A personable young reviewer on Fox News panned the new movie, Monuments Men, over Legos, a kids’ movie. It’s the kind of thing you get when you send a boy in to do a man’s job: kid stuff.
Monuments Men is about U.S. Army units that were sent into Germany and Austria in search of art objects displaced by the war. Some of these were precious items hidden away by museums in France and Germany as the war advanced. Some was destroyed in tragedies like the Hamburg firestorm. Some is still missing, like the famous Amber Room from the Catherine Palace at St. Petersburg, Russia (then Leningrad).
A large amount, however, was stolen by high-ranking NAZIs as their personal spoils of war and this is what our guys were trying to find. Find it they did, in salt mines and hidden caves some of which were booby-trapped to deter the curious. Caches were found in villas and facilities used by people like Goering and Goebbels.
The search goes on. Little hoards of artworks taken from Jewish collectors and art dealers are still turning up in France and Germany. More is still missing that will probably eventually turn up as forgotten storerooms and nooks and crannies are opened and explored.
Our people also went looking for Germany’s living treasures. Richard Strauss, for one, survived the war hidden away in a little chalet in Austria. Precious musical manuscripts were hidden away and are still being found as are the rare old musical instruments used to perform them.
It is significant to me that only the Americans were concerned about Germany’s cultural treasures. By the end of the war the British were broke and broken and no longer able to deal with it. The French opted out of the war after the liberation of Paris. The Russians were only interested in retribution and empire-building. Only the Americans remained behind to help the Europeans rebuild and, through the Marshall Plan, provided the wherewithal for it.
It is also significant that Europe has not experienced war in the seventy years since the last one. In centuries past, picayunish emperors and kings squabbled over insignificant insults. One such war lasted a hundred years. The presence of the American military in Europe has dampened these squabbles and deterred adventurism from the east.
With the war in Afghanistan winding down and our departure imminent, now might be the time to also consider withdrawing from Europe. We wouldn’t want to do it all at once, of course, but maybe over a period of ten years. The presence of American muscle has left the Europeans free to build their own form of socialism unencumbered by the need to maintain a sizable military. Our NATO commitments have involved us in little regional power plays such as the Libyan conflict in which Muammar Gadhafi was overthrown. We got drawn into the Bosnian conflict that really was a European problem.
It’s time we removed ourselves from European power games. It’s time we removed our Patriot missile batteries from Europe. If the Europeans want protection from Iranian missiles, let them provide their own. If the Europeans want protection from the Russians, let them provide their own. If the Europeans need tanks or combat aircraft, let them build their own. If the French and Germans want to engage in warfare over some internal EU issue, let them.
We must remember, of course, that we owe the Europeans a sizable amount of money. They have been financing our own march toward socialism by purchasing U.S. T-Bills and supporting our National Debt. No doubt they expect a certain quid pro quo in return. That thought alone should provide some incentive to reduce our foreign debt and restore our economic independence.
A complete withdrawal from the foreign stage would be unwise and is probably not possible. We are quite literally still at war with North Korea and have treaty obligations to the South Koreans. War there is a distinct possibility. We should impress on the North Koreans, however, that modern warfare is radically different from the WWII variety they experienced sixty years ago. Fleets of Predator drones, for example, could range far and wide knocking down bridges and destroying freight locomotives. Any North Korean offensive would stall for want of supplies. Those millions of North Korean troops would starve in their foxholes.
China is showing signs of getting greedy and is making imperialistic moves on its borders. We must maintain a presence in the Far East to dampen any such ambitions.
Nevertheless, it is time to review our place on the foreign stage. Wise counselors two hundred years ago urged us to avoid foreign entanglements. It’s time we took their advice.