Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"There's a swagger to their walk..."

I found a quote tonight doing some reading and is as true now as it was when it was written:
The kids who fly the lift, who guide the trucks, who run the control towers, are farm boys and lads from our city streets. There's a swagger to their walk, and they talk lightly of the risks they take. And if they carry a chip on their shoulders, who can blame them? For that chip is a bright thing called "democracy." They wear it well. (Thomas Parrish, Berlin in the Balance. Perseus, Reading: 1998)
This quote was talking about the tons of supplies that the Allies airlifted into Western Berlin after World War II and was, in my humble opinion, the origins of the Cold War from an American perspective. The blockade of Berlin by the Soviet Union wasn't an attempt by the USSR to have a "buffer zone" around their country it was a blatant attempt at world domination--beginning with Central Europe. A memory of Averell Harriman makes this salient point. Recalling his first meeting with Stalin at Potsdam, he says:
I went up to [Stalin] and I said, 'Marshall, this must be a great satisfaction to you after all the trials that you've been through and the tragedy that you've been through - to be here in Berlin.' He looked at me and said, 'Tsar Alexander got to Paris!'

Now, we do not know if Stalin was joking. The history bears out that he was not. He was very determined. His blockade of Berlin proves this. Stalin's goal was to break the Allied will and drive them out of Berlin, giving him a base of unimpeded power in Europe, including the industrial resources of the West. The West stopped Stalin and the airlift succeeded in breaking Stalin's will of the blockade, not the West's will of supply. The Airlift endeared the Berliners to the West, especially America, and proved once again that America was the beacon of hope for the world plunged into darkness and despair. We were, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently quoted years later "a city upon a hill."

Today we are faced with the same challenge as we were then. Although, the circumstances are different and the enemy more amorphous and shadowy--not sitting across a wall--we have inherited the privileged responsibility of hope. We don't fight an enemy that fits the definition of the "Westphalian nation-state" and they use that to their advantage. The enemy we fight is determined, as Stalin was, to rule by force and fear. For those that got in his way, those that threatened him, he either executed or sent to work camps--the slow death.

There have been many comparisons made that today we don't need to fight Iran, just contain them; however, the goal of containment in the Cold War was to keep the USSR, gasp!, contained. Today we do not have the luxury with Iran or the amorphous terrorist organizations wanting to see the West, and specifically, the United States fall. By simply letting Iran have nuclear weapons--they win-- and Iran's success would ignite a Middle Eastern arms race as Saudi Arabia has already stated if Iran gets nuclear weapons they would pursue them. That is not containment.

We need to continue leading as we have led since World War I. Our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen should be proud to have a swagger to their walk, they should know that their sacrifice, determination, and hard work is a chip to carry proudly. It is the chip of hope. As the Allies provided tons of supplies to blockaded Berliners, so today we spread hope and freedom around the world. Eventually this hope and freedom will lead the West to victory in the Global War on Terror as we have done so many times before. We are simply not supplying a city that Stalin is wanting to envelope, we are defending a tradition. This isn't good versus evil nor even West versus East. This is a battle for freedom. We must not give up, retreat, or quit. The stakes are too great, the cause too noble, and the alternatives too dire.

No comments: