Max Boot has a definitive article in this week’s Weekly Standard regarding the progress being made by American forces in their “hold and build” strategy in southern Afghanistan, and collective yawn back home in a tired nation that cares little regarding the details, only the end game. The hard work and sacrifice of the nation’s finest in the dusty cauldron of a far away land holds almost no interest for the country that once bought the Democrat Party’s argument that Afghanistan was the key to control of islamoterrorist problem and that Iraq was the side show. Well, come the end of the year, Iraq will truly be a sideshow as all American troops will leave, and Afghanistan, despite the apparent mission put forth by their Commander in Chief for the nation’s troops to surge and hold territory, the withdrawal following the surge has already been scheduled. Winston Churchill must be turning over in his grave. There will be no ” we will fight them on the beach, we will fight them in the hills” this time.
What has happened to the concept of will? The disintegration of this one time bedrock characteristic of western civilization is showing itself across a slew of crises and societal challenges. The southern tier of Europe is crumbling like a stack of dominoes under the lack of will to restore reasonable relationships between the governed and those that govern them. First Greece, then Italy, Spain, and Portugal are collapsing under the weight of mandates to their citizens, unable to put forth the argument that with self responsibility comes personal freedom, and the ultimate security of a good life. The governments of these forlorn countries frame the argument as enforcing austerity, rather than restoring rational expectations. The abandonment of will is pervading the United States, not only in its schizophrenic involvement in Afghanistan, but also on the issue of its own domestic securities. The state of Ohio determined to stop the steady slide into eternal state budget deficits, stagnent job growth and strangulating business climate by electing a Republican government in 2010. The elected officials instituted a capacity for fiscal sanity, and promptly were rejected by the very population that electing them to fix things, with yesterday’s defeat of the recently instituted mechanisms for such fiscal sanity. The desire to want things better was not reinforced by the will to make things better. The collapse of will shows itself in the west’s acquiescence of state sponsored demonization of Israel, and the timid response to Iran’s increasingly belligerent and apocalyptic attitude regarding its relationship with Israel and the greater world.
Historian and professor Niall Ferguson delineates a set of characteristics that have defined the West’s unique position in the world over the past 500 years and are components of will. He notes them as Competition, Science Revolution, Rule of Law and Government, Medical Advance, Consumer Society, and Work Ethic. All are in essence the will of an individual to take command of his existence and desire the ability to prosper, create, function under rational rules of behavior, maintain health, repeat the benefits of his endeavors, and accept his role in controlling the outcome. Ferguson as historian reminds us that typical for dominant empires in history the end comes suddenly rather than gradually, and that the pattern is that “you are fine, until you are not fine, and when you are not fine, you are in a death spiral.” The legitamacy of a society is a fragile flower and is more easily destroyed from within then by any external threat.
The process of collective will is not a cheerleading slogan, but rather an collection of individual desires to be better, and individually live well. Will we find our will to stop the dithering and accept responsibility, roll up our sleeves, and fashion a new standard of human freedom and life quality? Time will tell, but the game is nearly up, and the fourth quarter we find ourselves in, despite all our enormous talents and advantages, finds us playing from behind.