Spending/sending money that is tax payer money can be justified if it is related to the defense of individual rights. Why? Because that is the sole valid, rational purpose of government.
We have no disagreement on this point. Your contention is that self defense can not possibly extend beyond the borders of a nation.
Now, the question becomes whose individual rights. The answer is: those who are paying the tax dollars - the citizens under the jurisdiction of the taxing entity.
Dictators have no moral claim to jurisdiction. It is not our moral obligation to assist the subjects of a tyrannical dictatorship, in combating the growth of tyranny, we are acting in OUR OWN long term rational self interest. We are not acting explicitly for the benefit of the subjects of the tyrant, though they will enjoy the fruits of our labor, and we theirs when they become free, prosperous, productive people.
Jurisdiction is a moral concept applicable only to legitimate nations, nations which respect the individual civil liberties of their populace. We have no jurisdiction to apprehend a criminal in France, France is a free nation. Iran is a non free nation, as such, we do not need jurisdictional approval from whatever murderous theocratic tyrants happens to be oppressing the populace this year in order to act in our own long term rational self interest, either by removing that dictator from power or apprehending a terrorist residing in that nation.
We pay taxes at the local level to get protection from local threats, we pay taxes at the national level to get protection at the national level, period.
On that we have no disagreement. Assisting allies in defeating common enemies can be an act of self defense, just as neighboring law enforcement agencies will assist each other in protecting individual civil liberties. Removing murderous tyrants who sponsor terrorism from power can be an act of national self defense, just as sequestering Charles Manson can be a matter of individual self defense even though he never actually killed or even hurt anyone.
You let individuals defend themselves in every rational manner, but when you speak of groups of individuals you suddenly suspend their rational right to self defense.
But if it is an enemy in the sense that our country is at risk of attack (e.g., Soviet Union during the cold war) - that's different. Send money, send arms, and send military if there is an imminent threat of attack. The rational reason for us to continue our support of Israel is our shared enemy of Islamic terrorists and their supporting states - we should send everything but our military personnel until such time as we see an attack on us is imminent - then we go pedal to the medal. For example I think we have every right to be in Afganistan and to be aiding Pakistan (to the degree they are helpful).
Clearly we have a great deal of common ground.
There must be a creditable risk to America to justify acting and the threat can't be nebulous or vague or just floating abstractions - as in saying that all dictatorships are a risk
Dictatorships by their very nature are a threat to free nations. They are the opposite of a free nation, they are hostage states. Just as thieves are threats to property owners and murderers are threats to living people, dictatorships and tyrannies are threats to free people and individual human rights. The threats dictatorships pose is no floating abstraction. Every war in the 20th century has been started by nonfree nations. Every famine has occurred in non-free nations. The vast majority of terrorists are bred by the oppressive tyranny of unfree nations and the controlled indoctrination which comes from the lack of free speech. The greatest threat to human civilization right now is a major viral pandemic, this will most likely arise from non-free nations which because of their controlling political and economic systems hide the existence of such pandemics (SARS killed over a hundred people in China before they even acknowledged it's existence publicly, yet killed no one in any western nation) and are so poor and stifled as to lack the scientific infrastructure to combat such a thing. In the near future, terrorists will likely pose the greatest threat to human civilization, with the advance of nanotechnology, synthetic life, and artificial intelligence.
Steve, you harbor an old-fashioned and outdated opinion of threat. You are like the generals of WWI preparing for cavalry charges instead of machine gun trench warfare. Waiting for a battleship from the Iran navy to steam up the Hudson and basing your notion of national self defense on that is dangerous. Rapid technological advancement continues to enable smaller and smaller groups of people to kill more and more people with fewer and fewer resources.
I am a staff member of the Lifeboat Foundation, we have over 500 scientists and intellectuals on our advisory boards whose sole objective is to identify all the existential threats humanity faces and act to mitigate them. I recently spoke on their behalf to the Navy War College's Strategic Studies group on this very topic, advocating a foreign policy whose explicit goal is the stable removal from power of all tyrants and dictators through an alliance of liberal constitutional democracies.
The threats we face are things most people have never even heard of or considered. Non free nations are the harbingers of the majority of these threats. Removing them now will be difficult. Waiting 20 or 30 years when a Bin Laden could genetically engineer a synthetic lifeform in a home biotech lab to wipe out all Jews or infidels is murderously stupid.
Familiarize yourself with the following, the Law of Accelerating Returns, the Doomsday Curve, the Fermi Paradox, and the Lifeboat Foundation.
If you think self defense is only a matter of Battleships and bullets you are sorely mistaken and living about 20 years behind the times. Luckily, the people that matter, such as the Navy War College, are looking beyond those severely short sighted assessments. They were specifically meeting with ours, and other organizations, to try to determine what threats our nation faces that they are not paying attention to. Take note.
We are morally justified in attacking and removing from power any dictatorships, but we are not morally obligated to do so. It is, however, in our long term rational self interest to end the reign of all dictatorships and encourage the growth and development of representative constitutional nations with market economies. It is better to do this now, then latter. And extremely dangerous to not do it at all.
If they have not and are not going to attack us, then our support is altruistic not defense of the individual rights of the people paying the tax dollars. It may seem harsh, but it is moral, we are not our brother's keepers and our politicians are not the world's saviors.
The Soviet Union NEVER attacked us. Do you think they would announce it? You possess no crystal ball to determine the future course, perhaps these murderous tyrants would have been content with taking over every nation BUT the U.S. and left us well enough alone. How do you know? When do you act? As a murderous expansionist dictatorship, any growth in power of the Soviet Union was an increase in the direct existential threat they posed to the United States. Similarly, any entrenchment or empowerment of dictatorships anywhere represent a threat.