No other country was able to get involved in the war and not be touched physically. Our industrial capacity was untouched by the ravages of that war and as a result, as our industries shifted to peacetime products, there was no competition for our outputs.
Additionally, we were the only nuclear power in the world until 1949 when the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb. From that time until the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 the “Cold War” between the Soviets and the United States controlled much of our foreign policy decisions. All decisions were based on how they would impact our relations with the Soviets.
Historically, individual bullies or offensive countries pick on weaker individuals or countries. There is no sense in picking a fight if you don’t believe that you will win. History is full of examples of countries that conquered the known world or a sizable portion of it.
What I am interested in is the recent past from the ending of World War II to the present. On Jan. 12,1950, Dean Acheson, our secretary of state, gave a speech at the National Press Club about our defensive perimeter in Asia. He did not mention Korea in that speech and there are some who believe that Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader took that as an invitation to invade South Korea the following June. He merely thought that we did not have the will to assist the South Koreans. He misjudged our will and paid the price.
In 1962, the Soviets decided to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. Premier Nikita Khrushchev saw that we pulled critical air support during the Bay of Pigs botched invasion in April of 1961 by Cuban exiles. That was a key element in the total defeat of the rebels.
As a result, Khrushchev assumed that President John F. Kennedy was weak and would do nothing if missiles were established in Cuba. He was wrong. When President Kennedy learned about missiles being established in Cuba, he established a quarantine around Cuba with Navy ships and stopped all Soviet ships that got close.
The military moved all types of units closer to Cuba and off its shores. My battalion, the 1st Battalion 6th Marines was aboard a helicopter carrier, the USS Okinawa, and was the assault battalion of the division.
We were scheduled to fly into road block positions on the outskirts of Havana and prevent any troops from moving out of the area. I had just assumed command of a platoon in D company about two weeks before this. This threat of a new world war lasted for a period of time until the Soviets backed off.
On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and Saddam Hussein thought that President George H.W. Bush would do nothing. By Aug. 7, U.S. troops commenced Operation Desert Shield and started moving troops and equipment into Saudi Arabia. President Bush continued to tell Saddam that if he did not withdraw from Kuwait, we would force him out.
The United Nations also continued to threaten Saddam but he thought that nothing would happen. On Jan. 17, Operation Desert Storm began when the air attack of Iraqi forces commenced, and on Feb.23, the ground attack started. By Feb. 27, Iraqi forces were in full retreat from Kuwait and President Bush called an end to the offensive.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the pentagon in Washington, D.C., Another plane crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to retake control of the plane from terrorists.
The mastermind behind that was Osama bin Laden who decided that the United States was weak since it did little following attacks on its embassies and withdrew from Somalia after some of its troops were killed in action. He also misjudged us.
The point is that our enemies look not only at our strength but also our will and when they believe that our will is weak, they act. Why else would Iran and North Korea continue to rattle sabers at this country?
As we preach leading from behind, they see it as weakness and push the envelope. Egypt, Syria and Libya are in turmoil while Israel wonders what will happen if Iran does produce a nuclear weapon.
Being strong is essential, but having the will to use that strength when required is also essential. When potential enemies perceive that will as a weakness, then terrible things happen. I have only covered a few examples of that process and each cost us dearly.