Not one of the old "frogmen" or young Navy SEALs who gathered this week at the nearby National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum for the annual Muster wants to see another war. Those who came here are veterans of combat spanning from World War II to the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to numerous other unnamed fights around the world. Within their ranks are men -- and their families -- who know what it means to go in harm's way, often without any recognition or public acclaim.
The widow of a slain SEAL put it this way: "Before my husband deployed to Afghanistan the last time, he told me, 'It's not important our son know what I did as a SEAL. What is important is that he knows why I did it: so that he would never have to.'" Unfortunately, despite the courage and sacrifice of his parents, their young son may well face a very dangerous future.
It is an unalterable fact of human nature that the perception of weakness invites aggression. For us, it has been that way since the founding of the republic. We disarmed after the American Revolution. That's how we ended up with the War of 1812.
Just a year before a million U.S. troops were dispatched to save France in World War I, Woodrow Wilson promised our countrymen that there was no risk in cutting our defenses, because we would not be involved in "Europe's war." When the war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, we immediately slashed defense spending -- and our president told us we could rely on "collective security" from the League of Nations.
In 1939, with Imperial Japan running amok in Asia and Adolf Hitler's legions on the march across Europe, the U.S. military was the 17th-largest in the world. In Washington, Republicans and Democrats -- at loggerheads over President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal economic programs -- barely could agree on allowing conscription. In 1941, the draft extension passed by just one vote in the House of Representatives. By the end of the war, more than 16 million Americans had served.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.