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Is the U.S. the world’s enabler?

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“Enabler” is a commonly used term in 12-step programs--and it describes someone who encourages and supports negative and self-destructive behavior in another. Enablers do this by providing assistance that essentially does for the other person what they should and could be doing for themselves. The result is that the person receiving assistance comes to expect others to take responsibility for solving their problems, and this leads to their inability to function independently. Then, if the enabler becomes overwhelmed and burned out and attempts to lessen or withdraw this help—it often leads to a crisis for the person who relied on the assistance and who is now left without necessary resources after having been rendered incapable of putting them into place on their own.

Throughout much of our nation’s history, we have taken on the role of enabler for other countries. When asked we provide billions of dollars in assistance, we lead the way when there is a humanitarian crisis, we intervene in foreign conflicts offering weaponry and soldiers for the purposes of training, support and peace keeping, we broker peace agreements--and whenever there is a crisis anywhere in the world, all eyes are on the President of the United States with the expectation that the Leader of the Free World will step up and identify and implement the correct solution. This role of enabler has contributed to our super power status—which may be why we have clung to it for so long. Even when the unmet needs right here at home required our urgent attention, we continued to invest our limited blood and treasure elsewhere.

Then along came Senator Obama—who ran for his first term on a platform that rested on nation building at home, not abroad, on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on extending an olive branch instead of a big stick in his dealings with other nations— using diplomacy, not guns to maintain peace and prosperity. There was so much enthusiasm and hope for his ideas that he won the election by a strong margin and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before he had the opportunity to actually earn it.

Now six years later, it seems as though the whole world is on fire. Civil war and unrest, genocide, mass starvation, and oppression seem to be everywhere—and the United States is keeping a careful distance from all of it. The President has made it clear over and over again that he will not put boots on the ground in any foreign conflict. He condemns atrocious acts and their perpetrators but treads lightly when it comes to taking sides and his solutions do not involve direct involvement from the United States. This is what he said he would do, he is doing it—and he is getting grief from everywhere because of it.

This situation is a clear example of what happens when enabling is discontinued. The void that has been left is being filled with chaos, war, civil unrest, and governments that are no longer able to provide for the safety and well-being of their citizens without our help. This leaves us with only two options. We can elect a president who will return us to our former world enabler role- sending money, soldiers, technology and weaponry wherever it is needed, anytime it is needed in the hope of restoring world order and peace, even though that may not be a realistic goal. Our second option is to practice tough love by continuing our refusal of direct involvement and assuming responsibilities that are not ours—and instead, offer support, consultation and other resources that would encourage and support these other countries to step up, get their act together—and do what is necessary to insure their own continued prosperity and well-being. It would take time but as they say in the program; “one day at a time.”