Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Liberals Fight, Conservatives Run Away

It's a play on words, that title--because it is true. Ralph Peters tries to out-man everyone who ever took up the written word and tried to influence someone. It falls about as flat as can be. Peters is, essentially, misguided and ignorant of American history. Peters tries to take the position that no one who ever wrote anything ever accomplished anything. Were that true, America wouldn't even exist. The men who fought for this country in the two wars that shaped our destiny--the Revolution and the Civil War--would never have picked up arms were it not for Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln.
As I pointed out on July 4, even our glorious Declaration of Independence and our Constitution would be no more than bizarre artifacts had they not been defended by patriots willing to fight.

Does anyone really believe that there's anything we can write or say that will persuade al Qaeda to make nice? It's on the strategic defensive today but only because our soldiers and Marines thumped the hell out of its cadres in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The point isn't that military solutions are always the best solutions - any problem that can be resolved without bloodshed should be handled peaceably. But we've got to stop playing pretend: In this hate-plagued, often merciless world, events sometimes demand action, not just talk.

Our diplomats and "distinguished commentators" see the world from the 17th floor of a luxury hotel or the office of an English-speaking Cabinet member. The insular safety of their lives has convinced them that every problem has a peaceful solution if only we can all have a good chat.

But those who rule by the sword (or the fist, or engineered famines or outright genocide) don't want to hash things out. They want to win. No elegant phrase has ever stopped a bullet in midflight.

No, but plenty of elegant arguments have stopped bullets from flying in the first place. The wars that haven't been fought because of negotiation and diplomacy are too numerous to mention. It's no wonder that diplomacy is on the outs in this time in American history--we haven't seen anyone practice it competently in ages.

Peters whines:

Please, educate me: In over 5,000 years of more or less recorded history, how many tyrannies have been overthrown by noble sentiments? How many genocides have been averted by reasonable discussions? How many wars have been prevented by Quakers?

I've got a better one for you, Mr. Peters--how many wars have conservatives actually endorsed and led us into? Besides the Spanish American War and the first and second Gulf Wars, the real question is--how many turned out for the better?

That grandest of all grand wars--World War II--would never have been fought by the United States if we'd had a Republican in the White House. The Republican Party of 1939-41 worked tirelessly to undermine our support for Britain and agitated fiercely to keep us out of the war. Eloquent writer after eloquent writer--especially the brilliant Edward R. Murrow and the incomparable Ernie Pyle--explained that war to the American people.

Peters asks--what writer? What writer? There are too many to mention. I mentioned Thomas Paine. Can anyone--anyone--imagine an American Revolution without Thomas Paine? Can anyone imagine the Continental Army sustaining itself without the impact of Common Sense?

Let's start and end simply with Abraham Lincoln, a man whose writing during the Civil War sustained the war effort by sheer will and force.

Peters would do well to re-read Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural as a testimony to the power of the written and spoken word.
Fellow Countrymen:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it; all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war - seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained.

Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Sorry, Mr. Peters. When it came time to fight, Republicans and conservatives have traditionally only been interested in fighting the weakest and the easiest to demonize; liberals have had to fight the "Democrat Wars" and do all of the heavy lifting.

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