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May 29, 2006
First You Need an Army
One thing the situation in Iraq is demonstrating rather clearly. If you don't have an army, you don't have a country. Fortunately, the United States has always had an army, right from the start when George Washington first set siege to the British in Boston in 1775.
On Memorial Day that is something to be thankful about.
Not that the US Army was much good at first. The Revolutionary War was mostly spent in retreat. The Civil War was a bloody mess, the first instance of the modern lethal battlefield. In World War I the doughboys had too much money. In World War II the GIs were overpaid, over sexed, and over there. But in Iraq, a British general has said, the US Army is showing that it is the best in the world.
You need an army to found a nation. The modern French Army was born as the nation in arms defending the Revolution from the crowned heads of Europe. The British Army is descended from Cromwell's New Model Army. The Soviet Union was founded upon a bloody civil war won by its Red Army. Chairman Mao, whether or not he spent the Long March reclining in a litter, founded modern China on the power of his Red Army. And the Germans achieved their unification on the back of the most popular institution in the North German Federation: The German Army.
Why then do our liberals insist that war never solves anything? It is because, uniquely in all history, our liberals came to power without having to fight for it. In their first outing, during the Progressive Era, they staged a wrestling match with the evil robber barons. But the contest was as fake as a professional wrestling match, because the robber barons really weren't interested in political power.
Rockefeller was too busy founding the University of Chicago and funding medical research into hookworm; Carnegie was too busy building libraries and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and J. Pierpont Morgan was too busy serving as unofficial central banker to the nation during the Crash of 1907. Liberals came to power in 1932 after the Progressive Era Federal Reserve System had failed to act as the lender of last resort after the Crash of 1929. So they blamed the disaster on Progressive politician Herbert Hoover. Who needed an army when you could get political power the easy way?
Even so, it is curious that even as liberals have reviled and marginalized the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces they have lionized the lefty thugs who never appeared except in army fatigues: Mao and Castro. Then there was that chap in the beret. What was his name?
Whatever may be the truth about wars and violence, liberals don't like our army and they don't like our soldiers. They understand that this does not win elections so they direct their distaste not at the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguard directly , but obliquely at the "Pentagon." In liberal books and liberal cartoons the armed forces of the United States are represented by the scheming Pentagon general with his chest of medals and his square, flat face.
The liberal war against the armed forces is part of their war against the nation state. The thinking goes something like this. The nation state equals aggressive nationalism, aggressive nationalism equals Nazism, therefore the national army is the instrument of fascism.
If you strip out the hyperbole, they have a point. The nation state is supported by the national idea. And if the national idea gets a little too enthusiastic it can be rather aggressive. When the nation state gets into a bad patch then the people of the nation look for strong leadership to lead them back from disaster to triumph. The chaps auditioning for "strong leader" may turn out to be Roosevelts and Churchills, or they may not.
But is the nation state such a terrible idea? On the contrary, far from being an atavism, the nation state is an advanced idea, the one political idea thus far that has persuaded ordinary people to loosen their loyalty to tribe and clan—that is, the instinctive tie to blood kin—and replace it with loyalty to a larger unity, to the abstract nation unified by the artificial and abstract idea of a national culture and a national language.
As we remember the fallen this Memorial Day let us all be proud of the advanced and civilized concept that they died to defend. They died in the name of a nation state that has been mixed together out every race and tribe in the world, a mongrel nation that is the prototype of the world society. Our nation state is defended and secured by the armed forces in which they served and fell. It can be no other way.
Every soldier who fell to defend the United States and its city on a hill is owed a debt by the nation that can never be repaid. The least we can do is to keep alive the memory of their service and their sacrifice. It is the only way to honor the loss that their families feel every day of their lives.
Christopher Chantrill 5 29 06