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A very good investment (and a very bad idea)

By Bruce Walker
web posted September 5, 2005

The recent clamoring of the Left to establish a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq is one of the worst examples of Leftist madness. What is one undeniable example of the success of American foreign policy in the last fifty years? Surely the bloodless defeat of the Soviet Union and the subsequent liberation of peoples in the Warsaw Pact and the captive nations within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

However irritated we may feel toward the present German government, the reunification of Germany into a free, democratic nation with the fifth largest economy in the world and a free, democratic Poland to its east is the surest guarantee that there will not be another European war, probably ever, and that democracy will take root in Eastern Europe.

What produced this victory? First, the policy of containment, developed and implemented by a Democrat administration and supported by subsequent administrations of both political parties, was essential. This meant an iron-clad assurance to the West Germans, the Danes, the Dutch, the Italians, the Belgians, the Greeks, the Turks and the French that America would fight the first attempt to take any of their territory or sovereignty by force.

Then, as today, the French were an unpleasant irritant on many occasions, but there was never any doubt that the French army would fight alongside its NATO allies should the Warsaw Pact invade West Germany (the most likely scenario) or some other place, like Greece or Italy. Then, as today, none of the NATO allies carried their fair share of the burden of protecting Europe, although all of them did carry part of the burden. Then, as now, America did most of the heavy lifting.

What was true of NATO and Europe was also true of the Republic of Korea, Japan and Taiwan. American troops in Japan, in Korea and in bases throughout the Pacific insured that the Republic of Korea would become prosperous and then democratic and free (as it has) and that Japan would do likewise (as it did, at a significantly faster pace.)

Second, President Reagan made the conscious decision to win the Cold War, which he did without the need for a nuclear showdown or a major hot war or much bloodshed at all. If President Reagan waged war, it was the most bloodless war in American history.

Absent both strategies, containment and victory, was a timetable. Indeed, American military forces are still in Germany, still in Japan, still in Italy and still in Korea. No one is clamoring to "bring the boys home" in either the host nations or among the two major political parties in America. Why?

The presence of American forces in these places has proven the best investment of tax dollars in American history. Since America began taking the role of global peacemaker and liberator seriously, there have been no world wars or even any general wars that involved a number of combatants. The State of Israel has been born and survived. Peoples who have never known freedom or democracy now have well established free democracies in nations like Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and Turkey.

If America withdrew all its forces out of every nation in the world, but that triggered a second Korean War, would anyone think that was good? If our withdrawal of forces emboldened Putin to re-annex Ukraine, would anyone think that wise? If pulling out of the Balkans might lead to a re-ignition of ethnic cleansing by either religious faction, would any Leftist want that?

What irks the Left in America is the idea that peace, freedom and democracy have costs which must be regularly paid, sometimes in tax dollars, sometimes in unpopularity and sometimes in blood. The presence of American troops over many decades has been a small price for a peace world.

Curiously, the most serious argument against having troops in abroad when President Kenney said what the Left has forgotten – that we would bear any cost for freedom – is gone. When he spoke those words almost half a century ago, American soldiers were largely drafted into service; today, the men and women in Iraq are all volunteers.

The American troops now in Iraq can tell the people of that nation what American troops forty years ago could not say: we are here because we want to be here, because we want you to be free and peaceful. The American soldier in Iraq today can say "I am here because I chose to care for you." Such sentiments have no timetable.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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