Since the late 1960s Vietnam has become synonymous with failure. To be more precise – it means failure in foreign policy when it comes to American military intervention.
Here’s the nation that grudgingly entered two world wars within twenty-five years taking on the world’s most powerful military forces at the time. It goes without saying that had we not stepped into the fray Americans would have been speaking German or Japanese. So how is it that since the end of WWII we have yet to win any war or conflict?
Let’s go back and look at what happened since 1945. The United States barely had the opportunity to catch its collective breath when we were confronted with the rapid spread of Communism. The newly formed United Nations, in an attempt to prove itself superior to its predecessor, the League of Nations, called on the United States to engage Communist forces in Korea. The U.S. now found itself in the unenviable position of being an attack dog in hot spots around the world. Remember: previous to this we were extremely reluctant to get involved anywhere around the globe. We retaliated only if we had been pushed too far. Now there is a world organization in the U.N. asking us to do their bidding. If there is a familiar ring to this, you’re quite correct. For the past sixty years we have either been tabbed by the U.N. to intervene in such places as Korea, Kuwait, and Iraq, along with a list of lesser known places; or we’ve been vilified by this same organization for taking independent action apart from their approval. Just today outgoing Secretary General of the U.N., Kofi Annan, used his farewell speech to rail against our country, and President Bush in particular.
All of a sudden the United States, the nation that virtually liberated the world from tyrannical dictators in the first half of the last century, is today denigrated as the bad guy. Since then we have been engaged in quite a few military conflicts and wars. Each has been fumbled because we have lost sight of the goal. Consider the following: 1) 1950s Korean War – we fought to a draw, 2) 1963 Bay of Pigs in Cuba – the U.S. was a no-show, 3) 1960-70s Vietnam War – we abandoned the field, 4) 1980 Tehran, Iran U.S. Embassy Hostage Rescue – it was called off at the last minute, 5) 1983 Beirut, Lebanon Barracks Bombing – we pulled out, 6) 1991 Gulf War – we promised to support anti-Saddam forces but went home instead, 7) 1993 Twin Towers Bombing in New York City, and the “Blackhawk Down Debacle” in Somalia – nothing was done, 8) 1996 Bombing of the Kobart Towers military quarters in Saudi Arabia – we again did nothing, 9) 1998 Bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya – we did nothing, 10) 1999 the Bombing of the USS Cole – we did nothing. And now Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Will we stay and finish the job?
So what does this mean to us? When it comes to fighting it means we have lost our will as a people. Politicians, who are elected to serve the American people, stumble when taking a stand against any aggressor. We allow ourselves to be bullied by petty dictators. We stand by when our motives are questioned. We apologize for being bigger and more powerful than any other nation. We turn on ourselves when it seems the rest of the world doesn’t like us. All the while our military, the best, most powerful force in the world, stands ready to act on the orders of their civilian leaders.
Consider this: The last war we fought that interrupted the lives of the average American was World War II. Since then all wars and conflicts have been news items on the 6 O’clock News hour. Unless, of course, you had a family member or close friend serving in the military at the time. But it still didn’t affect your daily life.
The places where we have been fighting for the last sixty years may not make much difference on the grand scale of world affairs. But the enemy we face today, Islamic radicals, have made their intentions quite clear. One way or the other, they want us dead. If we should wind up pulling out of Iraq, you may be certain that these enemies will follow us right back to our own shores. Remember these two things: 1) The 9-11 hijackers had been living in the U.S. for several years, waiting, and 2) The Islamic radicals are counting on us to lose our nerve.
The question is whether we want the promise of security more than we want our freedom. If it’s security we want, we will be intimidated into submission in hopes that the enemy will not harm us. If it is freedom we want, we will stand firm against this enemy and fight.
In closing, consider these quotes from two previous presidents. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy said, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.” He later said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
President Ronald Reagan stated this as his beliefs concerning freedom, “Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.” “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.”
We can, and we must turn away from hand-wringing when dealing with the world’s troubles. When our freedoms are imperiled, we are safer when we act with courage and boldness. This once was our nation’s trademark. It can be again.