Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian toddler the picture of whose lifeless body saddened and shocked the world last week, may have done more than every journalist covering the massive wave of terrified people fleeing Syrian carnage and Libyan murder to focus the world on the chaos engulfing it.
Certainly the tragedy of one child caused the students at Colorado Christian University, where I have been teaching the last two weeks, to question their own commitments to the “widow, the orphan and the stranger.” I expect Pope Francis will deliver more sharp reminders in a few days.
Americans would do well to keep their eyes, ears and minds open. Some are exhausted from the burdens and expense of policing the world. But a world without gendarmes is not a world of spontaneous order, but of growing disorder. Chaos follows the withdrawal of order and civilization, to be replaced by jackboots and steel. We have seen enough to know what is ahead if we continue our retreat from responsibility.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a little noticed portion of her interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Friday, said this about the flood of refugees:
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[T]he problem is one that the entire world now sees doesn’t just affect the Syrian people. It affects all of us. That’s what I’ve been saying for years. That’s why I advocated for a more robust response when [Bashar] Assad began his onslaught on the Syrian people, and I think that we have got to come to grips with the fact that this is not going away, and the millions of people who are fleeing need safe places to be, but the conflict has to be brought under control.
To whom did she advocate this? When? And what is it she is proposing now?
These are the obvious questions her response to Mitchell demand. And not just from presidential candidates and Manhattan-Beltway and foundation elites but from every pew in every church in America. A vast humanitarian crisis is occurring in real time because of the rise of a savage medievalism once defeated in Iraq by December 2011 but allowed to flourish again for American domestic political reasons.
Some Americans want to stand by and wish away the chaos in the world. It isn’t possible. It never was.
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Since the precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in December 2011, the region has been on a downward spiral, even as Europe or Japan would have spiraled had the U.S. up and withdrawn from the regions in 1945. The cost of peace and freedom is a robust U.S. military, economic and diplomatic presence around the word, and the precursor of that is a stable commitment to allies and an unflinching fearlessness in the face of threats and bullies. The U.S. military has provided the muscle all these years, and thousands of unnamed intelligence and diplomatic professionals are the glue that holds America’s network of alliances and allegiances together.
The next president faces the devastation that eight years of academic experimentation has wrought. And the human suffering on display in Europe is just a glimpse of a far greater carnage behind it in the Islamic State, Libya and Syria. Iraq and Afghanistan were hard wars. Both were won. The peace of one has been tossed aside, the other on the brink of being so. The campaign of 2016 will be about this reality if it is about anything serious at all.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.