By Robert Charles | Fox News

President Trump’s Fourth of July Salute to America includes displays of military hardware – tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and a combat aircraft flyover. Too much? Many in the liberal media think so, but what do average Americans think? I think they understand.

Most Americans do not mind seeing military involvement in Independence Day celebrations. Many turn out to see flyovers by the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds. Most see a similar display on the Fourth of July as affirming America’s resolve to defend freedom.

That is not a new sentiment, but one rooted in our past. The Fourth of July is, after all, about defending freedom – and risking life and limb to do so when necessary.


Because the Fourth of July celebrates America’s determination to be free, rereading the Declaration of Independence is timely.

Our founders wrote: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America … appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do … solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and by right ought to be free and independent states … with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Our founders were under no illusions. War lay before them. They did not have tanks, but they had muskets and they were prepared. They embraced risks to defend freedom. The undertaking was no parlor game, but life’s mission – and some paid dearly. So displays of military resolve in defense of freedom, are hardly new.

That is why most Americans will not see the celebration in our nation’s capital as war planning, but as a confirmation of national resolve – a declaration that we have always defended freedom against those who would take it. Call it deterrence, pride in who we are, the idea that defending freedom is not dead but alive.

That is why most Americans will not see the celebration in our nation’s capital as war planning, but as a confirmation of national resolve – a declaration that we have always defended freedom against those who would take it.

The deterrent message – hand in glove with celebrating our freedom – comes after an extended period of national ambivalence toward our military.

Our military has suffered from procurement schedules not met, completed assets missing specifications, recruitment numbers down, training and budgets cuts, airframes cannibalized, and allies left wondering whether we are there.

An Independence Day marked by fireworks and military hardware is not about waging war, but about celebrating our commitment to freedom – past, present and future.

Is the idea subject to misinterpretation? Yes, of course. But think for a moment about who is behind celebrating America’s military on the Fourth of July: A president more isolationist than a dozen predecessors and more disinclined to American intervention abroad.

President Trump has withdrawn American troops from several countries. He has restored defense spending, but sought (and found) a measure of peace with belligerent North Korea. He is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He has opened collegial relations with China and Russia, improved burden-sharing with NATO allies, and is working to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yes, the president has reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel and made clear U.S. support for NATO. But he avoided hitting Iran and Russia in Syria, and instead chose a surgical strike.

This is a president who could have responded to Iranian mining of oil tankers and shooting down an American drone with force – but did not. He showed patience, held fire and saved 150 lives of Iranians he does not know.

Bottom line: The meaning of America’s Fourth of July is to remember our nation’s origins, national love of freedom, willingness to defend it long ago, and support for those who do now.

We do this by remembering sacrifice, freedom and a proud history embodied in the American flag and in other symbols of resolve – some of which are civilian, others military.

Our Independence Day is not – and never will be – May Day in North Korea, Cuba or the former Soviet Union. It is not Peoples Liberation Army Day in China. The military displays in those countries are not about celebrating freedom or about defending it, but about illegitimate power, internal oppression and crushing of dissent. That is not America.

The Fourth of July celebrates who we are – freedom-loving Americans. It reminds us of the power in an idea and the courage of those who stood up for freedom. It reminds us that we are a free people.

Independence Day reminds us that this gift of freedom, passed down from long ago, comes with a responsibility to pass it forward. We do that by putting faith in the idea of freedom, defending it for ourselves and for others. This is why the Fourth of July is worth a celebration – and that celebration can include parades, flyovers, military hardware, fireworks and more.

Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.  

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