Freedom: It’s Worth a Fight

Operation Iraqi Freedom is indeed remarkable. In a little over three weeks American and British forces liberated Iraq from a despotic and murderous dictator. Iraqis and Kurds are celebrating their new-found freedom from fear and tyranny by dancing in the streets of Baghdad and every other liberated city from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north. Meanwhile, like an eight track tape stuck on Carly Simon and James Taylor’s rendition of “Mocking Bird” the anti-war movement blathers along; “illegal and immoral war,” “Iraq posed no threat to the United States,” and “no blood for oil.” “Mock…mock…ing…ing… bird…bird…mocking bird.” Their arguments, in addition to being as tired and worn as an eight track bolted beneath the dash of a 1976 AMC Pacer, neither correspond with the realities of the 21st century world nor wash with the joy and exuberance being demonstrated by millions of newly liberated Iraqis revelling in freedom.

“The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom — and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise. In the 21st century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them, worship as they please; educate their children-male and female-own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society-and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages.”

These words, from the “National Security Strategy of the United States,” issued by the Bush Administration this past October, reflect a world-view based on Judeo-Christian principles of individual worth and freedom. Because they are clear and simple, the ultimate meaning made evident in Baghdad should be understood clearly by dictators in Damascus and Pyongyang and mullahs in Tehran.

Today the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength. The armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom translated the clear and admirable vision articulated in the National Security Strategy into a new reality for the people of Iraq. The liberation of Iraq and the elimination of the threat Saddam Hussein posed to his people, the region and the world required a military intervention…what many in the anti-war movement insist on dubbing an “invasion.”

While the word “invasion” has a pejorative connotation akin to “aggression” it also can be used to describe something noble and good. General William T. Sherman led an invasion of the Confederacy when in 1864 and 1865 Union troops marched south from Chattanooga to Atlanta. From there Sherman dispatched raiders into Alabama while the bulk the Union forces cut a swath of destruction through Georgia to Savannah then turned north into South Carolina ending up in Columbia. The Union Army devastated the South as it freed slaves and installed a vision for this nation that differed radically from the one propounded by the secessionists. Indeed, throughout the Civil War many in the North, especially Democrats, argued that the Confederacy posed no threat to states that did not secede. Indeed, Confederate goals were limited to seeking independence and to continuing a way of life peculiar to southern aristocrats. Had Washington and the Republicans simply acceded to the wishes of secessionists by allowing the Confederacy to go its own way, half a million Americans would not have perished on battlefields like Antietam, Gettysburg and Chickamauga. The South would not have been devastated and animosities that endured for generations could have been avoided. The Ku Klux Klan would never have existed and the nation could have been spared a century of terrorist acts to include an estimated 20,000 lynchings. Arguably segregation might never have arisen to vex later generations. All it would have taken was for good men to have done nothing.

The greater good lay in the course followed by Abraham Lincoln and the Union…to preserve the nation as one country dedicated to the fundamentals of freedom and liberty. The cost was far higher than that paid by American and Iraqi forces and the people of Iraq due to Operation Iraqi Freedom…infinitely higher…but it was worth it then and it’s worth it now. The difference is that this time an entire nation…not just a portion of it…was freed. And except for those Baath Party henchmen who supported the regime, the people of Iraq welcomed liberation.

Freedom. It was worth a war in 1861 and it’s worth fighting for today. It’s a peculiarly American and Judeo-Christian concept.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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