Guest Essayist: Robert Brescia
George Washington, presided over the first Continental Congress; Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War; first President of the United States; painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1796.


Essay Read by Constituting America Founder, Actress Janine Turner


“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” —George Washington

“It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.” —James Madison

“We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted.” —Ronald Reagan


Peace through strength (PTS) – this is a recurring theme throughout the history of our great nation. It’s as old as ancient civilizations such as China’s Sun Tzu (author of The Art of War), and as new as today. I’ve heard people assert that the United States should only increase its military capabilities if it is attacked somewhere in the world. Others say that we shouldn’t augment our defensive or offensive strengths unless we are attacked on our homeland. That’s a relatively shortsighted strategy – the world is way too small for that to be effective. While some believe that you should only focus on military strength upon being attacked, either on the world stage or on our own turf, it is too late at that time to assemble and employ a suitable riposte.

Enter the strategy of peace through strength. It has been supported by several of our Founding Fathers and our U.S. Presidents from 1789 to today. The basic premise of PTS is that if the United States builds a military capability so great, with an extraordinary over-match ratio to potential attackers, that no nation on earth would dare to attack us because they know it would bring their swift and complete destruction.

By virtue of our PTS strategy, peace in our homeland would be achieved and maintained. If one accepts such a premise, then the next logical question might be, “to what extent do we need to arm ourselves to be that deterrent that we seek?” That would entail a constant comparative exercise, accomplished by thinktanks and large consultancies who monitor the military capacities of world nations.

A second, related question could be, “does this strategy only include conventional armaments or would it also include nuclear?” A third question might also be, “have we any empirical evidence that a PTS strategy was or is successful?” I might add a fourth question, but it has no matter-of-fact answer and that would be, “would super-arming our nation constitute a temptation for present or future political leaders to use that power for much the same reason that President Clinton claimed during his impeachment – “because I could.”

Historical Tie-in of Peace Through Strength

PTS is sometimes confused or interleaved with RealPolitik. RealPolitik is the result of a collision between Enlightenment ideas that our Founders espoused and the fast development of nation-states in the second half of the 19th century. On the one hand, we had political leaders who espoused ideologies and liberal type policies while, on the other hand, countries began the empirical quests for more power and domination, seeking colonies to aggrandize their positions on the word stage.

RealPolitik is a result of that strategic conflict and it is occasionally very tempting to associate PTS within it. The next evolution of these ideas extended RealPolitik and PTS into political realism. This happened when world nations began practicing international relations to try and justify their actions. We saw two generally oppositional ideas emerge: 1) policy actions and international relations are primarily concerned with the extension and growth of power and, 2) policy actions and international relations are the manifestation of a desire for national survival.

Summary and Conclusion

While not a subtle hint or a visible charge by our Founding Fathers for us today, PTS captures the American spirit of wanting to be protected against the bad will and actions of other nations. However, the reality of politics and national priorities in our times is such that we may not have the luxury of arming ourselves to the teeth, not to mention continuously updating our military arsenals with the latest technologies. We have nondiscretionary social entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security that must be paid up front. We also have a massive national debt that our politicians can’t seem to get a hold of. American politicians seem to have difficulty fending off involvement in foreign struggles. Consider President Bush’s war waged in Iraq because of his desire to reestablish U.S. world leadership after September 11, 2001. One close adviser revealed that the thinking behind the war was to show: “We are able and willing to strike at someone. That sends a very powerful message.” Consider President Obama’s co-invasion as well with NATO of Libya in 2011 – the stated rationale was to support Libyan rebels but then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “Publicly, ‘the fiction was maintained’ that the goal was limited to disabling Colonel Qaddafi’s command and control. Given that decapitation strikes against Qaddafi were employed early and often, there almost certainly was a decision by the civilian heads of government of the NATO coalition to “take him out” from the very beginning of the intervention.”

My own conclusion is that the Founding Fathers had a period-appropriate notion of PTS, contextually supportive of the big ideas behind it, and resplendent with hope and faith for future peace. There are other strengths, however, that the United States possesses and nurtures which are undeniably elements of national prowess. These include our homeland values of courage, benevolence, individualism, economic opportunity, and generosity. These and other American values continue to attract many to our shores. Along with military superiority, they make us strong and resilient. That’s a certain broadening of the word strength in the term peace through strength.

Bob Brescia, Ed.D. of Odessa is a Teacher of Record for Ector County Independent School District, and an adjunct professor for Wilmington University. He previously served as the Executive Director for The John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute and served as the Head of School for Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville. He is a board member at Constituting America in Dallas, a member of the Odessa Information & Discussion Group, and an Advisory Board member for Odessa’s Southwest Heritage Credit Union. He is the former chairman of Basin PBS television and the American Red Cross of the Permian Basin and former president of Rotary International – Greater Odessa. He is also a monthly columnist for the American Society for Public Administration in Washington, DC. Brescia has twenty-seven years of military service as a highly decorated Airborne Ranger Cavalry soldier, NCO, and commissioned officer in the United States Army. He received a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude) in Civil Government from Norwich University, a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems and a Master of Arts in International Relations from Boston University – European Division, and a Doctor of Education in Executive Leadership with distinction from The George Washington University.

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Essay 45 - Guest Essayist: Robert Brescia

William Shakespeare said, “Some men were born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” It seems that Oliver Wolcott certainly had greatness thrust upon him in the events leading up to American independence, but also achieved greatness by his own stellar leadership throughout this crucial period in our national history.

Oliver Wolcott was born in Windsor, Connecticut on November 20, 1726. Often the case, we didn’t know then that a regular fellow from a small New England town would achieve such prominence as an American patriot. Not only did he eventually sign the United States Declaration of Independence, but also the Articles of Confederation as a representative of Connecticut. He served as the nineteenth

Governor of Connecticut and as a major general for the Connecticut Militia in the Revolutionary War under George Washington.

As the youngest of 14 children by colonial governor Roger Wolcott and Sarah Drake Wolcott, Oliver began showing his potential at an early age. He graduated from Yale College in 1747 at the top of his class. Shortly thereafter, military duties called – he led a militia company as a Captain in the French and Indian Wars, defending our northern border against French incursions. Returning to Goshen, Connecticut after the war ended, he practiced medicine with his brother, Alexander. On January 21, 1755, Oliver Wolcott married Laura Collins. They had five children together. Oliver then became a merchant and was subsequently elected as sheriff of Litchfield County, Connecticut, a role he sustained for the next twenty years. By 1774, Oliver was known as a wise and good leader especially in difficult situations. For these qualities and demonstrated leadership, he was appointed the town’s Counselor, a role he served in for twelve years. While he was fulfilling these duties, Oliver also took a position as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas.

From the beginning of his service to Connecticut, and as a principal delegate to the Continental Congress, he took a strong stand and position against the wrongs that Great Britain had been perpetuating on the colonists. He became well known for these positions, vehemently supporting independence and freedom against tyranny. In February 1776, he stated: “Our difference with Great Britain has become very great. What matters will issue in, I cannot say, but perhaps in a total disseverance from Great Britain.”

Willing to fight for these strong beliefs of freedom and self-determination, Wolcott led Connecticut’s Seventeenth Regiment of militia to New York, joining George Washington’s army. At that moment, then Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull appointed Wolcott as a Brigadier General, commanding all the state’s militia regiments in New York, later being promoted to Major General. Oliver never wavered in his fierce opposition to Great Britain, describing the British in his memoirs as “a foe who have not only insulted every principle which governs civilized nations but by their barbarities offered the grossest indignities to human nature.”

Wolcott was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775, serving as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Because he possessed such diplomatic skills, he was able to persuade the Indians to remain neutral in the Revolutionary War. It was this same set of skills that steered him into post-war pursuit of public service. He was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1786, then Governor, succeeding Samuel Huntington, holding that position until his death in 1796.

His legacy can be characterized by the extraordinary amount and diverse nature of public service to his state and nation. In fact, historian Ellsworth Grant remembers Wolcott’s Revolutionary war efforts in stating that, “It is doubtful if any other official in Connecticut during this period carried so many public duties on his shoulders.” He was also remembered for his love of poetry and family.

Charles Goodrich had this to say about Oliver Wolcott in his book, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence:

Mr. Wolcott never pursued any of the learned professions, yet his reading was various and extensive. He cultivated an acquaintance with the sciences, through the works of some of the most learned men of Europe, and was intimately acquainted with history, both ancient and modern. He has the reputation, and it is believed justly, of having been an accomplished scholar. Mr. Wolcott was also distinguished for his love of order and religion. In his last sickness he expressed, according to Dr. Backus, who preached his funeral sermon, a deep sense of his personal unworthiness and guilt. For several days before his departure, every breath seemed, to bring with it a prayer. At length, he fell asleep. He was an old man, and full of years, and went to his grave distinguished for a long series of services rendered both to his state and nation. The memory of his personal worth, of his patriotism, his integrity, his Christian walk and conversation, will go down to generations yet unborn.

He did not sign the Declaration of Independence until later because of personal illness, becoming the penultimate signer, just before Matthew Thornton.

Robert Brescia, Ed.D., serves as a Board Director, Past Chairman, at Basin PBS Television. He has served in top leadership roles in education, corporate business, nonprofit, and defense with twenty-seven years of public service as an Airborne Ranger Cavalry Soldier, NCO, and Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army. Mr. Brescia was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to the State Board for Educator Certification.

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