America Has Won Its Last War
“He kept us out of war!” cheered the president’s most loyal constituents. President Wilson was campaigning for re-election. True to his campaign slogan, the president had kept America out of war. That is, unless you consider the sinking of American ships by German submarines a warlike act. Mr. Wilson’s defense had been a steady stream of hand-written notes, pleading for the kaiser to stop shooting Americans.
Herbert Armstrong attended that campaign rally in the autumn of 1916. Amid the throngs of Wilson supporters, he found himself not more than six feet away from former President Theodore Roosevelt.
“He kept us out of war,” Mr. Armstrong heard the former president say with contempt. “I was president for seven-and-a-half years,” he continued. “And if I were president now, I would send the kaiser just one note—and he would know that I meant it.”
Mr. Armstrong told that story often because it perfectly illustrated what he had been repeating for decades—that the United States had lost the will to use its power. Shortly after World War ii, he predicted that the United States had won its last war.
Korea and Cuba
The Korean War was the first in a long line of non-victories for the United States. When hostilities broke out in 1950, President Truman gave command of American forces to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, World War ii hero. From the outset, MacArthur was free to cross the 38th parallel and invade North Korea. But once China’s Communist forces joined in on the side of the enemy, the U.S. was sent reeling backward. MacArthur adamantly urged Washington to approve a full-scale attack on China, telling one congressman that “there is no substitute for victory.” But his plea fell upon deaf ears. President Truman fired MacArthur in 1951, and the war eventually settled to a stalemate, both sides suffering huge numbers of casualties.
The Korean War ended the career of America’s last great general. It also marked the beginning of a new era in American battle strategy—limited warfare.
The Bay of Pigs incident is a good example of this new strategy. President Kennedy kick-started this political-military disaster. In 1961, more than 1,400 Cuban exiles, trained by the cia, landed on Cuba’s shores hoping to detonate a popular uprising. But without U.S. naval and air support, Castro’s troops easily crushed the rebellion. Nearly all of the U.S.-led invaders were killed in battle or died in Castro’s prisons years later.
Several years before the Bay of Pigs, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the January 1953 Plain Truth that the U.S. should have driven Castro and communism out of Cuba. Because it did not, he then asked, “Is the United States going to find that, having left Castro and godless communism on the American doorstep, it is going to continue to cause us every kind of trouble and harassment?” Indeed it did—a more recent example being the controversy over 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez in 2000.
After the Bay of Pigs debacle, Mr. Armstrong pinned the blame not on the U.S. military, nor even President Kennedy, but on the American people! He wrote in the October 1961 Plain Truth that “unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war!
“I said that when we failed to win in Korea! … I say it again now that the United States government endorsed this Cuban fiasco—its president gave the ‘go-ahead’—and God, the God America has deserted, gave it its most humiliating defeat! What does the Cuban debacle mean?
“It means, Mr. and Mrs. United States, that the handwriting is on your wall!”
Strong words those. And yet how profound when you consider what was just around the corner.
The Vietnam Spectacle
As early as November 1961, the Plain Truth informed readers that the U.S. would “almost certainly” have to fight a major battle in Vietnam. (The U.S. started sending troops there in 1964.) While several news sources may have realized a war in Vietnam was imminent, none would have blared this headline in early 1965: “Why United States Cannot Win Vietnam War!” The Plain Truth said that just months after hostilities broke out.
The article pointed out, “The United States is committed not to win in Vietnam! … The late Gen. Douglas MacArthur once stated that unless a nation entered into a battle with victory as its goal, it was defeated before it started. He was right!
“Make no mistake about it—the U.S. and the other nations involved in support of South Vietnam would like to win. But they are afraid to take the action necessary to win.” That was printed in April 1965.
A year and a half later, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The United States is not winning. Yet the war has been stepped up enormously during 1966. People see no results. People compare the size and power of the United States to that of North Vietnam—a little country hardly the size of one of our states, such as Florida. They can’t understand why the United States—the most powerful military nation in the world—can’t whip little North Vietnam” (Plain Truth, January 1967). The war lasted another eight years, ending in the shameful evacuation of American officials from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon. It was America’s longest war in history. It was also our most humiliating defeat. Historian Paul Johnson called it a “collapse of American power.”
During those years, the Plain Truth often touched on another Vietnam casualty—that of American honor worldwide. “No military nation can operate a military force by accepting defeat in an enemy attack,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “on the excuse we wanted to save the lives of men who had offered those lives to protect our honor and our freedom. … How many more lives will yet be lost in future battles because enemies will now be emboldened by this display of weakness to anticipate easy victories over a United States that is afraid to fight?” (January 1969).
Indeed, the war in Vietnam gave America’s reputation as a superpower quite a beating. The Plain Truth pointed this out in February 1978 and then made this stunning prediction: “The days are over when the military might of the United States is used to accomplish what America perceives as correct and proper. … America’s influence and prestige is on the rapid decline. The pride of our power has been broken. The time is fast approaching when the United States will be so weak and so fearful of its own shadow that, as the Prophet Ezekiel predicted, the trumpet will sound the call to battle, but none shall answer (Ezekiel 7:14).”
It was a portent of things to come.
If the Korean War marked the beginning of the limited warfare strategy, America’s ignominious defeat in Vietnam marked the beginning of anti-warfare strategy. Nothing illustrates this aversion to danger like the Iran hostage crisis.
In November 1978, a band of Iranian revolutionists stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured 52 U.S. staff members. President Carter made repeated demands for Tehran to return the captives, but the Ayatollah Khomeini said he was beating an empty drum. “Carter does not have the guts to engage in a military operation,” Khomeini taunted. Carter’s only show of “force” was a bungled rescue attempt in April 1979 that left the bodies of eight U.S. servicemen burning in the Iranian desert. Television cameras captured the images for all to see. It was another humiliating defeat. Iran held the world’s greatest superpower at bay for another eight months after the botched rescue mission. One wonders how Theodore Roosevelt would have handled the situation.
With more conservative leadership during the 1980s, some might argue that America regained some of the pride in its power. President Reagan sent troops to Grenada in 1983 to stamp out communism from the West Indies. In 1986, he bombed Colonel Gadafi’s military headquarters in Libya in response to a terrorist act. These small skirmishes, however, hardly qualify as decisive military victories for the United States. (The population of Grenada, after all, is only slightly bigger than Fargo, North Dakota.) If anything, they revealed an increasingly gun-shy America willing to use its military might only in small, relatively risk-free conflicts.
Consider Lebanon. In October 1983, an Islamic terrorist rammed a truck packed with explosives into marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. Four months later, President Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops, which all but dissolved the Lebanese Christian power structure.
After another embarrassing U.S. retreat, the Plain Truth was quick to remind readers of what it had been saying for decades. The November/December 1983 issue carried an article titled “Why America Has Won Its Last War.” In it, Mr. Armstrong’s booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy was quoted: “The United States, even still possessing unmatched power, is afraid—fears—to use it, just as God said.”
The Gulf War “Victory”
If ever there was a conflict that could have proven Mr. Armstrong’s prediction wrong it would have been the Persian Gulf War. Even Mr. Armstrong’s own church, after he had been dead for several years, had backed away from the “America has won its last war” prediction. “We were wrong,” wrote Mr. Armstrong’s successor, Joseph Tkach, in 1991.
The fledgling Trumpet magazine, however, did not agree with the Plain Truth’s new watered-down message. “America has won its last war,” we declared on the cover of the May 1991 Trumpet, shortly after the Gulf War ended.
It is true that the world had never witnessed, until 1991, such an awesome display of technologically advanced firepower. Yet despite this show of force, the Persian Gulf War was not one “that tested the U.S. will,” we wrote in the Trumpet—that is “until it was ‘over’—and the refugee nightmare surfaced.” America may have lost only 147 of its own servicemen in the war, but it was responsible for the deaths of thousands more. The U.S. “victory” left Saddam Hussein in power to massacre tens of thousands of Kurdish and Shiite refugees whom the United States had urged to revolt. Hundreds of thousands more crossed Iraq’s borders into Turkey, Jordan and Iran. It was one of the worst refugee crises in history.
America, Gerald Flurry wrote in that Trumpet issue, actually helped create the Kurdish genocide. Mr. Flurry quoted Mary McGrory of the Washington Post: “The sight of those wretched souls streaming into Turkey … as Bush abandons them on the 18th hole of a Florida golf course, makes you wonder if in this case it is peace, rather than war, that is hell.” A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times said of the cease-fire, “That is a lie; the war goes on.” Later, he wrote, “The war is not over for the rebels who believed in the word of America.” He then asked Bush directly: “Why do you sully your name and our country’s, by deliberately allowing Saddam Hussein to massacre the people you urged to rise against him?”
“America still fears getting bogged down in a Vietnam-type civil war in Iraq,” the Trumpet continued. “Even after we had them almost defenseless! That is because God has broken the pride of our power—our will to win! … America must come to see they are under a curse from God and repent of their sins.”
The fact that the 1991 Gulf War betrayed the Kurds and Shiites and left Saddam Hussein in power shows that it was, at best, another stalemate for the United States. However, the years that followed demonstrated even more powerfully the extent of the curse on display in that conflict.
Throughout the 1990s, it became increasingly clear that the greatest threat within the Middle East was not Saddam Hussein, but Saddam’s biggest enemy: Iran. When George W. Bush, the son of the President Bush who launched the Gulf War, unleashed the Second Gulf War in 2003, swiftly toppling the government and capturing the man who had eluded the U.S. 12 years before, it was a very impressive display of American military might. But the real adversary had become Islamist terrorism, and America’s prioritization of Iraq over its much more powerful and dangerous neighbor Iran—rather than coming across as an American victory—has actually empowered the Islamic republic, the world’s greatest terrorist-sponsoring nation. Today, the broken pride in America’s power is visible in its extremely weak treatment of an increasingly belligerant and ascendant Iran.
The Shameful 1990s
Over the past decade or so, there have been many other American defeats, politically and militarily. In picking up where the Plain Truth left off, the Trumpet has covered many of these defeats. There was the U.S. “nation building” effort in Somalia in 1993. It only took 29 American casualties to scuttle that mission. The 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, prompted a $353 million retreat further into the Saudi desert. When terrorists blew up U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, President Clinton responded with a wrist slap—a cruise missile strike on suspected terrorist facilities.
The United States even backed away from a conflict in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world. A U.S. naval assault ship was actually held at bay by a small mob of Haitians at Port au Prince in 1993. The U.S. scrapped the mission because it feared casualties.
Even more shameful than these small incidents is America’s dreadful foreign policy in Europe. This has been well documented in both the Trumpet and the Plain Truth. Just four years after World War ii ended, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “But while trusting, gullible Uncle Sam, always unable to see more than one enemy at a time, has been busy worrying about Russia, the real menace has been making diabolical and rapid headway—under cover —in Europe!” (Plain Truth, November 1949). In the June 1952 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong likened America’s bungling foreign policy in Europe to creating a Frankenstein monster that would eventually turn on its maker.
Gerald Flurry used that same analogy in the September/October 1995 Trumpet. He wrote about how the U.S. strongly opposed the recognition of the breakaway Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991. Yet, after German pressure, the United States caved in and offered its tacit approval. Recognizing those two states, more than anything else, is what sparked a succession of wars within the Balkan region during the 1990s.
Croatia, as the Trumpet pointed out, sided with the Nazis during World War ii. The Croatian leader Germany insisted on supporting in 1991, Franjo Tudjman, was himself a Nazi sympathizer. When war erupted, Croatia proceeded to rid its territory of Serbian blood. Carl Bildt, former European Community mediator in the Balkans, called it the “most efficient ethnic cleansing we’ve seen in the Balkans.”
America had effectively given its full support to the wrong side—and few commentators, besides the Trumpet, said anything about it.
The Trumpet has been hammering away at this warning for several years now. During the war in Kosovo, we exposed a further breakdown of U.S. willpower: “Given the apparent lack of will to effectively deploy its military might to actually win a victory in its numerous military adventures in recent years, why bother to deploy force at all …?” (Trumpet, May 1999). The U.S.-led bombing campaign was yet another low-risk American war that brought little or no result. In the long run, it will end up hurting America far more than it did Serbia. America’s inept leadership had European leaders calling for their own force to intervene in future conflicts. Of course, the Trumpet is well aware of where this is leading.
So, in weighing “America has won its last war” against the facts, what do we find? That Mr. Armstrong was right. From Korea, to Cuba, to Vietnam, to Iran, to Lebanon, to Somalia, to Kosovo—all of these episodes constitute clear American political and military defeats.
Blessings and Curses
There is a reason Mr. Armstrong correctly predicted after World War ii that America would lose the will to use its power and never again win a war. He knew that when God said He would “break the pride of your power” in Leviticus 26:19, He was referring primarily to the United States in this end time.
The irony is that the same God who promised to break our pride is the one who gave us this tremendous “power” in the first place. God blessed America with unprecedented material wealth because He promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. He did so because of Abraham’s obedience to God’s laws. That is why, up until World War ii, our peoples were richly blessed. (All of this is thoroughly explained in Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Be sure to request your free copy for further explanation.)
Today, however, God is turning those blessings into curses because of rampant sin and disobedience to His law. God gave us every imaginable good, but what have we done with those blessings? Let Mr. Armstrong explain: “Like Rome, we’ve grown fat and prosperous and lazy. We Americans are rolling in money. We have more money than any people ever had. Money has come so easily! … We’re the wealthiest, as compared to any other nation, and we are fast growing lazy and soft, seeking luxury and pleasure, and excitement, idleness and ease, labor-saving, step-saving devices and gadgets” (Plain Truth, February 1956). That applies today more than it did in 1956!
In all of this material prosperity, we have forgotten God, as William Pfaff notes in an editorial: “In contrast to the 19th century, there no longer is general deference to the Christian God, or serious acknowledgment that such a deity might exist. This is a fundamental change because it means that the West today no longer acknowledges the existence of an external rule-giver or moral authority. It regards mankind as entirely autonomous, existing within a moral framework entirely of its own creation, responsible only to itself. … The new millennium will be one in which, on present evidence, majority and elite belief in God is all but totally unseated in the West” (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 30, 1999).
This is the reason God is now cursing the peoples of Britain and the United States. America’s string of military-political defeats since World War ii is proof of those curses! America has indeed won its last war. It was true in 1950—all the more so now.
“Today God warns us through many prophecies … that unless we of this generation repent of our sins, and turn to Him with fastings, and with weeping, and earnest prayer, He will destroy our cities, all our fortresses, by the hand of the foreign sword; that He will punish us at the hand of a cruel one; that we shall be invaded, defeated, reduced to slaves! God help our nations to heed that warning!” (Plain Truth, October 1954).
All this wealth—and yet a broken will. That makes for a dangerous combination. As Mr. Armstrong wrote in the June 1954 Plain Truth,aggressor nations covet that wealth. That being man’s nature, it’s time for you to listen to God’s prophecies and take note: Aggressor nations will take that wealth as soon as they are strong enough to do so.
That will happen—and much sooner than you might think. That is what Herbert Armstrong foresaw.
Mr. Armstrong concluded an article in the October 1954 Plain Truth, “How any American—any English-speaking inheritor of God’s choicest material blessings—can, in face of such stupendous, overwhelming fulfillment of prophecy—such awe-inspiring demonstration of the power and might and faithfulness of Almighty God—accept and partake of these blessings, and then carelessly ignore God’s warning that our sins today are increasing, or fail to get to his knees before the great Almighty, and repent, and intercede in heart-rending prayer for all Israelite nations, and help in every way he can to warn our people now of their impending peril, seems impossible to conceive.
“God warns us through prophecy that our sins are fast increasing. And now the day of reckoning is here! The foreign sword already has attacked us. In this fearful awesome atomic age, World War iii will start with atomic bombs dropped on London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh; without warning!
“God help our nations to wake up before it’s too late!”