As Americans, our reason for being, externally, is to spread the good news of our democratic revolution. In that, we are aligned with France and the West.

There’s some wisdom in the ideas of Rand Paul and other isolationists, I think. But only in certain respects. I agree that regime change as a policy is bad practice, but we shouldn’t avoid politically shaping environments. We’ve leaned on the military and moved away from innovative, nuanced foreign policy solutions. There are more democracies in the world now than ever before. We’ve shaped the world’s culture and the status quo.

Then, I think about my experiences abroad. Working with partners. Connecting with my partner and seeing how they want what we want. The most important work across the world—shaping it—continues. Whether or not we should be there is no longer relevant. We are there. We’re entrenched. But we’re doing important work and significantly helping others. War is one thing. Our leadership in the world is another.

Everyone pays attention to our politics, although that is becoming less common. For example, Israelis are beginning to pay more attention to the knesset. It’s a good thing many are beginning to look inward and find domestic solutions, but it is indicative of a possible downward tick in American leadership.

In the 1990s and post-9/11, the promotion of democracy was core to our foreign policy. But was that just a side effect of our presence? Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said we did not foray into Iraq to spread democracy. The action was, indeed, based on ousting Saddam. To this day, the Iraq War advocates still promote the idea that the world is better off without Saddam. That might be dependent on who you ask. But everyone agrees Saddam ruined Iraqi culture and implemented a drastically different way of life. We have an opportunity to help restore Iraqi nationalism and help shape a democratic way of life.

In places like Iraq, it’s less about why we went, or if we have boots on the ground (we d0), and more about helping them move forward. When we stormed Iraq and tore down Saddam’s statue, we bought a long-term job. A democracy in the Middle East is good for us. It’s unlikely for a modern democracy to attack another. Iraqis have long been the warriors of the Middle East, and our alliance is a powerful one. This is a single example. There are others around the world.

What’s the future of Ukraine and the struggle with communist Russia? There’s still an idealogical war being fought regarding which development model works best. The Russians are extremely resistant to the Western way of life.

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On the ground at war, it doesn’t feel like we’re spreading democracy. That kind of talk is best suited to those in the upper echelons of society and government. Democracies mitigate the size and power of a ruling class, but they still have to believe it is value added.