August 10, 2004
A Marine's Role in the End of HistoryBy Nathan Hale
The back room of a Mexican restaurant in Houston is not exactly the place you would expect your mind to wander to questions of civilization, grand historical forces and electoral behavior. Rather, you tend to think that "salt or no salt" will be about as serious as it will get.
I recently went to Houston for a going away party at Cafe Noche for my best friend, David, a young lawyer who decided to re—enlist in a Marine Corps Reserve unit that had already been called to service in Iraq.
As Dave's friends, coworkers and family stood around chatting and drinking, my mind wandered to thoughts of other going away parties over the years and other men and women who'd joined similar fights.
It would be easy to think in terms of the 229—year history of the Marine Corps and Dave's joining in that storied tradition. But Dave's place in this context weaves back further. Much further.
At the fall of communism, historian Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called, The End of History and the Last Man. His basic thesis was that the history of man was our progress toward a free society with representative government. He argued that communism represented the last of the reactionary forces against this modernizing push and with communism's fall, we had arrived at the end of man's history.
At the time Fukuyama wrote, I was not as sanguine about the state of man's progress but, as it turns out, I was right for the wrong reasons. Having read (and reread and given as a gift) The Road to Serfdom by Hayek, I was convinced that collectivism was still a threat to human freedom and prosperity. (For those unfamiliar with Hayek, his thesis was that liberals paved the way for socialists who paved the way for the Gulag—masters of communism. A fight against communism required a fight against all types of collectivist coercion.)
The threat I missed was the corrupted form of Islam being preached by Osama bin Laden and his followers. The signs were there and we all should have seen them because the threat from the Soviets pales in comparison to that posed by this small group of zealots who think human society reached its pinnacle sometime in the late 7th Century.
There are those benighted souls who cannot understand that the fight in Iraq is a strand in our history that reaches back to Moses, the heroic stand at Thermopylae, the signing of the Magna Carta, the founding of the American Republic, the end of slavery, the retreat of colonial power, the vanquishing of the Nazis and the fall of communism. It is another in a long line of advances in civilization.
There are those who can study human history and see no need for violence. These people never see that, for all of the great philosophers and thinkers and scientists who have pushed forward the development of civilization, there have been even more important men who have strapped on armor, wielded swords, waded ashore under hostile fire, flown bombers or driven submarines in pushing back against the forces that hate freedom and progress. These pacifists can never see that almost all of the great advances in human freedom, from Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery to the fall of the Soviet Union were accompanied by violence.
These same people can never begin to understand the men and women who serve in the shadows earning medals they cannot tell their families about while having their deaths memorialized with nothing more than a star cut in marble on the wall of the lobby and an entry into a book that is often nothing more than the date of their death.
It is instructive to look back at our last major opponent (by "our", I am speaking of all civilized, free people, not just Americans.) and how various leaders viewed that threat as an indicator of their fitness to handle the current one. Are our leaders and potential leaders those who understand the threat and its similarity to past threats and how did they handle previous threats?
John Kerry, like the liberal wing of the Democratic Party he represents, was as wrong on communism as he could have been, without taking out formal membership in the CPUSA. His "Dear Commandante" letter to the Sandinista dictator Ortega in Nicaragua should be required reading by anyone who has any doubts about his "secret plan" to get us out of Iraq. Kerry is cut from the same cloth as those who counsel Israel to give up land and make endless concessions because "this time, it's different."
He is an appeaser, a pacifist and a man constitutionally incapable of recognizing the threat before us. The only difference between Kerry and the balaclava—clad rock throwers of the anarchistic left is his choice of wardrobe. You can argue that he doesn't hate freedom and progress and that he does not want us to regress, but you cannot offer any proof of your position. He has taken the wrong side of the only conflicts in our lifetime that mattered, and seriously considering placing him in charge of the current conflict is suicidal.
My friend David may never write a book or cure cancer or create art or otherwise participate at any level in the advancement of human civilization. But his defense of our civilization against its enemies will earn him a place of honor in that long line stretching back through history. And given the nature of the threat before us, I would rather have a lot of guys like Dave and only a few philosophers than the other way around.
We tend to reward great artists and writers with fame while relegating our heroes to anonymity. Quick, name one of the Rangers at Pont du Hoc. In time, the names of David and the other volunteers in the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, will be lost to history, but I hope we will be able to memorialize their service by returning their Commander in Chief to office in November. The least we can do is recognize their sacrifice by giving them a President who fully understands the enemy they so honorably fight.
And to the men and women of 1/23rd, get home safely. You are all invited to leave your wallets at home and meet me at Cafe Noche so this grateful American can buy a round or two. Or several.