Monday, May 14, 2018

Is America Still 'The Last Best Hope of Earth'?"

       In his excellent book America- The Last Best Hope, former Secretary of Education William Bennett revisits a quote from President Abraham Lincoln who said these words in a letter to the United States Congress two months after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation: "We shall nobly save or meanly lose this last best hope of earth." Lincoln was talking about the possibility that the Union could be destroyed or irreparably harmed if the Confederacy succeeded in fracturing the nation. That nation- born of noble ideas and dedicated to pursuing liberty and freedom- could easily have faltered if the South prevailed. If that had happened, the painstaking work of the Founding Fathers would have been merely a footnote in a much darker narrative where the forces of evil prevailed, our country was wounded and mankind became all the worse for it.

President Abraham Lincoln

       In a speech he planned to give on that fateful day in Dallas in November 1963, President John F. Kennedy said "We in this country are the watchmen on the walls of world freedom." More than 50 years have passed since then and both citizens and politicians have widely varying viewpoints on whether the U.S. should be involved in engagements around the globe. Yet his words remain true today. No other country commits the resources, the manpower or the effort necessary to combat brutal dictators, rogue regimes and now- terrorists- abundant on the global stage. What kind of world would we have today if brave American soldiers had not fought in World War I or World War II? How safe would the Middle East and the rest of the world be today if the U.S. had not defeated Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War and later, taken action against the terrorists who struck on September 11, 2001? For more than a century, America has "stepped up to the plate" and aided nations in need, thwarting brutal governments and other elements who tried to destroy essential freedoms enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people.

Kennedy motorcade in Dallas, November 22, 1963

       Fast forward to the year 2018. America still has troops on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and other hot spots around the globe. Why? There are two reasons: 1) they remain highly unstable areas, threatened by violence and terrorism and 2) no other country is likely to commit the resources necessary to achieve stability in these regions. The phrase "The U.S. should not be the world's policeman" generates a lot of discussion- for good reason. Peace and stability should be goals shared by all nations, yet the level of commitment to those goals varies dramatically from country to country. America has been blessed to partner with strong allies like England, France and other nations in various conflicts over the years, but it appears to some people that we always shoulder the greatest burden. Why should the U.S. perennially be the leader in fighting wars and promoting stability in countries thousands of miles away? The answer is quite simple: without our efforts, the world would be a far more dangerous place.

American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima

       Lincoln was right. His words ring true today, more than 150 years after he wrote them. Kennedy's planned remarks are just as vital in the year 2018 as they were that day in Dallas. America IS the world's greatest superpower- and with that comes many responsibilities. If America falters, the world becomes a much darker, more unstable place, susceptible to tyrants and rogue regimes. The United States remains- and hopefully always will be- the last best hope of Earth. 

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