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What Makes America Strong

There is a reason Donald Trump’s constant refrain “We don’t win anymore” resonates with a sizable minority of voters. People yearn to be empowered, and the American people in particular yearn to see America empowered. In every contest of power and test of mettle in the past eight years, America has prevaricated.

Long gone are the days of President George W. Bush standing upon the rubble at Ground Zero and declaring our intent to fight. Americans are demoralized. They want a leader who will look challenges and crises in the eye, rather than bowing before them. But where does such strength come from? What is it that makes America strong?

The Relationship Between Might and Right

There are two prevalent types of strength in the realm of politics. One contends that might makes right and the other contends that right makes might. The first is the type that one would find in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China. Both nations suppress dissent through brute strength and nibble away at their neighbors’ territory with tanks and warships.

Like all repressive, collectivist regimes—be they fascist or truly socialist—they buy into the utilitarian philosophy of social Darwinism. Only the fittest survive. Power must be achieved at any cost, maintained at any cost, and expanded at any cost. Those who get in the way of that claim to power or try to thwart its expansion are crushed. The less “fit” mysteriously fall from tall buildings or are poisoned (Russia) or simply flattened by a tank (China).

Our strength has always been tied to our moral character.

America has historically bought into the second concept of strength—that right makes might. Contrary to the claims of Marxist historians, the American Revolution was not the product of rich and exploitative merchants. Such a tawdry basis for revolt would never have sustained our founding generation against the most advanced military in the world. Instead, our country committed itself to a declaration of values codified in the Declaration of Independence and written upon the inner constitution of the individual heart. It is the power of ideas that drives both the tank and the person who stands before it, hand upraised.

This moral certitude enabled the “Greatest Generation” to prevail in World War II. The lack of that moral certitude undermined our war in Vietnam, it anchored our resolve in the first Gulf War, and undermined it in the second Gulf War. Our strength has always been tied to our moral character and nothing does more to destroy our resolve than immoral conduct and moral equivocations from our leadership.

Where Cold Pragmatism Fails

How does this inform our conduct today? The social Darwinist will deny the unborn to right to live and grant to the terminally ill the power to kill themselves because the value of their life has been measured and found wanting. The social Darwinist who opposes these values will do so because…

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 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

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