As we look back from this 100th year anniversary of the Panama Canal, it’s clear that America was synonymous with greatness back then. The country was forging ahead with bold ideas carried to fruition by bold leaders.
Men like Teddy Roosevelt, who innately understood what was in America’s strategic interests and pursued those initiatives with a gusto that made success a foregone conclusion. Failure wasn’t in the lexicon.
But how things have changed. That nation somehow morphed into a timid, risk-averse politically correct shell of its former glory that too often tries to be all things to all people, so long as those people aren’t its own citizens.
And there is no better example than the giveaway of the Panama Canal.
The canal’s history seems to far-fetched to be true:
- Thousands die trying to connect the oceans. Project declared impossible.
- America defies the odds, constructing canal ahead of schedule and under budget.
- America eradicates yellow fever and discovers the cause of, and thus controls, the ultimate killer: malaria.
- America operates canal not for profit but to facilitate international commerce.
- America, in 1999, freely gives the canal to Panama in exchange for nothing, netting a zero return on investment.
- American ships now pay massively increased fees (passed on to consumers) while Panama laughs all the way to the bank.
- America continues to guarantee Panama’s security in perpetuity.
If this story weren’t so tragic, it would be comic, because giving away the canal made America’s strategic vision a complete joke.
The list of giveaways in President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 treaty is substantial: the canal, Gatun Lakes dam, hydroelectric plant, isthmus-wide railroad, and the 10-mile wide Panama Canal Zone. Even Titan, one of America’s largest cranes (war booty from Hitler’s Germany) was given to the Panamanians in 1999 after 50 years of operation in California. All invalidate the blood, sweat and yes, deaths, of the Americans who worked so proudly on the canal.
Perhaps most startling, no consideration was given to America, despite it being the largest user, by far, of the canal. Virtually all the new equipment, from the “mule” trains that guide the ships to the massive steel doors going into the enlarged locks under construction, is made everywhere but America.
America is not part of the consortium building the new locks, nor does America manage the ports on either side of the canal. Instead, that honor goes to China. Naturally.
Not only does Panama rake in $2 billion annually from its fees, but it doesn’t spend a penny on an army, because thanks to Uncle Sam, it doesn’t have one. So if Nicaragua becomes belligerent, American men and women will fight and die solely for Panama. Help me out on that one.
Some may ask, why bring it up now? What’s done is done.
America could exact concessions from Panama to benefit American shippers and consumers. Our ships should receive a substantial discount for passage (the Columbian Navy passes for free. Go figure). Those savings would make our products and companies more competitive, and keep jobs in America. If Panama resists, the protection deal could be immediately revoked along with all other foreign aid.
Infinitely more important, it should be a wake-up call to stop engaging in one-sided deals detrimental to America. The Panama giveaway is not an isolated incident, but a mindset that persists to this day. Consider:
America designed, funded, built, and transported the International Space Station into orbit, yet to access it, we must rely on the Russians, who have stated their intention to let it fall into the ocean. And there isn’t a damn thing we can do.
America expended billions and lost thousands of lives to free Kuwait and “liberate” Iraq. In exchange, we were told that oil would be flowing our way for “re-payment” of our huge sacrifices. Yet the only thing we’ve seen are record oil prices and the record-size mega yachts owned by Middle East oil barons.
Both parties are complicit, but we the people are to blame, as we no longer demand excellence and strategic vision from our leaders. A lingering pessimism seems destined to be with us until a leader like Teddy Roosevelt emerges.
Let’s re-read our history, learn from our mistakes and regain the greatness that is uniquely American.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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