On the Fourth of July, we will once again celebrate the birth of our nation and the power and prosperity that have devolved on us during the past 237 years. We can honestly and without qualification credit our forebears with providing our common defense, promoting the general welfare and guaranteeing the blessings of liberty that we continue to enjoy. And we can be proud, without arrogance, that we have provided the opportunity for a great segment of mankind beyond our borders to enjoy those same blessings.
Despite the worldwide sport of fault-finding and criticism— and the envy exposed by a variety of spokespersons concerning the United States—we are the destination of the overwhelming majority of emigrants seeking to leave their homelands in search of a better life. We have spent blood and treasure to the benefit of mankind, not without regard for the costs, but with the conviction that it has been the proper course.
Yet today our future is not secure. As former President Ronald Reagan and others have warned, our freedom is not guaranteed and is never more than one generation from being imperiled. Without continuous attention and the dedication of our leaders to the mission presented in the Preamble to the Constitution, the threats to our security only grow in intensity. There is no rational explanation for why the tyrants of history want to conquer the world and establish themselves as our governors. There is also no guarantee that their ilk are not alive today, as determined as ever to change the world, usually beginning with the United States.
We can all subscribe to the proposition that the meek shall inherit the earth. Unfortunately, their time has not come, and the strong are still required to maintain whatever peace has been established. We won our hot wars in the past century by employing overwhelming power. We won the Cold War by convincing the potential enemies that we had the power to prevent their success if they embarked on military conquest, a demonstrated example of the value of “peace through strength,” as Reagan espoused.
We have made mistakes. So far, none has been fatal, but almost all that have failed or achieved less than desired results happened because we chose a course of action less conclusive than employing the total power that we had available. In each case, deliberate decisions were made that the ultimate objectives were not worth the costs, either in resources or international support. In each case, we can claim that our intent was honorable and our mistakes honest.
Today, our nation’s economic situation is dire and, as too often in the past, there are many voices advising that the military forces must be pared even more than the current budget and the potentials of sequestration provide. Most of this advice is aimed at achieving further reductions in Army appropriations, which will thereby reduce structure and strength— particularly attractive proposals since the national military strategy embraces air-sea campaigns as the guarantor of our interests.
There is probably little hope of any major change to sequestration and the impact that will have to be absorbed by the Army, but history should forewarn that the potential for the next Bataan Death March, Wake Island, Kasserine Pass or Task Force Smith grows exponentially as the capability and readiness of our land forces deteriorate.
There is no doubt that our armed forces will provide task forces capable of responding to a crisis calling for immediate employment in combat, but their accomplishment of a mission—indeed, their very survival—may then be in question.
We must keep the Fourth of July as a great celebration and day of remembrance, an expression of pride in our history, our freedom and our potential. On that day we can postpone any worries about tomorrow—until tomorrow, but not much later.
Reprinted with permission from ARMY Magazine, Vol. 63 #7, copyright 2013, the Association of the United States Army.