An overlooked and key contributing factor, they theorize, is that virtually all Israelis serve in the military where a specific set of skills and values are pounded into them. They learn for example, “that you must complete your mission, but that the only way to do that is as a team. The battle cry is ‘After me’: there is no leadership without personal example and without inspiring your team to charge together and with you. There is no leaving anyone behind. You have minimal guidance from the top and are expected to improvise.” The Israeli military encourages a kind of entrepreneurship: the assumption of both responsibility and risk at a young age, coupled with on-the-job experience making life-and-death decisions.
European troops, by contrast, rarely venture onto battlefields and, when they do, as in Afghanistan, too often are instructed to serve as peacekeepers — where there is no peace to keep. What does that teach?
In recent years, American military men and women have been facing — and overcoming — daunting challenges. Senor and Singer suggest that upon return to civilian life they should not “deemphasize their military experience when applying for jobs,” and that employers should recognize the skills and habits that young Americans are now acquiring while fighting for their country and to ensure that freedom has a future.
That is not an argument in favor of war. But war has been both declared against us and thrust upon us. Those who believe otherwise indulge a dangerous delusion. What’s more, the inconvenient truth is that war, not peace, has been the norm throughout history. And reports of history’s death have been exaggerated.
The “greatest generation” was forged in the crucible of a global conflict. If the global War Against the West produces a second “greatest generation,” that will be a bitter defeat for Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and all those sympathetic to their medievalist and supremacist ideologies.
America is an exceptional nation. But each generation of Americans must decide whether to assume the burden required to continue that tradition.
Israel, too, is unique: Unlike the vast majority of states born in the second half of the 20th century, Senor and Singer observe, “Only Israel’s founders had the temerity to try to start up a modern first-world country in the region from which their ancestors had been exiled two thousand years earlier.”
The problem is that in the eyes of much of the world Israel is both a “start-up nation,” and an upstart nation. It defies the “international community” by daring to defend itself, and it prospers even while under attack. To many people, such behavior is unforgiveable.