U.S. sig­nals to the vic­tims of ‘evil em­pires’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Mar­garet Thatcher was fond of say­ing that Ron­ald Rea­gan had brought down the Soviet Union with­out fir­ing a sin­gle shot. A lovely trib­ute, but alas, not true. The truth is that many, many Amer­i­can shots were fired and a good deal of Amer­i­can blood was shed, as in Korea and Viet­nam, and an un­told amount of Amer­i­can ar­ma­ments and trea­sure were spread all around the world.

True, not all these shots were fired for the im­me­di­ate pur­pose of "con­tain­ing" the Soviet Union. But given the nu­clear stand­off be­tween us, and given that the Amer­i­can peo­ple, though in a some­what up-and-down fashion, were will­ing to sup­port their coun­try's as­sump­tion of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of world power, we suc­cess­fully be­came the pro­tec­tor of Western Europe.

It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary project, the Tru­man Doc­trine. We have for­got­ten just how ex­tra­or­di­nary all the in­vest­ments, mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal, that fol­lowed from it.

Still, Rea­gan did some­thing that can­not be mea­sured by the hard­headed: He called out to the pris­on­ers of com­mu­nism that he was there, that he heard them and knew that they were liv­ing in the "evil em­pire." Those two seem­ingly sim­ple­minded words, "evil em­pire," had earned him noth­ing but ridicule in the precincts of the worldly but not in the gu­lags and pris­ons or on the dan­ger­ous streets of Rus­sian-con­trolled cities, where the words spread like wild­fire. Those who had been suf­fer­ing the op­pres­sions of com­mu­nism said that for the first time they felt real hope. (And it is, of course, hope not money or guns or pol­icy that turns out to be the truest sol­vent of en­slave­ment.)

And it is more than a lit­tle heart-wrench­ing to be re­minded of Rea­gan at a time when we live un­der a pres­i­dent who seems like noth­ing so much as a preen­ing ado­les­cent, some­one who trav­els far to spread the word that the world has lit­tle to fear from us. Even while our armies are fight­ing to the death in Iraq and Afghanista­n, there is rea­son to be­lieve we will be gone be­fore we have achieved any­thing close to our orig­i­nal pur­poses in be­ing there in other words, be­fore we have es­tab­lished the idea once so be­nignly brought home to the Ja­panese that you can­not at­tack the United States with­out go­ing down to full de­feat.

So what is now to be our role in the world? To be­gin with, it must be said that to no other nation can such words be ap­plied. Usu­ally, af­ter all, na­tions are not ar­range­ments en­tered into but de­vel­op­ments that hap­pen. They are the re­sults of na­ture, ac­ci­dents of geog­ra­phy, the move­ment and spread of lan- guage, wars and ha­treds and ri­val­ries and the set­tle­ment of ri­val­ries. But boast­ing, we too of­ten for­get, what has turned out to be the old­est con­tin­u­ously sur­viv­ing form of pop­u­lar govern­ment on earth, the United States was a nation in­vented by, let us ever be on our knees in grat­i­tude, a group of men of po­lit­i­cal ge­nius, whom a be­nign prov­i­dence hap­pened to place upon the east­ern shores of a vast and rich and empty con­ti­nent.

Aside from the fact that it would take nearly a cen­tury and an al­most unimag­in­ably bloody civil war to keep their in­ven­tion whole we re­main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of what they de­vised for us there in Philadel­phia nearly 234 years ago.

Much has cer­tainly changed in the Amer­i­can nation dur­ing all these years most no­tably, per­haps, the va­ri­ety of the eth­nic makeup of its pop­u­la­tion and much prom­ises to con­tinue chang­ing yet the sys­tem un­der which we are gov­erned would still be rec­og­niz­able, I main­tain, to the Founders.

Now, other coun­tries do not have "roles." They may wish to con­quer, to pla­cate or to dom­i­nate, but they do not set out to cre­ate, de­moc­ra­tize and de­fend vir­tu­ally a whole con­ti­nent's worth of de­pen­dent democ­ra­cies, as we did in Western Europe (and as we also did in Ja­pan) at the end of WWII.

Nor do they for no pur­pose of state, for in­stance, call upon their cit­i­zens for lit­tle or no gain to them­selves to travel to far-off wretched com­mu­ni­ties and teach their peo­ple how to build in­fir­maries and schools and to grow bet­ter crops with which to feed them­selves. It has been said by some that spread­ing democ­racy was for us a merely prac­ti­cal mat­ter, be­cause democ­ra­cies do not go to war against one an­other, but that hardly ex­hausts the sub­ject of the role we have been play­ing in the world.

How, for in­stance, can we over­look our coun­try­men's sin­gu­lar im­pulse to phi­lan­thropy? Show them the pic­ture of a hun­gry or sick or or­phaned child, and they will set about do­ing some­thing for him. In­deed, show Amer­i­cans im­ages of a plight any­where and they will re­spond with as­sorted ex­pres­sions of gen­er­ous ou­trage. That Amer­i­cans are like this may have some con­nec­tion to the fact that so many of us had an­ces­tors brave enough to take them­selves out of dark, un­happy places and set­tle here, with all the be­lief in pos­si­bil­ity such a move im­plies. Soft­minded as it sounds, this has even at times played no small part in their as­sum­ing the bur­dens of for­eign pol­icy.

Now we are en­gaged in two wars. NBC, ABC, et al., and our cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion per­mit­ting, we may leave both Iraq and Afghanista­n in an at least man­age­able con­di­tion. Which leaves us with the far-too-longde­layed prob­lem of Iran and its bomb.

We once had some­thing of a friend in Iran, the shah, and far too calmly wit­nessed his ouster by rad­i­cal fa­nat­ics. Next we sat by for 14 months as U.S. di­plo­mats were held pris­oner in Tehran. Now Iran is go­ing nu­clear, un­der the lead­er­ship of men who have openly de­clared that they care less for the sur­vival of their pop­u­la­tion than for the spread of their re­li­gion. The most ur­gent ques­tion fac­ing us is what, if any­thing, the United States must do about this. We are al­ready en­gaged in war­fare about which many Amer­i­cans are doubt­ful, and we are in eco­nomic dif­fi­culty.

Even for the most re­spon­si­ble nation on earth there may be lim­its to what can be un­der­taken with­out wide sup­port. Our only po­ten­tial part­ner in stop­ping the Ira­nian bomb is a tiny and far-from-pop­u­lar coun­try named Is­rael, whose very ex­is­tence would be threat­ened. But as mil­lions learned to their im­mense sor­row in places named Mu­nich and Yalta, it does only great evil to de­ceive one­self about a threat.

Midge Decter is an author and for­mer leader in anti-com­mu­nist groups such as the Com­mit­tee on the Present Dan­ger and the Com­mit­tee for the Free World.

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