David Brooks seems to think that the U.S. military is the world’s weed-wacker:
Presidents assertively tended the international garden [bold mine-DL] so that small problems didn’t turn into big ones, even when core national interests were not at stake. In the 1990s, for example, President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton took military action roughly every 17 months to restrain dictators, spread democracy and preserve international norms.
This sort of forward-leaning interventionist garden-tending [bold mine-DL] will be even more necessary in an age of assertive autocracies.
Using euphemisms to describe uses of force and other coercive policies that inflicted pain and death on other nations is not new, but the idea that the world is a “garden” that the U.S. has the right to “tend” through frequent violence is particularly warped. This not only minimizes the harm that interventionist policies do to the countries that they target, but it implies that the U.S. will have to be “garden-tending” with no end in sight. If the world is a garden to be “tended,” and the U.S. is supposed to be constantly tearing out weeds and pruning away undesirable growths (i.e., killing people and threatening to kill people), virtually every problem in the world becomes ours. If the U.S. is doing this even when its core interests aren’t at stake, there is no obvious limit to how many “garden-tending” interventions the U.S. will be engaged in over the coming years.
The fact that the U.S. intervened militarily once every 17 months for more than a decade should give us all pause, since this was during what the hawks liked to call the “holiday from history.” Just imagine how often and in how many places they will think to involve the U.S. in the future. “Constant garden-tending” is another way to say that the U.S. ought to be constantly engaged in military action (or the threat of military action) somewhere in the world, and that it will never be able to stop or be at peace for more than a year or two at most. That will surely lead the U.S. and many other nations into an “ungodly mess,” and we can only hope that future administrations refuse to do the “gardening” that Brooks wants.