Opinion

Will Reliance On Extreme Military Strength Restore America’s Greatness?

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Alan Keyes Former Assistant Secretary of State

That’s my problem with Gorbachev.  Not a firm enough hand…. When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.  That shows you the power of strength.  Our country right now is perceived as weak… as being spit on by the rest of the world—….

I often think of nuclear war.  I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; It’s a very important element in my thought process.  It’s the ultimate, the ultimate catastrophe, the biggest problem this world has, and nobody’s focusing on the nuts and bolts of it.  It’s a little like sickness.  People don’t believe they’re going to get sick until they do.  Nobody wants to talk about it.  I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen, because everybody knows how destructive it will be, so nobody uses weapons.  What bullshit….

It’s like thinking the Titanic can’t sink. Too many countries have nuclear weapons; Nobody knows where they’re all pointed, what button it takes to launch them. The bomb Harry Truman dropped on Hiroshima was a toy next to today’s. We have thousands of weapons pointed at us and nobody even knows if they’re going to go in the right direction. They’ve never really been tested. These jerks in charge don’t know how to paint a wall, and we’re relying on them to shoot nuclear missiles to Moscow. What happens if they don’t go there? What happens if our computer systems aren’t working? Nobody knows if this equipment works, and I’ve seen numerous reports lately stating that the probability is they don’t work. It’s a total mess (Excerpts from Donald Trump’s Interview with Playboy magazine, 1990)

Now, the votes are cast that actually determine who becomes President of the United States.  The American people begin the process of learning from experience about the person official selected to be hold the highest governmental office under our Constitution.  It ought to be reassuring that the individual who will take the oath of office for that position next January has thought a lot about nuclear war.  But consider what came next in the Playboy magazine interview quoted above.  Asked “And how would President Trump handle it?”  Mr. Trump responded (speaking of his future self in the third person):

He would believe very strongly in extreme military strength.  He wouldn’t trust anyone.  He wouldn’t trust the Russians; He wouldn’t trust our allies.  He would have a huge military arsenal, perfect it, understand it.  Part of the problem is that we’re defending some of the wealthiest countries in the world for nothing…We’re being laughed at around the world, defending Japan—…

President-elect Trump made statements during the late Presidential campaign which suggest that he still holds this disdainful view. He was speaking of nuclear preparedness during President George H.W. Bush’s tenure, but Obama has certainly made things worse.   Mr. Trump’s words also suggest disdain for the way America used its pre-eminent military and economic position in the aftermath of WWII.  Rather than believing primarily in “extreme military strength,” our post-war leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, complemented that strength by building and making use of organizational structures to promote and defend peaceful international relations.

The citadel of that institutional structure was the NATO alliance.  Around that citadel, on the common ground of mutual economic interest, they built, as it were, a fortified network of towns and villages, including economically developed countries like our erstwhile enemy, Japan.  But it also included developing countries, some of whom we helped to attain political independence from the war exhausted European powers that had imposed colonial government upon them.

Using the newly minted organizational cachet of the United Nations, we eased the task of decolonization.  Withal, we sought to encourage a new pattern of voluntary, peaceful, international cooperation.  We made shift to forestall what might have been the rapid consolidation of Soviet and/or Communist Chinese hegemony in Eurasia (including, for example, Greece and Turkey on the one hand; and Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia on the other.)

At present the generational mix in the United States includes a lot of people who have, (I think purposely) been kept in a state of ignorance about the complex challenges America faced in the aftermath of WWII.  They are accustomed to tendentious, factionally motivated portrayals of America’s post-WWII policies.  Such portrayals, dripping with contempt, emanate from Marxist socialist enemies of constitutional, democratic republican self-government.  They also come from right-wing nationalistic socialists, who cloak their penchant for dictatorship in the guise of “national security,” “law and order,” and government-sponsored corporate “libertarianism.”  Both end up aiding and abetting totalitarian control of society.

In effect, though they appear at times to be diverse and conflicting tendencies, the left and right wing socialists stand on common ground.  It is the ground of thoroughgoing materialism—in all things, but especially in governmental and political affairs.  ‘Might makes right’ is, implicitly, their common mantra of power.  They are, on both sides, the enemies of all who define justice in terms of a transcendent standard for evaluating material effects, a standard that encompasses aspects of human nature that can be only very partially understood in terms of materialistic cause and effect.

Such a standard takes account of the nature of humanity as informed by God’s wholesome and benevolent intention for human existence.  America’s prevalent founders explicitly evoked this Godly standard to justify rebellion against the British King’s administration of government.  They made arguments to prove that they had observed it in framing the U.S. Constitution.  So, they succeeded in establishing it as the reference point for judging America’s activities as a nation. It endured as the moral basis for America’s survival during our Civil War; and its successful participation in the Great World Wars in the 20th century.

So far Donald Trump’s National Security appointments appear to confirm his own prognostication that, as President, he would rely on “extreme military strength.”  But he has also confirmed the impression, made over a quarter century ago, that he has given little if any thought to the standard that distinguished America’s prevalent founders from the God contemning materialists of our day, whether tutored by radicals like Karl Marx or Ayn Rand, or false prophets of shallow “pragmatism,” like William James, and John Dewey.  The Founders’ God revering wisdom helped carry the United States to the pinnacle of “extreme military power.” However, that very real but historically brief moment of unprecedented global, military, and economic pre-eminence is gone.

Given that reality, Mr. Trump needs to be mindful of the fact that we did not arrive at the pinnacle of global power because we were already eminently powerful.  We did so by understanding that, to maximize the effectiveness of whatever material power we have, we must carefully preserve and extend the influential power of our national creed, which upholds a standard of God-endowed right and rights for all humanity.  As a people, the source of that determination is not our belief in “extreme military strength.” It is our belief in the righteousness of God’s authority. We must revive and improve upon that faith. Or else, like the fallen man of power in Shakespeare’s tragedy (Henry VIII), the day approaches when we will have to bid “farewell… a long farewell” to all our greatness.