It's not too late for America, but it's later than you think. While millions sleep, history's greatest single nation edges nearer an awful chasm. Drained by war, torn by crime, sick with drug abuse, ridden with immorality, driven with lust, stricken with senseless procrastination, lack of purpose, flagging loyalty, economic sickness and spiritual poverty, a great nation looks over the edge into chaos. WE DON'T know why we are. America has no great cause. There is no great goal toward which we unitedly press. There is no great single unifying bond, no common spiritual dedication, no deep, transcendental purpose for which we strive.
The Waning of Patriotism
Never before has there been a time when Americans found they could argue by merely mentioning the name of their country. Today, Americans disagree about America. They're not sure — some of them — what America is. Great voices of protest are heard from every conceivable source. Sneers from young, would-be revolutionaries are answered by hoarse shouts from hard-hats and super-patriots. The "America, love it or leave it" bumper sticker is answered by the "America, change it or lose it" slogan. Some say America is falling apart. Others say America has never been better. Politicians, sensing the public weariness over gloomy reports, plead for a "what's good about America" dialogue. The rhetoric of conservative leaders is answered by the acidic tongue of the ultraliberal, or the young "New Leftist." Incisive analysis of society's ills has always brought rebuttal and disagreement. But now it brings angry shouts of "Communist Pig," or "If you don't like it, why don't you get out?" Where went our patriotism? Did something kill it? Did it just gradually die? Patriotism is, after all, a deep, prideful love of one's father country, a thankful appreciation for the freedoms and liberties bought at such a dear cost by the tens of thousands who paid the most horrible of prices. Patriotism is love of country. And it's love FOR country, too. But like the love within a tight-knit family, a completely patriotic American can become very, very angry at trends within his country. Why is it that parents, who dearly love their children, can become angry when they witness the child making a decision they know will harm him? Patriotism can never be blind flag-waving, a flag shrouded refusal to admit family difficulties, a blind determination to remain studiously ignorant of deep family sicknesses. Today, youthful Americans chide the super patriotic attempts to deny problems with insistent flag-waving by literally dressing in the flag. Red, white and blue sells more than any other color combination at the moment. Ski clothes, jeans, shirts, ponchos, and hats are festooned with red and white stripes, with blue fields and white stars. Thousands of window stickers appear with the so-called hippie "peace" symbol super-imposed over a portion of the American flag. And all this, of course, is a put-on. Most Americans have forgotten how to sacrifice. We're sick. And our greatest sickness is our stubborn refusal to acknowledge our own moral and spiritual poverty. To diagnose our many illnesses is to invite snorts and sneers from a rising number of "super-patriots" whose stock-in-trade is the big-business, chamber-of-commerce attitude of "Let's talk about what's right about America." Fine. Let us do so. We are the greatest single power the world has ever known. We have risen to dizzying heights of technological development and scientific achievement. American footprints dot the moon. Our language, our culture, our products have girdled the globe. We have been blessed with the most fabulously rich piece of real estate on the good earth. Our standard of living has risen to opulent heights never imagined in the science fiction of yesteryear. We're rich. Filthy rich. But, where did we get our wealth? How did we get rich in the first place? Let Abraham Lincoln answer: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown ; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own ..." (Presidential Proclamation — April, 1863). And those words are truer today than they ever were in Abraham Lincoln's day. That famous President recognized that our fantastic wealth was given to us directly. The fabulous lands of our peoples, our mineral resources, our natural stands of timber, our sprawling grazing and farm lands, our almost endless coastlines, our strategic sea gates, our favorable climates, our very inventiveness and ingenuity — all were given to us by the God we too — in this generation — have forgotten. And believe it or not, the Biblical Patriarch Jacob foretold the fantastic wealth of America. He said: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall ... his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob ... even by the God of thy Father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above [our climate and general weather conditions], blessings of the deep that lieth under [our minerals, coal, oil, gas and natural resources], blessings of the breasts, and of the womb [our longer life expectancy and generally better health] : the blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my pro-genitors unto the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was chief among [margin] his brethren" (Gen. 49:22-26). If you have not proved to yourself who Joseph is and what peoples are directly referred to in this particular prophecy, then write immediately for your free copy of our full color 240-page book titled The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. Yes, we're filthy rich. And we're also very sick. Sick with our own affluence — with crime, pornography, disease, unemployment, inflation, divorce, massive urban crises, racial inequality. [Editor's Note: If the reader would like a detailed analysis of many of these alarming trends and social sicknesses, Ambassador College has published an easy-to-read booklet titled The MODERN ROMANS. This full color booklet analyzes the basic mistakes that toppled the Roman Empire and shows how those very same mistakes are being repeated in America today.] Our most precious national resource, our youth, is sick. Today, our nation's youth spurns and rejects almost every facet of all that can be called the "status quo" achieved by the older generation. They're sick to death of lying, cheating, double standards. They're sick of the "don't do as I do, do as I say" hypocrisy of a generation of self-seekers whose goals of materialism have resulted in the conditions all around us. They're sick of useless wars, undeclared, unnecessary, and unfinished. But one sickness doesn't heal another. Two wrongs never make a right. America desperately needs a great cause. She needs a vital, living, noble, just PURPOSE. Perhaps it's not too late for the younger generation to succeed where their elders have failed. Maybe they can yet catch the vision of a great cause, a dynamic goal which calls for, and is worthy of, great sacrifice. In his inaugural address, President Nixon said: "We find ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit." He said ours is a "crisis of the spirit," and added that, to solve"... a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit." But what has happened to the spirit of America? Where went our pride? There are reasons for a decline in patriotism. There are reasons for our spiritual poverty, our moral sickness.
We Won the War, and Lost the Peace
After September 1945, Americans could get back to the business of their own private lives. That global conflict, which had called upon Americans for the highest kind of sacrifice, was over. The world had been made safe for democracy, we thought. Americans had fought against the very embodiment of evil — and they had, together with their Allies, won. With the last enemy vanquished, and the documents of total surrender signed, it remained the task of a few professionals to clean up the loose ends of war. For the majority, it was time for a transition into an era of peace and prosperity. The technology of war had promised heady new breakthroughs in business and commerce. Soon, each citizen would buy a new Jeep for about $100 and be flying about in his own private helicopter. Travel, education, sports, literature, the arts — these could be picked up like forgotten friends, and the tiresome business of defeating archenemies could be abandoned. But there were still tigers in the world. Almost immediately, Americans sensed something had gone wrong with the plans for world peace. Almost from its inception, the United Nations seemed to falter. Russian vetoes made headlines, while a bewildered public wondered about Yalta, Potsdam, and the beginning of the "cold war." The men who could well have met their Russian Allies in the cities of Poland, or along the Order had been ordered to wait, instead, for half of Germany to be swallowed up, and half the capital city of Berlin to be occupied. Later the free world wondered why. From the quickly squelched attempt of Soviet power to subdue Greece in 1946 until the beginning of the Korean conflict and the growing tensions in Europe, Americans soon began receiving an insistent and obvious message. The world had not been made safe for democracy after all. World War II had not been, after all, the war to end all wars. Suddenly, the specter of all-out nuclear war loomed large. Words like "ground zero," "fallout" and "radio-activity" were frequent fodder for fear, along with Communism and the Cold War. The "Cold War" was to change America. Then came Korea. Korea changed America too. Few have realized how drastically.
Our Recent Wars
To understand what's been happening to us, you need to look back as far as 1950, and Korea. We lost in Korea. Since then, we have lived through the Gary Powers incident, the Bay of Pigs, the Hungarian Revolution, the Pueblo, the years and years of the Berlin Wall, and a decade of horror abroad and frenzied protest at home over the futility of war in Vietnam. Remember the days when leaders were applauded? It was just barely before Korea, you'll recall. Remember the times when Americans remembered their own past history with pride? You'll recall it was just before Korea. But since then, we've lived through the assassinations of a president and his brother, of Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King and the attempted assassination of Governor George Wallace. We've seen dozens of American cities aflame, with tens of thousands of youthful soldiers and national guardsmen confronting their own peers with loaded rifles and bayonets. Since Korea, we've seen America's cities become steeping, seething centers of great turmoil and crime. America's campuses have become hot spots for riot, murder, drug abuse, and centers for the fomenting of violent revolution. Since Korea, we've seen increased black militancy along with a rise in the Ku Klux Klan, the Minutemen, and other ultra-militant or paramilitary groups. We've also heard of the SDS and the Weathermen, along with a grisly record of more than 500 bombings in 1970 alone. We've seen pictures of burning buildings, and firemen fighting fires raging in their own trucks. We've seen pictures of the many young American policemen shot down in the daily combat in which they engage — and the battlefield is America and its cities. We've seen it all, and it has taken its toll on us. Since Korea, America has not had a victory. Her sons have fought in far corners of the world in undeclared wars for limited political objectives, led by civilians. The one bright moment in a tiresome series of humiliating defeats, stalemates and docile subservience to piracy was the Cuban Missile Crisis. But even this was short-lived. We wound up with a stalemate in Korea. We hope for the same type of stalemate in Vietnam.
The Korean Lesson
Don't write history unless you wish succeeding generations to learn from it. Don't read history unless you wish to learn from it. America wrote history in Korea — in the blood of her sons, husbands, and fathers. But she failed to read that lesson. After the tens of thousands of rotting corpses were buried, or left to decay on the rugged, icy slopes of Korea, after a major war had sapped American military and economic strength, the world had learned only one significant lesson: that the United States' WILL could be challenged, that the PRIDE in her power was flagging; that fourth-rate countries with vastly inferior industrial, economic and military strength could test America's will, time and time again, and find that will weakened, unsure, and super-cautious. It was in 1949, remember, that the Russians exploded an atomic bomb. In 1953, they exploded a hydrogen bomb. And from that time to this, there has always loomed the specter of a nuclear-armed Soviet Russia to haunt the minds of American leadership. Each incident, no matter how seemingly trivial, in no matter how seemingly insignificant corner of the world, was viewed in the perspective of the Soviets and the Bomb. And so, for the first time, Americans tried to fight a "conventional war" for limited political purposes, for limited military objectives, with "conditioned response" and the piecemeal contribution of military hardware and personnel. She did this, in spite of the warnings from such battle-hardened generals as "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, who urged that Americans never get involved in a land war in Asia. But American soldiers had never been, prior to Korea, treated like foreign legionnaires. They had never been asked to die for limited political objectives. They had never been ordered up frozen hills to die, only to "demonstrate" a point to an imperturbable, tough, patient enemy. Wars of attrition, they thought, died in the trenches of France. To fight to make the world safe for Democracy was one thing. But to fight to demonstrate U.S. policy of "containment" of Communism in a far-off, foreign land was quite another. So, in Korea, America ignored the lessons of history, and wrote yet another bloody lesson which, when viewed in retrospect, makes the grisly agony of Vietnam ever more ghastly. General Stillwell and others referred, in fact, more to the fetid, stinking rice paddies of Burma — to the steaming jungles and tortuous hills of southeast Asia, than the peninsula of Korea. They knew Americans could not fight great tank battles in the jungle. A Patton, or a Mark Clark, would be totally out of place there. They knew more about the stoical peasant mind of Asians than leaders of a later time. And they knew, on a simpler level, the basic truth that, in battle, when troops go to the ground, each individual soldier becomes personally isolated. They knew his view of the battle is only what he sees through thick trees and brush, that the big picture, the colored maps, tactical plans and logistics of massive troop movements are lost on him. They knew Asian jungles had to be the world's worst place to fight a war. And they knew the Asian people's fantastic capacity for living on the barest diet, a mere handful of rice daily, traveling prodigious distances on foot, and seldom falling victim to the always prevalent endemic diseases of the jungle. They knew an Asian could drink water from the same streams as an American — the Asian soldier would go on to fight, and the American would develop serious, and sometimes fatal, dysentery. But the hard-earned lessons of World War II were not heeded prior to Korea. And the doubly-hard-earned lessons of Korea were somehow ignored prior to Vietnam. All the knowledge of former Asian jungle fighters, including the bitter lessons learned by the French at Dien Bien Phu were somehow unimportant in the high-level political objectives of demonstrating to the world America would say: "No Communism allowed here." Make no mistake. Korea was an absolute turning point of recent history. It was the first big growing crack in the PRIDE of America's power. The cruelest thing one human being can inflict upon another human being is to take away his confidence — his pride. To strip the manhood, the moral courage, the volition from another is to subject him, utterly, to the cruelest sort of torment. It kills his spirit. The unsatisfactory conclusion to the Korean war was a cruel blow to the manhood of America. Millions would never understand. A little time had been bought, at enormous cost. Perhaps it is good few Americans realized, in 1952, how terribly soon another useless conflict, for the same limited objectives, with the same inevitable outcome, would be joined — and perhaps it is good that, in 1952, Americans could know nothing of the stifling futility which awaited them in the late 1960's. To have known, in the early 50's, that the same agonizing task was to be attempted all over again might have been even more disastrous to American will and resolve than the actual occurrence. "Limited objective" became the byword. With it came confused aims. President Truman succinctly stated U.S. goals in Korea for General Douglas MacArthur in his wire of January 13, 1951.
Goals in Korea
He said,". . . This present telegram is not to be taken in any sense as a directive. Its purpose is to give you something of what is in our minds regarding the political factors. "1. A successful resistance in Korea would serve the following important purposes: "(a) To demonstrate that aggression will not be accepted by us or by the United Nations and to provide a rallying point around which the spirits and energies of the free world can be mobilized to meet the worldwide threat which the Soviet Union now poses. "(b) To deflate the dangerously exaggerated political and military prestige of Communist China which now threatens to undermine the resistance of non-Communist Asia and to consolidate the hold of Communism on China itself. "(c) To afford more time for and to give direct assistance to the organization of non-Communist resistance in Asia, both outside and inside China. "(d) To carry out our commitments of honor to the South Koreans and to demonstrate to the world that the friendship of the United States is of inestimable value in time of adversity. "(e) To make possible a far more satisfactory peace settlement for Japan and to contribute greatly to the post-treaty security position of Japan in relation to the continent. "(f) To lend resolution to many countries not only in Asia but also in Europe and the Middle East who are now living within the shadow of Communist power and to let them know that they need not now rush to come to terms with Communism on whatever terms they can get, meaning complete submission. "(g) To inspire those who may be called upon to fight against great odds if subjected to a sudden onslaught by the Soviet Union or by Communist China. "(h) To lend point and urgency to the rapid buildup of the defenses of the Western world. "(i) To bring the United Nations through its first great effort on collective security and to produce a free-world coalition of incalculable value to the national security interests of the United States. "(j) To alert the peoples behind the Iron Curtain that their masters are bent upon wars of aggression and that this crime will be resisted by the free world. "2. Our course of action at this time should be such as to consolidate the great majority of the United Nations. This majority is not merely part of the organization but is also the nations whom we would desperately need to count on as allies in the event the Soviet Union moves against us. Further, pending the build-up of our national strength, we must act with great prudence in so far as extending the area of hostilities is concerned. Steps which might in themselves be fully justified and which might lend some assistance to the campaign in Korea would not be beneficial if they thereby involved Japan or Western Europe in large-scale hostilities."
What Wasn't Accomplished
Viewed in the light of circumstances in 1951, those words seem sound, pragmatic, expedient, even promising. But viewed in the light of 1972, and Vietnam, they appear tragic. Shockingly, the same basic goals could be stated for the Vietnam conflict, and the U. S. involvement in Indo-china. After nearly two solid decades — we're still buying time with American lives. Review that all-important telegram, and analyze it carefully. We did achieve, at terrible cost, a "successful resistance" in Korea. But it hardly demonstrated that" aggression will not be accepted by us or by the United Nations. .. ." America has proved she is quite capable of accepting aggression in limited amounts. Aggression in degrees, and in isolated areas, piecemeal, is aggression, nevertheless. The Hungarian Revolution was "acceptable." So was the scrapping of the Monroe Doctrine, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. So was the Pueblo piracy, the Gary Powers imprisonment, the brutalization of Czechoslovakia, and so are daily incidents along the same ugly, barren cease-fire line in Korea after all these years. Far from deflating "the dangerously exaggerated political and military prestige of Communist China," the Korean war enormously enhanced it. Today, Red China and its growing nuclear arsenal present cogent cause for a vastly expensive ABM system, in the thinking of American policymakers. Even Soviet Russia looks nervously over her shoulder at the growing "political and military prestige" of Red China. The Korean lesson, then, when seriously considering these stated aims, has to be "Mission Unaccomplished." Certainly, Korea did "afford more time" for organizing resistance to Communist expansionist aims. Yet that time did not prevent, or even seriously impede the gradual spreading of Communism into Southeast Asia, or even into the Western Hemisphere, 90 miles from the United States, in Cuba. Under subparagraph (j), President Truman said he hoped the struggle being waged by MacArthur's forces in Korea would alert the poor peasant folk of North Korea and China that their masters were "bent upon wars of aggression." It did nothing of the sort, of course, but it did succeed in accomplishing the exact opposite. Communist peoples behind the Iron Curtain believe in their hearts that the United States of America is a war-loving, violence-embracing, expansionist, imperialistic power. We know we're not. We know we could never be. Americans looked with righteous indignation at the "Chinese hordes" swarming over the borders of North Korea, to enter the battle against the United States. We scoffed at the "trumped-up" term, "People's Volunteers." But to the peasant boys from China, it seemed more logical, somehow, for them to enter battle with "foreign devils" on an adjacent peninsula on behalf of peoples who looked much the same, than to see the tall Americans fighting on that same peninsula thousands of miles from home. The same parallels may be drawn, for the sake of understanding the Southeast Asian equivalent of barbershop philosophy, in Indochina. Americans grew sick of Korea. They wanted out — and they finally succeeded in getting out. But they left behind a part of America's manhood. Most Americans would never understand painful, prolonged struggle over worthless real estate for limited, political objectives. They could understand fighting for home, and for country. They could understand fighting against the forces of evil, and to make the world safe for Democracy. But they would never understand fighting for limited goals, to "demonstrate" to an enemy, or to "inspire" others.
Then came the confusing talks at Panmunjom. A great blow to the American fighting spirit was dealt during these so-called "peace talks." Half as many men were killed and wounded during the long peace talks at Panmunjom as were lost during the violent war that surged up and down the peninsula earlier. The line had stagnated along the same area, roughly, as the contested "parallel" (38 degrees north) of 1950. This time, however, the line was determined by the choice of steep hills and valleys, and military considerations. The most well-remembered names to come out of the Korean War were labels for the bloody battles of "Pork Chop Hill," or "Bunker Hill," or "Heartbreak Hill" and "Bloody Ridge." These infamous names came from that deadly game of "King of the Mountain" played between U.N. forces and the North Koreans and Communist Chinese all along the line stretching completely across the Korean Peninsula during the "peace talks" at Panmunjom. Once the talks began, it was lost on none of the troops that the war just MIGHT be over "at any moment." There was always that hope. Born of that hope were the myriad rumors flowing up and down along the line of the immanency of peace and a trip back home, and to sanity, away from the body-strewn, hideous, stinking mountains and paddies of that forsaken land.
Disastrous New Tactics
Commanders began to experience something new in the American fighting spirit. Once the talks began, every common soldier knew in his heart his commanders, all the way up to the highest diplomatic levels, did not want victory — they did not want North Korea — they wanted truce. Each fighting man knew in his heart he would never see the Yalu — that he would never drive the enemy from North Korea. He learned, quickly, that the enemy seemed perfectly willing to fight to the death for a small piece of ground, seemingly forever. Tiny knobs and hills assumed enormous propaganda value out of all proportion to their military worth. Massive struggles over utterly worthless territory assumed huge importance. Whoever lost a hill lost face. At Heartbreak Hill, during those moments of initial jockeying for position, and proving to the enemy that he must come to the "peace table" (a policy pursued in Vietnam in spite of hideous lessons learned), the 23rd Infantry — assaulted various ridges and knobs for a total of 23 days. A whole new pattern of battle emerged during the struggles for Heartbreak. On the contested territory, which could be very small in itself, the battle would be utterly cataclysmic. A rain of artillery fire such as had never been experienced was massed against single hills, day after day. Because the objectives were limited, troops were frequently committed piecemeal, in limited increments. And they were quickly shot to pieces, to be replaced by an equal number of troops. While a vicious battle raged in one point of the line, men within one mile lay quietly, looking over the murky, brooding hills before them, knowing a tough, tenacious enemy lay waiting there, but totally uninvolved in the fighting they could easily hear only hundreds of yards distant. The North Korean People's Army lost 35,000 men atop Heartbreak in the bizarre game of "King of the Mountain." And to prove they could take a hill, and "lean on the enemy" in a move to convince him he must talk, 5,600 men of the U.S. Seventh Division lay dead or maimed on Heartbreak Hill. But perhaps the real heartbreak was in the knowledge among the survivors that nothing — nothing what-ever-had been accomplished by it at all. And the battle helped break the heart of America's soldiers.
Talks But No Peace
An American officer, summing up his assessment of the battle, said, "The heart to fight, though not gone, was not the bright light it had once been." Once the talks began, the public back home could not understand the continuing numbers of telegrams beginning with those horrible words, "We sincerely regret to inform you ...." Peace talks were under way. Battlefield casualties became unacceptable. No one wanted to be the very last man to die. No one wanted to die, no matter in what chronological order. General Matthew Ridgeway was informed in Tokyo that the public could accept the end of the war in sight — it could accept the truce in place of victory, but it could NOT accept continuing casualties. American field commanders agonized over orders which, to them, were tantamount to being an order to "Fight the war, but don't get anyone killed!" No such orders were actually issued, but everyone tacitly understood them. Americans had proved they were willing to die to make men free. They were willing to fight, and if need be, die for their own homeland, or for the preservation of their own way of life, their freedoms and liberties, their loved ones, and their sons and daughters. But Americans were becoming unwilling, in Korea, to die for a piece of real estate ten thousand miles from home when they KNEW their government would eventually SURRENDER that same piece of real estate to the enemy. Battlefield commanders knew it was suicide to commit troops piecemeal into battle. They recognized victory would be accomplished only if sufficient forces to achieve a victory were employed. Yet practically every time-honored and hard-earned military lesson was ignored at one time or another during the long, protracted "peace talks" at Panmunjom. Time and again, the weird game of "king of the mountain" was played. The Communist Chinese or the North Korean People's Army attacked with sufficient strength to throw U.N. forces off a particular hilltop. The U.N. forces, mostly American, committed sufficient men to launch an attack against the hill. If heavy fire-fighting developed, and a number of the men were wiped out, a sufficient number to replace them were hurriedly placed in the front lines. Gradually, in this weird testing of wills, the lines stabilized.
The American Fighting Spirit
Something was happening, too, to the minds of American soldiers. They could fight, tenaciously, ferociously, and they could win — they had proved that. They could fight like no other soldiers when it was for victory — when it was to conquer, to enforce a SURRENDER upon a hated foe. They could fight for girlfriends, and Mom and Dad. They could fight to stay free, or to protect their country. But could they fight with the same spirit for limited political objectives in a strange country to carry out their part as functionary of worldwide geopolitical considerations? Could young Americans be called upon to become legionnaires? Legionnaires are professional soldiers who fight because they are told to. They were the Romans, who fought to keep a vast empire together, and their mercenaries, who fought for the love of fighting. The famous French Foreign Legion was always known to be a sanctuary for criminals, sadists, and men whose only satisfaction in life came from fighting. They were paid to fight — and so they fought. But American young men are not of the stuff of legions. They proved, in World War II, and again in Korea, and in many cases in Vietnam, that they are superb warriors. They proved they can win. But they also proved in Korea, and are even now proving in Vietnam, that they need to fight for a CAUSE more than an order, for a VICTORY more than stalemate, for TERRITORY rather than for attrition.
To Kill a People
The ensuing months and years which began the peace talks at Kaesong and Panmunjom were no doubt the most frustrating years for the American people in their history, but nowhere near so frustrating and debilitating as for the American army. The continued failure to achieve either tangible political results or definitive military victory at huge expense and terrible sacrifice wore thin on civilians and the military alike. Not only were men in uniform being killed — a people was having its will, its resolve, its imperturbable belief in the right slowly killed. To kill a people, you must first break their spirit, and then give them too much. Make their purposes only selfish, personal ones. Make life and peace and the materialistic goals of an affluent society more urgently important to them than sacrifice for transcendental cause. To kill a people, you must have them greedy, sick with lust, insatiable with desire for orgiastic abandon. You must continually wear down their national pride, their God-given purpose, their deep loyalty to the whole family living within one concept of government, one blessed land they call home. Beginning with Korea, not only young sons and fathers were being killed — a people was being prepared for death. Great leaders innovate. They create. They plan, they have vision and imagination — they move. Weak men search for solutions to problems as they arise, rarely preventing problems before they arise. Once America was deeply committed in Korea, and once America illustrated she was willing to negotiate at the conference table with an unyielding, crafty Communist foe, and once America had committed herself to a policy of "conditioned response" to force in battle, she was no longer innovating. She was scrambling for temporary solutions to problems already set in motion through earlier lack of innovation. Political leaders, just as in the case of the past three administrations in Washington, fretted and worried over public reaction to such a costly and unvictorious war, and attempted to react accordingly. But on the battlefields, American commanders knew that vigorous action wins victories — that seizing the initiative, invading an enemy's territory, cutting off his supply lines, and denying him his rearward bases, were the elements for decisive victory. History had proved to the armies of all nations that he who hesitates on the battlefield is usually lost. Yet, somehow, the United States in the early 1950's decided that battlefields were no longer separate from civilian political offices. General Douglas MacArthur, relieved of his duties as Supreme Allied Commander in Tokyo, was brought home as a direct result of his insistence upon using America's nuclear arms or whatever arms necessary to achieve a complete victory, and doing so by attacking Communist bases in Manchuria. The United States Government was forced to seek some acceptable substitute for MacArthur's proposed victory — and this resulted in a gradual build-up of armed strength at huge economic cost, and the forcing of millions of young Americans into long, hard and painful service which they despised.
Reservists Sent to Fight
Sometimes, up to two thirds the complements of the ships of the Seventh Fleet were made up of reservists. Large contingents of reservists — men who felt they had already "done their bit" during World War II and were long since settled down in civilian jobs — made up major segments of U. S. land forces, and flew many of the aircraft in the air war over North Korea and along Mig Alley. The armed forces of every country have experienced their traditional amount of griping and fretting over the life of the "GI." But in the early 1950's the rumblings heard from the ranks took on a far different note. It was as a result of the war in Korea that Americans first learned their own young men could defect to the enemy — even choosing to live in his own country, and become a propaganda and political tool in his hand — all in exchange for their lives and whatever minor and temporary physical comforts. The American public learned with shock that Americans would, and did, betray one another by giving information to the enemy. The Gary Powers "superspy" incident — the failure of a highly trained, extremely capable and presumably dedicated "spy pilot" to follow through on his grisly task of taking his own life — and the shocking aftermath of the admission by the American President of having stated a repeated untruth — all this, too, wore on the American spirit and the American pride in her power. Still, the American public was left with no deeply ingrained impression of either unwillingness or inability on the part of America's fighting sons, fathers and husbands in the Korean War. It was quite patently the anguish of the U.S. Government, finding itself politically unable or unwilling to win, strategically unable to withdraw or disengage, which led to deeper anguish and frustration in the general public.
A Change of Administration
It should have been historically educational to American leadership that Americans changed governments in the midst of the Korean War. It should have been even more clearly instructive that, following a landslide victory based upon promises of new, quick solutions to protracted struggle, the Republican Administration of the mid 50's found itself inevitably forced into accepting practically every policy of the preceding Democratic Administration, including "containment" of Communism, and painful, pragmatic maneuverings and peace parlays instead of quick, decisive victory. Just as the conduct of the Korean War was one of the major campaign issues that swept Dwight Eisenhower and his vice-president, Richard Nixon, into the White House in 1952, so the conduct of the Vietnam war was one of the major campaign issues that again caused the American public to shift from a Democratic to a Republican administration in the midst of a futile land war in Asia, and sweep Mr. Richard Nixon into the Presidency in 1968. Ironically, those who hoped for quick, easy solutions to the war in Vietnam were once again to be bitterly disappointed by the march of history. Mr. Nixon, resolving not to repeat the mistakes that brought disaster to the Johnson administration, hoped for an "honorable" solution in Vietnam — or at least a partial face-saving. However, like the Republican Administration of 1952, he found, before his term was more than a few months old, that he was forced to rule out a military solution to Vietnam, and that only compromise with the enemy in Vietnam, and gradual defusing of tensions in the world, could keep the spectre of Armageddon from becoming abhorrent, unimaginable reality. At least, barring interference from a Divine Being, so it seemed. Suddenly, it was "Nixon's war," a rather unfair label hung quickly by those whose overview of history is conspicuously absent. Again, Americans didn't understand. And once again, a little more of our manhood was being slowly eroded — gradually drained away.
AND Then Vietnam
When viewing the Korean War with all its futility, in retrospect — it makes the current situation in Vietnam, and the protracted struggle of nearly a decade, all the more incomprehensible. The American Government clearly failed to understand that Communists negotiate fairly only when it is in their interest to do so, or when unbearable pressure is placed upon them. America not only failed to win a decisive victory in Korea, but she failed to achieve a decisive peace. Within months after the final cessation of the "peace talks," and the signing of the truce documents, practically every specific point so painstakingly hammered out during the months of insults, long staring silences and sudden adjournments had been broken. As is even now the case in Vietnam, one of the major political footballs of the 1950's was the question of POWs. The United States Government was deeply split over the Korean War, just as it became deeply split over the Vietnamese War. During the 1950's there were those in American leadership who wanted peace at any price. There were also those who wanted victory at any price. Search your history books, and you will find a dramatic shift in American leadership right in the midst of the Korean War, just as you have seen a dramatic shift in American leadership during the Vietnamese War. A Republican attack based upon past mistakes of the existing administration successfully brought Dwight Eisenhower to the presidency in 1952. During that early administration, such solutions as "massive retaliation," and "more bang for a buck," were proposed. However, painfully, that same administration eventually adopted the policy of containment — and somehow convinced the American middle-classes that Communism must be lived with, even if it is opposed. After only a year or two, then, the new Republican administration found itself forced into adopting virtually every foreign policy of the previous Truman administration.
No Lasting Peace
From that time to this, each new American leader has discovered that despite the call for new looks, new programs, new solutions, the same tired old stony face of Communism always loomed on the horizon, and new solutions, however appealing, remained to be viewed only in the light of the continuously awesome spectre of Soviet nuclear power. America found herself , from that time to this, simply because of her continued fear over Soviet reaction to the most seemingly insignificant innovation in American foreign policy, virtually "sking the Communists for permission" in adopting whatever ploy for time, stop-gap, or intervention in whatever part of the world. A new feeling of futility gradually crept into the American mind as a result of the terrible stalemate of Korea. This was the beginning of the breaking of the pride of our power. It was that moment in history when we floundered, indecisive, lacking clear-cut purpose, and proved our will could be tested by tiny, fourth-rate powers, with vastly inferior equipment in the hands of ignorant peasant boys who were largely illiterate. While nothing can be said which in any way could take away from the fighting spirit, in general, of the American men in Korea, nor any serious criticism offered of the job most of those men performed in that war, that subtle weakening of the American will was nevertheless a real product of our lack of victory in Korea.
Living With War
It is not sufficient, at this time, to blame one political party or the other — or to label one leader or the other. The point is that, in Korea, just as in Vietnam, both a Democratic and a Republican administration lived with the war "on their hands" and both learned that there were no easy solutions. Pragmatic solutions were attempted — and the policy of containment is definitely pragmatic. But pragmatists did not carve out the vastness of a beautiful young America in the western wilderness. Pragmatists did not assault the beaches at Normandy, or roll across the French countryside in the tanks of Patton's Seventh Army. And while Americans had begun to learn of such a thing as a "limited war" with "limited objectives," the American servicemen could scathingly note that there is no such thing as a "limited bullet" and that once you're in the front lines a battle is a battle and you can be killed, regardless as to how "limited" it may be labeled by a politician. But we didn't seem to learn our lesson in Korea. We made the same mistakes all over again in Vietnam.
The "Parallel" Wars
In Korea, as in Vietnam, Americans were fighting side by side with Oriental peoples who were, in turn, fighting against their own kind. To Americans in Korea "all Koreans looked alike." In each case, they were fighting in a narrow country, divided North and South by a purely imaginary political line. That is, it was merely a line drawn on a map by politicians. It followed no particular chain of mountains. It followed no particular river, or valley. It respected no particular roads, canals, bridges or villages. It was, in short, utterly devoid of any essential military characteristics. It was, then, completely impractical from a military point of view — since it ignored militarily defensible territory or strategic topographical features. In each case, they fought against an enemy granted safe sanctuary. In Korea, it was the Yalu River and Manchuria. In Vietnam, it was up until recently Haiphong Harbor, and the multi-colored maps illustrating "off limits" to the pilots of the jet fighter-bombers who fly the tiresome, hideously dangerous missions against heavily defended, oftentimes comparatively unimportant targets. Only when President Nixon's withdrawal timetable was threatened by a massive North Vietnamese offensive in May of 1972 were vital port and rail facilities fair game. Yet the enemy fought on unflaggingly as the war became "Vietnamized" by U. S. ground troop withdrawals. In Korea, Air Force and Navy pilots flew missions against bridges, roads, tunnels, trains, ox carts, trucks, columns of troops, and hamlets. They were not allowed to carry the war to the enemy by bombing his airfields, or his rear supply bases, since these were carefully hoarded in Manchuria. For the majority of the war in Vietnam, pilots flew missions against carefully specified targets chosen, as often as not, by officers thousands of miles from the battles. A pilot of an American fighter bomber based in Cambodia might fly a typical mission like the one now described.
Flying the Thuds
Weather, briefing, and a careful description of the target for the morning mission were given the pilot after his quick visit to the mess for breakfast and coffee, probably at 4:00 a.m. He would fly his "Thunderchief" (labeled "Thuds" by the men who fly them), heavily laden with bombs and rockets, along a carefully prescribed route, which included certain political considerations. (A sweep over Hanoi could lead, if a pilot made a turn too wide, to intrusion over some one of the many, many "restricted" areas, and bring about a worldwide political and diplomatic crisis — so the Thud pilots are not merely asked to bomb military targets, they are asked to be students of the delicate manipulations and machinations of international geopolitics as well.) Takeoff was always a chancy thing — with the frequent violent rain squalls, puddles of water on the strip, and very heavy, stubby-winged fighter bomber, roaring into the thick murky skies to climb on course for his refueling tanker, orbiting in a predetermined area high over the eastern border area of Cambodia. His Thud didn't have enough fuel to make it all the way to North Vietnam, and back to his base — so he had to accomplish the delicate and demanding task of in-air refueling going each way. Refueling is not any lead-pipe cinch, either. Many an unfortunate Thud jockey found his airplane bathed in kerosene from a faulty connection, or some sudden turbulence during his in-flight refueling. The refueling was done one at a time. And so was much of the bombing, and many entire missions. The Thud pilots went singly, in pairs, or in threes or slightly larger groups. After filling up, the pilot pointed his flying arsenal along the long, winding mountains labeled "Thud Ridge" by those who came to know it so well (and it gave title to the book written by an American Thud pilot who came home to tell about it).
Bombing and Air Defenses
Sometimes, weather might prevent anything more than snooping for holes in the clouds for up to four or more days at a time. All this was not lost on the enemy. It gave him sufficient time to dismantle, and cart off the target, or, failing this, to quickly set up some portable SAM sites around it, and to reinforce the target with every conceivable type of anti-aircraft weapon. Few Americans realize that the air defenses around Hanoi are far more intensified, and far more sophisticated, than any of those around the big industrial cities of Germany during World War II. Finally, when weather permitted, the target was attacked. That meant using the capability of the Thud (including anti-SAM radar, which could detect the rocket as it fired preparatory to launch) to the full, taxing the pilot to the limit of his ability to keep an eye out for the hated telephone-pole-like SAMs flying at him, or for bursts of flak, or being careful not to overfly one of the many restricted areas, and trying to place his bombs and rockets squarely on target. He knew, too, that the North Vietnamese would deliberately park military equipment in hospital compounds, and in and among civilian populated areas. His job was an almost impossible one — but not quite. He usually did get his "impossible" job done. But not always without great sacrifice as the "guests" at the "Hanoi Hilton" (American prisoners of war in Hanoi) can testify. And so the tortuous, seemingly impossible missions continued to be carried out, month after month, year after year, until the halting of the bombing in the North. This recently has been started again. At best, the bombing has been an exercise in attrition, and an attempt at interdiction of supply routes. At no time did it succeed in HALTING enemy military activity, but only in keeping the enemy flow of man-power and supplies within certain limits. During any cessation of the bombing over the North, former targets commonly became far more heavily fortified, meaning that, for all practical purposes, once bombing began again, it would have to be done over again, only being much, much more difficult and dangerous than before to accomplish. The parallels between the air war over Korea and North Vietnam are inescapable. In each case the enemy enjoyed safe sanctuary. He could pick and choose when he wished to send up his MIG fighters to contest Americans in the air. He could carefully pick and choose where and when to place his air defenses. And he could learn where his military supplies were safest on the ground. All this led to a rather unhealthy attitude among American military personnel. In spite of this, most of them continued to do their impossible job — and many of them died. On the ground, the parallels are slightly different. In Korea, U. S. soldiers had a front. They knew the enemy was "up there," in the North, and that their rear area, the PX, a cold beer, letters from home, and maybe a chance USO show, were all"back there." If battle lines can ever be said to be"tidy," then the war in Korea allowed "tidy" lines where possible. But in Vietnam, there has never been a front. The enemy is everywhere. On all sides, in the jungle, in the rice paddies, selling you a beer in the bar that noon, and donning his guerrilla uniform and equipment to attempt to kill you that night. The enemy could be that beautiful Vietnamese girl inviting you to buy her a drink (so she could inform her friends in the Viet Cong of all you said), or that little boy herding the water buffalo along (which are used at night to carry arms and ammunition to secret Viet Cong hideouts). A map of South Vietnam, showing enemy strong holds, appears to be leprous. The enemy is everywhere, and nowhere. In Korea, there was a front and a rear. But in Vietnam, there has never been a front, nor a rear, nor even a home front.
Other Parallels With Korea
There are many other parallels between the Korean debacle and the war in Vietnam we can mention. As in Korea, the U.S. maintained complete naval superiority — but the sea lanes were equally open to vessels of friendly countries, members of the United Nations, who trafficked then, as now, with the enemy. Only starting in May, 1972, was this shipping curtailed by the mining of strategic ports and waterways. As in Korea, Russian submarines or aircraft could freely shadow (or, in some cases, even join temporarily) movements of the U.S. 7th fleet (the same one). And, as in Korea, Americans spawned a vicious amount of anti-American hatred from their general demeanor among their Oriental allies. The parallels are endless — from the overall policy of American leadership to the tiresome, unacceptable, but inevitable outcome. And in all this is some of the destruction of the American spirit. Now look at the incredible irony of Vietnam, and ponder its utilizing effects on our spirit.
The Cost of Vietnam
By December, 1970, American battle dead in Vietnam had exceeded forty-four thousand young men, more than half of them Americans who were too young to vote. Incredibly, about HALF OF ALL THESE BATTLE DEATHS OCCURRED SINCE THE "PEACE TALKS" BEGAN IN MAY, 1968! Whatever had been learned from Korea was somehow forgotten. The wounded surpassed 293,000 by the end of 1970, making total U. S. casualties nearly 350,000. When considering those who have died in crashes, from dysentery and other illnesses, self-inflicted wounds, or who have been killed by their own men (sometimes deliberately, as bizarre new stories of enlisted men killing their officers filter out of Vietnam), 56,000 Americans have died from all causes. Meanwhile, South Vietnamese dead have surpassed 150,000 and 385,000 wounded. And officials estimate the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese deaths have exceeded 860,000. By December, 1970, U. S. casualties in Vietnam had surpassed the total casualties during all of World War I. Most people view the cost of battle dead in two world wars as worth the price — since the price was the prospect of slavery and a new dark age. But what is the grisly toll of battle deaths in Vietnam accomplishing? Americans aren't sure. Many are confused. Only a few years ago, about 80 % of the population thought the war in Vietnam was necessary to demonstrate, again, that Communism would not be tolerated if it was to be forced upon a free people irrespective of their own free choice. To put up another costly "no trespassing" sign in Southeast Asia seemed worth it to a majority, then. But today, only about one half believe this — and the numbers seem to be dwindling steadily. Perhaps, if the price were being paid for clear victory, Americans would understand. But for an eventual pullout, which means nothing accomplished save the purchase of time , Americans somehow cannot understand. The war in Vietnam has become the second costliest war in American history. So far, the American taxpayer has provided over one hundred and twenty-five BILLIONS of dollars for the futile struggle in Vietnam. Add to that figure the future costs to the nation in veteran's benefits (another $50 billion), and interest payments on Federal debts attributable to the war, and the final cost may approach $350 billion — or about the same as for all of World War II. By the end of 1970, more money had been spent on Vietnam than for all wars in U. S. history except World War II. Battle deaths have surpassed, and costs have more than doubled , that of World War I. At the war's peak, it cost Americans $150,000 to kill one enemy in Vietnam. And make no mistake about it, the war is one of attrition, where killing the enemy is the main point. At that rate, with enemy deaths as costly to achieve than building six fine new homes, at the rate of $25,000 each, one gains a fair perspective of the "guns versus butter" issue of history. In 1969, the United States poured $2.4 billion a month into Vietnam, or $550 million per week, $78 million per day, $3.3 million every hour of every day, or $55,000 dollars per minute. Still, with such fantastic outlays in life and money, we are no nearer a satisfactory solution than we ever were, except for a gradual "de-escalation" concurrent with a gradual buildup of South Vietnamese strength with practically all costs underwritten by an already hugely overburdened American economy. Never have so many spent so much to purchase so little. It has been said, "You get what you pay for." But in Vietnam, only a little additional time was bought. The enemy is still there. He is everywhere, and nowhere — mysteriously fading into the jungle, or emerging at the very perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Airport. He is in downtown Saigon, or a tiny thatched-roofed village. He attacks from Cambodia, or from the bamboo thickets behind you. And, while it is true a total takeover from North Vietnam has been prevented so far, it is doubtful the government now in control, or the one which will be left to conduct the war once the last American has departed (if such a thing ever occurs before the end of the century), will be that model of Democratic process its protectors and champions have hoped it would.
A Changed South Vietnam
Something more than a shaky government will be left behind. Also remaining will be the most prodigious collection of roads, bridges, barracks, supply dumps, airfields, channels, docks, permanent installations, heavy equipment, and war supplies that could be lavished upon a small people by the most fantastically wealthy country in the earth's history. Like it or not, the United States has created in South Vietnam a perennial prize of such enchanting economic proportions in terms of its deep-water harbors (man-made, mostly), dock facilities and transportation equipment that it will be the cherished desire of aggressors for several decades to come. Also, the ecological balance of the little country may well have been destroyed forever. No piece of real estate in the world has received more careful attention from the combined destructive forces of modern technology. It costs millions to blast rice paddies and defoliate, or burn mangrove swamps. But blasted, defoliated, and burned they have been. North Vietnam, too, has felt the stinging lash of the most modern and destructive warfare of all history. From February 1965 until October 1968 (when the bombing in the North was halted), the United States dropped two million, nine hundred fifty-five thousand tons of bombs on North Vietnam alone. All this cost about 6 BILLION dollars, or more than the U.S. spent on either education, space research, highways, or agriculture, in the calendar year of 1968. Believe it or not, this represents more than double the total bomb tonnage dropped on Europe during World War II. North Vietnam received (if that is the word to use) about 50 tons of bombs for every square mile of its territory, making it the most heavily bombed area of comparable size in the history of man's useless wars. Over seven thousand, four hundred American aircraft, including helicopters, have been lost, costing about 7 billion dollars. Not all these dollar signs were attached back in U. S. factories, however. No one really knows, and no one will ever know for sure, just how much of the $8 billion the U. S. has spent to bolster the sagging South Vietnamese economy has gone into private pockets, or hidden bank accounts. Estimates range from 5 percent to 50 percent, meaning that anywhere from $400 million to $4 billion may have been siphoned off from economic aid to become private loot. Corruption is a stench in Vietnam. From smashed bodies and rotting mangroves to graft, vice, and a flourishing black market, corruption is an apt description for a whole new way of things. Billions of dollars worth of U. S. military goods have been stolen. They have disappeared from the waterfronts, while being unloaded from ships, or from warehouses. They have been stolen by black marketeers, both without and within the military. It's all very confusing. In fiscal 1969 the U. S. Government spent $28.8 billion in Vietnam. By comparison, in fiscal 1968, we spent only a total of $330 million on air pollution, the Peace Corps and the Head Start program combined — less than one eightieth the money spent on Vietnam! The U.S. Government allocated $1.3 billion for Food for Freedom in fiscal 1968, and $1.8 billion for the Office for Economic Opportunity (the" poverty program") — less than one ninth the money spent in Vietnam. The Federal Government spent $4.4 billion on highway construction in the United States — less than one sixth the money poured into Vietnam in the same year. In Vietnam, government contracts have resulted in the construction of six deep-water ports, eight shallow-draft ports, eight big jet air bases with twelve new 10,000-foot runways and more than 80 auxiliary airfields. Hundreds of miles of new roads, hundreds of bridges, oil pipelines, tanks, storage and maintenance areas, docks, barracks, buildings, hospitals, etc., have been built. According to one calculation, at the peak of the buildup in Vietnam the U. S. was laying asphalt in Vietnam at a rate which would have built a New Jersey turnpike every 30 days, pouring enough concrete to build a Washington, D.C., beltway every two months, and digging enough earth to excavate a Suez Canal every 18 months.
What Are the Goals?
Still, for all this incomprehensible expenditure in effort, gigantic sums of money, and heartbreaking loss of human life, Americans cannot understand what is truly being gained. America may never understand. Is the United States at war, or not? Its soldiers are killing, and being killed. Yet, at home, there is a semblance of "peace." Millions live daily lives lost in the usual materialistic pursuits blithely unaware of the isolated, vicious struggles in the swamps and jungle. Americans have been taught to avoid war like diphtheria. But, once it is forced upon them, they have been schooled by experience to react with swift, total force. They knew it took total commitment, and that victory was the only goal worthy of costly warfare. They had grown accustomed to winning. But Korea, and now Vietnam, and all the tiresome minor defeats in between, have bewildered the American people. They neither know how to act like the Israel of the Old Testament, nor the Church of the New. Americans cannot accept war as a part of politics. War is utterly distasteful to Americans, notwithstanding their penchant for petty violence, western movies, and gangster novels. They can fight "holy wars" with a will — fight them and win — so long as they are fighting against an enemy who is regarded as the embodiment of evil. The general, blinding fear of Communism has prepared the American mind for such a war, were it 1936, against Bolsheviks. Were a "conventional" war such as that of Korea, or World War II, to be joined against Russia and her immediate allies, America would pull out all stops, and no doubt tens of thousands of youths who today say they will "not go" would, indeed, do just that. But only for a "holy war "for" just causes," in order to save their country, or make the world safe for Democracy. Americans cannot enthusiastically fight in any sort of war, short of a "righteous" war for victory. The American spirit cannot accept the vision of empire, nor of the need for professional legions. Still, in a world filled with real and potential enemies, a country so richly endowed as the United States makes a potentially fatal omission if she fails to choose between two alternatives: She must either trust in her God, or trust in her armies. But since a liberal, pragmatic society cannot stomach the kind of armies which comprise legions, since American families cannot stand to see their sons become cold, professional killers, America remains distrustful of legions. She could never submit to a purely military government, and remains distrustful of each restrictive mea-sure which seems to indicate more of a "police state" in the offing.
A Broken Spirit
In short, America is unwilling to maintain either the determination of spirit, or the kind of a battle-toughened, professional military organization that can survive more protracted tests of her willpower in far off, insignificant lands. Is America seeing the world pass her by? Does she belong, perhaps, to a different era? The pride in our power is gone. Our spirit has been broken. Korea started it. Vietnam could well finish it. The mood of the American Congress has, in expressing the will of the American people, made it virtually "illegal" for the President to further involve American foot soldiers in yet another tiresome undeclared war, in Asia or elsewhere. Thus, the United States has finally, in futility and hopelessness, rejected the course of action it so cautiously pursued through the agonies of Korea, all of Vietnam, and every minor skirmish in between. We seem to have decided, now, that both wars were a terrible mistake. Something has been steadily killing us. What is it? We have no single, grand goal toward which we unitedly press. We envision no great purpose which calls from us individual and collective sacrifice. We are ennobled by no special, unique pursuits which are righteous in a world filled with unrighteousness. We have compromised our morals, made the more futile our religions, destroyed our families, corrupted our youth, destroyed our military's will to fight, and only wait, now, for events to overtake us. We have ceased to innovate. We are not leading. Why? What caused it all? We forgot the God who gave us our liberties. We forsook the Creator who blessed and enriched us above all peoples who have ever walked the earth. Our laymen plunged into materialism with greedy delight, and our churchmen gave them all their blessing, calling the breaking of God's Ten Commandments a "new morality." We have forgotten God. We do NOT keep His laws. And that God says to us,"... And if you will not yet for all this listen to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. "AND I WILL BREAK THE PRIDE OF YOUR POWER." It's been broken. We don't keep the Ten Commandments. Can you, in good sense, deny the connection? "And I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass, and your strength shall be spent in vain ..." (Leviticus 26:18-20). We have spent our strength — oh, how we've spent it. We have wasted our energies, our vast wealth, our young, strong men — we have spent enormously, vastly, prodigiously. And we have done it all in vain. We have spent our homes and families, our farms and produce, our factories and their products. We have spent our time and our concern. We have spent dearly. In vain. If I wanted to kill a people, I would give it too much. I would have it sick, greedy, on its knees with lust and depraved sensual desire. I would destroy its homes and families with empty religions, false moral values, and situation ethics. I would futilize its youth by double standards, incredible hypocrisy, and useless wars always looming ahead in which they can vanish in some far-off land. I would confuse its leadership, destroy its national confidence, take away its willingness to sacrifice for great causes. That is, if I wanted to kill a people. But most of all, if I wanted to kill a people, I would see to it there was a continued conspiracy to make that people forget its God — its Protector and Creator. I would impugn spiritual laws, righteous values, and all absolutes. I would destroy Christian conscience, and make religion an empty, meaningless jargon and semi-sick, irrelevant ceremony. I would turn the people inward, upon itself, in a spate of hateful witch-hunting, minority-baiting, useless violence, and part-time revolution. Something terrible has happened to America. What is being destroyed is the keystone of a healthy, viable people. Some leaders have recognized what had made America great.
Prosperity and Decay
President Eisenhower said, in his State of the Union message, January 7, 1960:" America did not become great through softness and self-indulgence. Her miraculous progress and achievement flow from other qualities far more worthy and substantial: adherence to principles and methods consonant with our religious philosophy; a satisfaction in hard work; the readiness to sacrifice for worthwhile causes; the courage to meet every challenge to her progress; the intellectual honesty and capacity to recognize the true path of her own best interest." And it was only a few days previous to this outstanding speech, which seems in retrospect somehow prophetic, that the late economist, Roger Babson said: "The test of a nation is the growth of its people — physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Money and so-called 'prosperity' are of very little account.. .. "Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain and France all had their turn in being the richest in the world. Instead of saving them, their so-called prosperity ruined them. "Our nation is now rated the richest, but it could easily become a second-class nation and head downward. Money will not save us. Crops will not save us. Stock exchanges and banks will not save us. Already our gold at Fort Knox is diminishing. Only a sane spiritual revival which changes the desires of our people will save us. We must be filled with a desire to render service, to seek strength rather than security, to put character ahead of profits. Even the democracy for which our fathers fought and bled could result in our downfall." It was only two weeks previous to these prophetic statements that another famous American, historian George Kennan, said before a Washington audience: "If you ask me — as an historian — whether a country in the state in which this country finds itself today, with no highly developed sense of national purpose, with the overwhelming accent of life on personal comfort and amusement, with a dearth of public services and a surfeit of privately sold gadgetry — with a chaotic transportation system ... with insufficient social discipline even to keep its major industries functioning without grievous interruptions — has over the long run good chances of competing with a purposeful, serious and disciplined society such as that of the Soviet Union, I must say that the answer is 'no.'" Coming at the end of the decade of the 50's, and at the beginning of the 1960's, such striking words seem profoundly prophetic. We now have the lesson of the past decade to view in retrospect.
Change in American Spirit
The American spirit took a definite nosedive in the beginning of the 1950's. Somehow a gradual disintegration of pride in American power, a gradual flagging of patriotism, and a gradual willingness to do business with one's own enemies crept into America. Americans were building their businesses and their homes, but they weren't building pride. They were making money, but they were growing spiritually poor. Their will had been tested, and had been found wanting. The ghostly, unknown power of the Soviet Union was always a question mark. But Soviet willpower never was. At the very time when the highest order of patriotism was required to save a nation from its own self-imposed sicknesses, the spirit of the nation became ever weaker. And the spirit of a nation is measured by its national character. A new book by Andrew Hacker entitled, The End of the American Era was reviewed in the book section of Time magazine for June 1, 1970. Hacker said, "A willingness to sacrifice is no longer in the American character," and went on to say that "what was once a nation has become simply an agglomeration of self-concerned individuals." In one chapter, Mr. Hacker labels our self-seeking citizens with the scathing headline, "Two Hundred Million Egos." He said, "We are in a stage of moral enervation ... we are no longer capable of being a great power ... because we lack the will." In a recent year, about 42% of Americans held the view that the United States is a sick society. The causes for this sickness are listed as lack of sufficient law enforcement, riots and murder, laxity of courts, breakdown in morals, shunning of religion, poor upbringing, lack of individual initiative, and general selfishness. Those who disagree — including the super-patriots who want to hear nothing except "what's right about America" — insist that only a small number of individuals are really sick, that too much publicity is given to the evils in society, and that society is really no worse than it has ever been. They see America as only a little "confused," perhaps temporarily procrastinating, but not really sick. But America IS really sick — the diagnosis is spiritual cancer, and the disease could be fatal! It's not too late for America — not too late, yet, for inspired leadership, clarity of goals, unanimity of purpose, dedication to great cause, and collective sacrifice to push the world's greatest single power into broad avenues of peace, into a bright new tomorrow, into a utopian era of the realization of man's fondest dreams. It's not too late for America to see the vastness of her sins, just as she has recognized the vastness of her wealth. It is not too late for a spiritual answer to our deepest problems of the spirit. But it's much, much later than you think. The measure of a nation's greatness is not its industrial capacity, not its natural resources, not its GNP. It is the quality of the character of its people. America is losing character. Is there any willpower left? Any spirit of sacrifice? Any dedication to great cause? Have we forgotten how to repent?
Needed — a National Repentance
Can you envision government leaders dropping to their knees in real heartfelt REPENTANCE" before God, crying out to Him to deliver us from our awesome national problems? "Ridiculous!" some would say. And because such a picture of national repentance is so "ridiculous" to even imagine — our peoples are headed for perhaps the greatest national punishment that ever came on any nation. Notice this striking prophecy from the Biblical book of Ezekiel: "The iniquity of the House of Israel [our modern English-speaking peoples] and Judah is exceeding great and the land is full of blood [America leads the world in crime] and the city full of perverseness [our cities have become asphalt jungles of crime, immorality, drug addiction and sensuous pleasure-seeking], for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and, the Lord seeth not" (Ezek. 9:9). And isn't that exactly what millions say today?: "God doesn't exist," "He's gone way off somewhere," "He's gone into retirement." But God is not in retirement. He really does exist. (Read our free booklets Does God Exist? and Seven Proofs God Exists.) And He does say in His Word — the Bible — that He punishes people who are constantly breaking laws and bringing all the awesome problems we see everywhere around us today upon themselves. It does matter to Him how we live! He says, "I ... will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations [our national crimes and sins] and mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee" (Ezek. 7:3, 4). Does this sound a little vague — perhaps a little archaic — a little too much like some "Old Testament Fire and Brimstone?" Don't delude yourself! God is going to punish our peoples severely for our national and individual crimes and sins — unless we really repent — and turn to Him.
Our Own Ways
So far, God is not yet directly punishing our peoples. He is merely letting us begin to kill ourselves. He is letting us suffer the automatic consequences of our own ways. We abuse the earth He gave us: polluting our rivers and streams with pesticides and chemicals; killing the nutrients in the soil, striving by our own humanly devised mechanical means to produce crops. God says, "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee ..." (Jer. 2:19), and" O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thine help" (Hosea 13:9). Our Creator says, "It's not too late for America yet." We could still repent — and He would help us. Notice the conditions: "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. . . . For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the stranger [i.e., minority groups], the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent bloods [brutal murders are commonplace in America today], neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your Fathers, for ever and ever" (Jeremiah 7:3-7). Otherwise a national captivity and scattering of our peoples to the four winds is foretold in the book of Ezekiel, chapter five, verses 11 and 12. God says He's willing if we are. He wants us to repent. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11).
Prayer and Fasting
Can this nation follow the example of Abraham Lincoln? Continue with his Presidential Proclamation quoted earlier in this booklet (page 5): " ... Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace [apparently Abraham Lincoln understood the real meaning of grace], too proud to pray to the God who made us. "It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness: "Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views, of the Senate, I do by this proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer . . . All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace." I wonder if a President today could get away with calling a national day of humiliation, prayer, and fasting. I seriously doubt it. And yet one is needed so much more today than it was then.
There Is a Way of Escape
But, even if the nation stubbornly continues on its present course — does not repent — there is a way out for you personally. You as an individual can repent and escape the direct future punishments of God Almighty — vividly described in our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last. Yes, there is a way of escape for you — even in this modern age — if you're willing to heed — if you're willing to seek your God. (Read our free article "What Is Real Repentance?") Read the 33rd chapter of Ezekiel. Read how God says any who will really heed the voice of His watchmen will be protected from these perilous times ahead! Read His promises in Psalm 91. The choice is entirely yours. You can repent and escape these terrifying punishments or you can believe that life will somehow go on and on in monotonous day-to-day routine. If you choose the latter course, you're only waiting to die with the nation.