We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
During the past four years, 170,000 Americans have died in traffic accidents. For young people, traveling in a car is the leading cause of death. Over the same period, 3,500 Americans were killed in Iraq in a war against radical Islam. These statistics haven't been properly contrasted.
Mobility is a must in Western society. It's a prerequisite for affluence and it fosters a sense of freedom. No politician could ban cars or severely limit their use. Transportation is the nation's lifeblood. Its inherent risks are inescapable for an open society.
So Americans manage to deal with the fact that tens of thousands of people will be killed each year on the roadways. But when it comes to the war against Islamic fascism, the nation may soon decide that 3,500 deaths over four years is too much. This for a great nation of 300 million inhabitants.
If that is the case, then the United States will have begun to undermine the moral foundations spelled out in its own Declaration of Independence. If America is unable to carry out a war of its own choosing in defense of liberty because the cost of 3,500 lives is unacceptable, then it will soon be unable to maintain its position and power in the world.
It is essential for American culture that it recognize a serious, organized attack on liberty in the world as a threat to its own existence and to the global development of durable peace and prosperity. This is the essence and destiny of the United States, and in this it differs gloriously from every other nation in human history. If America now denies its very nature and refuses to make any further sacrifices, it will be signaling the imminent demise of Western civilization.
These are sharp words, but they present themselves unavoidably in the struggle against the misanthropic ideology of Islamofascism. Because Islamic terrorists are prepared to sacrifice their lives, they cultivate a philosophy in which they actually desire suicide and they can recruit from a large reservoir of willing young men.
How did we get to this point?
Western civilization's pursuit of affluence, secularization and sexual revolution have all sapped its willingness to make sacrifices. Today's parents often have no more than two children, some may have only one son. His life is so precious that it has come to seem unbearable for him to be killed in battle. In his study "Sons and World Power," German genocide expert Gunnar Heinsohn investigates family size in various societies in relation to the frequency of violent conflict since 1500 A.D. His conclusion is disturbingly simple: The presence of large numbers of young men in nations that have experienced population explosions -- all searching for respect, work, sex and meaning -- tend to turn into violent countries and become involved in wars. He cites, as an example, the Palestinian territories, where many families have as many as four sons.
Most countries in which Islamofascism has taken root have experienced population explosions. Huge numbers of young men are searching in vain for a respectable future. They legitimize their frustration with a radical ideology that channels their dissatisfaction and finds roots in the ancient religious traditions of Islam.
Mr. Heinsohn's explanation shows the extreme pacifism of today's Europe to be more than a response to the horrific experiences of World War II. He sees Europe's low birthrate as the basis for the remarkable period of peace Europe has nurtured since 1945. Europe's sons have become too precious for war.
This same phenomenon is also happening in America. Large families are becoming scarce. As a result, the sacrifice of a second or third son to a violent death, a possibility since the dawn of civilization, is not possible because those sons simply aren't there.
Pacifism is becoming a guiding principle, in part, because of the decreasing size of the average Western family. Mr. Heinsohn predicts that the birthrate in Arab and other Islamic countries will drop in the coming decades and then these nations will in turn settle down.
Until then the West must defend freedom by making the most horrific sacrifice it knows: the death of the only son. While America is prepared to pay with the lives of 42,000 men, women and children each year because it needs to travel for work and pleasure, the sacrifice of 850 lives a year to defend the principle of universal freedom has thrown America into a state of profound introspection. Every victim represents immeasurable grief to his parents. This is only bearable if society as a whole supports them and comforts them in the knowledge of the sacred common values for which their son died. This America has always done in the past, but looks now to give up.
Since the start of the war in Iraq, 170,000 people have died in car accidents in America. Remember to buckle up.
Mr. de Winter is a novelist and magazine columnist in the Netherlands and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.
In 1975, Colin Powell entered the National War College in Washington, DC. Once there, Powell, a veteran of two tours in Vietnam, read Carl von Clausewitz’s On War for the first time. He was bowled over. On War was, Powell recalled in My American Journey, “like a beam of light from the past, still illuminating present-day military quandaries.” What particularly impressed him was Clausewitz’s view that the military itself formed only “one leg in a triad” whose other two elements were the government and the people. All three elements had to be engaged for war to be sustainable. In the Vietnam War, America’s had not been.
Powell may have been right about the Vietnam War, but not about Clausewitz. Like many others before him, Powell misread the final section of On War’s opening chapter—that which describes war as “a strange trinity.” Its three elements are not the people, the army and the government, but hate, chance and reason. Clausewitz went on to associate each of these three elements more particularly with the passions of the people, with the commander and his army, and with the political direction of the government. But in doing so he moved from the “trinity” itself to its application. The people, the army and the government are elements of the state, not elements of war. The distinction is crucial to the relevance of On War today