When Class Was in Session at Normandy

Dr. Malcolm Cross

Commemorating the eightieth anniversary of D-Day, President Biden offered serious lessons on international relations for today.  His deeds should now match his words. He must heed the lessons he so eloquently offered at Normandy.

Biden’s speech was a triumph of both style and substance.  He spoke with a clarity and force that belied charges that he’s deep into dotage.  He paid well-earned tribute to the D-Day heroes, living and dead.  And he wisely and accurately linked the events of 80 years ago to the challenges America faces today in its support for democracy, not only in Europe but throughout the world.

What Biden understands, at least in theory, is that the United States and its allies must be prepared to take vigorous action to preserve freedom and democracy, especially when freedom and democracy are under threat from Russia and other authoritarian states.  The Normandy invasion was an extreme example of such action.  But, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, D-Day was made necessary precisely because of the failure of America and its European allies to take the sort of actions in the 1920s and 1930s which might otherwise have forestalled or at least weakened the evils perpetrated by the rise of Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese imperialists.

Biden has been right to aid Ukraine. But now he must up his game.  He must give to Ukraine more aid and more freedom to use that aid in the most militarily effective manner.  He has quite rightly authorized Ukraine to use American weapon systems to begin attacking military targets in a few areas of Russia, but he must loosen American-imposed restrictions more and allow the Ukrainians to carry the war to the aggressor.  

Much the same can be said for aid to Israel as well.  Biden must realize that the horrific suffering of the Palestinians is the fault of Hamas–the result of Hamas’s savagery on October 7–and that the most effective way to end their suffering is to allow Israel to so decisively defeat Hamas that it can never again threaten the peace.  Only then can the United States work with moderate Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution.

Fairness to Biden requires recognition of the obstacles he must face, including the savage anti-Semitism of the Democratic progressives and the shameful adoration of Vladimir Putin of which too many Republicans, especially in the U. S. House of Representatives, are guilty.  And of course, Biden and anyone else who favors aid to Ukraine and Israel must be aware of the perfectly legitimate concerns of millions of thoughtful people who fear aid now may lead to greater American involvement in foreign wars in the future, and thus fear another Vietnam or endless war in the Middle East.

But more aid now short of sending Americans into actual combat may lead to sufficiently decisive victories that may deter future aggression from Russia, or Iran, or China, and thereby reduce future threats to the security of the United States and its democratic allies.  We cannot replay history, but more resistance to Hitler, for example, in the early 1930s might have forestalled World War 2, the war which necessitated D-Day.

So President Biden can, and should, congratulate himself on work well done at Normandy.  He understands the stakes and the need for firmness in the face of aggression.  But now he has to act.  Like Roosevelt in the 1930s, he must begin to more forcefully educate Congress and the public on the dangers of authoritarian aggression, and that now is the time to aid the democratic victims of aggression, and thereby avoid even worse aggression in the future—the sort of aggression that can’t be halted with aid to others, but which might someday require another D-Day.  

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville since 1987 and taught politics and government at Tarleton for 36 years, retiring in 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990-2024).  He was Mayor pro-tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He has served on the Board of Directors of the Stephenville
Economic Development Authority since 2018 and as chair of the Erath County Appraisal District’s Appraisal Review Board since 2015.  He is also a member of the Stephenville Rotary Club, the Board of Vestry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts’ Pecan Valley District.  Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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