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National power begs question: responsibility to intercede, or not our right?

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This saying has defined the American view of what it means to be a hero. Our stories depict selfless heroes using whatever abilities they may have to better the world. They see their gifts as a responsibility, not as a means for selfish gain. However, this view of heroes only works if we presume that the hero knows what is best for everyone. Characters who try to change the world but don’t do it the “right” way are often seen as villains. Without a natural tendency toward righteousness, that “great responsibility” easily devolves to “might makes right.”

In reality, those that possess the most power are the individuals and groups who lead nations. Armies, policies and weapons of mass destruction give them their great power which they then wield as they see fit. Our nation currently sits as a world superpower with enough resources and military might to not only protect and sustain our own country, but also influence the greater world. This massive amount of power endows our nation’s leaders with immense responsibility.

Power leads to responsibility, but without perfect judgment, one cannot be responsible for justice. We live in a nation that possesses great power, but that doesn’t inherently make the United States the “good guys.” By nature of the democratic republic we live in, every U.S. citizen bears responsibility for the actions of our nation. With that responsibility, we need to be careful that we aren’t relying on might to make us right.

Our leaders have the responsibility to deploy our military when and where they see fit to protect us and our allies, but that same military could be utilized to protect other nations from harm. It isn’t right to allow others to suffer just because it’s “not our business” when one can stop it. Given this logic, our nation would have the responsibility to try and halt any perceived injustice because doing so is within our power.

The problem lies in the fact that no leader’s judgment is infallible. As Christians, we have faith in a higher power who possesses perfect righteousness, but that doesn’t mean our leaders are looking to Him for guidance. Without a higher power, all that guides them is their own perception of justice.

If our nation were to interfere with another, we would not only be assuming the responsibility of upholding universal justice, but also the right to impose our leaders' judgment over theirs. If we do assume that right, we risk becoming tyrants.

On the other hand, when obvious atrocities do appear in the world and one can stop it, should fear of mistaken judgment be enough reason to stand by passively? One side risks exercising a right we don’t possess. The other risks ignoring a responsibility we do. It may be impossible to always judge which option is better; however, refraining from considering the topic altogether neglects our personal responsibility and risks the worst of both sides.


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