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Thursday, June 06, 2019

George Will Reviews Rick Atkinson’s "The British Are Coming"

As we honor the brave men who stormed the beaches in Normandy, or fought at Midway, or flew the planes on daylight missions over Europe or fought the war at sea in the Pacific, or faced the U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, or held the line in the Cold War, or won the battles in Korea and Vietnam and in the deserts of the Middle East, it is good to recall the lessons our founding.

George Will does so in his review of the next book on my reading list, Rick Atkinson’s "The British Are Coming" in his National Review piece, "A Nation Not Made by Flimsy People"

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One lesson of The British Are Coming is the history-shaping power of individuals exercising their agency together: the volition of those who shouldered muskets in opposition to an empire. Another lesson is that the democratic, sentimental idea that cobblers and seamstresses are as much history-makers as generals and politicians is false. A few individuals matter much more than most. Atkinson is clear: No George Washington, no United States.

Washington, writes Atkinson, learned that “only battle could reveal those with the necessary dark heart for killing, years of killing; that only those with the requisite stamina, aptitude, and luck would be able to see it through, and finally — the hardest of war’s hard truths — that for a new nation to live, young men must die, often alone, usually in pain, and sometimes to no obvious purpose.” The more that Americans are reminded by Atkinson and other supreme practitioners of the historians’ craft that their nation was not made by flimsy people, the less likely it is to be flimsy.
We too often forget that there are sturdy men and women still working against "war's hard truths" today and writing history in their own time. We are still a new nation, constantly reinventing itself, constantly fighting against tyranny in all its forms.

That so many would give up the fight, either not knowing or caring that surrendering to evil does not bring peace, but only greater horrors, is a sign that "flimsy people" (perhaps "men without chests") are always present. As set out here, C.S. Lewis wrote about those who lack core beliefs except in their own correctness:
In his book, The Abolition of Man, Lewis was prophetic in pointing out that relativism—the idea that there are no absolute truths—would lead to the decay of morality and a lack of virtue within society. Without a belief in and the teaching of universal moral laws, we fail to educate the heart and are left with intelligent men who behave like animals or as Lewis puts it, “Men without Chests.”
So when we see a free Europe, a free South Korea, a peaceful Japan, a free Singapore, or even a China that is soon to choose a path that may bring true peace or something else, it ought to remind us that our ancestors - our fathers and grandfathers did what they did not to create an empire ruled from our shores, but to create a world in which peoples of all countries can seek the blessings of freedom for themselves if they so choose.

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