Why We Fight and Why We Will Win
On September 11th, 2001, America and her principles were savagely attacked by ruthless and dedicated enemies of liberty.
In response, Americans have sought to return to our roots, to our dedication to liberty and to the God who gave us that liberty. We have prayed together, mourned together, formed a firm resolve to resist this barbarism together, and felt together a need to undertake a common renewal of our national principles.
The Declaration Foundation, like many American associations, sensed a need to reflect once more, in sorrow for the suffering, and in hope for the American Dream. We wrote a meditation on the high purpose of this Republic, and the dignity and truth of its Principles. That meditation is entitled "Why We Fight and Why We Will Win."
What follows is a summary of the content of our meditation.
I. Why We Were Attacked
We were attacked for what we are. We were attacked for our liberty, especially our religious liberty. For our prosperity, grounded in our obedience to the laws of nature and of nature's God. The face of our enemy has no color, no creed. It is the face of evil, the face that sets itself against a regime conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
In the face of this unspeakable evil, we will never forget the innocent victims. But we will honor their memory, and save our own souls, by fighting for
something. And that something is America.
II. What is America
Unlike other nations united by ties of blood and history, our republic has always been united by ideas. We are a people dedicated to a proposition, to a belief. We believe, as Lincoln believed, that all men are created equal and are, by birthright, free.
America is rich. Her lands are productive, her cities abuzz with energy. America is powerful. America is the nerve center of the earth's technological advance and its international finance. We feed millions, inform millions, transport millions, build many of the world's highways and airports, its airliners, cars, and trucks. But none of these things gives us our character, our real power and strength.
Rather, all these things come from our inner power, our creed, the spiritual source of our unity and our national life.
That creed is set out in the Declaration of Independence. As we begin this fight to make the world safe for the blessings of Liberty and Equality, we return in allegiance to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, to renew our understanding of them, and our commitment to live them out from day to day.
III. To Fight for America, We Must Love and Understand America.
We Americans must always be grateful to Divine Providence for the blessings of liberty, for the system of self-government we have inherited, and its respect for human dignity. It has not been the lot of most of mankind, through the centuries, to live in freedom. Tyrants, oligarchs, dictators, and thugs have been the rule, not the exception. Nor have American soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen always served in places rich in liberty. Much of humanity still lives in bondage or half-bondage even today. That is one of the reasons wars, like the present one, still break out, and still grieve us.
But to whom much is given, from him much is demanded. And so it is with us. As we have these blessings, so we are bound in duty to secure them for our posterity, and to spread them for humanity. Americans have always felt this. That is why Abraham Lincoln once called the United States "the last, best hope of Earth." The rights we enjoy and defend are not only American rights, they are natural and human rights.
IV. Right and Might.
Our Awesome power is not an accident. It comes from our Principles, and their truth.
Might does not, cannot, make right. But right can make might. Grounded in the moral strength of America's heart are the practical strengths of a great nation. American economic and technological superiority is the fruit of our dedication to the spiritual foundation of our national enterprise. Pursuing happiness in free association, and in the light of truth and its Author, we have succeeded in material terms well beyond the dreams of other nations and other times. We are proud of this success precisely because we understand that our wealth, and our ever-increasing power to shape our world, are the natural fruit of the just pursuit of human happiness.
V. Remembering Who We Are
We are a decent people and can never, finally, forget that only the noblest purposes can justify recourse to arms. The vindication of the American promise of justice, and of unending defense of the equal human dignity of every person, is such a noble purpose, and does justify this recourse to arms. But if we are honest we must fear the possibility that this noble purpose can fade, at times, from the soul of a people. It is possible we may fail to keep it in view, and that we may accordingly find ourselves armed indeed with aircraft carriers and billions of dollars in weapons, but without the peace of soul and quiet resolve that comes from moral confidence and zeal for the right. We are right to fear this possibility, but only if we are so intimidated that we forget who we are and why we must fight.
America has faced this temptation before, in previous times of trouble. In our own fight over slavery, in the final struggle to eradicate Jim Crow, in the battle against the totalitarian giants of the 20th Century, we have had occasion to wonder if the nation still cared most of all about remaining a people of the Declaration. In each of those struggles, there were moments when good Americans could wonder if their countrymen remembered the faith of their fathers and were still willing to die for it.
But Americans always, finally, remember that we are a people of the Declaration. We always, finally, remember that we are a people born of the idea of equality. We always, finally, remember that it is this idea we care about most, and for the sake of which we will fight and, if necessary, die.
VI. Why We Will Win
Our enemies simply do not understand. Contemptuous of humanity and despising liberty, they think that people who are not forced by their "superiors" will be weak, self-indulgent, and unable to act with boldness and effect. From George III to Hitler and Hirohito to Hussein and bin Laden, they based their reckoning on the idea that a free people would be too selfish and too soft to do great things for the greater good.
But around the world, the people understand. We must not be fooled by occasional reverses or by trumped up demonstrations in the streets of the oppressed. We must ask ourselves: how many of our citizens have applied to the Taliban for assistance, or asked for asylum in Afghanistan or Iraq? Yet refugees come to America from everywhere, drawn not only by our prosperity but more strongly by the "yearning to breathe free."
Just as love is stronger than hate, so confidence overpowers fear. Our enemies rule by fear, they base and maintain their power by fear. Hussein kills his sons-in-law and slaughters his subjects with poison gas. The Taliban kill their wives, sisters, and daughters. In Afghanistan, to try to protect your daughter from rape by government thugs is to invite death. And if a man's beard is too short there, he must fear being beaten and imprisoned! The country is overrun with fear and slaughter--oppression and tyranny paid for by traffic in opium.
Now our enemies' mouths are filled with words of hatred, but they have nothing else to eat. They are weak with hunger for real food and with a deeper hunger for the nobility and strength which only freedom and confidence can provide. They know they are starving, they know they are weak, and they know they are afraid.
They are afraid. But we, because we love America and America's principles, are strong--strong in ourselves and strong in the ideals which inspire us. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the ideal of equality, and the simple idea that we make governments to serve us, not oppress us--these work, these are loved, these make us stronger than our enemies. And so we will win.