On being “world policeman”

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Whether it’s something I’m reading in online commentary or via social media, or am hearing with my ears in actual meat-space conversations, I’m detecting an often-recurring refrain in the ongoing discussions of the developments in Syria: we’re war-weary, and we’ve grown tired of assuming the role of the world’s policeman time and again.

I get it, and it’s not a sentiment with which I take issue.

But at the same time, there’s an elephant in the room, a very clear explanation for why America continues to find itself in this premiere authoritative position.

Perhaps it’s my own rooted-into-my-core global environmental sensibilities that render it just so glaringly obvious to me, but I haven’t come across anyone else anywhere connecting these very specific and rather large dots.

And it seems someone should, so — very much in spite of this being an exercise akin to my pissing into the ocean and wondering naively how much sea level change I’ll be able to measure — I’m volunteering.

So, then … to all who are looking at what’s unfolding in Syria and who are contemplating possible outcomes, while asking aloud why, once again, it falls to the U.S. to step up and take the lead, please consider:

We are about one-twentieth of the world’s population. We consume, however, something between one-forth and one-fifth of the world’s resources.

This leads to a question: what could possibly keep propped up the U.S.’s disproportionate resource appetite, with the complicity of the rest of the world?

Is it because the rest of the world, acting out of friendship or generosity or benevolence or voluntary self-sacrifice, looks to the U.S. and says: “here, take your share, and, hey, have a big chunk of ours too, while you’re at it”?

Nope. Not bloody likely.

I’d offer that in order to maintain such protracted, systemic global-scale inequity, we’re essentially *required* to be World Cop. And I’ll just go on and wade a bit deeper, and suggest that in order to keep this voracious appetite status quo chugging along unimpeded (at least until Mother Nature has a turn at the plate, and, by the way, she bats last) we must be prepared to be not simply cop, but — at truly unfortunate times — a certain kind of cop.

I am mindful that Syria is not directly or obviously a matter that cleanly relates to resources nor economics. And leaving aside how much moral authority the U.S. can reasonably claim to have on the matter of chemical weaponry, their use, within or across borders, is absolutely intolerable, and merits swift (international) response.

But there is a very simple explanation for why it is we have such globally dominant muscle, and the ability to flex it (even unilaterally), whenever and wherever we deem it necessary: it’s on us — our mutliple vehicles and our ostentatiously large homes with attached garage bays for each of them. It’s on the fuel that they guzzle, on the any-number-of malls and box stores we’ll drive them to, it’s on the cheap superfluous plastic shit we’ll buy there, and it’s on the landfills that same plastic shit is surely headed for in short due.

We’d need several planets’ worth of resources (I’ve seen anywhere from 5 to 9 planet Earths, varying with who’s doing the reckoning and what methodology is selected) to allow our standard of living for everyone on the planet.

We’re world cop precisely because of how we live. And we should expect that the former simply will not change unless and until we recognize the latter, and decide that changing that is perhaps worth pursuing.

public domain image courtesy of NASA and by way of Wikimedia Commons

 

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About dave bois

Freelance writer with a strong pull towards environmental matters (water issues especially) that remains fueled by my study of and early-career practice in geology and hydrology. Music, food, dogs, current/political events, and visual arts combine to command much of the portion of attention not ceded to ecological concerns. Also Monty Python. I've sold a few pieces of original art and have made cab fare home playing saxophone. Native Mainah

4 thoughts on “On being “world policeman”

  1. Nice essay, although I tend to see our military belligerence as more akin to protection racketeering than policing. World cop, world Capone; tomato, to-mah-to.

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