America leads the world in justice

Writer’s note: Every now and then, I believe it is important to reflect on why America is the leader it is. I have argued for this country’s interests in past columns regarding several issues that involve our foreign relations. At this time, I would like to address America’s role in itself.

For a world full of so much conflict and uncertainty, the United States of America stands unique among other nations. In every corner of the globe, people look to America for hope and inspiration. They see in this country the values and resolve of a just and moral people. This is because America is a country founded on individual liberty and justice. And from the free entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, this country is strong and powerful.
Struggling to create the United States, revolutionary leader Thomas Paine declared that “man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.” The American Revolution created a nation of laws built upon respect for the liberty of the individual. This foundation has survived through tragedies such as the divisive bloodshed of the Civil War and the humiliating end of the Vietnam War. And because this country continues to be an expression of individual liberty, America, in essence, represents the human spirit among the affairs of nations. Thus, we have a duty, unlike any other nation at any other time, to stand for what is just and right in the world.
In a nationally televised address about America in 1964, Ronald Reagan proclaimed: “You and I have a rendezvous with history. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth.” His message was on target. There is no nation that equals America’s moral force and solemn resolve. And it remains up to us to continue the proud legacy of America’s global influence.
Facing the immense challenges in the world, the United States is often hesitant to act. We are not an aggressive country. However, to appease a tyrant can never advance our security. “Enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom,” as Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized during the peak of Adolf Hitler’s aggression. He emphasized that America must be ready to act as “an arsenal” for people struggling against tyranny. With this principle in mind, Roosevelt concluded, “we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators (against) our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression.”
We cannot neglect this role. However safe our shores may appear, “no peace can last, or ought to last,” as Woodrow Wilson stressed, “which does not recognize and accept the principle that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Wilson understood America’s moral role in combating injustice and so declared that “right is more precious than peace.”
Consider the “peace” that the pro-democracy protesters have had in Communist China since the Tiananmen Square massacre — for many, it has been the peace of the grave. Certainly, it was no accident that the protesters built a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen and quoted in English the immortal words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” They risked everything to fight for what is right and seized upon American values.
We are emerging from the bloodiest century in history. From the two world wars and many other conflicts, tyrants of all kinds have scorched this planet with human suffering. But even at the most desperate of times, America has remained committed to the struggle against tyranny. This country often stood side-by-side with freedom fighters even when the odds were heavily stacked against them. And now, nearing the end of the century, America alone stands at the pinnacle of nations in determining the direction of things to come in the next century.
The burden of this responsibility is great and often we seem fearful of accepting the tasks involved. Teddy Roosevelt offered this guidance to help come to terms with America’s role: “A milk-and-water righteousness unbacked by force is to the full as wicked as and even more mischievous than force divorced from righteousness.” In essence, America must not only speak against injustice, it must accept its responsibility to be prepared to fight aggression when necessary.
America does not seek to control or dominate others. Instead, this is a nation that respects the sovereignty of other nations. “True security does not come from empire and domination,” explains George Bush. “True security can only be found in the growing trust of free peoples.” Therefore, it is clear that America must act with force only when people suffer the aggression of tyrants. In the absence of such injustice, this country is content to prosper with all the people of the world.
All people of every nation are therefore partners with the American people. Our values and prosperity overlap with people’s basic search for happiness in every corner of the globe. America’s role as moral leader is a revolutionary ideal for the world. Throughout history, no such power has found contentment in the peaceful prospering of others to the same extent as the United States. For this, we can be supremely proud. As Americans, we have a natural obligation as world leaders.
You and I must seize the moment of our brief lifetimes and stand up for what is right in the world. We must not appease aggression against individual freedom. As Reagan challenged in ’64: “If we fail, at least let our children, and our children’s children, say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
Joe Roche’s column appears in the Daily every Monday.