"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Nobody wants war. The only thing certain about war is that people die. But some things are worth fighting for and war can be an appropriate response. We who live in prosperous democracies like the U.S. often forget that we have a lot to defend and there are those who would dispossess us of both our prosperity and our freedom.

Although it is fashionable to say otherwise, we have made great strides in the avoidance of war and the preservation of peace. Various international norms and organizations are in place to prevent the escalation of conflicts and they often work. We are aware of war because we hear about every one in the world, but the incidence (per human) is much lower than at any other time in history and the area of the world living in relative peace is growing.

Until the post World War II generations, it was unlikely that anyone could live his/her whole life without being directly and personally affected by organized violence if not outright war. I don't mean something like having a war in a far away place. I mean having hostile soldiers pass through your homeland or someone very close to you killed in a conflict.

The question is not why some parts of the world are still subject to war. The real question is how did it happen that such large areas of the world are essentially free of such conflict. It is probable that a twenty-five year old living in most of Europe, Japan, Australia, Latin and North America has no personal memory of organized violence and has never seen war except on television. This is an extraordinary achievement.

One reason we have been able to avoid the conflagrations endemic in the past is that we have been vigilant in the defense of the peace. Ironically this has meant being ready to fight. If a society becomes unwilling to defend itself, it falls victim to the most bloodthirsty tyrant who will step up to fill the void.

In a very real sense, peace is based on the ability and willingness to go to war. Pacifism is a valid strategy only among those who are unconcerned with their lives and liberty or those who know that others will defend them. Thank God for our defenders.

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BTW - I got the initial quote from George Orwell via Garrison Keillor, no less. Keillor is a "notorious" liberal and I was sitting in an audience where I may have been the only one who voted for GW Bush. But everyone was respectful of Memorial Day and our soldier and everyone immediately stood for the National Anthem. We still are one country.

Posted by Jack at May 28, 2005 11:53 PM