Syria: Should the U.S. be the world’s policeman?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Syria
Teddy Roosevelt and his big stick

TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND THE “BIG STICK”: A century ago, the most famous global policeman was President Theodore Roosevelt with his “big stick” metaphor for using American force. This 1909 political cartoon shows Roosevelt leaving Taft as his successor. As Teddy exits the White House, he has an aide toting his big stick.

The Obama administration is convinced that Syria used chemical weapons on its own people, and administration officials are working hard to get Congress to authorize a punitive attack. Several days ago, the House of Commons rebuffed Prime Minister Cameron’s request for military action against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

The Syria case raises a host of values questions that transcend the specific case itself. Today, let’s start with this one: Should the United States be the world’s policeman?

As the world’s sole superpower, the U.S. could—to some degree—act as the world’s policeman with relative impunity.

Do you think it should?

Only 11% of Americans said yes in a Rasmussen Reports poll earlier this year. Almost three of four (72%) said no—the U.S. should not be the world’s policeman. Seventeen percent were not sure.

Opposition to the world-policeman role is an area of wide agreement among the American people. There are few differences by gender, age, race, or religion. More Republicans (16%) think the U.S. should be the world’s policeman, compared to only 10% of Democrats—but large majorities of both political persuasions agree that it should not.

The Rasmussen Reports poll was taken before the allegations that the Syrian regime used Sarin gas to kill 1,400 of its own citizens, including women and children.

Do you think the U.S. should be the world’s policeman?

Does the Syria case change your mind about this issue?

If so, which way and why?

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Comments: (4)
Categories: Critical Patriotism


  1. Dave Thompson says:

    Yes. Unfortunately we do have to act as a premier military power when clearly the world and UN are totally helpless or useless to assist a captive peoples. This has become a regular thing since the UN doesn’t act or compel member nations to. We would love to stay out of these but there is no viable alternative whether it was Korea, Kuwait, or other heinous dictators or regimes destroying people. The entire world should be ashamed of itself and we should tell them that to allow this to go on so long.

  2. No, I think that the u.s. is not responsible for what other nations do, and has no right to intervene in the affairs of other nations, unless we need to protect our own interests. Ironically, in the case of Syria, it would be against our interests to attack the Assad regime, since if we weaken him and cause his ouster from office, we help the islamic extremists to take over the government and impose extreme measures against the people as well as become effectively an enemy of the West. This has been a trend in the Middle East that we would do well to heed, as it’s possible that the whole region could eventually become a strong, united front against the West. I realize that it’s far from that at this point.
    We are a sovereign nation, and would not appreciate it if some other nation decided that they should punish our administration for their actions against the people (even though they richly deserve it) and started bombing Washington DC. I don’t even approve of an international body that would have the power to “sanction” any individual nation. We need to promote national sovereignty and freedom for other nations. Besides, why do we “pick and choose”–we don’t go after North Korea or some of those horrible african administrations, though we know that they are equally murderous to their people every day for years and years.
    The other issue for me is that these days, you cannot be sure what is really happening; you can’t trust the govt. or the news media to be telling you the truth. It’s equally possible that the Islamic militants are the ones attacking the public with chemical weapons (that they got from whoever is trying to topple Assad) but making it look like Assad is doing it, so as to induce international outrage against Assad.
    I am suspicious that certain nefarious groups want to start another world war for their own ends. Let’s not play into their hands.

  3. No, not at all. If we want to police the world, then we would have to police the whole world and I’m not seeing anybody stepping up saying that we should go into Congo.

  4. Sandra Xenakis says:

    NO, NO, a thousand times no!! Violence only breeds more violence. That has been proven over and over–haven’t we learned ANYTHING from our past mistakes? We must participate in a wide array of diplomatic efforts to address these kinds of situations. Diplomacy takes a lot more patience, courage, understanding, and skill than simply launching a military attack. Do we have the guts for peace? Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; why is he now pushing war? He needs to remember why we put him in office in the first place!