When the United States finally blunders completely out of the Middle East, which of our global interests should we abandon next?
President Barack Obama opened the door and showed Russian President Vladimir Putin the way in to the Middle East. There'll be no getting him out now or in the foreseeable future.
Some, conforming to ideological dictates that America should go turtle, welcome this misfortune. Meanwhile, whether America should go hide is shaping up to be perhaps the most important issue in the next election.
The isolationist thinking is: Why worry about Putin claiming Syria's air rights and telling the United States to bug out? If Putin wants to put his chops on the line for this doomed adventure, fine. Let the contending Middle Eastern psychopaths polish off each other, and we, behind our walls, will be the better for it.
But why stop there? We should high tail it out of the rest of the world, as fast as possible.
Like South Korea. If North Korean maniac Kim Jong Un overwhelms South Korea, then so be it. Maybe South Korea, with all the cash it's raking in from selling its cars to Americans, should be able to take care of itself.
Also, why are we still committed to protecting Japan from foreign invasion? It has been almost 70 years since we made that pledge to avoid a re-emergence of the kind of Japanese war machine that brought us into World War II.
No point in standing up to China for building those island fortresses in international waters. Why should the United States be the one to guarantee freedom of the seas?
NATO? We should vamoose now. Why pour billions into protecting Europe when all of NATO's members aren't carrying their load? The idea of spending American lives to protect tiny Estonia is, well, offensive.
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and all the rest; they should have never located themselves near Russia if they didn't want to be overrun. Why worry about a nuclear-armed Iran; we're so far away that only Israel has to worry. Crimea and eastern Ukraine, because of their close proximity to Russia, belong to Putin.
Let's go all the way: Close our borders to all immigrants, legal or otherwise.
Too fanciful? Probably. Such a retreat from global affairs isn't politically possible. Or is it? For the sake of conversation, one can ask why this sorry state isn't a logical extension of America's growing isolationist sentiment. The reductio ad absurdum.
The isolationist argument asserts that if we leave things alone, they will work themselves out, always, we're to believe, for the better. A laissez-faire foreign policy, as it were.
But it's not always the case. Should President Bill Clinton have kept the U.S. out of the war in Bosnia? Without U.S. intervention, the worst European genocide since the Holocaust would have taken more than the 100,000 lives than it did.
Or should the U.S. have stayed home when Saddam Hussein overran Kuwait? Should we have left him in power to spark a nuclear arms race between Iraq and Iran?
These are arguments for another time.
What's troubling about this present debate is the appalling near abandonment of a moral component. Here the world watches as 250,000 men, women and children are murdered and hundreds of thousands flee the Syrian chaos into the Western democracies. (By the way, how many are being welcomed into Putin's Russia?) Sovereign nations, such as Ukraine, are invaded, evoking only a White House peep.
This is a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions, and it's a betrayal of our own heritage to suggest that we should let the two sides fight it out and who should care about the carnage. Engagement against bestial dictators doesn't necessarily mean we must put American boots "on the ground." Nor does engagement mean that we fashion a foreign policy on feel-good sentiments.
Neither should a foreign policy of practical self-interest mean abandonment, of our friends and our principles. Ideology of neither side should run our foreign policy; we must seek a balance between self-interest and our principles. But the obvious dangers of an ideology of non-involvement running our foreign policy has now become all too apparent when it demands that we should sit in silence in the face of brutality, hatred and massive suffering.