Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anglo-American-Westernism and Courage

Two years ago I read the first volume of Rick Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy," An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. I just started his second volume, The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. In his Prologue he discusses the events leading up to the agreement between Britain and America, committing them, ultimately, to a cross-channel invasion of France -- "Overlord."

In May 1943 the British and Americans seemed at loggerheads about what to do next. The Americans wanted to take the war to Germany immediately; which is what Stalin had been begging for. The British, on the other hand wanted to first attack the "soft underbelly," Italy. What difference would it make to Stalin whether the invasion began in Italy instead of in France -- as long as it forced Germany to pull some of its divisions out of Russia?

The Americans got what they wanted: a commitment to a cross-channel invasion in 54 months. The British got what they wanted, an immediate attack against the "soft underbelly" in Italy.

"Perhaps the greatest achievement of the men meeting at Trident was not sketching of big arrows on a map but rather the affirmation of their humanity. This was their true common language: the shared values of decency and dignity, of tolerance and respect. Despite the petty bickering and intellectual fencing, a fraternity bound them on the basis of who they were, what they believed, and why they fought. It could be glimpsed, like one of Brooke's beautiful birds, in Churchill's gentle draping of a blanket on Roosevelt's shoulders; and in their grim determination to wage war without liking it."

"During a British embassy luncheon on May 22, Churchill, fortified with whiskey, declared that he expected 'England and the United States to run the world. . . . Why be apologetic about Anglo-Saxon superiority?' The bemused vice president, Henry A. Wallace, accused the prime minister of advocating 'Anglo-Saxondom uber Alles,' Churchill waved away the charge. 'We Anglo-Saxons . . . are the only ones who really know how to run the show.'"

COMMENT: Previously, I read about the Battle of Delium in Hanson's Ripples of Battle. Socrates fought as a hoplite in that battle, which the Athenians lost. He distinguished himself by not fleeing in panic as most of the Athenians did. Instead he conducted a fighting-retreat while protecting Alcibiades and Laches. Plato, in his dialogue Laches has Socrates discuss the meaning of "courage." But since "courage" is a virtue, Socrates thought that this "virtue" should be defined first. Since no one seemed up to the task, Socrates declared that he couldn't define it either. I liked Socrates a lot better when I was an undergraduate. Now he annoys me. Everyone at the dialogue agreed that Socrates was courageous at Delium, but when Socrates moved the discussion over into the definition of terms, everyone admits that they can't define "courage." And yet they have, I want to tell them: See Socrates! He was courageous at "Delium." If they used history rather than philosophy, they would have a good working definition of courage. This is how traditions are built. This is how our Anglo-American tradition was built. This is why Atkinson can write and be understood by all except the most obdurate Leftists and Philosophers. We have shared values of "decency and dignity, of tolerance and respect" and we know what those abstract words mean because we have fleshed them out during the hundreds of years of our history.

Leftism and some schools of philosophy see little of value in our history. A word must be turned into a principle applicable to all people everywhere to have any value. Nonsense! We can't answer for all people everywhere, but we can have an idea of who we are and how we arrived at what we hold dear. "Courage" can't be defined or explained unless one can do it philosophically; some schools of philosophy would have us believe. Nonsense! We do not learn as the philosophers pretend. We learn by example. Look at what Socrates did at Delium: that is courage. That is how we learn. We as a species knew about courage before we had a word for it. "Courage" is a word describing something we know, not something that needs to be defined before we can know it.

It is possible to read of the events at the Trident conference in May of 1943 and conclude that the British and Americans didn't get along, but the disagreements they had about how to conduct the war didn't destroy the affection and respect they had for one another. Brothers with similar histories can disagree in ways that those with dissimilar histories cannot. This is another mistake that Leftists make -- to assume that all humanity shares the same values. It does not. Germany and Japan did not share Anglo-American values during World War II. The USSR didn't share them during the Cold War, and Radical Islam doesn't share them today. Leftists in Britain and America, and the Leftist leaders in Europe operate as though they don't know that. They keep trying to make their theory about a commonly-shared humanity -- meaning a humanity that shares Western virtues as valid for Islam. That hasn't worked, and it won't work. Leftists and some schools of philosophy can produce arguments about why it ought to work, but history and our relative traditions will demonstrate to the commonsensical amongst us that it won't.

Leftists love to pick out evils in our Anglo-American history in order to deflate it, but our history is one of trial and error. We learn from our mistakes. Sure, we once committed the sins the Left likes to describe, but do we still commit those sins? One must almost move into theology to deal with certain of these Leftist accusations. There were, and still are Christian schools of belief that argue that "an unforgiveable sin" can be committed. Traditional Christianity, however, teaches that if one repents and turns from that sin, whatever it is, it will be forgiven. Only a sin that is persisted in will be held against a person.

Willful ignorance is a sin the Left persists in. They should get some of their French philosophers to help them with their error (if such were possible). The facts are available. They can be understood if faced directly. Perhaps Socrates modesty prevented him from defining "courage" to his friends, but what excuse can the Left produce to excuse their sin?

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