It has become quite the fashion amongst the younger generation in Europe to blame America for the ills of the world, and to oppose us on Iraq based on this premise. I must say I’m a little shocked to hear some of the anti-American drivel coming out of the many of the youth of Europe. I understand you hear little else about us in your local press, or from your university and recently-post-university friends, but I would hope you would rise above it.
We are not the enemy. We are not the cause of all the world’s problems. The poor in Ethiopia are not poor because we drive SUV’s. They are poor almost entirely to the degree they do not choose to adopt democracy, the rule of law and free markets, those things which have made Britain, Europe, and the United States, pleasant places to live meaningful lives.
The United States is in a unique place in history, a nation that no single nation can oppose militarily. And yet, we do not use this force to subjugate, but most often to liberate — to spread those ideas mentioned above that bring the hope of decent life — as we have in the past. We are so naive, in fact, that we rushed off millions of men in WWI and WWII to, we were told, uphold values of democracy and human decency. Great Britain was the epitome of these things in our eyes, and many of our naive young men thought it not only worth our blood and treasure, but an honor, to fight alongside British soldiers in pursuit of these ideals.
When Nazism was defeated in Germany, and the quasi-fascist militarism in Japan, we did not exploit those countries, plunder them as past imperial powers had done to their vanquished enemies, but instead we helped set up a fledgling democracy and poured TONS of food, medicine, and other aid into these countries to aid their people in pursuit of the type of government which had been shown to best guarantee the well-being and happiness of her people.
When the next threat to Europe, and the rest of the world, emerged in the form of a totalitarian, expansionist communist regime that had killed more millions of its own people than had Hitler, we were ready again. After watching Hungary and Czechoslovakia fall, and the promise of democracy in Poland go unanswered, our President Truman decided this threat to the liberty and prosperity of the world would not go any further. The wars in Asia were fought for these reasons. They were disasters, I believe, because of how they were fought, but they were fought for the right reasons. We did not enter Vietnam or Korea thinking, “Hey, there’s this town called Mai Lai that we ought to raid.” Such incidents are treated in the U.S. Army for what they are, aberrations, and criminal ones at that. We had had many allies, for a while when the threat was mostly abstract, but we fought these two wars mostly on our own (especially Vietnam). It was an unmitigated catastrophe for our nation. Was it right for us to have done so?
Look at the people of South Korea, many of their youth are, like yourself rich, well-educated, sophisticated, well-traveled, and vocally anti-American. What luxury they have to oppose their government in marches, and hang out in coffee shops sipping Starbucks Coffee and complaining about their oppression by the Americans! At present, 47,000 American soldiers ensure that right will continue. The life on the North side of the DMZ, of course, is a little different. Are their youth anti-American too? How the hell would we know? They can’t speak freely, they can’t march except when told to, and in any event they are probably too busy scrounging for food, huddling to keep warm, or hiding from the secret police to be bothered with politics as you and I know it. This is not hyperbole, but reality. If you are not willing to face this truth, you are blinded by ideology in the same way religious zealots are blinded by faith.
Today, the United States faces another threat not only to itself, but also to the world. The most terrifying aspect of which is the prospect of the confluence of rogue states possessing weapons of mass destruction (i.e., Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) with terrorist organizations whose goal is the destruction of the West. We cannot afford to wait until after we are sure that this has taken place, for the smoking gun in this case will be a mushroom cloud over an American or European city (to paraphrase Condolezza Rice), or a similarly devastating chemical or biological attack. We know the threat is there, and history will judge us by what we did before it was too late. If one nation on the Security Council, and it only takes one, sees an opportunity to advance its self-interest by opposing the United States in this just cause, does that suddenly make it unjust?
Saddam Hussein insists he does not have such weapons, and we Americans are asking you to trust us when we say we have evidence he is lying. And when shown the evidence, we ask you to believe us we have not “made it up.” UNSCOM and UNMOVIC have caught Sadam lying over and over and over. Whom do you trust? Think carefully, a lot is at stake.
We will be fighting to prevent a catastrophe in Europe or America, the likes of which we can hardly imagine. After September 11th, we know Iraq does not need fancy GPS-guided intercontinental missles to threaten Europe or America – it only needs an assocation with terorrists with like-minded goals to load a container holding a small nuclear device onto a ship bound for London or New York, or to drive a truck with such a container into Europe.
And when Iraq has been disarmed, we will help them establish a representative government, which I feel sure will fall short of Jeffersonian democracy, but that will certainly be an order of magnitude better than what they have. What right do we have to “impose” these ideas on the people of Iraq? Well, what right does anyone have to impose anything on any other human being? What right does Saddam Hussein have to impose his will on people who have no say in how their country is run? He tortures, kills, or imprisons dissidents. He’s tortured children in front of their parents. As we did in post-war Germany and Japan, as we did in South Korea, and as we recently have done in Afghanistan, we will be the ones fighting and sacrificing our hard earned money and the priceless lives of our youth for the rights of the Iraqi people to determine for themselves their destiny. They certainly are not free to do so now.
One cry I hear often from protesters in Europe is that we mustn’t “bomb Iraq” because we will kill untold millions of Iraqis. I put the preceding phrase in quotes because, first of all, we are not going to bomb Iraq, but Iraqi military targets. This is an important distinction. In Iraq, as we did in Afghanistan, we will be careful too avoid civilian casualties whenever possible. Of course, there is always risk in war – to innocent civilians and to our own soldiers. But if Afghanistan is the model, and it surely is for American military planners, the loss of innocent life will be minimal. And I have a question for you, and try to consider it carefully and answer it honestly: If you were an Iraqi youth, would you be willing to take a small risk of being killed by an errant American bomb in order to ensure the liberation of your country, and a chance at a decent life, not just for your own generation, but for your children and grand children? If you were a young woman in Afghanistan today, free to go out on the street without a burqua on your way to school for the first time in your life, how would you answer this question?
To be very blunt, the anti-American protests I see in Europe most remind me of petulant teenagers. Having all the benefit of growing up in a free and well-off society, you still see things that don’t live up to the high expectations and ideals you have of what the world ought to be. And you protest loudly and often. But you fail to see all that you have, and how precious and rare it is in the history of mankind.
You have grown up in a cocoon of safety and prosperity that is not the norm for humanity, as have I. The history of humanity has not been one of the inevitable progress of prosperity and knowledge interrupted only by American evil schemes. The history of man has been one of constant struggle of one civilization against another, and of the forces of anarchy and chaos against civilization itself. It is this latter type of struggle that faces us now. America is not perfect, but we have most often been on the side of democracy and civilization. We want and need your help.
You should not be asking yourself whether the Swedish model or the American model for government is what you stand for, you should instead be asking yourself whether the very concept of liberal, secular, and tolerant democratic government is worth fighting for. This is what our enemies, such as Al Qaeda, oppose. They do not hate us for McDonalds or even our support for Israel, but primarily for the values of tolerance and secular democracy we “threaten” to spread to the Middle East. Are these things worth preserving? Are the lives of innocent Europeans and Americans worth saving? Where will you stand?