I just returned from a trip from the demilitarized zone in Korea. It was a sobering experience recounting the horrors of that war upon the Korean people. I'll post on the trip another time, but today's post really has to do with a single comment I heard during the presentation.
It was an excellent tour with an excellent tour guide. However, I heard an innocent enough comment during the tour to which I always take exception. It is not the first time I've heard this comment, by far, as this seems to be a sentiment around the world. Among other countries I've heard it in is Vietnam and France.
The exact comments may differ by country, but the gist is always the same. It goes something like this: we are grateful the Americans helped us out in our endeavor for freedom, however, they had an ulterior motive. In Korea it was stated America fought because of Korea's strategic position.
As an American, I take offense to this worldwide view. Not because they're necessarily wrong, who am I to judge a government's motive? But for a more basic reason. The motive of governments must be separated from the motives of the soldiers who died in foreign countries.Other countries minimize the deaths of Americans on foreign lands by associating ulterior motives. I'm not the arrogant American traveler, but neither am I the apologetic American as many travelers have become.
People are not governments. American soldiers do not die, or lose limb, or leave family behind in anguish, because they care about strategic position. The American soldier fights, and sometimes dies, for more noble reasons than that, I believe.
There are many still alive in our country who still suffer the consequences of foreign wars. There are many families of soldiers who have suffered other losses as well. None of them cared about strategic positions. Few, if any, cared about the politics of war. But they fought beside a foreign soldier with risk of life to make life in their country better. The motive of a soldier is more noble than a government. Does anyone believe any soldier dies for strategic position? They die from duty to serve American values of freedom.
I really grow weary of hearing these comments on foreign lands where Americans have lost their lives. I detest hearing it in France most of all. The Americans who charged in Normandy could care less about the politics of war. To minimize their deaths today because of perceived government politics of this day, is an insult to their memory and to their families. At the time, when those brave men marched through the streets of Paris, that sentiment did not exist. It is only in times of freedom this anti-sentiment exist, not in times of occupancy or invasion. And the freedom people can enjoy to blurt these comments is partially, and greatly, due to the American soldier.
Last year I had a conversation with a Frenchman in my travels. It was clear he harbored some ill-will towards America, even though he claimed not. He even went so far to say he believed the US dollar would be replaced as a global currency by perhaps China. He seemed to take pleasure in his prediction, as ignorant as it was.
I asked him what gives currency value. To my surprise he answered correctly and said trust. Exactly right! Currency in the US has not been gold backed for years. Money only has value because we believe it does. Otherwise it's only a piece of fancy paper.
I then asked him if he would trust his retirement savings in US currency or Chinese currency. No need for an answer, I already knew. There is no more trusted currency in the world than the US dollar backed by the US government. And that's not going to change anytime soon. It likely will someday, but not soon.
People can talk badly of America all they want, but at the end of the day, who will they trust? I've made this statement several times in international travels: America is like a lawyer, everyone hates them until they need them. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but a valid point I think.
I'm not going so far to say there is a huge anti-American sentiment out there in the world. From my experience, America is still seen in a favorable light, in general. These pockets of criticism may be partially valid, but unnecessary. They do a great disservice to the American heroes who died or were a casualty of foreign war on their lands. No soldier is asking for a "thank you". But neither does they seek a slap in the face.
One last question: When the 38th parallel was set by the USSR and the USA after WW2, which side did the Korean people want to be on? It was the same answer as Germany with the Berlin Wall. Again, rhetorical question. People can talk, but at the end of the day it comes down to trust and freedom. The American soldier was there, in many cases, to help secure these values around the world. Not because they had anything to gain from it, but because personal sacrifice is what they do.
Just one man's opinion here, if you agree, pass this message on.