Not In My Backyard (July 15, 2014)

Inevitably, you’ve heard news reports showing the violent bloodshed occurring in Gaza & Israel, the brutality of the Syrian civil war, the violent ISIS takeover of Iraqi cities, the conflict in Ukraine and the very real threat of North Korean and Iranian nuclear arsenals.  Many Americans take a (false) sense of security that these things are all occurring thousands of miles away from our children’s schools and playgrounds, far from our own backyards.

So far away, it’s almost surreal.  Perhaps most Americans actively think that all of these things are a horrible tragedy, but also may passively skip over that section of the newspaper, looking for the news that “affects them.”

So…did you hear the news story about the North Korean ship, which set sail from North Korea, stopped for fuel in Russia, made its way through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean? Once in Caribbean waters the ship’s on-board transponder was shut off.  It was later found by Panamanian authorities to be carrying 240 tons of arms — including disassembled MiG-21 jet fighters, surface-to-air missile system components, and ammunition — all hidden under Cuban sugar.

Just this past week, another North Korean ship in the Caribbean disappeared off of the shipping grid (transponder turned off to avoid being tracked) for 9 days after stopping in Cuba.  Yesterday it turned up at the Mexican Port of Tuxpan – 300 miles from the Texas border.

This is our backyard.

Yes, we have a humanitarian crisis at our border.  But we also have more to worry about.  It’s understandable that after the Iraq War many Americans have no interest in what are perceived as costly foreign entanglements. But we must remind ourselves that what happened in Afghanistan led to 9/11 and the deaths of thousands of Americans on our own soil. Now we are being warned of the potential of Syria and Iraq becoming training grounds and launching points for new attacks on America’s homeland.  Yet some politicians advocate for the fantasy of American isolationism.  They would have us withdraw from the world.

We do not know what is on this latest North Korean ship.  But if we are not vigilant and fail to engage with our global community, it is our own country that ultimately will be put at risk. We cannot withdraw from the world because we cannot hide from it. What happens in nations as remote as North Korea or as exotic as Syria can and does affect the American people, whether we like it or not. I hope you agree that it’s necessary for our country to remain a strong global partner and stay fully engaged in international affairs.


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