While war rages on in Ukraine, U.S. policy makers are having ongoing conversations about continued military support in the region.
Gregory Daddis, guest speaker at the Coronado Roundtable meeting on Friday, March 24, localized the expansive conversation by considering one key question: What is America’s relationship with war in the modern era?
This conversation, part of the March lineup for the Coronado Roundtable’s monthly meetings, was hosted at the public library.
Founded in 1983, the Coronado Roundtable is an organization consisting of retired and semi-retired business and professional executives who reside on the island. It serves to provide the community with forums presented by speakers who are actively involved in regional, national or international affairs.
Daddis, professor of history at San Diego State University and USS Midway Chair in Modern U.S. Military History, discussed faith and fear within America’s personal relationship with war.
Prior to teaching at SDSU, Daddis served as the Chief of the American History Division within the department of history at the United States Military academy at West Point. He is a retired U.S. army colonel, and served in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.
He is the author of five books on Vietnam and also has authored various pieces of op-ed’s regarding military issues.
Daddis jokingly prefaced his presentation by saying that he is not currently, and was never previously, a member of the communist party.
Fear of internal subversion
Starting with WWII, Daddis outlined the American attitude toward Japanese Americans, and the way that, despite the victory in WWII, America had a fear of internal subversion following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Then President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942 issued an executive order that forcibly relocated about 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the west coast. Most were confined to internment camps, yet some Japanese-Americans fought for the U.S. during World War II.
“This faith in American power stands in stark contrast to the fears that the American people held toward the Japanese people,” Daddis said. “So here is this amazing faith that we have in American power, and yet these intense fears are penetrating into the very fabric of our society here at home.”
Faith and fear
Faith and fear were the two topics confronted in the roundtable discussion.
Faith in, yet fear of war are the two tensions that came together in the aftermath of WWII and they have stayed with Americans today, said Daddis.
Daddis said that with faith in American liberalism and American exceptionalism, military force became integral to how we related to the rest of the world.
“I think these tensions between faith and fear matter because they hold significant implications for how Americans thought about their place in the modern era,” Daddis said. “Not just thinking about war, but how war contributed to where they sat in the international system. Thus, what happened, I would argue, then U.S. foreign policy almost necessarily became increasingly militarized.”
With faith in the American military, Daddis said, there is an existential fear of all national security threats.
“This fear that the United States might not sustain itself as a global power, coupled with faith in that power itself, I think, has left us incredibly dependent on the war and all of its promises,” Daddis said. “So when it comes to war, I think, we might start considering having less faith in war, less fear of war and more wisdom in how to talk about war.”
Retired military in audience
In Coronado, a town that is home to Naval Base Coronado (NBC), Daddis’ topic of conversation was prevalent in the community.
The eight naval installations within NBC inhabit more than 36,000 military and civilian personnel, according to Military OneSource.
With longtime members of the community and retired veterans in the audience, the question and answer period at the end of Daddis’ speech did not lack topics to discuss.
Attendees brought up questions about whether or not America’s fears are unwarranted, the distribution of funding between the State department budget and the U.S. defense budget, over or under-estimating the threat of communism, and the way schools are educating students on the consequences of war.
To watch the full roundtable meeting, visit the Coronado Public library’s youtube or facebook pages or visit this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukFLwjkm-mw
The next roundtable meeting is Friday, April 28 at 10 a.m., and the talk will be on the Coast Guard’s coastal awareness program.