by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The United States of America is currently so powerful and preeminent that it can effectively stay engaged in two wars it had won and stay in them long enough to lose them through inattention. But humiliations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in no noticeable diminishment of prosperity and health in the country itself. The most powerful nations have occasionally confused their nationalist ambitions for universal ones. This has been true of France, Britain, and Russia. Their escapades and trespasses across the globe inspired what? Nationalist reaction and rebellion. But when France or Russia have been humiliated afterward, their response has been nationalist self-assertion. The United States, perhaps very happily, is insulated from the kind of history — often a miserable history — that seems to make the Irish, Polish, or Hungarian stories seem so coherent and urgent compared with others.
But when America is someday again exposed to greater dangers and risks, our love for what we share in common — the common inheritance of Americans — will come back to us. The parts of our political, cultural, and military legacy that are relevant to some future conflict will feel like “ours” again, and be immediately relevant. We will credit ourselves for industry, improvisation, and a deep desire to be and remain freeborn men and women.
What drove [Gouverneur] Morris and others to feel themselves to be Americans was the Revolutionary War and the ambition to establish an American government for posterity. Someday we, or our children, will wake up on a dread day and find great consolation and strength in the fact that we do indeed belong to one another, and that we are Americans.