The United States stood by helplessly as frenzied mobs stormed its embassy in Iran, capturing its citizens as hostages. A month before, President Carter capitulated to the Soviet Union over the stationing of Russian troops in Cuba. Why is the greatest power the world has ever known so weak and ineffectual? There are definite reasons—and you need to know the answers.
The crowds whooped it up in a mixture of hatred and wild glee. Placards proclaimed "Death to America Is a Beautiful Thought" and "Khomaini Struggles, Carter Trembles." President Carter was burned in effigy many times over. American flags were set ablaze time and again.
In the most humiliating episode of all, Iranian "students" were seen using "Old Glory" to haul trash on the besieged U.S. embassy grounds, finally stuffing the very symbol of the United States into the trash bin like any dirty, oil-soaked rag.
And No Help Came
Inside the besieged United States embassy compound in Tehran, Iran—a slice of sovereign American territory—over sixty U.S. citizens waited for their release or rescue. After over two weeks of imprisonment, thirteen captives were released—leaving 49 possibly facing a mock trial as spies.
Seventy-five years ago, their ordeal would have been a short one. The might of the U.S. military under Commander-in-Chief and President Teddy Roosevelt would have quickly been brought to bear in the situation. More likely than not, the ugly incident would never have erupted in the first place. If U.S. prestige—respect for American power—were as high in 1979 as it was in 1904, the zealots of Iran's Ayatollah Khomaini would not have dared scale the walls of the diplomatic compound.
The issue quickly boils down to the factor of respect, or the lack of it. America has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the world ("I don't get no respect").* Because the U.S. enjoys so little respect and its worldwide prestige is so low, Khomaini's mobs could get away with storming the American embassy with no fear of reprisal. As former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said: "An image of weakness is going to elicit this kind of behavior. Wild as the Ayatollah seems to be, he would not dare to touch the Soviet embassy. "Schlesinger's words seemed almost prophetic. Shortly afterward, another U.S. embassy was stormed, this time in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan. One hundred diplomatic personnel were fortunately rescued by Pakistani soldiers.
The rioters had erroneously believed the U.S. to be responsible for damage the previous day to Islam's holiest shrine in Mecca. It was felt that some of Khomaini's followers may have spread the rumor.
*Rodney Dangerfield is an American comedian noted for his "I don't get no respect" routines.
A Policy of Impotence?
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, alarmed at the shocking episode unfolding in Iran, said that America "must not elevate impotence" on the international scene "into a political principle.... We must not turn a sense of our limits into a doctrine of abdication, for without our commitment, there can be no world security.... Without faith in us, our friends will despair, and without respect for our strength, our adversaries will be emboldened."
The most ringing denunciation of American foreign policy to date has been delivered by syndicated columnist George F. Will. He wrote: "Enduring the contempt of the contemptible is just one severity that life has in store for a declining nation.
"A nation that loses a war [in Vietnam] that it could have won by confidently employing its conventional military assets had better get used to humiliation.... A nation that has no serious response when three ambassadors are murdered (in Cyprus, Sudan and Afghanistan) had better get used to spittle on its cheeks.... A nation that collaborates in throwing to the wolves an ally like the Shah should not expect respect from the wolves...."
Follows Cuban Retreat
The grim Iranian affair amounted to the second slap in the face for Uncle Sam in a month's time. In early October, President Carter acquiesced to the Soviets over the presence in Cuba of their 3,000-man armed brigade. The President had initially said he would not accept the "status quo" in Cuba, but ended up doing precisely that. Mr. Brezhnev, in a much stronger position than his predecessor in a previous Cuban crisis (Nikita Khruschev in 1962), would not budge an inch.
The Monroe Doctrine—once the cornerstone of U.S. foreign relations—now lies as dead as a doornail. (It's been dormant since 1962 anyway.) President Monroe, in his famous message to Congress in 1833, said with regard to independent Western Hemisphere countries:
4 . . We could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power, in any other light than as the manifestation of any unfriendly disposition towards the United States."
Many have thought that Monroe's unilateral "doctrine" was directed mainly toward the colonial powers of Western Europe (Spain, France and England). However, the initial thrust was against Russia. Reports Latin American historian Donald M. Dozer: "This principle was intended to thwart the territorial pretensions of the Russian Czar, Alexander I, along the northwest coast of the North American continent. A specific warning to this effect had already been pointedly communicated by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to the Czar's government, and in Monroe's message it was broadened into a general principle."
Now the Russians have been allowed to get away with stationing a permanent armed force in the Western Hemisphere, 90 miles from U.S. shores. And late reports indicate the Soviets are upgrading facilities at the Cienfuegos naval base for use by their naval vessels, including submarines.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance even admits that one building the Soviets are erecting is of the same type they normally use for storage and repair of nuclear missiles! In 1970 the Soviets tried to sneak into Cienfuegos—but President Nixon put his foot down.
Why the Decline
How has the United States come to find itself in such a dilemma? A brief review of current history gives us the answer.
In 1945 America emerged from World War II as the strongest military and economic power in the world. Never had there been a nation of such preeminence.
Because of its unchallenged position, the U.S. was thrust into the role of leader of the free world. It helped put defeated enemies, Japan and Germany, as well as the rest of war-torn Europe, back on their feet. It thereby prevented these strategic areas from falling under the world's newest threat to freedom—Communism.
Washington subsequently proceeded to construct a global system of alliances to contain the advances of communism. For a while it succeeded. But slowly America's resolve begari to erode. Communist aggression was thwarted but not defeated in 1953 in Korea. U.S. leadership spurned the advice of General Douglas MacArthur, who told both houses of Congress that there could be "no substitute for victory."
The United States failed to respond to an opportunity caused by relative Soviet weakness in 1956. A popular uprising overthrew the Communist regime in Hungary. Freedom lasted for about a week while Moscow waited to see if Washington would step in with more than mere words to seal the pro-West victory. When Washington did nothing, Red Army tanks rolled in.
When a similar event threatened to occur in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Kremlin knew it didn't even have to wait for an American response. It would not be forthcoming.
Pride of Power Broken
The folly of fighting a "limited" war in the style of the Korea stalemate was doomed to be repeated later—in Vietnam—with far more devastating consequences. After an expenditure of $300 billion and 55,000 American lives, Vietnam was lost.
Quickly, in domino fashion (proving that the theory was correct after all), went Cambodia and Laos. The appalling horror of Cambodia to-day—with the gruesome prospect of the starvation of three million people (the ruthless Pol Pot regime having already killed off another three million previously) could have been prevented had the United States fought to win in Vietnam.
Furthermore, the experience in Southeast Asia shattered American confidence. True to Bible prophecy, the pride of America's power was broken (Leviticus 26:19).
Shortly after the Vietnam debacle in 1975, the pace of aggression and opportunism around the world picked up. Washington was in no mood to react. Angola was lost to the West—with victory in sight—in 1975, Ethiopia in 1978.
The fall of Ethiopia was extremely critical because another Communist government had already established itself across the southern tip of the Red Sea in the former British protectorate of Aden (a strategic "seagate" Britain gave up). The new People's Democratic Republic of Yemen—supplied with money from Moscow and radical Libya—now trains leftist terrorists from all over the world in the art of guerrilla warfare.
Cold War "Wished Away"
While the challenge of communism and radical "liberation" movements grew all the more severe, the most remarkable change of all occurred in Washington. The new Administration which took over in January 1977 unilaterally declared that the Cold War was over!
In a major speech at Notre Dame University in the spring of 1977, President Carter exclaimed that the American public was ready to shed its previous "inordinate fear of communism." Thus, with a whiff of rhetoric, the global struggle for power in existence since the end of World War II was magically whisked away. Better yet, wished away.
According to this new approach, world problems should henceforth be viewed in the light of supposedly commonly shared "human issues" instead of concentrating further on "political confrontations."
The man who became Mr. Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had earlier outlined this new approach when he wrote in a 1970 book, Between Two Ages: "Today the old framework of international politics.... with spheres of influence, military alliances between nation states, the fiction of sovereignty, doctrinal conflicts arising from 19th-century crisis—is clearly no longer compatible with reality."
Did the Soviet Union share this new "reality"? Obviously not. But, according to Brzezinski, that was only because of the "delayed development" of Soviet society. It would surely "mature" to see things from this new "global perspective" rather than from traditional national self-interest.
This erroneous belief that there exists a common fundamental approach to world problems colors everything the Administration does with regard to the Kremlin. It surfaced during the recent Cuban crisis. Mr. Carter decided not to press the issue of the Soviet troops so as not to endanger the SALT II treaty. The entire issue, he claimed, is "certainly no reason for a return to the cold war.... The greatest danger to all the nations of the world is a breakdown of a common effort to preserve the peace. . .."
But "can two walk together, except they be agreed"? (Amos 3:3.)
Along with this new approach to Moscow came a new approach to the world in general: a type of fatalistic, deterministic approach. No more clear cause-and-effect relationships; no relative good versus obvious evil; rather, a sort of "situation ethics" approach to world affairs.
According to this philosophy, people—especially people supported, by the Kremlin—are no longer responsible for world tensions; rather the tensions are due to complex (never simplistic), difficult-to-grasp, impersonal "forces."
The determination to see the world in this view discourages an active American response because the U.S. is perceived as being powerless to control these "forces," which are said to be "searching for viable, forms of government."
In a remarkable article entitled "Dictatorship and Double Stan, Wards" in the November 1979 issue of Commentary, Jeane Kirkpatrick, a, political scientist at Georgetown University, writes: "Viewed from this level of abstraction, it is the 'forces' rather than the people that count. So what if the 'deep historical forces' at work in such diverse places as Iran, the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the United Nations look a lot like Russians or Cubans?
"What can a U.S. President faced with such complicated, inexorable, impersonal processes do? The answer, offered again and again by the President and his top officials, is, not much. Since events are not caused by human decisions, they cannot be stopped or altered by them. Brzezinski, for example, has said: `We recognize that the world is changing under the influence of forces no government can control. .
"Where once upon a time an American President might have sent Marines to assure the protection of American strategic interests, there is no room for force in this world of progress and self-determination."
America, its citizens were told officially, was "powerless" to influence deteriorating events in Iran that ultimately led to the downfall of an American ally in one of the most strategic areas of the world. As soon as the Shah got in trouble, the U.S. backed off, lest it be guilty of standing in the way of "forces" said to reflect the true feelings of the people.
The result? According to Dr. Kissinger, the collapse of the government of Iran and exile of the Shah resulted in "the biggest foreign policy debacle of the United States in a generation." He said the Shah's ouster "shifted the balance of power in the Middle East to radical forces."
America's fickleness toward the Shah was evident in that only a year earlier he had been praised by Mr. Carter on a visit to Tehran for his wise, "enlightened" rule over a nation called at that time an "island of stability" in a volatile part of the world.
A similar situation occurred later in the year in Nicaragua, when Soviet and Cuban-backed guerrillas representing themselves as the "forces of democracy" launched an all-out campaign against the government of Anastasio Somoza. The American response—to shrink back from a government (however imperfect) it had earlier supported—was the same.
Now the Sandinista revolutionaries are purging nonradical "counter-revolutionaries" from their ranks.
In nearly every case, Washington overestimates the power of the "moderates" and "democrats" in the opposition movement and underestimates the strength of the well-organized Marxists or other radicals (the ones who eventually come to the fore and who have adopted a position hostile to the U.S.).
"The American commitment to change in the abstract," says Kirkpatrick, "ends up by aligning us tacitly with Soviet clients and irresponsible extremists like the Ayatollah Khomaini, or in the end, Yasser Arafat."
The same trend can be expected elsewhere in the future—until the United States is isolated without a friend left in the world.
"Misleaders" Instead of Heroes
America's leadership has lost its way. God, prophesying through the pen of Isaiah, said: "0, my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths" (Isaiah 3:12).
Of our society, God says that "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. . .. there is no soundness in it" (Isaiah 1:5-6). The "head" means the government; the "heart" refers to the "soul" of the country, its national morale and character.
Domestically we have become—and are proud to be, in all too many cases—a perverse society ("They proclaim their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it"—Isaiah 3:9). As a result of our appalling national sins, God has taken away "the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet... the captain of fifty and the man of rank .....(Isaiah 3:2-3).
Our heroes and men of true wisdom and understanding are gone; their examples and sage advice of yesteryear forgotten and despised. Worse yet, our "Me generation" is not producing any giants to replace them. Instead, in comparison to the greats of the past, "boys" are our "princes," mere "babes" are our rulers (verse 4).
In our educational system, the function of American historians today, it seems, is to rewrite history. "Generals are out, sociology is in," noted one observer. The deeds of the great are whitewashed, their newly discovered "warts" fully exposed. History texts, said one, are now "loath to proclaim any values as self evident."
There are actually not a few in government who are so divorced from their own national past that the slogans and rhetoric of Marxist-style revolutions sound appealing. They are enamored with the ideals of collective "socialism": their emphasis on reason, science, education, "progress," de-emphasize of religion; with an overriding giant bureaucracy to control all aspects of the lives of the citizens.
Marxist revolutionaries now "speak our language," says one author.
What a remarkable turn of events!
In the 1940s and '50s America stood in the breach of the spreading cancer of totalitarianism. Now many of America's leaders find common ground with it. No wonder the United States can no longer recognize its chief adversary!
Such a 180-degree transformation can only be explained by the rapid expansion of socialism and government control within America itself during the past two decades.
Former Secretary of the Treasury William Simon, in his outstanding book A Time for Truth, puts it succinctly: "There is a reason for our special degree of incoherence and confusion. The United States, in changing with relative speed into a social democracy, has undergone an alteration that is more fundamental than any other nation's. It has actually repudiated its own identity."
Born a basically God-fearing, morally sound nation, emphasizing biblically based virtues such as honest work, thrift, self-reliance, expectation of rewards for diligence, with minimal supervision by government, it has been changed by "social manipulation" and vote-getting politicians into a radically different society. Old values have been tossed out the window. One example: "The redistribution of wealth from the productive citizen to the nonproductive citizen," says Simon, has "be-come the principal governmental activity."
Some government theorists are even speculating why all jobs within a certain industry, for example, should not be paid the same wage. Isn't a secretary's job "of comparable worth" they ask, to that of, say, a chief engineer?
Some would stop at nothing short of total equalization, every person receiving the same wages, working or not working. Such reasoning flies in the face of every biblical law and principle of economics. Even Communist societies, realizing the necessity for incentives, have moved away from such folly.
Wrong Kinds of Freedom
Americans still think they are a free people. But this is largely illusionary.
Writes Mr. Simon: "It is often said by people who receive warnings about declining freedom in America that such a charge is preposterous, that there is no freer society on earth. That is true in one sense, but it is immensely deceptive. There has never been such freedom before in America to speak freely, indeed, to wag one's tongue in the hearing of an entire nation; to publish anything and everything, including the most scurrilous gossip; to take drugs and to prate to children about their alleged pleasures; to propagandize for bizarre sexual practices; to watch bloody and obscene entertainment.
"Conversely, compulsion rules the world of work. There has never been so little freedom before in America to plan, to save, to invest, to build, to produce, to invent, to hire, to fire, to resist coercive unionization, to ex-change goods and services, to risk, to profit, to grow.
"The strange fact is that Americans are constitutionally free today to do almost everything that our cultural tradition has previously held to be immoral and obscene, while the police powers of the state are being invoked against almost every aspect of the productive process...." (A Time for Truth, p. 234).
And now in an increasingly godless society, the massive powers of government are turning relentlessly against the free exercise of religion!
"Lovers" Will Not Help
The United States has totally lost its moorings. At home, government bureaucracy is running amok. Abroad, the United States doesn't even know what its policies should be. Instead, it's just blindly jumping on the band-wagon of "progressive change."
America wants to be "loved" by every other nation. Instead, it is respected by none. "The U.S. has never tried so hard and failed so utterly to make and keep friends in the Third World," says Kirkpatrick.
The United States is acting today just like its forefathers of old. "You have played the harlot with many lovers; and would you return to me? says the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:1). America has long since forgotten the God in whom she officially claim- to trust.
Worse yet, the U.S. has taken the wealth God gave her (Deuteronomy 8:7-18) and literally thrown billions of dollars at envious adversaries in attempts to buy their support! As Britain's noted philosopher Malcolm Muggeridge said recently: "America is a disengaging giant—it's washed up. . .. America had no heart for its role [as world leader]. It could only think of giving away money, and for doing this it was, of course, despised."
"Your hurt is incurable," says God, "and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause.. .. All your lovers have for-gotten you; they care nothing for you; for I [God] have dealt you the blow of an enemy. . . . because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant" (Jeremiah 30:12-15).
U.S. Decline: "Catalyst for Prophecy"
George Kennan, former American ambassador to both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, wrote on one occasion: "I think this country is destined to succumb to failures which cannot be other than tragic and enormous in their scope. All this, of course, is not an easy thing to live with."
The very near future, for those whose eyes are open, is truly alarming. Even the New Yorker magazine, on June 6, 1977, said that America's decline involves "frightening knowledge, hardly utter-able, opening to us a strange future."
But it should not be strange to readers of The Plain Truth.
America's loss of direction will change world-power relationships as never before. Her allies—Western Europe and Japan primarily—will soon be forced to make their own arrangements to guarantee their own survival.
During the ill-fated Cuban crisis, West Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said, for example, that "Mr. Carter has to do some-thing, otherwise America stands before the world as a paper tiger. The Europeans await deeds from their strongest ally, for their destiny and that of the Americans cannot be separated."
They are still waiting. Europeans may be forced to come to their own terms with the Soviet Union, even if only temporarily. In the long run, America's decline will help generate the prophesied ten-nation European union.
America's own destiny?
Professor Donald M. Dozer, quoted earlier, adds that, unless there are radical changes, "in front of us rises the appalling prospect of our own decline into powerlessness and oblivion."
And eventually—as the editors of this magazine have repeatedly warned from the pages of the Bible—national captivity. "She that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal" (Lamentations 1:1).