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Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist,
author and a popular speaker. Born into a military
family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East
Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces
service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation
from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both
the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive
for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work,
at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is
based in large part on his extensive experience in
Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman.
[go to Cucullu index]
Freedom – at
Enjoying the benefits - paying the cost...
[Gordon Cucullu] 7/5/04
New Collegiate defines ‘freedom’ in
terms of ‘the quality or state of being free.’ A
synonym offered is liberty. On the previous page it lists the
first definition of ‘free’ (as an adverb) as ‘without
charge.’ Contrast that to the other definitions of ‘free’ (as
an adjective): having legal and political rights, civil and political
liberty, and enjoying political independence. The word ‘free’ sounds
the same, and is spelled the same but means very different things.
Where many in the
United States make a mistake is confusing the grammar and thereby
confusing the philosophy. Being free,
enjoying a state of freedom is not free of charge. Thomas Jefferson
said that ‘the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time
to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ We need
to understand that just as a living organism such as a tree requires
repeated and regular amounts of water, so does freedom and liberty
require repeated and regular – and always painful – sacrifice.
Notice that Jefferson spoke of blood from tyrants as well as
from patriots. It is not enough to preserve liberty to sacrifice
patriots if tyrants are left unchecked. Most often the sacrifice
from the patriots striving to preserve freedom comes in the form
of our military killed or wounded in action. The sacrifice is
felt by their families who are deprived of a loved one. By comrades
who mourn a friend. The sacrifice can be on an individual, community
or national level depending on the amount and persons lost.
We can count on a major sacrifice in resources when the liberty
tree needs defending. War has never been cheap either in lives
or in resources. But at times it is necessary. The threats to
liberty require that in preparing for war we maintain an adequate
defense. Most of the time military strength enables us to prevent
or deter a full-up war. But defense also costs. In our military
preparedness training we lose about one soldier a day. Somewhere
between 300-400 soldiers die annually in training accidents.
Years ago, shortly after I left command of a mechanized infantry
company at Fort Polk, Louisiana one of my soldiers was run over
and killed by an armored personnel carrier maneuvering through
the forest at night. A tragic accident, to be sure. But what
is one to do other than take all reasonable measures for safety?
Troops must learn to live, work and fight in all environmental
conditions. War is not restricted to cool, sunny days with low
humidity and gentle breezes. Even training for war demands a
Nor are costs limited to the military. We in the general population
pay for the military through taxes and have to modify our behavior
to accommodate developing situations. For example, before hijacking
and before aircraft were turned into missiles travelers could
simply hand a ticket to a flight attendant and board an aircraft
directly. Easier than what we go through now, sure, but who would
be comfortable flying that lackadaisically today?
Nevertheless, accepting the necessity for some sacrifices does
not mean enjoyment of them. Watch the people waiting in line
at airport security. It is not usually a happy crowd. Resigned,
accepting for the most part, and even understanding intellectually,
but emotionally unhappy about the entire state of affairs.
And that is how we
as a nation regard the larger issue of freedom. We don’t
like having to support a large, standing military deployed
all over the world. We resent having to rescue other
countries from what we correctly perceive as troubles of their
own making. Europe brought forth Hitler and Mussolini, after
all, and Japan spawned Tojo. North Korea vomited up the father
and son dictatorial duo of the Kims and the Middle East festers
with dysfunctional rulers like Saddam Hussein, Yassir Arafat,
the House of Saud, Bashar Assad, and the ayatollahs in Iran.
So why does all that mess become America's responsibility?
Liberty and freedom
are not simply something that we can treasure and hoard. They
must be shared to grow and prosper. If we try
to hold Jefferson’s tree to close we choke it. The branches
must spread to all peoples. If Jefferson is correct and it requires
patriot’s blood to make that happen then that is the price
we must pay. It is easy to make the intellectual argument for
liberating oppressed peoples on humanitarian and human rights
grounds: torture chambers, oppression of women, ethnic cleansing
of minorities, starvation, infant mortality, genocide, tyranny
over a population.
All these are good
reasons for intervention and rescue. Add national security
to the equation and the reasons grow even more
compelling: invasion of neighboring states, support and harboring
terrorists, research and production into weapons of mass destruction,
and promulgation of hostile ideologies. All these make a move
by the US most compelling. But still, at the emotional level,
we wish very much that we could be shed of it all. We would like
to deflect or better yet transfer responsibility for resolving
these terrible people with their awful behavior. We want it to
go away. After all, who made us the world’s policemen?
The answer is simple: the same entity that created this country
originally. America was not an accident, a fluke in a chemical
broth struck by lightening. It was a culmination of a long process
of growth of western civilization with Divine guidance that resulted
in an admittedly imperfect country, but one that offers more
hope for humankind than any other. We have long become the shining
city on the hill, and even if some of us are reluctant to admit
this, or actually detest the image it does not diminish the reality
of it nor lessen our responsibilities.
The spread of liberty – slowly, grudgingly, always painfully – began
almost before our own Revolution was complete. The French revolted
and though it turned into a mess it ultimately became a democracy.
More recently we defeated the Soviet Union and watched it stumble
and fumble into something, not quite a democracy but markedly
improved from the tyrannical state of communism.
Some successes have been remarkable: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,
Philippines directly and Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand indirectly
in Asia. Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain and former eastern block
states in Europe. El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Grenada, Guatemala,
Nicaragua, Chile and others in South America. Ultimately others
will follow: in time Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam will rise
to the challenge of democracy and share in its rewards, as will
Syria, Iran and Palestine. Difficult to accomplish? Of course.
But we’re tough and can do it.
Still, why do it at
all? All this tree metaphor stuff may be interesting but what’s
in it for us? Good questions. First and foremost is national
security. Countries with democratic
governments do not war upon each other. Increased comfort in
international security means fewer resources diverted to military
requirements and more for civil growth. Second is mutual prosperity.
Free market democratic societies mean a higher standard of living
world wide and a blossoming of human rights and human well being.
Good things come with a cost: as we have seen freedom and liberty
are wonderful and demand much from us.
We enjoy the benefits; we must accept the price. When the proper
time is at hand we must water the tree of liberty. CRO
Gordon Cucullu 2004