PINKERTON: Blessed Are The Peacemakers — And The Rebuilders

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James P. Pinkerton Former Fox News Contributor
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Today we remember the gallant Americans who fought on D-Day and on all the other battlefronts of World War Two.  And yet we should also remember that Americans fought for peace. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in his D-Day radio address, “They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest,” he added, to bring a “sure peace … invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men.”

Also today, we are in a new struggle against the schemings of unworthy men: Vladimir Putin and his army of “Orcs.”  And while we are not ourselves fighting, we are helping. The vast majority of Americans agree that’s the right thing to do — polls show support above 70%.

Yet if helping Ukraine win its war for survival against Russia is a good idea, then helping to win the peace afterward is also a good idea. Fortunately, we have a successful precedent to point to: The Marshall Plan, launched 75 years ago  on June 5, 1947,  is also an anniversary worth celebrating.

But first, let’s consider the stakes in our time. Since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, the U.S. has been providing aid, reasoning that Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s brave but embattled country deserves our help, that Russian aggression needs to be stopped, and that the principle of national self-determination must be defended. Last month, by big bipartisan votes, Congress ratified this policy; the House voted 368-57 in favor of a $40 billion aid package, and the Senate voted 86-11 “aye.” To be sure, these votes, lopsided as they were, haven’t ended the controversy over Ukraine — here in the U.S. no controversy ever seems to end — but Uncle Sam has taken a firm stand.

As a result, it seems likely that Ukraine will fight Russia to at least a draw on the battlefield. That’s a victory for freedom, democracy, and decency, won with the blood of Ukrainians and the wealth of the West.

Yet the damage to Ukraine has been enormous. Estimates of fatalities, military and civilian, reach into the tens of thousands, and perhaps a third of the population has been displaced. Indeed, to get a sense of the damage done, we can simply turn on a TV — or go to YouTube.

So the potential for continued trouble is obvious: If Ukraine remains a bleeding wound, it will be a tempting target for future Russian attacks and subversion, as well as a no-man’s land open to any sort of nefarious trafficking.

So what to do? We can join with goodhearted people around the world and rebuild Ukraine. To be sure, Ukraine isn’t the only rebuilding project we need — there’s plenty to be done here at home — but it’s one of them.

And as noted, we might study our own history to see what has worked in the past to secure a postwar peace.

Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the man with the famous plan, was an unlikely rebuilder. Commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1902, he earned a Silver Star for his combat role in World War One, and then rose to be chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War Two; that is, the more famous American generals of that conflict — Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton — reported to him.

Retiring after 43 years in the Army, Marshall soon found himself drafted into a new role, as secretary of state. From that post he could see that the American victory in the European war was threatened by the chaos of the post-war. Indeed, beyond the humanitarian concern was the strategic concern: that hungry and desperate peoples — former Allies and Axis alike — would hearken to the siren song of Stalinist communism. A bigger red bloc could spell big trouble.

So on that fateful June 5, Marshall took note of Europe’s “economic, social and political deterioration of a very grave character.” The result, he continued, was “no political stability and no assured peace.” Thus the new goal for Uncle Sam was “the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.” And that meant an aid program, including to Germany. Such generosity, even to a defeated (albeit transformed) foe, was the peak of enlightened self-interest. We wanted more strong capitalist countries in our camp, not communist foes in the Soviet camp.

Marshall’s proposal was big, bold — and controversial. Still, the following year, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the legislation by Ukraine-aid-level margins: 69:17 in the Senate, and 329:74 in the House. Ultimately, the U.S. sent some $13.3 billion in Europe, which, adjusted for inflation, would be about $160 billion today.

Did the Marshall Plan work? Sure it did. Western Europe soon revived, and thanks to the leadership of Marshall’s successor as secretary of state, Dean Acheson, in 1949 the U.S., Canada, and 10 European countries formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be a great bulwark against communism during the Cold War. Acheson would later remember the Marshall Plan as “one of the greatest and most honorable adventures in history,” and in 1953 Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today, NATO is a 30-nation military alliance, still led by the U.S. (And in the wake of the Russian invasion, two more countries, Finland and Sweden, are all but certain to join.)

To be sure, the U.S. bears a disproportionate share of the NATO burden, and that causes plenty of agita in America, and yet whatever we spend on NATO is cheaper — in treasure, to say nothing of blood — than what we spent on either World War One or World War Two, or would have spent on World War Three against the Soviet Union.

Yet now a new and perhaps greater threat is on the horizon: That Russia will side with China,  thereby creating a mighty Eurasian axis. Russia may be repulsed, even humiliated, in Ukraine, but it still possesses great resources — and the Chinese are planning to take full advantage of them.

Indeed, the Russians may be receptive to an eastern tilt; the idea that Russia’s destiny is to be separate from Europe has deep roots in its culture. In any case, the rise of China in recent decades has meant that Russia, which shares a 2,500-mile border with China, has increasingly become an economic satellite. And the Ukraine war has made a desperate Moscow even more dependent on Beijing.

So now the West is staring at a potential Eurasian bloc of hostile nations: Russia joined to China, and that Beijing-dominated duo perhaps joined by other anti-Western states, such as Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. That’s four, and maybe soon five, nuclear powers, boasting a total population of  nearly two billion. A nasty Mordor on the World-Island.

Against this mighty alliance, Americans will need a mighty alliance of their own. And fortunately, we are on our way to having one: We have NATO, now much energized by the Ukraine war. Moreover, if we continue to play our cards right, we’ll have a rebuilt Ukraine, led by the most inspiring figure of the young 21st century, Zelenskyy. And for the long twilight struggle ahead, we can probably pick up more allies, including Israel, Japan and South Korea. In which case, the correlation of forces, us vs. them, starts to look pretty good.

We, the freedom-loving good guys, should remember the wisdom of an earlier freedom-loving good guy who saw the need for alliance, Ben Franklin: We must hang together — or we will hang separately. 

Or, to state the matter more positively, blessed are the rebuilders, for they shall inherit a free and prosperous world.

James P. Pinkerton, a former White House domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, has been a Fox News contributor since 1996.