Seventy-five years ago today, the Allied Forces launched a momentous amphibious assault in Normandy that commenced the bloody eastbound trek to kill Hitler and defeat Nazism. D-Day was, in its purest possible form, a real-life military embodiment of unabashed good versus diabolical evil. It is truly impossible to concoct a more pellucid Manichaeism — a starker juxtaposition wherein the very best of humanity goes to war with the very worst of humanity.
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months,” exhorted Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, on the eve of D-Day. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”
I saw Saving Private Ryan, which assuredly features the greatest cinematic depiction of the storming of Omaha Beach in the history of Hollywood, in a special theater showing last evening. The epic war scene, replete as it is with visceral exposure to the utter savagery of military conflict, was just as engrossing and bone-jarring as it first was for me many years ago.
I am not a military veteran, and I therefore have no personal experience with horrors the likes of which those valorous Americans encountered as they faced ceaseless Nazi machine gun fire from the top of Omaha Beach. But I have many dear friends who have served our nation with honor. And I also have enough common sense to recognize that the state of warfare, although inseparable to some degree from the human condition itself, is something that here, there, and everywhere ought to be avoided if there is any feasible way for noble statesmen and political elites to do so.
At the same time, the heroes who sailed across the ocean and risked dying to save the free world that harrowing June morning were under no illusions as to the sacredness of their mission. Consider General Eisenhower’s aforementioned exhortation to eradicate “Nazi tyranny over [the] oppressed peoples of Europe” and establish “security for ourselves in a free world.” Consider the clarity of FDR’s D-Day national prayer: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”
Our courageous men and women in uniform today deserve no lesser clarity of mission and purpose than did the men who landed in Normandy 75 years ago. But can it truly be said that our political and military elites provide that clarity?
Unfortunately, the answer is, “no.” Today, our political elites and military brass — all of whom far too frequently suffer from the insufferable groupthink of the bipartisan Wilsonian “universal values” consensus — tend to shortchange our men and women in uniform in all sorts of ways. Restrictive rules of engagement and the outrageous appropriation of the military as a tool for leftist culture war ends are but two tangible examples. But more generally, there are far too many politicians and uniformed Pentagon higher-ups alike who, in the year 2019, would send our men and women into armed battle — wherein they necessarily risk paying the ultimate price — without a cogent and compelling reason to do so.
What on Earth are we still doing, eighteen years later, refereeing an Islamic tribal civil war in the backwater sharia law-run backwater of Afghanistan? For that matter, why do we position U.S. servicemen in caretaker, civil war-refereeing positions at all — be they in Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere? Why do we have soldiers being physically ambushed in a strategically unimportant country like Niger? Why are we considering the possibility of sending troops — not merely justifiable arms and ancillary hard assets, but actual, physical troops — into Venezuela?
What our political elites, politicized military brass, and reflexively interventionist armchair punditry all too often lack is a sober contemplation of what an actual military engagement entails — and if that mission is truly necessary — before sending our troops into harm’s way. That really ought to not be too much to ask for. To be sure, not every military engagement will have the once-a-millennium moral dichotomy of D-Day. And of course, staunch hawkishness is absolutely sometimes called for — especially as it pertains to America’s preeminent 21st-century geopolitical threats, which are China, Russia, and Islamism (best represented by the Iran–Qatar–Turkey–Muslim Brotherhood ideological axis).
But as a general guiding principle, our men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line deserve clarity. They deserve purpose. And it is the solemn task of politicians and military higher-ups alike, especially after a myriad of post-9/11 overseas fishing expeditions across the broader Islamic world, to ensure that we never let our soldiers down. Let us use the 75th anniversary of D-Day as a time to reflect and rededicate ourselves to doing just that.