By Doug Patton
December 7, 2009
Imagine for a moment President Harry Truman addressing cadets at West Point on his strategy for finishing World War II:
Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our efforts against Japan in the Pacific — the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion.
To address these issues, it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in the Pacific in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On December 7, 1941, naval forces of the Empire of Japan used their aircraft to murder nearly 3,000 people when they attacked our Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, when we declared war on Japan, the decision also was made to wage a second war, in Europe, against Nazi Germany. For three years, the war in Europe drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that decision to go into Europe, against a force that never attacked us, caused substantial rifts between America and the rest of the world.
Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the war in Europe to a responsible end. But while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Europe, the situation in the Pacific has deteriorated, and throughout this period, our troop levels in that region have been insufficient to bring this war to a conclusion.
As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send additional troops to the Pacific. However, after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
I do not make this decision lightly. We have been at war now for three long years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over the war in Europe have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having lived through the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.
As we end the war in Europe, and focus on a reasonable timetable for withdrawal from the Pacific, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides the foundation for our power. That’s why our troop commitment in the Pacific theater of operations cannot be open-ended.
From now on, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict, not just how we wage wars. Where Japan and her allies attempt to establish a foothold — whether on Iwo Jima or the Philippines or elsewhere — they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.
We’ll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. We have to forge a new beginning between America and the Asian world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.
And finally, we must draw on the strength of our values. That is why I have prohibited the mistreatment of prisoners and closed our POW camps. We must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and respect the dignity of all peoples.
We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.
Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America!
Can you imagine such a scenario? No, neither can I.