The Corner

Happy Birthday, America!

I hope everyone is in for a good day — with friends, family, the Stars and Stripes. We especially have in our thoughts and prayers those who serve.

Some of those who serve celebrate America today in an NRO “Why We Fight” symposium. Here’s Joe Skelly, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan:

The Fourth of July is one of the most inspiring of moments to ask the question, “Why do we fight?” My fellow soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, like generations of patriots extending back to 1776, fight, among other aims, to defend the eternal truths encapsulated in the very document we commemorate today as a nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” the Declaration of Independence boldly proclaims, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In these words are found principles that give dignity to life and life to the oppressed. It is important to note, in our relativistic age, that the Declaration speaks of them as truths — and that they are. It is true that all men are created equal: The Book of Genesis reveals how “God created Man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them,” thus exalting the worth of every individual. It is true that we are endowed by our Creator, and not by any manmade system, with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to the natural law tradition, are grounded not in our own hands, but in Divine will. It is true that our government was instituted for the limited purpose of safeguarding our natural rights, including property rights and freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press. It is true that our democratic state draws its authority from popular consent, thus making possible government of, by, and for the people.

On July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers set in train a series of events whose outcome, it is always essential to recall, was not preordained. Enormous effort and endless sacrifice eventually secured victory. Today these same qualities are required of every American in the face of a sinister enemy who kills without mercy. The Revolutionary War was fought for independence. The War on Islamic Terror is waged to defend our liberty, and all that is decent in democratic life.

We are not alone. The Declaration of Independence stands as an eloquent expression of American political thought. It is also part of a larger Anglo-American tradition of consensual rule, with its origins in the moderate wing of the Enlightenment, the writings not only of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, but of John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith. The latter three of these philosophers were British. With the recent bombing attempts in London, we are reminded that our ancient adversary is now our closest of allies. Meanwhile, the principles of democratic self-government and natural rights enjoy a growing appeal among freedom-loving people throughout the world. Now it is Americans who must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the British — and with the victims of Islamic terrorism everywhere, with Iraqis and Israelis, Afghanis and Spaniards, Jordanians and Australians, the French and the Algerians, Indonesians and Filipinos. That is the destiny of America today, 231 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we fight. And that is why we will win.

Owen West, Tony Licari from Baghdad and more are here.

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