Monday Morning Insight: Peace, War, and Freedom

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)


For us in the United States, today is Independence Day. Back in 1776, our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the pursuit of establishing the U.S. as a free country. Very shortly thereafter, the colonies-turned-states fought the Revolutionary War to secure their — and, by extension, our — independence.

Keeping in mind the price the patriots paid for the freedom we enjoy, it seems appropriate this week to consider this quote from Benjamin Franklin:

The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked, than the supine, secure, and negligent.

Happy Independence Day!

(Image: “Happy Independence Day!” by {Salt of the Earth}, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)


This seems to be an expansion of Vegitius’s observation, Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum — “Let him who desires peace, prepare for war.” I feel certain that the well-read Franklin knew the Vegitius quote, but his addendum caught my eye.

Are we as a country on our guard, and do our enemies (or would-be enemies) see us as ready to receive their advances and blunt their attacks? Perhaps on the level of nation-states, yes: our armed forces remain strong and vigilant. But seemingly not on the lower levels, the levels of the day-to-day where individuals and small groups of radicals operate and where soft targets beckon. In general, as a population it would seem we are not prepared for war. We as a society have given that over to professionals — I was privileged and proud to be one of those professionals, once upon a time — but throughout history professionals have had difficulty adapting to new forms of war.

We seem loath to name this ongoing ideological conflict as “war,” however. (Over a decade ago I pointed out our reluctance to name war and attacks and enemies as such when it comes to the “recurring jihad.”) We seem unwilling, in the sense of being unable to muster the national will, to develop and pursue a coherent strategy to fight this war. Perhaps that is because we do not understand it. Maybe we have confused preparing for war with desiring war. But we have other instruments of power at our disposal besides the military instrument, and they do not seem to be availing us much.

Have we gotten to the point where we are “supine, secure, and negligent”? Perhaps not completely, but I get the impression that many people today who live in peace and relative safety take it for granted, as if it is our birthright and a permanent feature of our society. We would do well to remember that peace, like life, is precious and fleeting; it needs to be nurtured and protected, lest it be lost.

This week, after the fireworks have faded, I hope during our normal routines we will give some additional thought to our independence, our freedom, and give thanks for those who protect it every day — not just on the holiday — by being prepared to fight for it.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Monday Morning Insight: In Memoriam

Today we celebrate Memorial Day. I hope you find today’s quote, from the Gospel of John, the fifteenth chapter, the thirteenth verse, fitting to start the week:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends.”

On Memorial Day, of course, we remember those who laid down their lives in defense of the United States. They laid down their lives for their friends and family, yes; for their comrades in arms, certainly; but also for us. The freedom we enjoy was bought at a tremendous, terrible price, and we do well not to squander it.

A place for remembrance - Memorial Day

(Image: “A Place for Remembrance — Memorial Day,” by Wayne S. Grazio, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)


It seems a good day also to remember the last verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,”

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto — “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

To which I say, Amen.

So, enjoy this day — and I mean really enjoy it, find joy in it, take joy from it, share your joy with someone else — but spare a moment to reflect on the freedom we enjoy, and the price that was paid for it. It is precious, beyond measure, and we should use it well.

I hope you have a fantastic week.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My Hope for Iraq Now Seems Hopeless … and Affects My Hope for Us

My hope for Iraq hasn’t come true, because we lacked the national will to make it come true. In fact, we seem to lack much of any national will anymore.

Waiting to board
(“Waiting to Board,” by The U.S. Army, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

It may be a stretch to say it was my “hope” for Iraq … it was more of a prediction, that we might develop better long-term U.S.-Iraq relations by becoming long-term partners in Iraqi (and regional) security. Back when hostilities began, I told colleagues that if we did it right — if Iraq could become a more stable area in an overall unstable region — then U.S. bases in the cradle of civilization could become sought-after duty stations after the war, the way bases in Germany and Japan eventually became prime overseas duty locations after World War 2.

We did not, as it turned out, do it right.

We can postulate many reasons for this, but I count two as large contributors. First, in the rush to Baghdad we seemed to forget that all politics is local. We did not, so far as I know, help local villages develop authentic democratic (or even semi-democratic) structures that would ultimately feed into a national political structure. It would have taken time and effort, and the speed of our advance surprised us; perhaps it gave us a sense that whatever we did would turn out well. Regardless, where we could have helped develop local input to (and thereby, potentially, support of) the eventual national government, it appears that little better than local acquiescence took hold — which is all too easy to turn to disdain and rejection.

Second, and more important to the current state of decay in Iraqi affairs, we did not have the national will to occupy Iraq for the long term, the way we occupied Germany and Japan. We defeated those two nations and we stayed in them for years afterward because it was in our best interest to do so. It was in our best interest for a number of reasons, not least because of the threat that they might fall victim to the growing menace of nearby communist powers. But the spectre of terrorism has not proved as compelling to us today as the spectre of communism was to our predecessors. So we declared disinterest in Iraq and left the Iraqis to their own devices. We left them to the encroachment of the terrorists upon their lives and freedoms. We left them, I submit, to our shame.

I hear people from time to time disparage the U.S. with statements that we shouldn’t be the world’s policeman or that we should focus on problems here at home before we get involved abroad. I wonder if those who said such things are happy now that Iraq is in chaos, and if they will be happier still when Afghanistan is again under despotic rule once our departure proves our disinterest there as well.

I have heard people wondering if the expenditure of blood and treasure in our conflict in Iraq was worth it; given how little we now have to show for it, the questioners may have a point. I haven’t heard as much wondering if the blood and treasure we spent in World War 2 was worth it, but then again that was a different kind of war and we had the will to see that fight through to the bitter end.

What does this foretell for us? Our troops may still have the will to fight, and the will to win, but so long as our people lack that will our nation’s downward spiral seems inevitable. Our obsession with our own safety and comfort, with being coddled and cared for, entertained and well-fed, will drag us down as surely as the decadence of Rome left it unable to withstand the barbarians at its gates.

We left the Iraqis vulnerable. We will leave the Afghanis vulnerable. But worse than those, we appear to be willing to leave ourselves vulnerable, too.

And that does not leave me hopeful.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

How Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” Commercial Could Have Been Awesome

It was a pretty good commercial, I thought.

But they missed a great opportunity to make a simply good commercial into something spectacular.

Coca Cola Sign in Decatur Texas
(“Coca Cola Sign in Decatur Texas,” by anyjazz65, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I understood what they were getting at in the commercial: that people who originate all over the world have come — and continue to come — to this land of freedom and opportunity. Not only that, but no matter where we originate we can all appreciate both the physical grandeur of this country and the truths we hold self-evident in this marvelous nation.

So what would have made it awesome?

If, in the finale, they had gathered all the singers and other participants into one place, and had them sing “from sea to shining sea” as one chorus.

Doing so would have illustrated the “melting pot” ideal, in which no matter our origins we become part of the magnificent cultural alloy that is the U.S. citizenry. In some respects it would have fulfilled the promise of the old “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial. And, perhaps most important, it would have reminded us that we are at our best when we are “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one.

It could have been awesome.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Memorial Day Tribute

For Memorial Day, here’s a link to a great rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” forwarded to us by a former boss (and supporter of the “Anti-Campaign”). As the oft-forwarded message said,

If you missed hearing the US Army Band and Chorus welcome Pope Benedict XVI at the White House Rose Garden ceremony on 15 April, get a load of these high school kids. At the conclusion listen to the high notes on the trumpet … played by a high school kid! One of the fathers recorded it, added some graphic enhancements to the recording, and posted it on the web…. Be prepared … it will definitely send a few chills down your spine.

Here’s the link. Enjoy, and remember the ultimate sacrifices that paid for our freedoms.

God Bless.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather