Through NRO’s daily Web Briefing, I read and enjoyed Bruce Thornton’s excellent essay in Defining Ideas, “Why Should We Study War?” I’d urge you to read the entire essay, but I was particularly struck by the truth of this passage:
Those before us knew that for all its horrors and misery––which our ancestors acknowledged as much as its glories––war is when the best that men are capable of is manifested, and great deeds worthy of memory are achieved. And they understood as well that the commemoration of these deeds by men “who knew their duty and had the courage to do it,” as Pericles said of his fellow Athenians, creates models of virtue and honor for subsequent generations to study and emulate. Only in that way can a civilization survive in a world of limited resources and ruthless aggressors.
While our nation and culture are beset by many challenges, it is worth remembering that for twelve years our nation has produced enough men and women with the strength of will to not only volunteer to fight for their nation but to fight honorably, valiantly, and with deadly effectiveness. There are warriors among us — in all our communities — who are not just worth honoring, but studying and emulating. If we can draw the right lessons, their examples — their “models of virtue” — will allow our civilization survive and continue to thrive in a dangerous, fallen world.
War is, as Churchill observed and Thornton reminds us, a “stimulator of glorious individual achievements” even as it is also brutal and depraved. Our warriors have indeed done great and glorious things, and on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for them, for their families, and for a nation that continues to produce such valor and honor.