Sunday, May 29, 2016
American soldiers have not always fought for freedom, though we like to attach that flowery phrase to their mortal sacrifices. The American fighting man did indeed fight for freedom in the Revolutionary War and World War II, as well as Korea and Vietnam. In those wars they opposed an enemy dedicated to the destruction of self-determination and self-governance.
Of course, in Korea and Vietnam, our troops fought for the freedom of someone else, not Americans. Perhaps our involvement can be rationalized by the belief that, if Communist aggression were allowed to proceed unchecked, then our own freedom would be jeopardized in the near future. Was the death toll worth it? The answer is subjective. I am happy that Korea was spared from the collectivist tyranny, and I regret that the Democrat Party sold our Vietnamese allies down the river.
Other wars in our history are not as clear cut. Did we fight for freedom in the Civil War? Yes and no. The South fought for the right to govern itself; the North fought to prevent it.
Did we fight for freedom in the Spanish-American war? If so, it isn't obvious to me. Likewise in the Mexican war of the 1840s. Texas fought to secede from Mexico and govern itself, so as far as Texas is concerned, they were indeed fighting for freedom, i.e. Texas independence. Mostly, however, that war was merely a land grab. Mexico had lands that we wanted, and we took them by force.
Did we fight for freedom in World War I? No. We probably should never have gotten involved. It is said that we were fighting "to make the world safe for democracy." What balderdash. If anything, we fought to defend our allies in Britain and France against the Germans -- kinfolk supporting kinfolk in a time of crisis, even though there was no clear-cut case of good vs evil. World War I was a confused and chaotic mess without any clear goals for either side. To this day I cannot tell you what the two sides were fighting for. It remains a mystery.
Did we fight for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan? The answer seems clear: no. I think we fought there to destroy the threat of attacks by Islamists against other Islamists and against ourselves. The theory was that by turning Iraq and Afghanistan into modern democracies, they would lose their aggressive tendencies, much as Germany and Japan did after their defeat in World War II. This was prefaced on the mistaken belief that all peoples, everywhere, secretly yearn for democracy and individual freedom. They do not so yearn in Muslim countries, or at least, the majority do not. They want to be ruled by fanatical clerics and Sharia law. Attempting to turn these barbarian cultures into modern, pluralistic democracies was a fool's errand from the start. Most of the American lives lost there were wasted.
Not all American soldiers and sailors and marines died "for freedom." Although we should keep our military strong and ready, it should not be used to enter ambiguous wars where there is no clear threat to our own freedoms. The lives of our sons and daughters are too precious to waste.