June 06, 2019

The Heroes of D-Day Deserve an America That Leads Again

World leaders are gathered in Normandy this week to remember the heroes who landed on the beaches of Normandy by sea and air to liberate Western Europe from German occupiers.

As Co-Chairs of the New Democrat Coalition’s National Security Task Force, we are mindful that the heroism and sacrifice America offered at Normandy marked a critical turning point for American leadership around the globe. We also reflect on the fact that the defeat of Nazi Germany was just the beginning for America’s role in Western Europe.

The Marshall Plan that followed helped rebuild Europe’s broken economy, committing billions of American dollars to the effort. As we helped both allies and former enemies rise from the ashes, we showed the world that we could not only win a war but also win a lasting peace, with alliances that endure today.

Reinforcing echoes of that initiative live in every facet of the American global leadership that developed over the next 75 years. We see it in U.S. foreign aid, our diplomatic corps, American intelligence operations, and the development of global trade relationships. All these efforts are part of a broad strategy that oriented the world order around American values, American interests, and American-led alliances.

Unfortunately, in the current global context, our leadership role in the world is slipping away as the Trump Administration degrades and demagogues the very institutions that helped create the longest period in human history without a major power war. President Trump has shown little respect for the levels of American influence or the values that we have promoted abroad over the last 75 years.

Take, for example, the President’s ongoing threat to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or the Administration’s dangerously incoherent approach to Iran, working against (rather than with) our European allies. We see the same in President Trump’s embrace of hostile dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, alienation of longstanding allies, in the Administration’s hasty withdrawal from Syria, and in the President’s move to pull America out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

America is not secure when we isolate ourselves and alienate our allies. The New Democrat Coalition believes America must continue to be an indispensable leader in an increasingly complex world, even if the President does not. To restore U.S. global leadership, we must renew and re-energize our diplomatic and development efforts, reengage meaningfully in multi-lateral organizations, and recommit ourselves to our allies — not our adversaries.

That is how we once again take a stand against those who would undo the democratic values that have cemented our place as a world leader.

Bold leadership isn’t always immediately popular. It isn’t always politically expedient. Sometimes, as with the Marshall Plan, it’s downright expensive.

But it’s also worth it.

When America initially engaged in World War II, we did not have the world’s strongest military — or the largest. It was a bold, truly American vision for us to imagine that we could pick ourselves up from the horrors of Pearl Harbor, sail across two oceans, and stand with our allies to defeat the Axis Powers.

America needs to reclaim that boldness, now more than ever.

Today, we remember the brave heroes at Normandy, whose selfless service helped win that war and establish America’s place on the world stage. The President no doubt honored those heroes with words, but they deserve more than words alone.

An America that leads the world towards a safer, more prosperous, more democratic future is a worthy tribute to the heroes of D-Day. We owe them — as well as the heroes yet to come — the kind of leadership that will deliver.

By:  NDC National Security Task Force Co-Chairs Brad Schneider, Abigail Spanberger, Anthony Brown and Brendan Boyle