The evidence of our decline is everywhere, but nowhere is it more apparent than
in the way we are being treated by other countries. Some of our allies,
including Canada, Holland and Spain, have left or are leaving us in the lurch in
Afghanistan, withdrawing their troops. Many states, including our allies, have
sought to embarrass us diplomatically. The trip that President Barack Obama took
recently to the Pacific Rim was an example of that. He was rebuffed by countries
large and small. Most media observers called his journey a fiasco of
There was a time when the US military said it was capable of
fighting two and a half wars at the same time. Today, as a result of being
bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we probably are unable to fight a third
war, and our enemies know it.
LAST SPRING, North Korea sank a South
Korean navy ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors. The US is an ally of South
Korea with 28,000 troops in that country. We’ve always been told that those
troops are there as a trip wire, so that North Korea would know if it attacked
South Korea, it would be attacking the US in the same way that an attack on one
NATO country would be seen as an attack upon all NATO members. North Korea has
paid no price for its sinking of the South Korean ship and, just as bad, no
price for its recent unprovoked artillery bombardment of a South Korean island
which resulted in the deaths of two South Korean soldiers and two civilians and
injuries to 15 others.
It was recently revealed in the American secret
documents disclosed by WikiLeaks that North Korea has been supplying long-range
missiles to Iran. According to The New York Times
of November 29 the documents
“reveal for the first time that the United States believes that Iran has
obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western
European capitals and Moscow and help it develop more formidable long-range
Other than decrying the most recent attack on South
Korea and sending the aircraft carrier George Washington to participate in a
joint military exercise in South Korean waters, so far as I know, we have done
nothing to retaliate. Undoubtedly, South Korea is reluctant to retaliate or
escalate, fearing to expose millions of its citizens to further military action,
including a possible nuclear attack by North Korea, which has the fourth largest
army in the world. North Korean citizens may be dying of starvation, but
their army is well provided for.
Do we have the means or resolve to
launch a punishing attack against North Korea, which is perceived as crazy
enough to launch a nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan, expecting China
to continue to protect it at the UN and provide it with military support?
from our not having the resources to take on another war with North Korea,
especially if the latter is supported by China – remember General Douglas
MacArthur’s error in 1951 in approaching the Yalu River and having the Chinese
army enter the fray and drive us back to the 38th parallel – most troubling is
we don’t have the resolve. America is simply not prepared or willing to go to
war again, after our terrible experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not
willing to accept the hardships a war requires, including the need to pay for
that war with additional taxes. Nor are we willing to reimpose the draft
requiring everyone to do their part.
We simply are not prepared to
protect our national honor and national security as we were when we went to war
with Nazi Germany. Indeed, the situation today is looking more and more like
Munich of 1938 when the world caved to the Nazi threats, as we today cave to the
threats of countries like North Korea and Iran. We have even succumbed to the
threats of Somali pirates who, according to The New York Times
of November 9,
are holding for ransom 25 ships and 500 people.
We should tell North
Korea and Iran to turn over by a stated deadline their nuclear weapons to China
or Russia, countries where we believe the doctrine of mutually assured
destruction still applies, or suffer military consequences. We should
warn them that any act of war they engage in worldwide will result in an
immediate military response on our part of a devastating nature.
current situation requires is the resolve of president John F. Kennedy during
the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when he made clear to the USSR that the US
would immediately respond to its placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, deeming it an
act of war. Is President Obama up to it? This is his 3 a.m. telephone
call. I pray he is.
The writer is a former mayor of New York City.