Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian toddler the picture of whose lifeless body saddened and shocked the world last week, may have done more than every journalist covering the massive wave of terrified people fleeing Syrian carnage and Libyan murder to focus the world on the chaos engulfing it.

Certainly the tragedy of one child caused the students at Colorado Christian University, where I have been teaching the last two weeks, to question their own commitments to the “widow, the orphan and the stranger.” I expect Pope Francis will deliver more sharp reminders in a few days.

Americans would do well to keep their eyes, ears and minds open. Some are exhausted from the burdens and expense of policing the world. But a world without gendarmes is not a world of spontaneous order, but of growing disorder. Chaos follows the withdrawal of order and civilization, to be replaced by jackboots and steel. We have seen enough to know what is ahead if we continue our retreat from responsibility.