Alexis de Tocqueville, a French diplomat and political scientist in his 1835 book about democracy in America, written from his firsthand observations, reported: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” If only Tocqueville’s laudatory perspective of America could still be true today.
During World War II, after being attacked, America spent her blood and treasure to defend and rescue the people of Europe and the Far East from fascist tyrants determine to dominate all of humanity. Through the fiery trials of that war, America became even more than what Tocqueville admired about her — she became not only the greatest of nations, she became a good nation.
America proved her unmatched goodness when she helped rebuild the very nations that declared war on her and then killed over 400,000 of her people. America was a nation that had every reason to be admired and respected. She truly was exceptional.
Tragically, America has shamefully devolved into something much different — a warmongering nation, militarily interfering in the affairs of others, leaving death and destruction in her wake. She has tried to satisfy her unquenchable thirst for dominance in a fool's attempt to pridefully prove that she is still greatest of all.
Instead of “repairing her faults” to become truly great and more importantly good, for 70 years, aided and abetted by a vast and ever-growing military industrial complex, America has gratified herself with a pretense of greatness — a greatness that is nothing more than a facade of what it once was. And what does she have to show for it?
Sixty-four years after the Korean conflict, Korea is still divided and North Korea threatens its neighbors and American military forces with nuclear weapons. All of Vietnam became communist in spite of more than 10 years of American military intervention to prevent it. After 15 years of war, Afghanistan remains deadlocked between the Taliban and the governing regime. Iraq, Libya and now Syria are in a state of ruin, infiltrated by terrorist forces, compounded by civil divisions and tribal strife.
Through all of this, millions have been killed and maimed, millions of civilians displaced as refugees, hundreds of thousands of American veterans have committed suicide, trillions of dollars have been spent on war-making, and ruinous disruption and disorder plague nations subjected to U.S. military intervention. Look at what America has done. Look at the misery and mayhem she has caused.
Presently, a pre-emptive strike against North Korea is being planned as the USS Carl Vinson strike group sails off the shores of the Korean peninsula. This won’t be like bombing Syria, Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan. It will lead to massive death and destruction beyond the comprehension of most Americans. With North Korea’s military capacity, tens of thousands of American soldiers standing guard between Seoul and the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) will be killed in an instant.
The targeted greater Seoul area has over 20 million residents and is only 35 miles from the DMZ. The loss of life in just a matter of minutes would be unprecedented in all of human history. Without a doubt, the U.S. military could wipe the North Korean regime off the face of the earth, but the cost to do so would be staggering.
America has a chance “to repair her faults” and find a way to peace instead of more death and destruction. What she chooses this time will determine whether she can ever be great again. If America chooses wrongly, she will be blamed and shamed for generations. If she chooses wisely, she can become more than great, she can become good again.
Stuart C. Reid was formerly posted to the 2nd Infantry Division near the Korean demilitarized zone.