By Peter Huessy ~
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and said that before the decade was finished the United States should land a man on the moon and return him to earth.
A year and a half later, in an address at Rice University, known as the “We choose to go to the moon” speech, in front of a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962, Kennedy characterized space according to one assessment as “a beckoning frontier” that required an “endeavor within a historical moment of urgency and plausibility” and could be accomplished with a strategy that lived up to America’s “pioneering heritage”.
Then America was being supremely challenged by the Soviet Union. Moscow had put a man into space following the launch of the satellite Sputnik.
America responded with a nation-wide pursuit of space excellence. In 1969, 7 years after President Kennedy challenged us to do so, America’s Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface and six hours later Neil Armstrong took that one amazing giant “leap for mankind”.
America has lost much of the faith we had that spring day when our astronauts spoke to us from a distance of 240,000 miles. The government does not seem to work anymore. It was a gradual thing but nonetheless it has corroded our character and our spirit.
But while the moon landing buoyed our nation’s confidence, forces had been at work for decades to undermine the very essence of what it means to be an American and what our proper role was in the world.
It started right after World War II.
Having courageously won World WAR II, we had prominent American academics declare America had started the Cold War. One famous historian wrote that President Truman created an atmosphere of “crisis and cold war”, invented a threat from the Soviet Union, and “established a climate of hysteria about communism” which allowed “more repressive actions at home”.
Though we saved South Korea from communist tyranny, the most widely used text book in American high schools declared it was a “misguided, immoral decision to go to war”.
Twenty years later when we withdraw from South Vietnam and a Congress cut off all military assistance to the country, the struggle to keep free Saigon and the 45 million people in South Vietnam was gleefully characterized as “the first clear defeat to the global American empire formed after World War II.”
Watergate further corroded our sense of self-confidence followed by Ford administration “WIN” (“whip inflation now”) buttons to deal with inflation; gas lines and soaring oil prices under the Clinton administration with malaise emanating from the White House, and a seeming impotence represented by American diplomats “held hostage” for 444 days in Iran while America, a “pitiful helpless giant” did nothing.
In his first press conference as President, Ronald Reagan was asked whether he would continue to support “détente” and “peaceful co-existence”. To a press corps that audibly gasped in reaction, the newly elected President answered “No”.
In a new book, “Inside the Cold War From Marx to Reagan” Sven Kraemer writes: “More than at any time since Ronald Reagan’s new Cold War strategy of ‘peace and freedom’ and ‘peace through strength’ achieved the collapse of the Soviet Union’s totalitarian Communist ideology, regime and empire a quarter century ago, America and its democratic allies are confronted with critical issues of peace and war, of freedom and tyranny. In the face of these new dangers, a principled security policy must be developed to ‘provide for the common defense’ and ‘secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.
That is not going to be easy but it has to start with America recovering its sense of purpose and “can do spirit” epitomized by the 1969 “Moon landing” and other great endeavors of the country.
To get to that place requires political leaders not only to proclaim what we need to do but how we need to do it. But this also means pushing aside the siren songs of those who always complain the United States simply cannot achieve great things that we must roll along with some “arc of history” or “tide of events” that somehow, we are often assured, will end up with everyone in a happy place.
We face today four particularly troublesome and interconnected security challenges. We first have Russia, China, North Korea and Iran which our Secretary of Defense has correctly identified as America’s gravest enemies.
Second, these countries work cooperatively especially on ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology. China’s nuclear proliferation activities are particularly troublesome in this regard.
Third, each works with a network of terror organizations which operate much like criminal cartels. But their activities while fueled in part by drugs, weapons and counterfeiting are more deadly. Iran in particular is the grand-daddy of terror masters. The Mullah’s work with both Sunni and Shia groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
And fourth, the prize each seeks is to control the oil resources of the Persian Gulf. China seeks to control who buys while Russian seeks to control who sells.
Iran is the key agent to secure that prize, with North Korea the funnel to supply the nuclear weaponry. And the terror groups will take down the Gulf state governments.
Iraq, Iran and Yemen are the three first parts of the geographic puzzle from whence subversion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be revealed.
Will America react in time? Will we show the resolve of a President Reagan?
Unfortunately, the always blame America folks such as Mr. Stephen Kinzer of “All the Shah’s Men” remain hard at work seeking to blame America and “the legacy of colonial blunders” for the rise of Iran and terrorism in the Middle East.
Others such as Robert Baer actually seek to embrace Iran as a geostrategic partner in Middle East affairs.
Others while not ready to embrace Tehran, shy away from challenging Iran and its terror partners, seeking instead accommodation, containment, engagement even retreat and withdrawal.
As for winning? That is not in the preferred lexicon of the foreign policy elite in Washington. Nor is the idea of taking down the Mullah’s, the IRGC and the terror masters in Tehran.
As in the image at the top of this Post, President Clinton said when confronted with taking down the Iranians that his FBI Director told him were responsible for the Khobar Tower attacks, “That’s too hard to do”.
Yes, like landing an American on the moon.