Just as Generals are chided for trying to re-fight the last war, today’s politicians are trying to re-fight the last peace.
From 1945 to today the Great Powers have been at peace. Although this seems a short time, it is not. It is the longest period of sustained peace between and among Great Powers since the Fall of Rome. It is longer than the average lifespan of human beings until the advances made by Western Civilization’s Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.
The post-war peace was made in the same way peace always is made: by winning a war. To make the peace in which America has prospered we won WW2, the bloodiest war in history. Peace was maintained initially by politicians who had fought or managed in that war, some of whom had fought in World War One, “The War to End All Wars.” This peace was managed by recognizing the foe, establishing a policy to contain that foe, and reducing living standards as necessary – at least in America – to defend America (and all of our allies at our expense), to ensure the peace was kept.
But to keep the peace, the peace first had to be made.
The pols who built the current world order knew that it would take force, either directly or indirectly through the credible threat thereof, to keep the peace. They had seen – some had fought in – WW2 (in Europe the result of the incomplete and conditional victory of WW1). These men and women understood the darkness that enemies could – and would – bring if not deterred or defeated: they liberated the survivors of the Holocaust and freed tens of millions in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. As the new communist darkness deprived people of life and liberty as it fell across Eastern Europe, these pols ensured it would not fall across our allies. They knew what war was, as did their enemies. They knew the cost of the peace they were managing; they had paid it. Even with – because of – this knowledge they were willing to build and maintain the policies and deterrent forces required to preclude more darkness from descending on mankind, the tools and forces necessary to fight a new war should that become necessary to create a new peace.
But mostly they had the willpower to use the tools they had built. And their enemies knew it.
These politicians are gone. A dilettante who fell off his PT boat, accomplished nothing in the Senate, and whose daddy bought him the presidency changed all of this. He setup an invasion of a sovereign nation by mercenaries because he lacked the guts to attack directly. Then he failed to support it. He failed in attempting to assassinate a foreign leader he disliked. He failed spectacularly – got his ass handed to him – in a debate with Soviet Premier Khrushchev. In the Cuban Missile Crisis he brought the world closer to Armageddon than any president before or since, nearly failing all of humanity. Failure after failure made his ego demand a success, so he took the world’s most powerful military and invaded the pipsqueak country of Vietnam. Just as in the Bay of Pigs, however, he lacked the guts to defeat the enemy he engaged. By fantasizing that everyone else knew America was so powerful no one would seriously fight us, he split the nation to prove his manhood… and proved he had no balls.
The echo of this failure still disrupts America. It will until the Baby Boomers are dead and gone. And beyond.
America’s politicians, however, still wander around in the JFK fantasy that we are so powerful no one will be serious about attacking us, our values, our rights or the allies that stood with us or joined us at the close of WW2, or, that when attacking, we need not be serious in doing so. They somehow see success in Kennedy’s serial failures.
And, as did JFK, they continue to fail.
America is left with Baby Boomer politicians who seem to believe against all human history that peace is the constant in human affairs and war the interloper, when in fact the opposite is true. They seem to believe that since we won, but never actually went to war during the Cold War (the only Great Power competition of their lifetimes), because that peace was kept through words, that words are all peace takes; that no enemy can stand against our super power as long as we “tell the right story,” engage in the correct “narrative,” and make sure our enemies have jobs. Because of historical ignorance we fight over what made the peace in which many of us were raised, and all of us prospered for so many decades.
American’s post-war peace was made exactly as it says: post-war.
Today’s politicians believe that because we defeated a USSR we never challenged on the field of battle, we need not challenge our enemies today, that no policy to defeat, rather than degrade and contain today’s enemy needs even to be discussed, and that any combat engaged in is an unserious disciplining of a child by sending it to its room without even a spanking: We are so big and strong that we cannot be opposed: Would a child raise its hand to a parent? Our unseriousness is shown by our Rules of Engagement and our half-a-century rejection of victory.
Have we “won” since 1945? Did we “win” in the Gulf War? Is 100 hours a “war”? No. It’s a punitive expedition, and we left when we’d penalized him enough. Did we crush a gnat with a trillion-dollar sledgehammer it took us months to lift? Or did we just hit its wings, leaving the bug to crawl around, spreading its infestation?
Like JFK, Bush 41 failed to kill the bug. Bush43 saw embarrassment in daddy’s failure, so swung the hammer again. He killed the bug, but created an infestation far worse.
As with Kennedy, the bugs won.
Today, pols like McCain and Graham and Santorum and others want to lift the hammer yet again, but they don’t want to kill the bug. They failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and their failure now consumes an area larger than the combined extents of NAZI Germany and Imperial Japan.
Our politicians seem content with failure as long as it gets them re-elected. The adult choice is to annihilate the enemy as did those who created the peace of our youth, not to send our youth into the infestation to get bitten and clawed and killed and maimed all the while refusing them victory. But that policy would harm, not help, their re-election by their peers and voters who also have failed to learn from history.
Our protected pampered politicians fail those our president says he supports with air strikes, but who fails America and Americans by launching less than 1% of the raids used in earlier conflicts to succeed, providing air cover only to himself, but not to those fighting. And dying.
Like JFK, our pols talk loudly and carry no balls. Our leaders fail our nation’s youth, our nation’s future, instead. They fail others, too, others who thought we were better than this, those fighting and dying against ISIS today with too few and outmoded weapons. Just as Bush41 failed the Marsh Arabs and Bush43, Bush 41, LBJ and JFK all failed the military they sent to fight – but not to win, America is failing the Kurds and Christians and not-islamist-enough muslims… by refusing to annihilate their enemies… our enemies, Liberty’s enemies. Humanity’s enemies.
These pols have convinced themselves that political power does not grow out of the barrel of a gun (even though the only reason America has political power is its victory in WW2), that peace does not need to be achieved before it can be maintained, and that the credible threat of force is not what history has proved it to be: the only way to keep peace.
Rather, these naïfs have decided that preparing for war is an invitation to war, that all that is required to achieve peace is a reset, a narrative, a job, the rewriting of past history to the fallacious nonsense peddled by our academics.
This is not an academic disagreement. This is a foundational disagreement over what America is and must remain: A nation of liberty… a nation for liberty.
The last peace was from 1945 to 2001. That peace was created by FDR and Churchill and Stalin and Truman, by Marshall and Patton and Eisenhower and MacArthur and Montgomery and Zhukov. That peace was created by annihilating our enemies.
We must stop refighting the last peace. We squandered that peace through ignorance, arrogance and inaction. That peace is over.
Pretending we can create a new peace without its historical precursor is costly ignorance. For those who die, for those family trees are pruned off without new branches, the ignorance is existential. Creating a new peace will require the same tools always required to create peace: The destruction of the enemies of peace. Peace is not organic, it must be made, and it is made through war.
Pretending that the policies of failure pursued by both parties since JFK can create a new peace is ignorant nonsense. It is costing us our nation, our youth, our allies. It is costing humanity.
America is refusing to create what only it can: A new peace.
Fighting the last peace is failing, for it was made through war and kept by ensuring our enemy knew we would conduct war. If we want to create a new peace, we must first conduct war. Our enemies both know this – and know we won’t do so.
Once a new peace has been created, if American ever decides to do so – which will never happen with our current leadership – we must ensure our enemies know what our Cold War enemies knew: That our new peace will be a peace we will conduct war – real war – to keep.
It is time to make a new peace rather than refighting a peace that is long gone.
Peace is the successor to war.
Our enemies are at war. Making a new peace will require defeating them.