Displaying a dazzling lack of connection with reality and utter contempt for the United States, last week French President Emmanuel Macron called for creating an independent European army.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States of America,” he said. Such a thought is not new in France. However, the idea that Europe needs an army to defend itself against the United States demonstrates a hitherto unknown level of hostility by an “allied” leader.
The timing of Macron’s remarks is also baffling. He said this just days before the centennial commemoration of the end of the First World War. One hundred years ago, the United States of America deployed 2.1 million men to Europe to expel the German Imperial Army from France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The war was nearly lost to the Germans in 1917 after the French army mutinied and Czarist Russia quit the war as a result of the Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution.
Thousands of Americans Died to Save France
After the bloody losses of Verdun and the blunders at the Somme in 1916, there was no way the Allies could win the war without the might and power of the United States. One of America’s largest and bloodiest campaigns in its history was the Meuse Argonne Offensive, which began on September 26, 1918 and lasted until the Germans signed an armistice to end the war on November 11, 1918.
The American Expeditionary Forces, under the command of Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing, were asked to attack the most heavily fortified and thickly defended part of the Western Front between the Meuse River and the ancient Argonne Forest. This would threaten German supply lines and thereby draw off their strategic reserve divisions.
The Americans attacked and paid dearly in blood, suffering 20,000 casualties a week so that the British and French armies further to the north could break through. What Macron conveniently forgets is that without the United States giving so generously of its sons and treasure, Paris would have been captured by Imperial Germany and the war lost. Today, more than 30,000 American men rest in six military cemeteries as silent witnesses to the sacrifice the United States paid to deliver France from Germany in 1918.
We Did It Again in World War II
If that was not enough to convince the forgetful French president of America’s goodwill, then surely he could remember the Second World War. After France ingloriously capitulated to the Nazis after just six weeks of fighting in 1940, Paris found itself under the iron fist of Nazi Germany. No nation on the face of the earth could rescue France except the United States of America, which once again rose to the occasion.
At incredible loss of life, the United States began the liberation of France at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and utterly vanquished the Nazis less than a year later. Tangible evidence of this American sacrifice to liberate France includes 30,400 American service men buried across that nation in five military cemeteries.
The silent witness of more than 60,000 Americans buried in France only captures a fraction of the immense sacrifice that was paid delivering France twice over the last century. There are the thousands of missing in action, whose bodies were never recovered, and the tens of thousands killed in action returned to the United States for burial near their homes.
Then the United States Rebuilt France from the Ground Up
In the aftermath of WWII’s devastation, the United States committed its men and women to defend Western Europe from World War III by physically deploying troops across the continent. Without this commitment, the Soviet Union would have attacked, wiped out another generation of Europeans, and imposed its totalitarian, atheistic ideology on them.
This commitment was bolstered by a generous offer to use American money to rebuild Europe’s war-torn nations. Called the Marshall Plan, the United States poured money into the devastated continent. This unleashed unparalleled peace and prosperity across Europe.
Never before has Europe experienced such enduring peace. Their booming economies, generous benefits for their citizens, and gleeful experiment with a European Union was only possible thanks to the generosity and sacrifice of the United States, which provided the security umbrella they required to deter a Soviet attack during the Cold War.
During the Cold War, I was one of the young soldiers serving along the contentious West German border with East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Without the United States physically deployed in Western Europe, history would have turned out differently. The allies’ paltry armies would have been easily swept away by the Soviet juggernaut.
How Germany views and treats Cold War veterans today demonstrates Western Europe’s lack of appreciation towards America for its sacrifice. I recently traveled to Germany, where I served as a soldier for ten years of my 30-year military career. Under the dictates of the German government, U.S. veterans are prohibited from using nearly all aspects of the U.S. military installations in Germany. The German government refuses this access to the very people who defended them, simply because Berlin would not be able to tax us if we shopped on the American military installations in Europe.
Biting the Hand that Defends Them from Death
When was the last time any leader in Western Europe uttered even an unfelt thank you to the American people for all we have done to preserve peace? It would be one thing if the Europeans simply were ungrateful. However, this thanklessness has morphed into a disdain against the very people and nation who delivered them from two militaristic German regimes and defended them from the Soviet Union during the entire 46 years of the Cold War.
As the great U.S. President John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things.” Macron would do well to review European history, which demonstrates that his continent has been rife with war and conflict. Without the United States physically present in Europe, that continent would have reverted to its 1,000-year history of petty wars and regional powers gobbling up weaker nations.
Europe is prosperous and free today thanks to the sacrifice and commitment of the United States of America. There was a time European leaders understood this. In the ashes of the Second World War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded, with the United States invited to play the lead and central role in 1949. NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Ismay, grasped the importance of this when he said that NATO’s purpose was “to get the United States in, keep the Soviets out, and keep the Germans down.”
Ungrateful for American Blood and Treasure
NATO has come a long way from its foundation in 1949, with ten European nations, the USA, and Canada. The nations once under Soviet occupation and domination have rushed for NATO membership to keep from suffering again under the merciless iron hand of Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin would have already occupied the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania without the security assurances the United States provides the world via NATO. This is why President Andrzej Duda of Poland has offered to pay $2 billion a year to establish a permanent American presence in his nation. With the atrocities and depravations of the Soviet occupation fresh in his mind, President Duda is willing to admit what most of Western Europe refuses to: that they owe their peace and prosperity to the generosity and sacrifice of the United States.
There are now 29 members of NATO. Only eight spend their bare-minimum pledged 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Two of the greatest offenders are France and Germany. Paris and Berlin are exploiting American generosity and security promises in spending barely 1 percent of their GDP on defense.
Fine, Learn the Hard Way If You Must
If Macron wants to go it alone, let him. Let’s see if the French government and French businesses can afford their short work weeks and generous welfare states with the added burden of maintaining a large and viable military force. They will watch their prosperity drain away and have to contend with a rising threat from Russia, which has ambitions across Europe.
Even during the ceremony to commemorate the end of World War I, Macron refused to walk back his statement. If such lack of appreciation and disdain continues to grow against the United States, Europe may just wake up one day and find that America has decided to part ways with them.
Should this happen, a generation of rich, spoiled, and prosperous Europeans like Macron will have to learn the hard way what their grandparents endured but a generation ago. Freedom is not free, and the United States of America is the sole reason for the enduring peace the French have enjoyed.