Sept. 2, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, an event monumental enough to deserve our remembrance. Japan’s formal surrender occurred aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.
However, more significant than this, it marked the end of a multi-century epoch and the beginning of a new one.
Americans today live in the shadow of the end of the Second World War like no other event in international affairs. As hard as some try, the legacy of the American victory at the cost of over one million American casualties shines as a beacon of national and individual sacrifice, demonstrating the character of American exceptionalism.
More importantly, the failure of America, to turn the tide would have meant a global descent into chaos, evil, and horror.
As hard as our allies fought, it was American blood, treasure, and leadership that determined the outcome.
America had to fight the triple threat of German Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese Militarism and then immediately pivot against Soviet Communism.
If this was not divine providence, nothing was.
The war did not just up-end the dictatorships of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, but ended the multi-century international relations period of multi-polarity and ushered in a tense bi-polarity between the United States and the Soviet Union placing the United States as the only defender of human liberty and human dignity.
This is the role we continue in today and will continue into the new space age.
The prior global system was dominated by an era of multiple great powers whose thinking was dominated by irredentism, racism, expansionism, the birth of communism, and imperialism.
The western powers, self-doubting and self-loathing as some on the left engage in today, had attempted the twin titanic failures of isolationism and appeasement because they doubted the rightness and goodness of their own societies.
The end of the war began an American grand strategy and national security that championed democracy abroad as a way to both secure national interests and promote its moral values.
It produced a Pax Americana of international order, civil society, institution building, human rights, free trade, and progress.
This point cannot be overemphasized: American promotion of the empire of liberty has never simply been about elections; it has always been about civil society and liberty under law, whose most tremendous success was illustrated with the creation of a new Germany and Japan under American guidance.
The end of the Second World War created a profound change in American thinking about national security and defense.
The term “national security” came out of this period, and the Truman administration quickly realized that it had to steer a new course for America.
America needed a permanent national security system to forestall another Pearl Harbor and to keep Soviet imperialism at bay. It understood the need for a permanent and sizeable professional military, a new branch of the armed services in the U.S. Air Force, a permanent new intelligence service in the CIA, and a new body to advise the president, the National Security Council.
All of these foundations we rely on today come out of the aftermath of VJ Day (Victory Over Japan Day).
America resisted the calls to return to a self-absorbed, inward-looking fool’s paradise.
The United States took the more challenging road and not only built a Republic devoted to liberty at home but liberty abroad as well.
America unleashed forces that would give hope to nations and people seeking independence, and the desire to throw off the tyrant’s yoke put men on the moon and became the engine of a global economy based and stability and prosperity.
My father, who was a combat paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during the war mirrored most of his citizen soldiers in that they sought no great accolades or triumphal arches, just the understanding they had fought for the most remarkable civilization humans had ever created.
In short, America went from a great power to a power for greatness in a single generation.