- D-Day reminds us of the costs of delayed action and the sacrifices of global leadership
- While the Soviet Union is gone, threats to the American-backed order have not disappeared
- It ultimately costs more to manage crises — as we had to on June 6, 1944 — than to solve problems before they spiral out of control.
It is often said that history repeats itself. Sometimes it does. Other times history serves as a powerful reminder of possibilities, human nature and consequences.
On the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy, this battle reminds us of the costs of delayed action and the sacrifices of global leadership. While our fighting men and women were able to pave the way for the liberation of Europe, it was at a great cost of nearly 1,500 American lives on one day alone. The major effort required the near-total mobilization of American society to build the ships, aircraft, tanks and armies that landed in Normandy and kept on driving to Berlin.
The defeat of Nazi Germany led to the eventual creation of a post-war order built upon economic freedom, representative government and respect for human rights. It took U.S. wisdom and strength to create and then constantly defend this benevolent order against a new totalitarian challenger. Year in and year out, America has had to remain vigilant to guard the freedom of so many.
While the Soviet Union is gone, threats to the American-backed order have not disappeared. It can be easy to look at current events and view Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons as outliers in an otherwise (more) civilized world. But the expansion of an international order based upon the rule of law rather than the use of force, and conventions such as the ban on chemical weapons, are hard won victories that should be celebrated, not taken for granted.
These victories were possible because American values and commitment to leadership followed the U.S. military to foreign shores. Our nation helped win the war, and then used its military power and forward presence to help prevent the next one.
On this D-Day anniversary, policymakers should recommit to rebuilding U.S. military strength. Although American internationalism is not cheap, it ultimately costs more to manage crises — as we had to on June 6, 1944 — than to solve problems before they spiral out of control.
Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, where Charles Morrison is a research assistant.