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Michael Novak agreed in the June issue, arguing, “Against tremendous ridicule, abuse, and sheer visceral hatred from his political foes and significant elements in the press, the President had to remain as hard and firm as a diamond-tipped drill.” This leading intellectual light of the American Enterprise Institute was certain that “America’s effort to promote freedom in the world and protect her own security from Islamic extremism are ultimately dependent on success in Iraq.” Although Novak feared that the 21,500 extra U.S. troops deployed in the spring and summer 2007 surge might be “too little, too late,” nonetheless he believes that the success or failure of the democratic experiment in Iraq is of world-historical importance.
The tenth and final one of these fascinating, thought-provoking, and valuable essays appeared in the last issue, where Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote about the past, present, and future “Armies for Democracy.” His profoundly depressing, but possibly accurate thesis is that the United States had simply “lost the confidence to enact positive reform abroad at a price in blood and treasure deemed worth the effort.”
Although, as Hanson persuasively argues, that price is a mere fraction of the price that America has been willing to pay several times before in her recent history, he points out that today it is American willpower that is lacking, rather than any other commodity. (Certainly as a Briton, I only wish your 1776 Congress had contained as many Murthas, Obamas, and Pelosis as your present one does: George Washington would not have stood a chance in his long, drawn-out, and desperate struggle against my countrymen.)
THE ESSAY SERIES THUS ENDED on a sobering note, after contributions from ten of the most acute thinkers of our day, each of them passionately committed to the defense of Western civilization. As a coda to their thoughts, I would like to present my own contribution to the debate, and try to encourage Americans to see their present world-historical War on Terror through the prism of the three earlier struggles of the English-speaking peoples and their allies since 1900.
Less than two weeks before he died, Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Rudyard Kipling, saying that “I have always insisted that the really good understanding the British Empire and the United States would not come except insofar as we developed a thoroughly American type, separate from every European type and free alike from mean antipathy and mean cringing.” He denied the claims of “the [Woodrow] Wilson adherents and the Sinn Feiners and pro-Germans and Socialists and Pacifists” that he was a craven Anglophile. However, he did add: “Because of the almost identity of the written (as opposed to the spoken) language and from other reasons I think that on the whole, and when there isn’t too much gush and effusion and too much effort to bring them together, the people of our two countries are naturally closer than those of any others.”
Roosevelt intensely deprecated the “good, mushy, well-meaning creatures who are always striving to bring masses of Englishmen and Americans together,” and likened them to a philanthropist he once knew who was saddened by the historic antipathy between New York’s police and fire departments. In order for them to “get together,” this rich man had hired Yankee Stadium for a friendly game of baseball. The moment the umpire’s decision was disputed in the opening innings, Roosevelt recalled, both sides did indeed “get together,” in a vast brawl with hundreds of “stalwart men in uniform” exchanging blows with each other.
If relations between the United States and Great Britain have managed on the whole to avoid Roosevelt’s Yankee Stadium metaphor, it has largely been because of the threats that they have faced together and the comity between successive pairs of presidents and premiers who have together fought against them. Although they never met, Lord Salisbury and Theodore Roosevelt established a fine working relationship that saw both countries through the potential strains of the Spanish-American and Boer Wars. Similarly, the warm personal relationships between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush and Tony Blair have reminded us of what the English-speaking peoples can together achieve for civilization. (Equally, their two great 20th-century defeats of Suez and Vietnam both took place when Britain and America were not “standing shoulder to shoulder.”)
THE WORLD TODAY is facing the fourth great Fascist threat since 1900, one that can only be defeated if Anglo-American amity is kept in as good repair as it was by those earlier statesman-paladins. The proto-Fascist threat posed by Prussian militarism in 1914-18 was ended in part by the eruption onto the Western Front of General Pershing’s million-man “doughboy” army, just as it was most needed to help turn back Hindenburg and Ludendorff’s great Spring Offensive of 1918. Similarly, Axis Fascism was destroyed in great part by carrying through the masterly “Germany First” decision arrived at in the Anglo-American Arcadia Conference in Washington of December 1941-January 1942. So also did Soviet “Red Fascism” meet its end after the economic life-blood was squeezed out of it during the Glorious Eighties. These were not quick or easy victories, and neither will the next one be in the latest mutation of Fascism that we presently face. Although victory is not yet in sight, knowing what we do of the fundamentalist fanaticism that drives Islamofascism, such a victory is utterly indispensable.
The Great War took four years to win, World War II six, the Cold War forty-four. At this exponential rate, the War on Terror might take much longer. Liberal sneers that President Bush misnamed the war “because you can’t fight against an abstract noun” are misapplied; “[Wilhelmine] militarism,” “[Axis] aggression,” and “[Soviet] Communism” are all grammatically abstract, yet were all brought to heel in their time. Pentagon officials are right to be calling this one “The Long War.” As a recent New York Times article was headlined: “Blair, in Kabul, Warns That Fight Against the Taliban Will Take Decades.” In his speech Blair pointed out how: “Here, in this extraordinary piece of desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out.” As so very often in his foreign policy pronouncements since 9/11, the prime minister was tough, forthright, brave, and — most importantly — right.
When one surveys the forces serving in Afghanistan, beyond the steadily improving Afghan army itself, one sees 15,500 Americans, 5,500 Britons, 3,500 Canadians, 550 Australians, and important special forces contingents from New Zealand. Meanwhile, one sees Germany confining its troops to the quiet north, France to guard duty on the Khyber Pass, and other NATO nations refusing to contribute more reinforcements to what is surely the most morally justifiable war in recent history — fought against the movement that hosted and protected al Qaeda up to 9/11. Once again, therefore, it is the English-speaking peoples who find themselves in the forefront of protecting civilization. As NATO approaches the beginning of the end of its natural life, torn apart by European refusals to play a big enough military, political, financial, or moral role in the War on Terror, the USA should be increasingly looking to the English-speaking peoples for camaraderie, mutual support, and shared ideals.
For it is not simply Britain and America that deserve plaudits for defeating the great Fascist threats of the past and standing up doughtily against the present danger. The contributions of the rest of the English-speaking peoples — except sadly Ireland — have also been considerable over the 107 years since 1900. The statistics are astonishing, and in some cases make the pure Anglo-American ones pall by comparison. For example, over 100,000 New Zealanders served during the Great War, from a country with a total population of only 1.1 million in 1914.
A young and numerically tiny country, with a 1914 population of only 4 million, Australia lost no fewer than 58,961 killed in the Great War and 166,811 wounded, an enormous and terrible contribution to victory. In all, 416,809 Australians enlisted for service in the First World War, representing 38.7 percent of the total male population aged between 18 and 44.
Canada’s contribution to victory in the Second World War was incredible considering her population of only 11 million. In the spring of 1939 there were 10,000 men in her armed forces; by the end of the war, over one million had served in them. In the meantime they had been, in Professor David Dilks’s words, “the only properly organized, trained and equipped military strength in the southern part of England in the perilous summer of autumn of 1940”; had fought in Hong Kong in Christmas 1941, as well as at Dieppe, Sicily, Italy, France, and the Low Countries. The Royal Canadian Navy had 500 ships in service by 1943, and was the third-largest navy in the world by 1945. No fewer than 125,000 Commonwealth aircrew were trained in Canada, and of the RAF’s 487 squadrons in 1944, 100 came from the Dominions.
Nor was this an Anglo-Saxon racial phenomenon. By November 1918 no fewer than 15,204 Caribbean men had served in the 11 battalions of the British West Indies Regiment, which saw service in Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, East Africa, India, France, Italy, Belgium, and England. “They were subjected to enemy artillery bombardment, sniper fire, exploding ammunition dumps and aerial attacks,” records their historian. “In France, life was also made uncomfortable by the prevalence of fleas, lice and rats, while in Egypt there were problems with scorpions, lizards, snakes and especially flies. Nevertheless, in every theater the West Indians consistently displayed courage and discipline.” Their decorations included no fewer than 19 Military Crosses, 11 Military Crosses with bar, 37 Military Medals, 11 Military Medals with Bar, 49 mentions in dispatches, 11 Medailles d’Honneur, and 14 Royal Human Society’s Medals, a proud total for any unit.
THE CRITICISM DIRECTED by the left-liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic against Messrs. Bush and Blair is of course nothing new in the conflicts of the English-speaking peoples. “There is a cowardly imbecile at the head of the government,” warned one newspaper. “I am heartsick,” cried one member of Congress, “at the mismanagement of the Army.” And, “disgust with our government is universal,” said another critic. That quote comes from historian Jay Winik’s excellent recent book April 1865, recording some of the very-modern-sounding criticisms leveled against Abraham Lincoln during the latter stages of the American Civil War.
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