The United States was once a nation blessed with miraculous military victories. Why have those miracles ceased?
The United States of America has been waging a war on terrorism for two decades. American blood and treasure has sunk into the sands of Iraq, the cities of Afghanistan, the mountains of Yemen, the coasts of Libya, the wilderness of Pakistan, the waters surrounding the Horn of Africa. There are no signs that America will ever bring this war to a successful conclusion.
Some observers are now openly wondering whether or not the United States of America, the world’s lone superpower for almost three decades, will ever win a war again.
Remarkably, one newscaster boldly proclaimed that America had already won its last war—back in the 1950s. He claimed that World War ii would be the last military victory for the United States.
The Philadelphia Trumpet, since its earliest issues, has maintained that forecast. It is an unpleasant reality to face, but reality nonetheless, and face it we must.
Timeline: America Has Won Its Last War
Pride in America’s Power
During his 55-year ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong often told the story of a Woodrow Wilson presidential campaign rally he attended in 1916. Mr. Armstrong said that during the rally, he stood close to Theodore Roosevelt, President Wilson’s predecessor.
Wilson’s supporters chanted his campaign slogan: “He kept us out of war!”PEACE WITH HONOR: A campaign van decorated with posters supporting Woodrow Wilson’s bid for presidency in 1916.Bettmann
Wilson had kept America from entering the First World War for many months. He had written a series of notes to Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm ii, pleading for the German leader to stop sinking American ships and shooting Americans.
At one point in the rally, Mr. Armstrong heard Roosevelt utter words that always stuck with him: “I was president for 7½ years. And if I were president now, I would send the kaiser just one note—and he would know that I meant it!”
Roosevelt then described how he had sent a note to the kaiser, when a German battleship was headed toward the Philippines, which was then a United States possession.
“I sent a note to the kaiser demanding that he turn his battleship back immediately!” he said. “The kaiser did not act. Immediately I sent a second note. But I did not send the second note to the kaiser. I sent it to Admiral Dewey, in command of the U.S. Pacific fleet. My note ordered Dewey to steam full speed upon the German battleship, fire once over her, and order her to turn back. ‘And if she does not turn back, sink her!’ my note said. The kaiser learned that I meant it!”
Mr. Armstrong used the contrast between these two leaders to show that many of America’s postwar leaders were of Wilson’s weak ilk and that few had the kind of pride in America’s power embodied by Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. Armstrong later used that example after World War ii to show that the United States had lost the will to use its power. This wasn’t out of any desire for American weakness—quite the opposite. It was simply a statement of regrettable reality. Mr. Armstrong knew this was true because of key Bible prophecies. Fueled by this understanding, shortly after World War ii, Mr. Armstrong prophesied that the United States of America had won its last war.
Korea and Cuba
After victory in World War ii, the Korean War was the first in a long line of non-victories for the United States. When hostilities broke out in 1950, President Harry Truman gave command of American forces to World War ii hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur. From the outset, MacArthur was free to cross the 38th parallel to invade North Korea. But when China’s Communist forces joined the side of the enemy, U.S. forces were sent reeling. MacArthur urged Washington to approve a full-scale attack on China, telling one congressman, “There is no substitute for victory.” But his plea fell on deaf ears. Truman fired MacArthur in 1951, and the war eventually settled to a stalemate, with both sides suffering huge numbers of casualties.President Harry Truman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur speak in 1950. Truman rejected MacArthur’s desires, fired him in 1951, and the Korean War eventually settled to a stalemate, with both sides suffering huge numbers of casualties.BettmannAmerican Lt. Gen. Mark Clark signs the Korean Armistice in 1953.Central Press/Getty Images
The Korean War ended the career of America’s last great general. It also marked the beginning of a new era in American battle strategy: limited warfare.
The Bay of Pigs incident was a good example of this new strategy. President John F. Kennedy kick-started this political-military disaster. In 1961, more than 1,400 Cuban exiles trained by the Central Intelligence Agency landed on Cuba’s shores hoping to spark a popular uprising. But without U.S. naval and air support, Castro’s troops easily crushed the rebellion. Nearly all the U.S.-led invaders were killed in battle or later died in Castro’s prisons.
After the Bay of Pigs debacle, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the January 1963 Plain Truth that the U.S. should have driven Castro and communism out of Cuba. Since it did not, Mr. Armstrong asked, “Is the United States going to find that, having left Castro and godless communism on the American doorstep, it is going to continue to cause us every kind of trouble and harassment?”
The decades since have shown that indeed it has.
Mr. Armstrong pinned the blame not on the U.S. military, or even President Kennedy, but on the American people. He wrote in the October 1961 Plain Truth that “unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war!
I said that when we failed to win in Korea! … I say it again, now that the United States government endorsed this Cuban fiasco—its president gave the ‘go ahead’—and God, the God America has deserted, gave it its most humiliating defeat! What does the Cuban debacle mean?
It means, Mr. and Mrs. United States, that the handwriting is on your wall!
Those were strong words. Yet their full weight and power were not known until the U.S. became involved in its next major conflict.
The Vietnam Spectacle
As early as November 1961, the Plain Truth informed readers that the U.S. would “almost certainly” have to fight a major battle in Vietnam. Sure enough, in 1964, America began sending troops there.
Several analysts at the time realized that a war in Vietnam was imminent, but only Mr. Armstrong was absolutely confident about how it would end. In April 1965, just months after hostilities broke out, the Plain Truth blared this headline: “Why United States Cannot Win Vietnam War!”
The article said,
The United States is committed not to win in Vietnam! … The late Gen. Douglas MacArthur once stated that unless a nation entered into a battle with victory as its goal, it was defeated before it started. He was right!
Make no mistake about it—the U.S. and the other nations involved in support of South Vietnam would like to win. But they are afraid to take the action necessary to win.
A year and a half later, in the January 1967 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote,
The United States is not winning. Yet the war has been stepped up enormously during 1966. People see no results. People compare the size and power of the United States to that of North Vietnam—a little country hardly the size of one of our states, such as Florida. They can’t understand why the United States—the most powerful military nation in the world—can’t whip little North Vietnam.
The war lasted another eight years, ending in the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam, to Communist forces and the shameful helicopter evacuations of American officials and South Vietnamese, including now-infamous images of scores of people crowding onto the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy. The fall of Saigon concluded the longest war in America’s history, and it was the nation’s most humiliating defeat. Historian Paul Johnson called it a “collapse of American power.”
During those years, the Plain Truth often touched on another Vietnam casualty: that of American honor worldwide. Mr. Armstrong wrote in the January 1969 issue,
No military nation can operate a military force by accepting defeat in an enemy attack, on the excuse we wanted to save the lives of men who had offered those lives to protect our honor and our freedom. … How many more lives will yet be lost in future battles because enemies will now be emboldened by this display of weakness to anticipate easy victories over a United States that is afraid to fight?
Indeed, the war in Vietnam gave America’s reputation as a superpower quite a beating. The Plain Truth pointed this out in February 1978 and then made this stunning prediction:
The days are over when the military might of the United States is used to accomplish what America perceives as correct and proper. … America’s influence and prestige is on the rapid decline. The pride of our power has been broken. The time is fast approaching when the United States will be so weak and so fearful of its own shadow that, as the Prophet Ezekiel predicted, the trumpet will sound the call to battle, but none shall answer (Ezekiel 7:14).
There could have been no more accurate description of what would happen in the years that followed.
If the Korean War marked the start of the limited warfare strategy, America’s defeat in Vietnam marked the beginning of its anti-warfare strategy. Nothing illustrated this aversion to danger like the Iran hostage crisis.
In November 1979, a band of Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and captured 52 U.S. staff members. President Jimmy Carter repeatedly demanded that Tehran return the captives, but Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said he was beating an empty drum. “Carter does not have the guts to engage in a military operation,” Khomeini taunted.Fifty-two Americans from the U.S. embassy were held hostage in Tehran, Iran, for 444 days—from Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 20, 1981—by a group of students and militants in support of the Iranian Revolution.GAMMA/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Carter’s only show of “force” was a rescue attempt in April 1980 in which military rescuers flew partway to Tehran, aborted the mission, then crashed a helicopter into a transport plane on the ground as they were preparing to return to base. That left the bodies of eight U.S. servicemen burning in the Iranian desert. Television cameras broadcasted the charred wreckage for all to see the details of another humiliating defeat. After the botched rescue mission, Iran held the world’s greatest superpower at bay for another eight months.
With more conservative leadership during the 1980s, one might argue that America regained some of the pride in its power. President Ronald Reagan sent troops to Grenada in 1983 to stamp out communism from the West Indies. In 1986, he bombed Col. Muammar Qadhafi’s military headquarters in Libya in response to a terrorist act. These small skirmishes, however, hardly qualify as decisive military victories for the United States. (The population of Grenada is slightly smaller than the city Fargo, North Dakota.) If anything, they revealed an increasingly gun-shy America willing to use its military might only in small, relatively risk-free conflicts.
Consider Lebanon. In October 1983, an Islamic terrorist rammed a truck packed with explosives into Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. Four months later, President Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops, a move that all but dissolved the Lebanese Christian power structure.
After that fiasco of another embarrassing U.S. retreat, the Plain Truth reminded readers of what it had been saying for decades. The November-December 1983 issue included an article titled “Why America Has Won Its Last War.” In it, Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy was quoted: “The United States, even still possessing unmatched power, is afraid—fears—to use it, just as God said.”
The Gulf War ‘Victory’
Mr. Armstrong died on Jan. 16, 1986. Operation Desert Storm began on Jan. 17, 1991. If ever there was a conflict that could have proven Mr. Armstrong’s prediction wrong, surely it would have been the Persian Gulf War. Even the church Mr. Armstrong had led pointed to this war as justification to back away from the “America has won its last war” forecast. In a March 25, 1991, letter to church supporters, Mr. Armstrong’s successor stated flatly, “We were wrong.”
But by this point, the Philadelphia Trumpet magazine was on the scene. We held on to Mr. Armstrong’s forecasts. The cover of our May 1991 issue declared, “America has won its last war.” This was shortly after the Gulf War ended.
After a short ground invasion, the administration of George H. W. Bush claimed victory in the war. But Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry challenged that assessment. It is true that, until 1991, the world had never witnessed such an awesome display of technologically advanced firepower. Yet despite this show of force, the Persian Gulf War was not one “that tested the U.S. will,” he wrote.
“The truth is we won a battle in Kuwait. We did not win a war. The job was left unfinished,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “Saddam Hussein is still in power—even stronger in some ways—and has turned Iraq into a killing field. Isn’t [that] a sign we didn’t win the war? That we lacked the will to win as it says in Leviticus 26:19?” What the U.S. did was essentially kick a massive problem down the road. “This will probably plague and haunt President Bush and America for the rest of our lives!” he wrote. A look at the darkening chaos in Iraq today shows that prediction to have been remarkably accurate.Soldiers march in the Desert Storm Victory Parade in New York City. In reality, the outcome of this conflict was, at best, another stalemate for the United States.Visions of America/UIG/Getty Images
Mr. Flurry was most critical of how, after encouraging the Kurds and Shiites to rise up against Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration abandoned them. Hussein then restarted his murderous rampage against these peoples, creating a humanitarian disaster. Mr. Flurry called this “the greatest betrayal in U.S. history.” “President Bush’s ‘new world order’ has brought some of the greatest shame on our nation’s history!” he wrote. “American leaders say the U.S. has no UN mandate to interfere in Iraq on the refugees’ behalf. This statement alone shows that we lack the will to use our power for a just cause. And if the Iraqi refugee crisis isn’t a just cause, nothing is!”
The following statement—which Mr. Flurry wrote well over two decades ago—powerfully summarizes the trepidation that has saturated America’s foreign policy in recent decades, not just in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Ukraine and beyond: “America still fears getting bogged down in a Vietnam-type civil war in Iraq. Even after we had them almost defenseless! That is because God has broken the pride of our power—our will to win! … America must come to see they are under a curse from God and repent of their sins.”
The fact that American actions in the 1991 Gulf War betrayed the Kurds and Shiites and left Saddam Hussein in power to continue slaughtering U.S. allies shows that the outcome of this conflict was, at best, another stalemate for the United States.
The War on Terror
On Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. experienced the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Islamist terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people and plunged the U.S. into full-blown war.
From the start, this war was doomed to fail. Consider, to begin, the very definition America gave to it. Entrapped in an ideology of limited warfare and anti-warfare, uncomfortable with any unfavorable portrayals of Islam due to political correctness, America’s leaders defined it as a “war on terror.” This is confusing. Terror is not an enemy, but a tactic. Failing to clearly identify Islamist extremism and its chief sponsor nations as the enemy is like defining World War ii as a “war on blitzkrieg” so as not to directly implicate Germany.
Characterizations of the “terrorist threat” as vague, shadowy, elusive and ubiquitous were also misleading. The threat emanates predominantly from a few nations, such as Saudi Arabia and, above all, Iran. Just as the overnight collapse of the ussr reduced the Communist threat, ending state support of Islamist terrorism would all but end terrorism.
The trouble is, Iran has allies: most notably, Russia and China. Afghanistan was friendless and powerless—so the U.S. selected it (or, more accurately, the Taliban) as the first target in the “war on terror.” In terms of contributing to global terrorism, the Taliban was insignificant compared to Iran, but this is the trouble one runs into after declining to accurately define the enemy.
America’s subsequent attack on Iraq (or, more accurately, Saddam Hussein) was even more problematic. This attack eliminated Saddam, but failed to replace his regime with an American ally capable of checking Iran’s growing dominance.
As a result of America’s failure to correctly define the enemy, in the years since 2001, the U.S. has not effectively targeted Iran or degraded its support of terrorism. The “war on terror” has actually left Iran considerably stronger.
As a result of America’s failure to correctly define the enemy, in the years since 2001, the U.S. has effectively done nothing to target Iran or even to degrade its support of terrorism. The “war on terror” has actually left Iran considerably stronger.
Iran has directed, funded, armed and personally assisted in the Hamas and Hezbollah attacks that transformed Israel and Lebanon into battlegrounds. Iran tests weapons capable of carrying nuclear payloads and regularly calls for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Yet the United States still tried to reason and negotiate with the Islamic Republic—through back channels in the Clinton and Bush administrations, and openly in the Obama administration. Meanwhile Iran continues its work on building a nuclear weapons program.
In recent years, America has been withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq. In so doing, it is giving up all the gains it did manage to secure during the last two decades of war, and handing these nations over to an Iranian empire.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were far from being victories for the United States. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is making a comeback, and the U.S. is even involved in peace talks with the regime it tried to overthrow. Worse, the Taliban has taken over great swaths of Pakistan, putting that entire country in danger—including its nuclear arsenal. It was in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, that U.S. troops found and executed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and top terrorist on the U.S. most wanted list. Bin Laden’s death may have been cause for celebration for many, but bin Laden was only the leader of al Qaeda, not the leader of global terrorism.
In fact, far from winning the war on terror, America is in the process of surrendering Iraq to Iran, the world’s worst sponsor of terror!
“The most powerful [Muslim] country in the Middle East is Iran,” Mr. Flurry wrote in an article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” in 1994. “Can you imagine the power they would have if they gained control of Iraq, the second-largest oil producing country in the world?”
Far from winning the war on terror, America has, paradoxically, helped to build up a terrorist-sponsoring superpower!
Even more shameful has been America’s foreign policy in Europe. Its myriad infirmities have been well documented in both the Trumpet and the Plain Truth.
Just four years after World War ii ended, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “But while trusting, gullible Uncle Sam, always unable to see more than one enemy at a time, has been busy worrying about Russia, the real menace has been making diabolical and rapid headway—under cover—in Europe!” (Plain Truth, November 1949). In the June 1952 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong likened America’s bungling foreign policy in Europe to creating a Frankenstein monster that would eventually turn on its maker.
Gerald Flurry used that same analogy in the September-October 1995 Trumpet. He wrote about how the U.S. strongly opposed the recognition of the breakaway Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia in 1991. Yet, in the face of German pressure, the United States caved in, and offered its tacit approval. America’s recognition of those two states was the spark that ignited a succession of wars within the Balkan region during the 1990s.
Croatia sided with the Nazis during World War ii. The Croatian leader whom Germany supported in 1991, Franjo Tudjman, was himself well documented as being a Nazi sympathizer. When war erupted, Croatia proceeded to rid its territory of Serbian people. Carl Bildt, former European Community mediator in the Balkans, called it the “most efficient ethnic cleansing we’ve seen in the Balkans.”A U.S. Air Force weapons crew chief checks the positioning of missiles on an F-16 prior to a NATO air strike in the Balkans in 1999.USAF/Getty Images
America gave its full support to the wrong side—and few commentators besides the Trumpet said anything about it.
The Trumpet has been blaring this warning for years now. During the war in Kosovo, we exposed a further breakdown of U.S. willpower: “Given the apparent lack of will to effectively deploy its military might to actually win a victory [for the right side] in its numerous military adventures in recent years, why bother to deploy force at all …?” (Trumpet, May 1999). The U.S.-led bombing campaign, in the long run, will end up hurting America far more than it did Serbia. This trend for America to often support the wrong side will have a disastrous end.
By the time the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014, America’s broken will was on full display for the world to see. In the early 1990s, Ukraine had one of the most advanced nuclear arsenals in the world; with some 5,000 weapons, it was the third largest on the planet. But that changed in 1994 when the nation signed an agreement with the U.S., the United Kingdom and Russia. Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a promise from these countries to secure its territorial integrity.
Article i of the Budapest Memorandum says, “The United States of America, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine … to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” Those “existing borders” included Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its eastern territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.
When Russia annexed Crimea in the spring of 2014, and actively worked to destabilize the other two regions, it directly violated this deal. And the U.S., by failing to use its power against Russia, failed to live up to the spirit of its promise. Nuclear-free Ukraine is now defenseless and in the midst of a civil war.
So, was Mr. Armstrong right to declare after World War ii that “America has won its last war”? Looking from Korea to Cuba to Vietnam to Iran to Lebanon to Somalia to Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan to Ukraine, the answer is clear.
Blessings and Curses
There is a reason Mr. Armstrong correctly forecast after World War ii that America would lose the will to use its power and never again win a war. He knew that when God threatened in Leviticus 26:19 to “break the pride of your power,” He was referring primarily to Britain and the United States in this modern age.
The irony is that the same God who promised to break our pride is the one who gave this tremendous power in the first place. God blessed America with unprecedented material wealth because He promised that wealth, unconditionally, to Abraham’s descendants. He did so because of Abraham’s obedience to God’s laws. That is why, up until World War ii, our peoples were richly blessed. That is why America rarely lost a conflict up through both world wars. (All this is thoroughly explained in Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Read this masterful book online, download it, or request a print copy and we will gladly ship you one at no cost.)
Today, however, because of rampant sin and disobedience to His law, God is turning those blessings into curses. God gave us every imaginable good, but what have we done with those blessings? Let Mr. Armstrong explain: “Like Rome, we’ve grown fat and prosperous and lazy. … We’re the wealthiest, as compared to any other nation, and we are fast growing lazy and soft, seeking luxury and pleasure, and excitement, idleness and ease, labor-saving, step-saving devices and gadgets” (Plain Truth, February 1956). That applies today far more than it did in 1956!
Today, however, because of rampant sin and disobedience to His law, God is turning those blessings into curses. God gave us every imaginable good, but what have we done with those blessings?
Amid all this material prosperity, we have forgotten God. In fact, we increasingly see examples of active, intentional, malicious hostility toward God—a movement to systematically eliminate God from public life—to establish godlessness as the state religion! Even in those instances where God receives a token mention, He is never acknowledged as a lawgiver, or even as a moral authority. In modern society, we feel accountable only to ourselves.
This is the reason God is now cursing the peoples of Britain and the United States. America’s string of military-political defeats since World War ii is staggering, lamentable, irrefutable proof of those curses! America has indeed won its last war. That statement was true in 1950—and remains true now.
Our immense wealth added to our broken will is a dangerous combination. As Mr. Armstrong wrote in the June 1954 Plain Truth, aggressor nations covet that wealth. Seeing our weakness and reluctance to use our power only intensifies the desire of these aggressor nations to take that wealth—as soon as they are strong enough to do so.
That will happen—and much sooner than you probably think. That is what Herbert Armstrong foresaw.
Mr. Armstrong concluded an article in the October 1954 Plain Truth with these words:
How any American—any English-speaking inheritor of God’s choicest material blessings—can, in face of such stupendous, overwhelming fulfillment of prophecy—such awe-inspiring demonstration of the power and might and faithfulness of Almighty God—accept and partake of these blessings, and then carelessly ignore God’s warning that our sins today are increasing, or fail to get to his knees before the great Almighty, and repent, and intercede in heart-rending prayer for all Israelite nations, and help in every way he can to warn our people now of their impending peril, seems impossible to conceive.
God warns us through prophecy that our sins are fast increasing. And now the day of reckoning is here! The foreign sword already has attacked us. In this fearful awesome atomic age, World War iii will start with atomic bombs dropped on [such cities as] London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh—without warning!
God help our nations to wake up before it’s too late!
The United States was born and sustained by godly miracles. Instead of continuing to trust God, however, the American people have chosen to trust in themselves. They have turned from the God who so richly blessed them. As a result, God has stopped giving America miracle victories—and has truly broken the pride of America’s power.
THE POWERLESS SUPERPOWER
America has been the world’s only superpower for years. Its military is larger, more advanced and more experienced than the next several militaries combined. It wields an unmatched nuclear arsenal, deliverable by land, sea, air and stealth, as well as smart munitions, cyberweapons and logistical support that moves mountains of men and materiel around the world.
Yet Herbert W. Armstrong forecast in 1961 that America had won its last war. The Trumpet now forecasts that the American superpower has now waged its last war. These forecasts are based not just on intelligence assessments or even lessons of history. They are based on the prophecies of the Bible. Read them for yourself in He Was Right.