We are a nation in trouble. And we are making that trouble worse for ourselves.
On November 5th an Army doctor with the rank of major walked into a health center at Ford Hood, Texas, murdered 13 soldiers and civilians, and wounded two dozen more. He was a Muslim with a history of contact with extremist groups. He favored jihad and had said so. He carried business cards describing himself as a “soldier of Allah.” As he murdered unarmed comrades, he shouted “Alahu Akbar.”
And yet, incredibly, a poll by Fox News showed that more Americans thought this was just a “killing spree” than an act of terror. Further, the Army chief of staff, General George Casey, expressed his pain at the thought that this incident might hurt “diversity” in the Army.
Bill Bennett, in response, wrote this:
“There is a rot that spreads outside of Washington into the larger culture. It begins with a confusion of terms, and by not calling things by their proper names, it begins with a disassembling of the moral categories. We don’t hear about terrorism or radical Islam so we are surprised to find it in our midst, and when we do, we don’t even recognize it. We have Army generals who elevate diversity over life, we have a president who speaks not of radical Islam or terrorism — though life is what we are fighting for and radical Islam and terrorism is what we are fighting against. “
Toward the end of World War II, General Eisenhower ordered American troops marched through newly liberated death camps. He reasoned that they might not have fully understood what they were fighting for, but that the camps would show them what, to use Bill Bennett’s language, they were fighting against. We have no such stirring example today. Instead, more than nine years after the 9-11 attacks, the word terrorism has been dropped from the federal vocabulary, replaced by “man-made disasters.” It took our government days to issue even a simple denunciation of the Iranian regime’s crackdown on dissenters. And the oppression of women in Muslim countries – symbolized by the 50 lashes given to a 15-year-old Sudanese girl for wearing a knee-length skirt – is met with indifference or even admonitions that we must not judge “other cultures.”
We will allow the perpetrators of 9-11 to shop their ideological wares in a show trial in lower Manhattan, in the shadow of what was once the World Trade Center. The same Justice Department that arranged this upcoming spectacle is also pursuing, relentlessly, CIA agents who served their country in the early days of the war on terror, but whose methods do not satisfy the new crowd in town. We learned just weeks ago that Navy Seals who captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq will face courts-martial because the individual wound up with a split lip.
This is nothing less than an erosion of our national will. America has allowed the “will to win” to degenerate into the notion that we are, at minimum, equally responsible for the violence committed against us. It is an erosion that could prove fatal if our enemies choose to take advantage of it, as they already have. Our sense of national purpose, of who we are and what we believe, has been diminished, especially in our radicalized universities. Ronald Reagan used to remind us that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Americans tend to laugh at observations like that. We’ll always have our Constitution, won’t we? Think about it. Are you sure?
The erosion of our national will can be seen in a single statement, taught repeatedly on college campuses and in the pages of the mainstream media: “We must understand other cultures.” You have heard it again and again. But what is missing from this declaration? What is missing is any respect for our culture, our traditions. What about an alternative: “We must understand other cultures, and they must understand us.” That should be obvious, but that wording will never be accepted among the legions of the politically correct who dominate our universities; our media; increasingly, our government; and even, as we have seen with General Casey, our military.
We should have seen the current crisis in national will coming. After 9-11, when most Americans rallied to the nation’s cause, many so-called “intellectuals” were demeaning that cause. One college president called 9-11 a self-inflicted wound. Another said it was the result of our not knowing enough about the world. A third, in a particularly outrageous comment, praised her students for not being judgmental about the attacks. How could any civilized person not be judgmental about the slaughter of 3,000 innocent people? Those college presidents reflected the ideology that has grown up in our universities since the upheavals of the 1960s, and this ideology is now being employed to teach those who will teach our youngest children. American parents are virtually unaware of this.
Time is the enemy of morale. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, President Roosevelt, a reliable observer of human reactions, feared that time would erode American resolve, and lessen support for the war effort. He therefore encouraged Hollywood to write a song to keep morale high. The result was “Remember Pearl Harbor,” one of the most popular songs of the war. Now, our modern Pearl Harbor, 9-11, is fading into memory, and, if any songs are being written, they are so-called “anti-war” songs.
To show just how our sense of national resolve has slipped over the decades, please recall these words, words with which we grew up: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Isn’t it remarkable to realize that John F. Kennedy, who spoke those words, would probably have a hard time being nominated for president by his party today, as his views on national defense are outside that party’s mainstream. In fact, Kennedy’s views were best expressed in our time by George W. Bush, who was ridiculed and scorned by much of America’s elite for even holding them.
What can be done? National resolve must be built, and sustained, by three things – education, leadership, and belief. The educational system of the United States, especially higher education,
is now controlled from the political left, which started to dominate the academy following the social convulsions of the 1960s. There have been some press reports that a new generation of scholars, now coming in, is less ideological than the generation it is replacing, but it will take years for this new group to build influence. We do not have those years to waste in the international struggles we’re now waging.
Leadership is a function of the American people. We get the leaders we vote for. But even after a leader is elected, he can change course, just as President Bush changed course in Iraq when he ordered the now-famous surge. President Obama has gone around the world apologizing for what he sees as American mistakes, and offering to engage our enemies if they “unclench” their fists. Thus far the results are disappointing, and even some foreign journalists, especially in Britain, are starting to accuse him of weakness. No fists have been unclenched.
Can the president change course? To do so would require him to alter his entire attitude. He would have to inspire the American people by advertising the remarkable amount of good in this country. And he would have to demonstrate that he understands, and is willing to fight for, American principles. He would have to say these things to foreign audiences. He would have to start using words like “victory,” a word missing from his foreign policy, even from the speech on Afghanistan that he delivered recently at West Point. But the president’s goals so far have been to merge our interests with those of other nations, and those goals seem heartfelt. Thus far we have seen no sign that he is willing to change to a more traditional approach, with its appeal to American resolve and a desire to defeat foes.
That leaves belief. Do we know what we believe in? Melik Kaylan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, recently made a suggestion that deserves our attention. Writing in Forbes, he said:
“During the Thanksgiving season, we should sit down and consider exactly what we stand for. It should include ideas that would help us win this new Cold War before we can win any other with bullets. It is not enough to say that we offer immigrant minorities the freedom to be themselves. What do we offer that will persuade them to be more like us? What is left of us and our traditions that other cultures can emulate? Or that our own immigrants can adapt to once they have the freedom to do so?
Unless we rebuild the national resolve of the United States, we could become a nation that speaks more of its history than its future. Or we could become a nation with declining influence in the world as our confidence declines and our economy shrinks.
Will America make it?
We asked that question at the start of World War II. Conditions seemed hopeless, but our resolve was strong.
That resolve is now in question, which is why we cannot say definitively if America will make it.