The death of Margaret Thatcher not only brings to a close a remarkable life, but also serves as a symbolic emblem of the end of an era. No longer will the United States nor Great Britain stand as resolute bulwarks of western ideas and strength. The title “Decline of the West” actually belongs to German Albert Spengler and he was a bit ahead of his time when his two-volume work The Downfall of the Occident: Perspectives of World History was completed in 1923.
While Spengler did not include World War II in his work, nor Korea, Vietnam or the middle-East engagements, he understood that the era of western military power and economic and moral strength would be drawing to a close. We now are on the back-side of the peak and are in a moral and military spiral downward that does not presage good things for our children.
I served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and am proud of that service. I also saw the last major display of U.S. military might in that engagement. We crossed the Iraqi and Kuwaiti borders with five heavy (M1 Abrams-equipped) divisions and two light ones (I was with the 24th Mechanized Div.). Four of those heavy divisions no longer exist, three of them armored. Having been pulled out of Europe for Desert Storm, they were demobilized and not replaced. Bill Clinton began a process of destroying M1 Abrams tanks—the vehicle that allowed us to crush Saddam Hussein’s vaunted Republican Guard in three days. That process of gutting the military has continued so that today our army consists of only one armored division, the 1st at Ft. Bliss, Tex, plus eight infantry divisions and several independent regiments.
The U.S. had better tread lightly these days where North Korea is concerned these days as it has a regular Army, of 800,000 with numerous armored divisions. It has 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel, and is the largest military organization on the planet. Most sources agree that the DPRK’s ground forces consist of approximately 145 divisions and brigades, of which approximately 120 are active. There is less agreement, however, on the breakdown of the forces below the division and brigade levels. Our entire regular Army, with one armored division consists of about 250,000 men. That is why reservists and national guardsmen, who once were called upon only for a major engagement, now are on almost continual active duty. We have one understrength division (in armor) in Korea and the South Korean army is less than half the size of the North Korean one. It would indeed be a quick war, but despite all the politicians and pundits who say we would win, those are not survivable odds.
Aside from the disarming of the U.S., accomplished primarily by Bill Clinton, and now continuing under Barack Obama, this country also has lost its moral strength. Sixty years of Hollywood and liberal attacks on Christianity have weakened the church and left it defensive and reviled in the media. Simple concepts of right and wrong and been eroded by “modern” thought.
I was a liberal until the presidency of Jimmy Carter. He convinced me liberalism was a dead-end road encouraging complacency in defense and compromise in morality and fiscal responsibility. As a journalist for 20 years, I had an opportunity to meet or cover in-person every president from Lyndon Johnson through George W. Bush. When mainstream journalists became propagandists for the left, I abandoned that career. I have seen the decline since Reagan in fiscal, military and moral strength. Reagan rebuilt the U.S. military after Vietnam so that we had the forces in place to deter the Soviet Union and bring about its collapse and then crush Saddam twice. All of the presidents since Reagan have proceeded with the military disarmament of the U.S. and the liberal ones have promoted the moral disarmament as well. In the person of Obama and Democrat control of the Senate, that effort continues today.
Maggie Thatcher, the Iron Lady, was a perfect compliment to Reagan. They were the pinnacle of responsible, moral, strong leaders with strong military commitments to back them up. Since them has been the decline and it has been dramatic. All great nations decline and fall, as Spengler well knew. It’s sad that in my lifetime I have seen the decline and that my children most likely will see the fall. Some historic trends are inevitable. Maggie Thatcher’s death is the sad close of an era and the future does not look bright.