Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Last Surrender: What The US Should Learn From The End Of World War II
In July 1945, President Harry S. Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration, after nearly four years of bloody war with Imperial Japan. "We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces. …The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." The Japanese government did not respond, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were set in motion.
The fearsome spectacle of whole cities being obliterated by single bombs, coupled with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, finally drove a Japan, notorious for its aversion to surrender, to the negotiating table. The Japanese government formally surrendered on Sept. 2 (now known as Victory over Japan Day) onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. This not only signaled the end of World War II, but an end to the era of formal declared war fought until official capitulation by one side or the other. Since then, the U.S. military has been swimming in much murkier waters.
Following its sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and Western targets across the Pacific, President Franklin Roosevelt officially declared war on Japan on Dec. 7, 1941. This was followed by declarations of war against Germany and Italy on Dec. 11, and a final declaration against Bulgaria on June 4, 1942. The declaration against Bulgaria was the United States’ last leading up to the present day.
Since then, war and the enemies we face have changed. Increasingly, they have become open-ended operations against non-state or quasi-state actors, with no declarations of war or surrender, with none of the legal niceties under international law.
The Korean War was referred to as a “police action” by Truman, under the auspices of the United Nations. Never mind that it was very much a conventional war, with armies of hundreds of thousands of troops from North and South Korea, the United States, and China --- the largest actors involved --- with 25 others in supporting roles. Nearly five million died, mostly civilians.
Technically, the war has never ended, even though the Korean Armistice Agreement has been in place since 1953.
Vietnam was no different. What started as 3,000 military advisors attached to South Vietnam by President John Kennedy turned into 549,500 troops engaged in large-scale combat operations by 1969. Much of the war effort was focused on chasing down North Vietnamese-backed Viet Cong guerrillas across South Vietnam, with the line between civilian and soldier becoming increasingly blurred. No war was ever declared, and it ended with a panicked evacuation of Saigon in 1975 as the North Vietnamese army bore down on the capital.
Following the disaster of Vietnam, the United States was understandably reluctant to get involved in another open-ended war, but the military was not idle. U.S. operations in Grenada, Libya, and Panama all involved a limited numbers of soldiers with short-term objectives quickly met. The deployment in Beirut, Lebanon, aimed towards “peace-keeping,” ended less than sanguinely. Compared to Operation Blue Bat in 1958, it was a fiasco that ended with the death of 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers in the Marine barracks bombing. During none of these events was war declared.
Even the first Gulf War, almost a model for decisive military action with few casualties, at least on the U.S. side, stretched into almost a decade of no-fly zones, economic sanctions, and constant low-level conflict. Many saw it as a job left unfinished, including most fatefully George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. The 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation left deep scars in the American appetite for intervention, even as we move towards yet another phase of conflict in Iraq following the rise of the Islamic State.
Finally, we are left with the only conflict zone where a large numbers of U.S. troops is still present: Afghanistan. Following the 9/11 attacks, massive retaliation was not only inevitable, but accepted by most of the international community. But in the nearly 13 years since, the United States has been stuck in a mess of nation building and Islamic insurgency that threatens all the sacrifices made region notoriously known as the Graveyard of Empires.
The rise of Islamic extremism may not be lacking in state actors. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar have all been accused of fanning the flames of a movement that has gotten the United States involved from Somalia to the Philippines, with mixed results. But we are entering a world that makes official declarations of war and peace seem quaint, driven by ethnic tensions and religious fanaticism.
The United States is no stranger to this, as the Barbary pirates, the Banana Wars, and the interventions against Libya and the Islamic State will attest, but we have to quit fooling ourselves that the old rules of war apply anymore.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."