While our nation occasionally suffers terrorist attacks—San Bernardino and Orlando, to name a few—neither the incidents nor carnage are as great as that suffered by Europe. Our country is also far larger than most other afflicted countries, making an attack like that on the Orlando night club seem remote from our everyday experience.
Even as the reach of ISIS grew across the globe, American engagement in foreign conflicts decreased. We left Iraq entirely when no Status of Forces Agreement was reached to protect our soldiers from foreign prosecution. After briefly committing to a surge in forces in Afghanistan, we drew down our forces there, as well. These drawdowns and departures have created the impression that foreign conflicts are diminishing—when the exact opposite is occurring.
The U.K just suffered another horrific attack a few days ago, reminding us that the threat has not abated. And in the waning months of the Obama administration, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq steadily and stealthily increased. President Trump has indicated that he will continue the renewed build-up of the late-Obama years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
These are simply conflicts dealing with radical Islam (though there is nothing simple about them). The picture around the globe is more menacing than it has been in years. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they have continued to imperil many of the former Soviet satellites. Don’t be misled by President Trump’s apparently cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin. Tensions are still high (and getting higher) in that region.
China, perhaps our most-powerful potential adversary, continues to expand its great wall of sand in the South China Sea and it has not been hesitant to weaponize its newly created islands. President Trump has taken a tough line with China, which currently seems undaunted. The rising tension in this region makes perhaps the most dangerous situation at the moment—relations with North Korea—even more unpredictable and unstable.
Earlier this month, North Korea launched four mid-range ballistic missilestoward Japan. The missiles landed in the Sea of Japan. While North Korea has engaged in this sort of activity for years, their aggression is becoming increasingly worrisome. Their nuclear program—technology, capacity, and capability—has improved dramatically. The assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother is just one more indication of the lunacy of North Korea’s demagogic despot.
In response, the U.S. is putting more military options on the table as it pertains to North Korea. This posture seems appropriate, considering the level of risk that North Korea poses toward America and her allies. At the same time, conflict with a nuclear-armed North Korea—just below an increasingly-antagonistic China—poses incredible risk for the United States and her armed forces.
The United States government recognizes this peril. More money is being allotted to the military and military training is being conducted with North Korea in view as much as the Middle East. The greater question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we, the American people, are ready for war.
Do we realize the risk that our country currently faces on the international stage? Are we prepared for a provocative action that may lead to military strikes if not war within the next year? Will we have the stomach to see it through?
My fear is that the American people will not be ready for the cruel realities of war. While we must hope for the best, we must be ready for the worst. It is time for our government to start talking more openly about the variety of dangers we currently face and to prepare the American people for some tough years ahead.
We must be made ready.