May The Best Men Win

According to Jewish tradition, the date for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new Year, is the exact anniversary of the creation of the first sentient humans, Adam and Eve. The theory is that each year the human experiment comes up for review. A massive cosmic trial is convened in the spiritual realms, and all the material elements of fate are set into place for the next year: “Who shall live and who shall die, who shall become poor and who shall become rich, who shall be disgraced and who shall be promoted?”

With that holiday being observed on Thursday and Friday of this past week, it offers a somber yet auspicious moment for pondering self-improvement. In a sense, each person must write a brief arguing in favor of his being granted a healthy, prosperous year which he promises to invest into meaningful accomplishments. In that light, it occurred to me to offer a case on behalf of the United States, why we should be vouchsafed spectacular success in the year to come.

There are many forces for evil in the world. There are people who practice terrorism, relishing in the sight of innocent blood spilled. There are purveyors of propaganda and mis-education, in an effort to lure callow youth toward their nefarious ways. There are oppressive systems of government, squeezing the vital energy of their own citizens for the power and comfort of the few. There are corrupt entities, governmental and otherwise, trying to milk the world’s compassion to put money in their own coffers. One thing all of these powers have in common — every tinpot dictator, every sleazy schemer, every gleeful bomber — is the certain knowledge that the United States is their nemesis.

They may snicker at us for our lack of polish, they may sneer at us for our earnest embrace of virtue, they may rant about our cowboy adventurism and they may rail at us for our flashes of hypocrisy (we do have those), but the undertone to all the whining is their recognition that we do not tolerate bad guys for very long. If you are cooking up nuclear porridge or boiling a terrorist stew, we tend to take that as a personal invitation to stop by and eat your lunch.

The world needs such an activist, and the world needs such a symbol. They complain we bully them, and perhaps sometimes we do, but how many playgrounds have a bully who operates out of altruism? Or even out of a desire to keep order? We never ever undertake a war to conquer territory. We never ever undertake a war to impose taxes or to improve our economy. We never ever undertake a war to project our power just so we can cow mankind into generalized “shock and awe”. We fight only when we believe that to do so will provide a real benefit to all of humankind.

Do we always get it perfectly right? Do we always present ourselves with our best foot forward? Do we always explain ourselves with absolute clarity? Nah. Nobody’s perfect. It is especially difficult to maintain the peak of politeness while breaking heads. But efforts to paint us as the greedy ones bowling innocents over for dollars or the power-hungry ones knocking over dominoes for domination are patently distorted. Most reasonable people, whose souls have not been mortgaged to some perverse ideology, see that without a doubt.

How are you so sure you have God on your side? This secularist question is leveled mostly at us, rather than at our attackers. Our response is that no one can ever be quite sure of something like that. What we can set for ourselves as a standard is the rejection of using force to pursue narrow self-interest, saving it for those occasions when we are called to take up arms in the cause of liberty. No critic of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars can deny that the Taliban are no longer the owners of a private country-qua-training-camp nor claim that Saddam is secretly running Iraq. We have taken out some real creeps by all accounts.

The global equipoise seems at this precise instant to be a tad off kilter. The bad guys have won some skirmishes this past year. Next year we pray that the forces of good emerge shiningly triumphant. Yes, that means us.