Kenneth Brooks, May 31: Memorial Day honors the war dead and their
Memorial Day is the traditional holiday when Americans honor all who died in
wars. The nation uses this day to reflect on the significance of their
sacrifices, or it should. This is when Americans say "thank you."
It is not enough for those of us who benefited from other people's sacrifice
to say "thank you" or to only observe a moment of silence. Those are empty
gestures unless we treasure and safeguard the values those warriors died for.
Otherwise, our displayed gratitude is as false as someone who gushes over a
gift and then throws it in the trash.
Most people agree the war dead
sacrificed their lives to preserve American values and its way of life. But
nobody defines those values or way of life. They presume everybody knows those
values are of the highest order. This generalization allows political leaders
to include almost any character trait in this national image that is convenient
for the occasion. They included some new traits that destroy old values and
ways of living.
Hitler and Hirohito had grandiose plans for Germany
and Japan as superior nations destined to rule the lesser nations and people of
the world. We honor many of our war dead this Memorial Day for sacrificing
their lives in World War II, fighting to prevent Germany and Japan from gaining
The United States developed military might from the World
War II effort and became the world's superpower. Ironically, the allied
victory changed the system of American values and way of life those people died
Many Americans assume superior wisdom and superior
cultural standards for the United States because of its superpower status.
They show this belief with their often-repeated claim that only the United
States can solve the various problems in the world and must thus exert its
superpowers and wisdom to do it.
Many Americans presume a destiny
for the United States as international police enforcer and nation-building
instiller of democracy without a hint of humbleness. Their expressed motives
to spread democratic freedoms are different, but their air of arrogant national
superiority equals that of those defeated World War II nations Germany and
Few Americans agree the United States' new role as
international moralist and law enforcer resembles Hitler's Germany, Hirohito's
Japan or Stalin's Soviet Union. They believe we use our powers selflessly to
set up peaceful democracies in the world, while those nations sought brutal
dictatorial international dominance. They ignore that economic and military
power is coercion when used beyond one's borders. It becomes a form of
dictatorial domination except when used in defense.
corrupts people's values and it distorts how they see the world. The United
States experiences this fate as the effort to maintain military superpower
status drains resources and destroys the quality of life as if an enemy force
did it intentionally.
The United States still has about 425 military
bases nat ionally after closing 91 during the past 20 years or so. Also, it
has more bases worldwide in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and various islands.
Many people in Congress are clamoring that we need more to fulfill our
superpower status as the world's law enforcer.
believe our superpower and international cop status increases our national
security. The opposite is true. The United States stations troops worldwide
in areas prone to military conflicts. It commits military and economic
resources to protect Israel, South Korea, Taiwan and Europe. Those commitments
drag us into most international conflicts and civil wars even when our security
isn't threatened. We can expect a constant money drain and a steady stream of
new war dead defending those commitments.
Increasingly, the United
States chooses sides based on an American definition of disputing groups'
cultural worthiness and not as neutral arbitrators. It doesn't even choose
side based on a consistent moral standard. We ris k American military lives
defending autocratic Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and in an opposites way by
attacking autocratic Iraq to change it to a democracy. This inconsistent
support for values undermines respect for the United States and for
Only a foolish nation creates enemies and disrespectful
allies for itself this way. Not even a super military power can continue this
conduct with impunity as evidenced by the attacks on the USS Cole, the 9/11
Twin Towers attacks and others. These attacks result from our conflicting
Americans must show that superpower defines United
States' economic and military might, but not its character. There was a time
before the nation gained superpower status that everybody knew this. We
Americans need to redefine our confused value system to improve national
security and to show appreciation for the sacrifices of the war dead.