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Memorial Day honors American fallen soldiers who died in war. It was formerly known as Decoration Day, as it was a marked occasion to visit the war dead’s graves and decorate them with flags and other patriotic ornaments. Whether one accepts it or not, Providence has anointed America with certain qualities and tasks. It’s role in the modern world cannot be overlooked or denied. The U.S. is the bulwark of Western civilization and values.
The two world wars bore a cost of over 522,000 American lives. This price tag for freedom is never cheap. American soldiers have paid it time and time again. The post-World War II order greatly advantaged Soviet expansionism. The Truman Doctrine, a foreign policy course designed to contain communist imperialism, was the established U.S. norm for 34 years (1947-1981). Korea, Western Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia were all conflict theaters where this defensive blueprint was implemented.
Believing Marxism-Leninism in political power could be defeated, Ronald Reagan replaced the Truman Doctrine with a multifaceted offensive approach. The Reagan Doctrine (1981-1989) structural sought to rollback communism, not just limit its spread. Reagan’s methodological plan worked. The demise of Soviet communism, which had battlefields in Latin America, Afghanistan, Africa, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Asia, can be attributed to this foreign policy course.
The loss of American lives was minimal during this offensive crusade on behalf of international freedom. In part, the Reagan Doctrine adopted and perfected an earlier U.S. foreign policy strategy, the Nixon Doctrine (1969-1975). As American popular opinion soured on the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, who inherited a noble war run badly by previous Democratic administrations, shifted to the “Vietnamization” of the conflict. The Nixon Doctrine called for the support of allies by training, arming, offering them logistical support and systemic assurances, but not directly involving American combat troops in the effort.
The conclusion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, did not mean that the war by the communist North on the non-communist South, had ended. The Nixon Doctrine was the bedrock of South Vietnam’s survival, while avoiding further American casualties. The 94th Congress (1975-1977), under Democratic control, betrayed America’s commitment to South Vietnam by cutting military aid to the U.S. ally and former war partner, despite the vehement request by then president, Gerald Ford. The Nixon Doctrine was incinerated, and consequently, Saigon fell.
Reagan made sure that that its adaptation of Nixon’s premise that called for the supporting of freedom fighters and friendly governments was credible. Thus, the Nicaraguan resistance, the Afghan freedom forces, the Angolan UNITA fighters, the government of El Salvador, and opposition movements throughout the Socialist bloc in Europe, were some of the recipients of American determination to combat communism. This coherent foreign policy allowed the Free World to defeat Soviet Marxist rule and hegemony, with a minimal shedding of American life.
Today, Ukraine offers the West an opportunity to defeat global expansive tyranny, without shedding American lives. On February 24, Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine (the first was in 2014), destroyed the illusion that post-Soviet Russia was somehow transformed for the better by the reconfiguration of its economy. The former KGB dictator has used the global capitalist system to build a kleptocracy that is directly challenging the international rule of law-based order, the West naively believed existed.
Joe Biden confused Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky with Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani. The Ukrainian president’s call for ammunition and not an Uber airlift. The West must increase its weapons commit to Ukraine so that it can win. This would be the perfection of the Nixon Doctrine, whose functional mission was to safeguard freedom, while avoiding American war casualties.
Ukraine is today the battlefield where the forces of democracy are fighting autocratic imperialism. The good side is winning. Not one shed of American, or NATO soldier’s blood has been spilled. The brave Ukrainian nation has proved that the Nixon Doctrine, which Reagan strengthened and proved feasible, can work in the 21st century.
On Memorial Day, as we honor America’s fallen on behalf of liberty, the Ukrainian people, armed forces, and civilian militias, must also be remembered and supplied with the necessary weaponry. If the Free World does not do this, at some point American and NATO soldiers may have to confront Russian aggression. Let us honor and salute the brave soldiers who today are defending freedom, wherever they are.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.