IT HAS ALWAYS made Americans uncomfortable to think of their nation as the world's policeman.
John Quincy Adams avowed nearly two centuries ago that the United States "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy"; today, Barack Obama declares that America's focus must be on "nation-building here at home." A broad swath of public opinion shares that view — 52 percent of Americans in a Pew survey last winter agreed that the US should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own."
Influential Americans regularly argue that US intervention abroad does more harm than good. "Every time the US touches the Middle East, it makes things worse," insists Harvard's Stephen Walt in a recent essay. The same has been said about America's military involvement everywhere from Latin America to Indochina. Samantha Power, currently the US ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in 2003 that America is justifiably seen as "the very runaway state international law needs to contain," resented for its "sins" and "crimes" in using its power to harm others.
Tim Kane, an economist at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, begs to differ.
In an eye-opening essay in the current issue of Commentary, Kane refutes the notion that American military deployments have been a force for ill. That view isn't just wrong, he emphasizes, "it is tragically wrong." He backs up his claim with data: "Having compared growth and development indicators across all countries of the world against a database of US 'boots on the ground' since 1950, I've discovered a stunning truth: In country after country, prosperity — in the form of economic growth and human development — has emerged where American boots have trod." . . .