History is like a blueprint to the future. In many ways it repeats itself and, in doing so, provides us with countless indicators that tell us how to fail or how to succeed. The adage, "those who don't know history are bound to repeat it" is lesson number one in how to learn from one's successes or failures. Today, we are witnessing what happens when history's lessons are ignored.
World War II took a devastating toll on the countries of Europe and Asia, but the Allied forces, the west, won the battles. Europe was left with a beaten people and an infrastructure that was in shambles. The United States could have come home and left Europe to fend for itself, and we really don't know what would have happened. We do know, that even with our continued presence, Russia was throwing its weight around and did its best to isolate West Berlin.
When Russia prevented normal road and rail traffic to travel through its controlled portion of Germany into West Berlin, President Truman initiated the Berlin Airlift. For eleven months, United States and British flight crews flew round the clock into Berlin, bringing in tons of essential food and medical supplies and a host of other essentials every single day. The entire operation was a logistical masterpiece. And, our "occupation" forces prevented Russia or others from interfering with the rebuilding of the country.
After Japan's surrender, the United States forged an alliance with that country, even to the point of strongly influencing the development of their Constitution. That bond continues to this day as does our military presence there. That presence is essential to maintaining the peace in Southeast Asia as our country has a long standing treaty with Taiwan (Formosa), where General Chang Kai Shek separated himself and his followers from the mainland Communist Chinese. As of late, China has been making huge investments in its military and has been staking claims in the South China Sea. If they decide to reclaim Taiwan or other islands in that sea, our military presence becomes essential.
Through those rebuilding efforts, and our on-going military presence throughout Germany, Europe, and Japan, those nations have had relative peace for 70 years. To this day, the United States has maintained a military presence, with several hundred military installations around the world.
The examples of Europe and Japan are in contrast to what has happened in the Middle East. Success was achieved in Iraq, with the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a democratically-elected government. That success however, did not mean that the country was one big happy family. Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, a minority in the country where 63 percent of the population is Shia Muslim. That divide is incredibly significant. On one side of Iraq is Iran, a Shia Muslim nation. On the other side of Iraq is Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim nation. There is a spiritual divided between the two sects as each seeks to rule all of Islam. When our military presence was removed from Iran, it removed any chance of stability in that critical region of the world. As we have seen, the rest of the Middle East is in flames as there is no stable military presence ready, willing, and able to keep each of the factions from trying to dominate the other.
A critical piece of this puzzle is that our true ally, the State of Israel, has the most religiously diverse population in the Middle East; with its Jewish population numbering about six million and its non-Jewish population around two million. Israel is surrounded by Muslim countries that overwhelmingly outnumber its small Jewish population. The issue becomes one of, if they were in a war and "won", would they have enough military to occupy the losing country in order to maintain stability? Obviously, Israel could not provide a sufficient number of troops to control Iran's population of almost 78 million people, or Iraq's over 33 million, or Saudi Arabia's 29 million.
While we maintained a presence in Iraq, a democratically-elected government was installed, consisting of both Sunni and Shia. That didn't mean that the two factions decided to hug each other but, as long as we maintained a presence, things were working. However, when President Obama declared victory and removed our occupying force from Iraq, Shia dominated Iran moved in to gain influence and control over Iraq, a largely Shia country that had been ruled by a Sunni — Saddam Hussein. Now, both Sunni and Shia are plagued by the expansion of the ruthless and savage ISIL terrorist organization.
Those who believe the Middle East will stabilize, and/or that ISIL and other terrorist armies will not continue to expand but will become complacent and non-threatening, are ignoring history's lessons. The United States is the only powerful, stabilizing force in the world and, without its "occupation", no lasting victory can be achieved. Think of Germany and Europe, Japan, Korea, and our military presence in locations from as remote as Iceland to Guam.
Before it comes to your doorstep . . . Think!
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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