies give us all the more reason to intervene now. Committing resources to mopping them up will show to the world our willingness to correct our mistakes. Indeed, the money spent and blood spilt to restore justice and prosperity will be fitting payment for any advantage America has gained through corrupt bargains.

And while we’re on the subject of money, I’ve always found the financial arguments against interventionism to rest on shaky logic. Surely we can all dig a little deeper at tax time if it means preventing another Rwandan genocide. In fact, cash spent on intervention can be seen as an investment. If a targeted killing of a cell leader or local warlord prevents a full-scale war a year down the line, the “meddling” that penny-pinching isolationists decry will have saved money in the long run.

Finally, it’s naturally inevitable that our interventions worldwide will meet with less than universal acclaim. Dictators and war criminals the world over will characterize our efforts as “nosy”— as though the architects of genocide don’t deserve to have noses stuck into their business. When defeated, these tyrants may even lash out with terrorism, as seen with the Nazi Werwolf program after the fall of Berlin. In these times, we must take heart and remember the words of Les Miserables author Victor Hugo, who wrote “You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud that thunders around everything that shines.”

As the most prosperous and well-equipped nation on the face of this planet, it is our responsibility to prevent the abuse of its most marginalized citizens. This must include resistance — economic, political, and finally military — to evildoers all over the world. After all: “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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