Today we remember those who have died fighting for our country. The manner in which we celebrate this day, and how we think about the sacrifices that have been made, says something about our future prospects as a people. Do we disparage the causes that our men fought and died for? If so, is it possible to honor the memory of those who have fallen?
To honor the fallen soldier is to honor the possibility of dying for one’s country. This also means honoring your country and its armed forces. It is a gift we give ourselves, and a form of self-protection necessary to national survival. Perhaps this is not understood, but if Americans were no longer willing to fight and die for their country, then the country would be at an end.
Some readers may object to this formulation by saying that war is senseless, that government is evil and countries are unnecessary. But government is unavoidable and countries exist by nature. As for the senselessness of war, this idea comes from the theory that conflicts are avoidable. But, in practice, they are not avoidable. Tensions build between nations as each has vital interests to protect. War becomes the final arbiter when agreement cannot be reached. Pundits like to second-guess statesmen after the fact. They often comment on the wickedness that led to the War of 1812 or the Civil War. Sometimes a critic will take the enemy’s side, arguing that Germany was unjustly blamed for the First World War, or that the Viet Cong were freedom fighters against American imperialism.
Some writers, taken with their own cleverness, think patriotism is stupid. They see it as an unenlightened form of bigotry. Sitting safe and secure in their studies, perhaps surrounded by Marxist or revisionist texts, they find perverse enjoyment in presenting America’s military past in the worst possible light. Driven by malice and supported by invention, these people manufacture sympathy for the Devil.
There are those, for example, who say that our war against Saddam Hussein was wrong. OK, how does that play out? Let us consider the profoundly evil nature of Saddam’s regime, in which innocent children are tortured to death for sport and neighboring countries are invaded without provocation. Here is a dictator who models himself on Hitler and Stalin, who has used poison gas against defenseless women and children, who watches executions of former associates with sadistic relish. This is the dictator who invaded Iran without provocation, causing over a million deaths. And he would have taken the Saudi oil fields if given half a chance.
You have to realize where we’d be today if we had not joined with other countries to oppose Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait. The pattern of the Iraqi dictator was that of an aggressor. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Saudi Arabia would have been Saddam’s next victim after Kuwait. The West’s oil lifeline would have been in the hands of a ruthless anti-Western fanatic.
But no, the clever pundits will tell you that America is the evil country. They agree with Saddam’s argument that Kuwait is a long-lost province of Iraq. This is a nonsense argument. The Turks could make their case, as well, that Iraq is a long-lost province of the Turkish Empire. The United Kingdom could justify an attack on the United States with this sort of argument.
Thankfully, we did not suffer heavy losses in our war against Saddam, but Americans were nonetheless killed. Did they die for an evil cause? The fact is, they died so that our nation will continue in strength, prosperity and peace. You may argue the wisdom of the generals, the policy of the statesmen, but the only argument of the fighting soldier is: duty, honor, country.
Those who make the enemy’s case should think long and hard about their duty, their honor and their country. Excusing aggressors and slandering the United States has become a cottage industry in recent years. There are even apologists out there for Imperial Japan. It seems that many interesting facts have emerged about the attack on Pearl Harbor. We read about the “evil” President Roosevelt, who knew the Japanese fleet was planning to strike Hawaii.
By narrowly focusing on Roosevelt’s foreknowledge of Japanese moves, our attention is diverted from the fact that Japan had no business attacking and invading its neighbors. It is said that Roosevelt provoked the Japanese. I suppose he pushed them into crushing Korea, that he forced them to invade Manchuria and China. By extension, the revisionists will say that Roosevelt twisted their arm so they would invade Southeast Asia as well.
So Roosevelt is the author of Japanese aggression? An interesting thesis, but malicious and insulting to those who fought and died in the Pacific. Did Roosevelt provoke Japan with economic sanctions? I suppose the revisionists will argue that we owed Japan’s war machine a steady supply of oil and steel so that the Imperial Army could continue to massacre the Chinese and others.
On Memorial Day, we remember the soldiers who have died. We also remember the causes that they died for. Whatever the revisionists and the Marxists might say, our soldiers did not die for “evil machinations.” Our soldiers died so that America would be strengthened, so that America would prosper, so that a lasting peace might be secured for our posterity.
Look at how we live today. Look at our prosperity. There has not been a war fought on the U.S. mainland within living memory. Is this some kind of accident? Do you imagine our prosperity, the unrivaled peace of this continent, is mere good luck? Perhaps there is some luck involved, but do not altogether dismiss the achievement of successive American governments. And do not forget that these governments were supported by our fighting soldiers, who defeated England, who overcame Mexico, who prevented the splitting of the country, who defeated Germany and Japan, who fought the advance of communism in East Asia.
Yes, mistakes were made, policies were imperfect, senseless deaths happened. That is the nature of war. But taking a larger view, the sacrifices of our soldiers paved the way for the prosperity and the freedom we enjoy today.
No doubt this prosperity and freedom will be seriously threatened in the future. Men and boys that you know might be among those remembered on future Memorial Days. Threats to our country have not disappeared, but are growing. Once again, a war that is preventable in theory may prove unavoidable in practice.
At least one Russian analyst is gloating about our future humiliation before the fact. Kremlin strategist Gleb Pavlovskiy, writing in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, says that the United States may soon be driven back into its “North American island.” Russia will then be the dominant world power. As if to support Pavlovskiy’s prediction, five former Soviet republics have undertaken to reintegrate their armed forces. At the same time, troops of Russia’s Interior Ministry are being shifted to the Defense Ministry. Strategic bombers are being deployed to the Russian Far East.
With North Korea in position to attack the South, with China preparing for a blockade against Taiwan, with Egypt warning of a possible military outbreak in the Middle East, with the Balkan crisis intensifying, the prediction of Gleb Pavlovskiy is not entirely fantastic.
As you think today of those who have died defending this country in the past, think also of the sacrifices that may be necessary tomorrow.