Saturday, January 31, 2009

Deserve Victory

On the morning of August 8, 2008 Russian forces invaded the tiny Republic of Georgia in what Russia cynically characterized as an act of "preemptive defense". Thus once again this volatile region explodes in violence and increases the already escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington.

According to the bleak assessment of one of our Fox News commentators, "with our military already stretched thin", we are now confronted with the possibility of "being dragged into yet another war, which we cannot afford".

Indeed, we seem threatened on all sides, the martial rattling of our enemies' sabers grows louder and more ominous every day.

Drawn inexorably into conflicts and wars which we can no longer afford, our meager military forces dangerously depleted and already stretched beyond endurance, besieged by the dark forces of fear and travail

our poor beleaguered nation passes into the Valley of the Shadow of Death...

Of course, there's another way of looking at all this.

We have faced fear and travail before, haven't we? We have passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death a few times before and we're still here, aren't we? And perhaps before we all start feeling too sorry for ourselves, and too beleaguered, maybe we should take a closer look at just how badly off we really are.

Let's begin by looking at just how costly our national military burden really is. To widen our perspective a bit, here are some interesting statistics:

The percent of our national GDP currently allocated to defense is 3.7

The percent of our national GDP allocated to defense during Vietnam was 9.4

The percent of our national GDP allocated to defense in 1944 was 37.8

And what about our over-stretched and sorely depleted military?

The United States now spends at least 3 times as much on defense as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Libya, and Sudan combined.

The United States has the largest and most deadly air force in the entire world. The destructive capabilities of our massive and under-utilized Air Force are awesome and unmatched by any other nation. Our blue water Navy is the largest and most powerful naval force on earth, capable of taking on any three nations combined. If these formidable forces were ever to be unleashed against a potential adversary the consequences would be devastating.

Have we so easily forgotten who we are? Have we so easily forgotten what we are capable of when pushed too far? Have we so easily succumbed to the whiners and the nay-sayers before the battle has even begun?

Too costly, you say? How have your selfish little lives been altered? What have you been deprived of? How dare you speak of this war being too costly, how dare you speak of sacrifice to those amongst us who well remember what sacrifice really means. What have you given up for your country in its time of need? The whole concept of patriotism sickens you, you say? Then I pity you as I would pity a homeless orphan. You are not enlightened and sophisticated, you are merely deprived. You have not risen above patriotism, you have sunk below it. Are you proud Americans or a weak-kneed generation of whiners? Have you forgotten what it means to be an American? and what America means to this world?

Those of us who are old enough to remember will not forget. And for those who may have forgotten, or those who may have never known at all, we will remember for you.

It was like this...

During that monumental conflagration we call World War Two the world lost somewhere between 40 to 60 million people and countless millions more were left homeless or severely injured, or both. Half of the major cities in Europe and Japan were reduced to ruins. Fourteen million Americans served their country in uniform (more than ten percent of a wartime population of 135 million -- or put into today's figures, approximately thirty million people in uniform). Over 400,000 Americans gave their lives for their country (including a staggering 4,000 GIs killed in a single day—D-Day, June 6, 1944).

Virtually every family in America was affected by the War. Virtually every family in America had a father or son or brother in uniform. And all of us knew of someone who had lost a loved one. All of our private lives were unalterably subsumed into The Effort. Everyone sacrificed something. Some sacrificed everything. We learned the meaning of patriotism. We learned to do without, and to do without without complaint. Because, no matter how bad you had it, you always knew that your fathers and sons and brothers had it worse. So, you did your part and you did it proudly.

Rationing began almost immediately after America went to war, and everyone was affected by it. There was almost no part of our lives that wasn't touched by it in some way.

Beginning in May 1942, gasoline was rationed at five gallons a week. "Is this trip necessary?" became the catch phrase of the day. Car owners had to register and were given a windshield sticker based on how the car or other vehicle was used. Pleasure rides were forbidden. And riding alone was aggressively discouraged.

After the rationing of gasoline, other products soon followed. By 1943, sugar, meat, coffee, typewriters, fuel oil, gasoline, rubber, and automobiles were all rationed and available only in severely lilimited quantities.

Food rationing probably affected most Americans the most.

Each American was issued a book of ration coupons each month. Rationed goods were assigned a price and point value. Families were not restricted to certain quantities of rationed goods. But once their coupons were used up, they could not buy rationed goods until the next month. Families were encouraged to plant victory gardens. These gardens supplied a major part of the vegetable supply during the War.

Rubber and gas were the most vital product rationed. Limited fuel supplies during the war affected America in many ways. Certain fabrics like silk or synthetic fibers were not available for civilian use. In 1942, sugar and coffee began to be rationed, followed in 1943 by rationing of shoes (even tennis shoes which had become popular in America were hard to get because they had rubber soles), meat, cheese, fats and all canned foods.

Soon, even coal was rationed.

Everyone sacrificed, everyone contributed. Volunteerism was the norm. Everybody volunteered for something. Fathers, mothers, even kids volunteered for rubber drives or tin drives or lined up to donate their blood (that little white Red Cross tin lapel pin became our badge of honor, a visible validation of our childish heroism).

In short, it was our war. We owned it and we earned it and we won it. We won it with our sacrifice and our love and, yes, with our patriotism. We left no room at the table for the nay-sayers and the defeatists. We wore our patriotism proudly. And we still do.

Now, we face new challenges and new enemies. We face our own doubts and fears. We are incessantly assailed by the nay-sayers and defeatists. By sour elitists who equate love of country with maudlin emotionalism, and equate our fight for survival with selfish imperialism. We are besieged by enemies from both without and within; and by far the most dangerous of all are those enemies from within. Those misbegotten pacifists who identify more closely with our sworn enemies than with their own country, those jaded pseudo-intellectuals who firmly believe that they have risen above honor and loyalty.

We have listened to them for over four decades now. We have allowed them into our government and into our churches and synagogues, our schools and universities. We have allowed them to shape our foreign policies and the innocent minds of our vulnerable children. And they have led us to the brink of disaster. We have been seduced by the arguments of defeatists and listened to the songs of our enemies. And we have had enough now. We have had our fill.

Now it's time to turn away from all that. It's time to listen to those other voices. Those voices of strength and courage and hope. It's time to remember who we are.

It's time to deserve victory!


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