The notion that the United States should behave "like an equal member of the global community on the foreign policy stage," as Catlin Hurwit asserted in last week's op-ed "Patriotism without exceptionalism" is as misguided as it is dangerous.

No country has sacrificed more to preserve the principals of democracy and liberty both abroad and at home then the United States. Time and again the advocates of a more humble foreign policy lose sight of this fact, and it is indeed a fact. To be sure the United States, being a country made up of fallible human beings, has made mistakes. But these errors do not undermine the reality that as the strongest, most prosperous democratic-republic in the world, the United States also has a responsibility to protect both its own foreign interests and those of fellow democracies.

This belief that America occupies an active and unique role in the world is by no means a new concept, nor one exclusive to former President George W. Bush as liberals are intent on claiming. In truth, the understanding is as old as our republic itself. The underlying intent of the Monroe Doctrine, established early in the 18th century, was to make clear to foreign powers that any attempt to further colonize or pressure any nation in the Americas would be considered a threat to the American people and would be handled as such.

When Latin America began to slip into anarchic rule following its collective independence from Spain, Theodore Roosevelt extended the Monroe Doctrine further by making clear that because an unstable Latin America was dangerous for the security of the United States, the American government reserved the right to involve itself whenever these nations engaged in "flagrant and chronic wrongdoing."

Democrat Harry Truman likewise understood the need for a muscular American foreign policy when he declared that it was "the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures." An articulation of the American people's unwillingness to see the Soviet Union overpower any democracy that dared challenge communism, the Truman Doctrine has since become a staple of U.S. foreign policy.

For some, of course, this would be seen as a bad thing. The continued assertion that the United States would not back down from its duty to preserve democracy and further support it whenever possible is in the minds of some completely unwarranted. Yet this belief is wholly and fundamentally lacking in a realistic understanding of international affairs. It relies, ironically, on a westernized view of politics: that all nations would be willing to negotiate and prefer to coexist peacefully with one another. Nothing sadly could be farther from the truth.

In reality, the world is littered with nations run by unstable and volatile madmen whose sole interest is to use whatever means are at their disposal to advance their radical agenda. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, Omar Al-Bashir, Than Shwe and Isayas Afewerki are only some of the many dictators who despise the values of liberty and democracy that the United States so cherishes and, unsurprisingly, they all share an extraordinary amount of vitriol toward the American people. Collectively they imprison political dissenters, maintain a stranglehold on media, torture innocent civilians and embezzle untold sums from the international aid they receive to feed their people.

Yet these are the same so-called leaders to whom some feel the United States should be equal. Not only is such a position abhorrent to the conscience and an insult to the many men and women of our nation who died so that we may live freely, but it is also a threat to the future of democracy in the most severe way.

In meeting with, cooperating with or even diplomatically acknowledging such despots, the United States lends a tremendous amount of legitimacy to such countries. When the world sees the U.S. treating these people as equals a message is sent that the actions of their regimes will not only go unchallenged but can be accepted as par for the course in foreign relations.

Further, make no mistake in thinking that if given the chance each and every one of these nations hostile to the United States would not use their power to subordinate liberty. We see this pattern already in both China and the Middle East, where human rights violations and anti-Americanism run rampant.

Because China owns so much of the U.S. debt and because of our reliance on foreign oil, both China and certain Arab states use our obligations to them as threats against our economic sovereignty. If we dare criticize either one of them, threats to call in U.S. loans or raise the price of oil are heard shortly thereafter.

It is not surprising that those raised in the democratic system believe in the principals of equality and honest diplomacy. But too many in the world reject such values and have demonstrated time and again their danger to the American people, thus requiring the U.S. to make clear that it will defend itself and fellow democratic governments whatever the burden. Doing so is a tremendous responsibility and obligation but one Americans willingly accept as their contribution to preserving liberty for future generations. In return, Americans expect and deserve the right to assert their moral superiority in foreign affairs. We don't treat some countries as equals simply because they are not our equals.

Jose Cespedes is a member of the Class of 2012.