in time. An even more devastating war came, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 70 to 80 million people; we will never know the exact number. More than 400,000 Americans were among them.
The devastation of World War II led to America making a different decision than we had made in the past, one that went against our history and our preferences. We decided to stay engaged in the world and keep a strong military. Motivated in part by the threat posed by Stalin's Soviet Union, we kept troops in Germany and Japan, founded NATO, and hosted the United Nations on U.S. soil. The next 70 years were not all peaceful, as the veterans of Korea and Vietnam can attest. But thanks to the service and sacrifice of them and others, it has been the most significant period of progress in world history. Whether measured by longer life expectancy, improved quality of life, the spread of democracy, or decrease in numbers affected by war, the last 70 years have been remarkable. All of that progress rests on the foundation of security provided by the American military.
It is also important to recognize one of the key advantages our military has enjoyed these last 70 years has been a network of allies and partners who share our values and most of our goals. Many of them need to do more to contribute to the international security that benefits us all so much, but none of our potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, have independent nations who voluntarily share the burdens required to deter aggression and allow for human flourishing. The American military has provided the leadership and the example for others to follow.
In upcoming columns, we will further explore the impact our military’s global presence has on our everyday lives.