The Corner

National Security & Defense

In Laos, Obama Once Again Apologizes for America

A few days ago, President Obama again apologized for America, this time in the obscure nation of Laos that is controlled by Vietnam. From the AP story:

President Barack Obama paid tribute Wednesday to survivors maimed by some 80 million unexploded bombs America dropped on Laos decades ago. Some 20,000 people killed or wounded since the war ended, Obama said… American warplanes dropped more explosives on this Southeast Asian nation than on Germany and Japan in World War II, a stunning statistic that Obama noted during his first day in Vientiane.

In every nation that has experienced war, survivors are maimed by unexploded bombs. In the ’60s, Laos was invaded and used as a highway by North Vietnam for its Russian tanks and Chinese artillery to attack into South Vietnam. North Vietnam, not America, placed Laos in the middle of its war to seize the south. Why, then, did the president of the United States choose those statistics?

Here are a few other “stunning statistics.” Seven decades after World War II, more than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are uncovered on German soil every year. Should President Obama apologize for World War II? In France, 12 million unexploded shells still lie in the earth of Verdun, a century after they were fired. Should he apologize to France? And in Virginia in 2008, a man was killed when a cannonball from the Civil War exploded. Should he apologize to the Confederacy? There seems no end to apologizing.

Mr. Obama paid tribute to “20,000 people killed or wounded since the war ended.” He chose to say nothing about the millions killed “since the war ended” in Cambodia, or the tragic fates of the Laotian tribes that fought alongside our Special Forces. Ninety one percent of Vietnam veterans – most of whom were volunteers – say they are glad they served. But the Vietnam-era divorce between liberalism and patriotism has never fully healed. By the selection of his words and venues, President Obama has undercut our national consensus that on balance America and its military have been a force for good and progress.

“Freedom is not ours by inheritance,” President Reagan said. “It must be fought for and defended constantly, by each generation.” The freedom and material benefits we enjoy as Americans are due to the strategic decisions and sacrifices of the preceding generations. The international order is not self-sustaining.

President Obama has a fundamentally different worldview. Five years ago Mr. Obama declared, “the tide of war is receding.” Since then, hundreds of thousands have died in the Middle East and millions more are homeless refugees. Unfazed, a few months ago he said, “Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” The Obama Doctrine is not a foreign policy; it is a religion, akin to Scientology in its mysticism.

Shaping the future requires leadership. You can’t lead from behind. The duty of our commander-in-chief is to lead and to encourage those who have chosen to join the military and serve as our guardians. Instead, he has discouraged them by criticizing their deeds that were undertaken for our country. 

Bing West, a bestselling author and former assistant secretary of defense, served as a Marine grunt in Vietnam and later as a dean at the Naval War College.