PRAGUE: Many Americans seem overwhelmed by the feeling that, because the Soviet Empire collapsed, the dangers of war can be crossed off the list of potential risks. America, they say, should pay attention to its own problems, and should not get involved in a world where its attempts to do good are rewarded with ingratitude.
Isolationism has a long tradition in America; it returns in fits and differing forms. Never in modern times, however, has isolationism protected America from danger; instead it delays engagement when conflagrations are ablaze. Eventually, America pays a thousand times more for its initial lack of interest than it would have paid had it become engaged at the outset of crisis or, better yet, even before. Americans pay for short-sightedness not only in larger expenditures, but with lives wasted unnecessarily.
So isolationism is shortsighted and never pays off. This is all the more true when defense of the values that America stands for is more difficult now than before. Previously, the enemy was solitary, armed to the teeth, and quite predictable. The threats looming over today's world, however, are to the threat of communism as metastasis is to an isolated tumor. For the world is awash in dangers that are diverse, decentralized (yet intertwined), and difficult to predict .
I believe that across the globe, America is a symbolic concentration of all the good and bad within our civilization -- from the fantastic development of science and technology, to civil liberty and strong democratic institutions, to the cult of perpetual economic growth and never-ending consumption, to the dictates of materialism and the voiding of human uniqueness by the uniformity of the round-the-clock noise of TV banality.