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Editorial: Why should U.S. be a trillion-dollar world cop?

Remember when the Obama White House seemed on the brink of a military strike against Syria because that country’s dictator had used poison gas on his own people? Washington “hawks” clamored for an attack.

But polls show that most Americans wish the United States would stop trying to police the whole world in futile efforts to make foreign nations behave humanely.

Last year, a Pew survey found that a record 53 percent of Americans think the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can.” This leave-them-alone ratio had risen sharply from 20 percent of Americans in 1964 and 41 percent in 1995.

Now a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey finds almost exactly the same sentiment. Only 19 percent of polled Americans hold the “hawk” viewpoint that this nation should take stronger actions overseas.

It’s easy to understand why Americans are fed up with needless wars. The Bush-Cheney White House invaded Iraq on claims that Iraq possessed horror weapons and would give them to terrorists for use against Americans. Those claims turned out to be imaginary — and the Iraq war became a ghastly waste of American lives and money. Similarly, the Bush-Cheney war in Afghanistan dragged into the longest in U.S. history, with little benefit.

Currently, right-wingers in Washington are demanding that President Obama “get tough” against Russia because parts of Ukraine want to break away and rejoin Russia. Baloney. Why should America try to dictate what happens in Ukraine? If Ukrainians vote to become part of Russia, why should Americans care? This issue should be decided by Ukrainians, not Americans.

For decades, we have contended that it’s absurd for American taxpayers to cough up $1 trillion a year for a gigantic military that outstrips almost the entire rest of the world combined. Other modern democracies don’t bankrupt themselves in this manner.

Who appointed America the sheriff of the planet? If other countries are smart enough to avoid ruinous war spending, why can’t America do likewise?

International warfare has vanished in the 21st century. Only local insurrections and terror cells remain. Huge armies, navies and air forces are of little use against hidden guerrillas. Commando squads and killer drones are the best cure for them.

Sometimes the U.S. public is smarter than its leaders. Most Americans want to break the long pattern of Washington military intervention in foreign trouble zones — intervention that usually brings nightmare results. Ignore the hawks. Let foreigners solve their own messes. America can’t police the whole globe.

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