The Sword, Arm, and Shield of Civilization

In the comments to my invitation to ask questions Charles first offered an observation from Iraq, and then posed his query:

I read your stories. Even with all the intermittent shelling, we have an internet cafe nearby where most of us soldiers go to cruise the internet cafe when we’re not under cover.

I’m told, by chaplains and other “knowledgeable people”, that we are in ancient Mesopotamia, with mounds nearby that were once cities named Ur and Sumer and Babylon. These cities are supposed to date back 3500 years or so. They tell me that this is where “it” all began, whatever “it” was. Civilization, I guess.

Zarqawi dumped a headless body nearby and several Iraqi NG wannabes just got their heads blown off just for being with us. Not a good legacy for the first civilized nation.

I wonder why, after all the tragedy and humiliation you have been through, why you did not try to end your own life.

I dealt with the suicide question in depth in this post. In condensed form my reply is that I have simply never lost hope to the degree that I would ever think of ending my own life in anything more than a speculative manner.

Why maintain hope in the face of all I have seen and experienced? Over long centuries I have seen mankind crawl up out of ignorance and fear, following a path that certainly does not lack for horrific setbacks and lapses, but does indeed seem to lead inexorably towards something better. This gives me hope, which easily supplants any notion of despair that might drive me towards self-destruction.

I also take heart in the very things that you mentioned above. Not that there are murders and shelling and danger, but that there are determined and capable warriors in place whose purpose is to put a stop to the chaos. Those Iraqi National Guard trainees- they understood the danger they faced just by choosing to step forward. They stepped forward regardless, for they are a civilized and devoted people, willing to stand to in the face of a fanatical and bestial foe. Even after decades under the yoke of a tyrant, they understood the necessity of taking matters in to their own hands, they placed their lives on the line, and those lives were taken, just as so many others were before. Doubtless more shall queue in line to replace them, for the Iraqis may be unhappy with the state of affairs, they may even resent the presence of foreign troops, but they understand that failure is unthinkable.

I take hope in the actions of your people this past week. Presented with a stark choice, couched in the most extreme terms, they chose to persevere. Like those Iraqi men, your people understand the dangers; they comprehend the consequences of failure and rejected those whose resolve was less than firm. I take hope in the realization that despite the enormous emotional and ideological fractures revealed in your recent election your nation has once again shown the world that those who lose elections in the United States do not set cities aflame, nor are they rounded up for imprisonment. Those who come up short in the American political drama simply step back, pick up the pieces and begin to prepare for the next election. I sometimes wonder if your people can comprehend the profound statement that makes?

I take hope from you and your people. I am an unabashed fan of Western Civilization in general, and the American Experiment in particular. I see your people as the best, brightest hope for mankind. That this sounds hyperbolic does not make it any less so. What other nation would send her soldiers on a mission such as yours? The United States stood upon the ramparts of Europe for fifty years, willingly subjected herself to the threat of nuclear annihilation, all to preserve the liberal societies of Western Europe from the abhorrent tyranny of Soviet socialism. Furthermore, despite the fractious relationships with some powers of Europe, she would unhesitatingly do so again. Your people truly are the guarantors of peace and civilization in the modern world. That some do not appreciate this, or even feel threatened by it is natural- the weak fear the powerful, for in the past the powerful were always to be feared.

The world is changing. Civilization has changed profoundly since the long past days of those ancient cities you named. Look at yourself and your comrades and consider what those ancient Kings would have thought. Strip away the technology, the weaponry and consider that should you confront them with sword and shield they could still have no true understanding of you, for the ideas, the ethos that brought you to that place would be incomprehensible to them. They had more in common with Saddam Hussein than with The United States, or Great Britain, or Australia, or Poland, or Spain. The notion that a people would send soldiers to such a far off land and spend blood and treasure in the cause of freedom rather than the expansion of power would be so very far from their realm of understanding as to be nonsense at best, madness at worst.

Consider that you have come from one of the youngest, most liberal and liberated nations on Earth to bring freedom to the Cradle of Civilization. Forgive me if I appear strident, for these thoughts must be stated with emphatic clarity. You and your fellows, your comrades and allies- you are the Sword, Arm and Shield of Civilization. That cannot fail to bring hope to my heart.

Thank-you, Charles. Thank-you for your service, and for the hope you bring.



One Response to “The Sword, Arm, and Shield of Civilization”

  1. If you don’t, already, you should really consider a career of some sort, in writing. Political speeches, maybe? In any event- thanks- this gave me goosebumps!