A strong national defense is best deterrent to war

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | 8:21 a.m. CDT; updated 2:57 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

This past week, two respected local journalists, one currently an editor and the other a former editor, authored columns concerning war and peace. The commentaries were thoughtful and germane, each concluding along with the vast majority, to include those who have been participants, that war is a terrible and utterly wasteful exhaustion of men, materiel and moral well-being.

The current editor stated succinctly and correctly that war is inevitable so long as there exists a requirement for nations to employ military strength as a mechanism to deter acts of enemy aggression or in defense of sovereignty. In the field of geopolitics, a balance of power among armed nations is normally sufficient to prevent the occurrence of all-out or “World War.”

Among nations as among humans, the instinct for survival is a natural phenomenon, and the weaker ones seek to align themselves with the strong to ensure their safety. In recent history, that balance of power has been upset three times, resulting in two World Wars and the Cold War. In 1914, World War I began as the result of an assassination that caused nations to mobilize in response to mutual defense pacts, tossing diplomacy and reason aside.

World War II, even more terrible and senseless than World War I, was the classic example of tyrants seeking world domination and joining to achieve that end against an unprepared adversary. Fortunately the allies, or “good guys,” awakened and once again prevailed to make the world safe.

The ensuing uneasy peace featured the Cold War, a standoff between the United States and the USSR which was effectively terminated with the collapse of the latter. While, admittedly, this is a broad brush treatment of a century, the Cold War’s end left the United States as the world’s sole superpower.

The second journalist, the former editor, spoke of global peace, concentrating on the local activities of those supporting Global Action to Prevent War. The culture of peace, the goal of the 18 organizations making up the Columbia Peace Coalition, is one with which no reasonable individual may disagree. This includes its vigorous exercise of First Amendment rights — while many may not agree that their rigid antiwar, universal disarmament stance is a sound one, the right to present it is inviolate.

While the goal of world peace does not appear to be attainable at this particular juncture, any effort to stifle those working toward that desirable end should be lauded rather than ridiculed or ignored. For the record, as one who has witnessed the horrors of warfare up close and personal, I will opt for peace every time.

Consequently, peace or absence of war must be guaranteed by some form of deterrent against the forces of evil who seek conquest of that which rightfully belongs to another — the milk of human kindness does not yet flow through the veins of all who hold power. Accordingly, while endorsing their stated aim of world peace, I cannot concur with “prevention of war by creating a capable, professional force of armed peacemakers operating under the United Nations” as a viable option for at least two reasons.

First, the United Nations’ almost unbroken record of failure in world affairs doesn’t generate a spate of optimism for its capacity to organize, train, maintain and command a viable military. For all of its grandiose persona, the UN remains little more than a debating society.

More importantly, however, our Constitution does not permit deeding its sovereignty or its national defense to a foreign power, nor should it be amended to grant such an authorization. The intent is appreciated but the “road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

There is no quarrel with those aspiring to rid the world of war; nevertheless, until the earth is somehow purged of megalomaniacs and other assorted nut cases, the balance of power provided by a strong national defense is the best deterrent.

In the words of George Washington, “There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.”

J. Karl Miller retired as colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at

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