Is Our Independence Still Secure?
Today is the Fourth of July, a day commemorating the freedom we achieved on that Independence Day long ago. It is a date we celebrate with cookouts, parades and fireworks.
It is also a time for pausing to take stock. Where are we? Where have we been? Where are we going?
In the past few weeks, my wife and I have been watching what may be the definitive documentary of World War II: "Victory at Sea." If you have never seen it, those 26 episodes are well worth watching. We have been especially impressed with the production power of America in the 1940s as we witness assembly lines pouring out thousands of ships, tanks and planes.
On Dec. 7, 1941, we were a third-class nation. Within a year, millions of us were serving and -thousands more were in factories with welding torches and rivet guns in hand as we moved into the forefront of production until we led the world. This unified gearing up was a key factor in winning the war.
If threatened, could we do it again? I doubt it. For too many years, we have been outsourcing and distancing ourselves from -producing until now we are little more than middle management. We are also broke. Add to that a current government more interested in power and getting re-elected than commanding the respect we once enjoyed, and we shudder. Part of our pause to take stock demands that we acknowledge this.
Admittedly, the enemies in World War II were easily identified - they wore uniforms with insignia. Today, we face enemies that hide behind religion and -civilians to avoid being attacked. Some of our leaders are more -concerned with "collateral -damage" than victory.
Has war become a game of Parcheesi? Where was the concern for collateral damage during bombings of London, Stalingrad, Berlin and Hiroshima? World War II was a colossal effort that spanned the globe and confronted multiple enemies. Yet our part of it lasted less than four years. Contrast that with the tiny country of Afghanistan and ask where we are after nine years.
Those of us who have fought in wars tend to be ambivalent in that we hate war, yet when one seems inevitable, we tend to become hawkish. Thus, most of us veterans could see the rationale for invading Iraq or Afghanistan. But many of us are now beginning to question why we continue to pour billions of dollars into a no-win situation.
Should we continue to send our youth into those impregnable mountains to die for people who are more interested in raising heroin poppies than gaining democracy? Should we waste five more minutes of support for a corrupt government? This is not to suggest we pull out of Afghanistan. If the Taliban takes over and joins forces with their counterparts in Pakistan, we face a nuclear power. But we have some rethinking to do.
Have we hawks become doves? Hardly. This is no time to let our guard down. If any rogue nation like North Korea or Iran begins to flex a nuclear muscle, we must stand tall and be prepared to do what it takes to keep them behind their own borders, even if it means forgoing diplomatic tact.
If terrorists who do us harm seem to come from one particular group (check those responsible for 9/11), then maybe profiling is called for. If that sounds unfair, let the groups who are targeted clean up their own act before accusing us.
Ours is the greatest nation on earth - constitutionally dedicated to freedom for all. However, it may be time to get pragmatic and realize that nobody endowed us with the right or the power to become the world's policeman. Let us keep that in mind as we contemplate our future in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Above all, we must be constantly vigilant to preserve what this nation stands for - not just on the Fourth of July, but every day.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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