As a boy, I loved America. It was a time of innocence; we were the good guys. We rescued nations from the iron heal of tyranny. We had never lost a war; we were the nation every other nation envied, the one place on Earth that was an island of refuge for the downtrodden. To travel abroad anywhere, people envied our place in the world as "an American." Later in life, in Southeast Asia, small boys would come up to me and say, "Hey Joe, you American, No. 1," always in hope, of course, for some type of handout or a brief recognition. We were "the good guys," the defenders of the weak, the impoverished, anyone who needed help. However naïve such sentiments were—and they were naïve—at the time it made one swell with a bit of pride to be an American.
Vietnam and its aftermath obliterated much of that sentiment, briefly regained with the first Gulf War after the Reagan presidency had rebuilt America's armed forces. It was a good time to be in uniform with patriotism once more popular in the American psyche. It produced songs such as Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American," which radio stations played unashamedly. It didn't last as the defense budget cratered with the fall of the Soviet Union and "the end of history," according to one historian. A pilot awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for valor during the Gulf War during a morning awards ceremony received his pink slip that afternoon. The Air Force had dumped all their reserve officers serving on active duty. Similar cuts hit all the services as 40 percent of the military was cut during the Clinton presidency.
The 9/11 attacks briefly pulled Americans together and revitalized a dispirited military, but it didn't last long. Within a week of the attack, extreme leftists began the narrative parroting our enemies that "America had it coming" for its sins. The defense secretary advised the president that a "light footprint" could dislodge and defeat Afghanistan-based terrorists without a major commitment, leading to an under-resourced mission that bled us for 20 years without eliminating the terrorist threat, now resurging. An invasion of Iraq based upon forced intelligence declaring the existence of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction undermined American confidence in military counterterrorist operations against organizations with global reach. Civilian support of Americans in uniform returned to indifference, also replaying anti-military attitudes displayed against Vietnam veterans, albeit on a lesser scale.
The precipitous withdrawal and abandonment of military achievements in Iraq led to a regional disaster as the Islamic State was permitted to seize power and initiated a horror show of mass rape and a bloodbath that stained American honor. No nation governed by wise leaders will ever place their fate into the hands of America again.
If you haven't noticed, China, Russia and Iran are increasingly belligerent. This week, Russia amassed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, threatening invasion. China routinely intrudes into Taiwan's air defense zone. Last week China flew a massed formation of 25 warplanes into Taiwan's airspace. China has seized territory of nations bordering the South China Sea; operates a massive concentration-camp/slave-labor system; and imprisons pro-democracy dissidents in Hong Kong while ignoring treaties, international law, and American/global protests. Iran blatantly refuses to abide by the nuclear agreement negotiated by Obama and now demands "reparations" for sanctions imposed during the Trump presidency. Biden's secretary of state is reportedly giving that demand serious consideration. Strategic military analysts are now taking seriously the threat of a China invasion of Taiwan coupled with a simultaneous North Korean attack on South Korea. We don't have the military force in Asia to handle even one such crisis, let alone two. Admirals now openly warn that we are likely to lose any major regional conflict with China.
At home we're tearing each other apart! The greatest threat we face is not external aggression but extreme polarization and the collapse of rule of law. Without rule of law and guaranteed due process, impartial due process, we will cease to be a Republic, more akin to dictatorships where trials are for show. The national press has become a mouthpiece to excuse lynch-mob violence in our cities.
Fact-based evidence impartially gathered and presented to an impartial jury is the guarantor of a just legal system, not perfect but a system of checks and balances. That's under severe test as mobs demand pre-determined verdicts based upon the race of defendants. Police are routinely vilified and pre-judged guilty irrespective of facts or circumstances.
Students are being indoctrinated to judge their peers on the basis of race under the guise of "ethnic studies courses" derived from Critical Race Theory, a discredited academic venture that incorporates Marxist philosophy's class warfare, substituted with racial grievances to pit us one against the other. Whatever happened to being nonjudgmental and valuing character over superficial differences? (Race is superficial.) The threat posed by social disintegration is far more dangerous to the survival of the republic than looming military threats. Our enemies watch with glee: We are a country in peril. Δ
Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Respond with a letter to the editor emailed to email@example.com.