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What Did You Do?

December 26, 2005

Wretchard links to an LATimes article by Robert Kaplan discussing what may be the defining moment of our generation. I found it incredibly moving and encourage you to read the whole thing.

I remember reading an Atlantic Monthly article a year ago or so reporting the fact that the primary representative of American democracy in Iraq was the typical American soldier, who had no training (and I think it was implied, no aptitude) in "developing democracy". I think the tone of the piece was to the effect that this was surreal and preposterous and doomed to failure. Kaplan now reports:

If you want to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions…

I watched Lt. John Turner of Indianapolis get up on his knees from a carpet while sipping tea with a former neighborhood mukhtar and plead softly: "Sir, I am willing to die for a country that is not my own. So will you resume your position as mukhtar? Brave men must stand forward. Iraq’s wealth is not oil but its civilization. Trust me by the projects I bring, not by my words." Turner, a D student in high school, got straightened out as an enlisted man in the Coast Guard before earning a degree from Purdue and becoming an Army officer. He is one of what Col. Michael Shields, commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Mosul, calls his "young soldier-statesmen."

As this coming year progresses, the question I will be often asking is an old one: "What did you do during the war?" As the fears of the past become the certainties of the present that will become a very interesting question indeed. Because the certanties of the present circa September 10, 2001 – projected in to the future as fact – have not come to pass as anyone had thought.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 27, 2005 1:24 pm

    Good Day Count,

    I am constantly amazed, amused, and inspired, at all of the times a reporter from the Mainstream Media has interviewed an American soldier in Iraq trying to make the American mission there look bad or hopeless, but the soldier ends up being the most articulate and hopeful person in the whole newscast.

    We do have another great generation being formed by the struggle in Iraq.

    Iraq may also end up as the cradle of a new civilization in the Middle East. It’s still possible to fail there, but I think the likelihood of failure is becoming less and less as time passes.

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