The Patriot

Last night mom and I watched The Patriot, Mel Gibson’s “Brave Heart of the New World.” We enjoyed it, both as an action flick and as an opportunity to reflect on the revolution that bought us our freedom.

One thing I took home was the huge difference between the United States then and now. Then, the militia was formed of farmers and frontiersmen and fought an adversary that had traveled across an ocean to maintain control over a rebellious colony. Now, our army is comprised of mercenaries (ignore the “volunteer” euphemism) and is sent across an ocean to maintain our “vital interest” in oil production. I know that sounds like a cheap shot, but it’s really not. Yes, the Arab world is characterized by monarchies and dictators and mullahs, and yes, it has become a breeding ground for terrorists. But we have only two interests in it: Israel and oil.

Our country’s philosophy in modern times has consistently been to take the conflicts elsewhere. We fought “surrogate” wars all through the cold war face off so we could confront the Soviets in ways that didn’t spark global conflict. It worked. But I’m not sure the “war on terror” can be handled in quite the same way. Once we took out the training camps and sympathetic government in Afghanistan, I think the prudent course would have been to focus on homeland security and international cooperation. Instead, we went after Saddam with a play that had no second act. However the Iraqi war ends up, and I hope the outcome is positive, I believe our resources might have been better spend elsewhere.

And speaking of our “resources” that’s another big difference between the revolutionary war and Iraq. Our current resources consist of a paid army that includes very few from the “elite” class that rules or wealds power in our country. We do support them with the best technology we can buy, but when lives are lost, the mourners are not Senators or Congressman or captains of industry. They are invariably the “little people” in the heartland who buy the hype and respect our leadership perhaps a little more than they should. The revolutionary war included a cross-section of our populous, who pledged their lives and something else that is lacking in our society: sacred honor.

Today we hear references all the time to those who are “fighting for our freedom.” As much as I respect the military, this is patently not true. Terrorism is no threat to our freedom; it is a threat to our security. On the relationship between liberty and safety, no one said it better than Benjamin Franklin. “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

DadHistories/Observations/Reviews07/04/04 0 comments

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