Why must America always be strong? Modern thinking indulges the idea that weakness at home and abroad comes with no costs, just the satisfaction of less spending on security, fewer allies to support, as we hope on peace. Nothing could be more dangerous or unnerving to American allies. Nothing is further from our history.
Historically – and today – a strong, morally upright, determined America gives the free world hope. China can bribe, lie, extort, distort, threaten, coerce, and condemn – like all communist countries – to secure favors. Theocracies like Iran can terrorize, autocracies can suppress opposition and show no contrition.
Only one country has – by fidelity to the miracles of representative government, a Bill of Rights, and capitalism – changed the world. To the world, America has brought innovation and daring, from science, engineering, and medicine to communication, transportation, and security.
Perhaps most nobly, when the world has shivered, America has risked all, given her sons and daughters to end wars and secure peace, replacing fear with hope.
Last century, we ended two world wars, rebuilt a devastated Europe, and former adversaries Germany, Japan, and Italy. We brought the cruelty of the Soviet Union to an end, freeing hundreds of millions without nuclear war.
We pioneered the United Nations, worked with allies to instill respect for God-given individual rights, sovereignty, self-determination, respect for humanity and law, Africa to Afghanistan, Balkans to Baltics, Thailand and Taiwan to South and Central America.
Which brings us to – now. All of this is possible – because America has stayed strong, unswerving in service to ideals, imperfect but aspiring, at home and abroad. Those who would destroy humanity, who would subjugate, intimidate, and annihilate, pause – because of the awesome power and purpose, historic certitude and courage that lives in one place, America.
This is why our strength – moral and physical – matters. The world is not a peaceful place. The world is filled with threats and coercion, communist, fascist, anarchist, theocratic, dictatorial, and invariably corrupt, abusive, and lawless leaders, parties, and political persuasions. America is the counterweight. We always have been.
A story comes to mind – which says it all. Eighty years ago this year, Great Britain was reeling from the “Blitz” Battle of Britain, non-stop Nazi bombing of the last free country in Europe.
From September 1940 to May 1941, Hitler’s Luftwaffe aimed to destroy Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF), kill enough civilians to break Britain’s will, then launch a cross-channel invasion to defeat the last outpost of freedom – and control Europe.
Blocking Hitler’s way were the towering courage of the RAF, unbreakable will of the British, an unflappable, highly persuasive Prime Minister named Churchill, and a friendship – between Churchill, whose mother was American, and America.
America, then led by Theodore Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, Franklin (or FDR), was powerful. In January 1941, mid- Battle of Britain – which killed thousands – we were not yet in. That would happen after Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, when Hitler’s ally Japan bombed our homeland.
But as Britain struggled for any hope, as RAF pilots flew exhausted, as bombs ignited London, as breath itself seemed pinched by fear, a remarkable thing happened, at a small dinner party.
What happened signaled that America would not let evil prevail. We were coming – first with military hardware, then destroyers, above all moral and material support. Our time had come.
The night was late when FDR’s friend – Harry Hopkins, representing America – rose to his feet. He directed himself to Churchill and to Britain’s long-suffering people. America would not declare war for another 11 months, but America’s resolve – was to be clear, that night forward.
Quietly, this man of poise stood. He raised his glass and offered words that lived in the hearts of those who heard him for the rest of their lives. It was powerful – in countless ways. It was about America, our faith in God, ideals, and friendship, why we stay morally and physically strong – not just for ourselves, but for all those we love, and the future of free people everywhere.
Said America’s voice to the beleaguered people of Britain, quoting from the Book of Ruth, from the Bible: “Whither thou goest, I will go. And where though lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Even to the end.” The toast brought the room to tears.
That room was – and British from that moment forward – were infused with confidence, knowing America would be at their side, would not leave them, until victory. It was the sort of comfort only the love and resolve of a tireless friend, a loyal friend, a faithful friend brings.
We – Americans – delivered that epic message – and stayed true to it until evil fell. We could deliver it because we were strong and principled. The world depended on us. That message changed everything, made possible today. That is why we stay strong. That is why we did then and must now. All the free world depends on a strong America. Simple, sobering, true.