Happily, Americans live on an island, sharing it with our Canadian and Mexican friends. Just because North America is continental does not make us less insular. We are blessed to reside in “This fortress built by Nature for herself.”
As island dwellers we are naturally secure. Unlike the majority of humanity which occupies Eurasia, we have no neighbors which pose any sort of threat to us. We are therefor a peaceful people, with a powerful aversion to foreign wars. Since Washington, we have sought to avoid foreign entanglements.
Island nations must control the seas for their security, so when the Germans began unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, they forced us into a war we didn’t want. We likewise did not want to fight in World War II. It took Pearl Harbor to get us into it. We did not want to fight the Cold War. But when an island nation is threatened by a hostile potential world hegemon, it must resist, just as the British resisted Napoleon.
With our English speaking cousins, the fellow island dwellers of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, we are the backbone of freedom in this world. And we find ourselves in the curious position as the security guarantor of Israel, which lives in a violent and unstable region. For a complex set of reasons, the people of the United States have determined that they will not allow Israel to be destroyed. Period.
Because of its oil, until now we’ve always had a strategic interest in the Middle East. We live in an age of oil. As Daniel Yergin shows conclusively in his brilliant The Prize, “Energy is the basis of industrial society.” As such, ever since WW I, energy security is national security. Almost a hundred years ago, ten days after the Armistice, British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon said, “The Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.” It was oil, or the lack thereof, that brought the Nazis and Imperial Japan to their knees in WW II.
Because of our fracking revolution, we’ve recently discovered that our island is energy self sufficient. We don’t need anybody’s oil, and that means we won’t fight anyone for oil. The Middle East, and all of its oil, is a problem for Europe and Asia, but not for us. Aside from Israel, this part of the world isn’t worth the life of one Nebraska paratrooper. If Europe and Asia are cut off from Mideast oil, it could cause a worldwide economic recession, which would be a shame. But we should not send our youth to fight and die in wars which are purely for economic interests. That’s a job for mercenaries, not the American armed forces.
Bush 2 invaded Iraq ostensibly for weapons of mass destruction, but it was really a war for oil, and oil stability. Now that that debacle is behind us, new apologists for intervention arise, telling us we must resist the expansion of Russian influence in the region, even going so far as to a call for no fly zones in the area.
Why? Why is this in our vital national interests? In case you haven’t been paying attention, Russia is now a Christian, not a communist nation. It does not seek world hegemony. Why are we afraid of an assertive Russia in this region? Is it a threat to Israel? Decidedly not.
When Donald Trump says let the Russians take on ISIS, he’s speaking for the American people. They’ll be better at it than we would be, because they’re ruthless, brutal, and immune to “public opinion.”
Competitors in the Sheldon Adelson primary, such as Marco Rubio, are making a major and potentially costly mistake by beating their chests over the Middle East. Adelson is a patriotic American and a patriotic Israeli all rolled into one. But our interests are not Israel’s interests. The American people, averse to war to begin with, and secure behind our oceanic defenses, will not tolerate another Middle East war. A police action to destroy ISIS, in coordination, not opposition, to Russia, is certainly a possibility, as long as it does not include any form of nation building.
The next President needs a real reset with the Russians, and a whole new strategy in the Middle East. But if a Presidential candidate is perceived as quick for war, they may pay a very high price. The world of geopolitics is evolving in new directions, and it is a time for caution.
While men are not islands, nations are, and should act accordingly.