Ted Galen Carpenter's Aug. 30 op-ed piece ''America Can't Police the Planet'' demonstrates the tenacity of outdated philosophies. Isolationism predominated in the aftermath of World War I, and the result was World War II. Mr. Carpenter embraces the same tired old concepts: the United States can't be the world's policeman (whatever that is) and we must avoid alliances and commitments. What nonsense!

Every local or regional dispute does not threaten the vital interests of the United States, but world instability does. The crisis in the Persian Gulf has very little to do with higher oil prices per se; it has a great deal to do with allowing a hostile power excessive control over one of the world's most vital economic assets.

Mr. Carpenter's definition of a threat to vital interests is outdated. In the 19th century the British fleet maintained stability worldwide, which allowed our nation to develop in isolation. Now, it's our turn. The United States emerged from the Cold War as the superpower -- a bit battered perhaps, but the superpower nevertheless. We can either fulfill our responsibilities or suffer the consequences of our refusal. World War II proved that the consequences are the worst by far.

We must disregard the obsolete thinking represented by Mr. Carpenter.