Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe.
They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the Enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish.
They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the Enemy. And that, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the Enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn’t done enough for — yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part — something that we could correct. And this means that that our first task is that we must try to grasp what the concept of the Enemy really means.
The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours.
This forgetfulness of which Harris speaks has entirely infected and enervated the Democrat Party and much of the Republican Party. Where one could once reasonably assert, as a rallying cry to get out the vote on election day, that there are significant differences between the parties, those differences, in meaningful ways, are becoming ever more difficult to discern, the criteria by which difference may be analyzed ever fewer.
It is this forgetfulness that has become a convenient political tool. If, for example, we have no domestic or foreign enemies—the criminal, and as Mark Twain put it, the Congressional classes—there is obviously no need for antiquated notions like the Second Amendment. No doubt those sufficiently delusional to be without an enemy in the world would likewise find the First and Fourth Amendments cumbersome and oppressive of non-enemies: those with whom we merely have disagreements or misunderstandings.
Forgetfulness is also helpful in ignoring the lessons of history, lessons that might help us avoid repeating its most sordid chapters. Did we have enemies during the Revolutionary War? The Civil War? WWI and WWII? Were the North Korean and Chinese Communists our enemies? The Vietnamese Communists? Why did we fight—and win, very much to the dismay and the continual resistance of the Left–the Cold War if we did not truly have enemies? Were all those nuclear warheads aimed at us merely the manifestations of misunderstandings and our own past transgressions against foreign innocents? If so, how do we explain the Russian, Chinese (and doubtless other) nuclear warheads still aimed at us, Iran’s mass murder of Americans and our allies by conventional means, and its burning lust for nuclear weapons?
Harris noted: “The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you.” The most modern corollary is: “The Enemy is someone willing to kill virtually all of his own in order to kill you.”
The Iranian leadership has frequently observed that a single nuclear weapon would all but destroy Israel, but Israel’s counterstrike—Iran believes, correctly for the moment, that Barack Obama’s America would never use nuclear weapons no matter the provocation or alliance obligation—would only cause damage in the Islamic world. Iran—and all other Islamist leaders and followers, would gladly accept hundreds of millions of deaths of their own for the opportunity to kill a few million Jews and a few million Americans. Milliseconds from death, they would delight in spitting in the eye of their enemy.
As Harris correctly notes, it doesn’t matter that I don’t consider someone an enemy. It only matters that he considers me an enemy. That understanding–and my confusion–gives him every advantage, for he can and will choose his time and place and methods, and because I refuse to so much as acknowledge the threat he represents, I can do little but die.
In Garland, TX two Islamists would have gladly been martyred if they could have only killed some of their American enemies. They were stopped by the marksmanship of a single police officer that was in the right place at the right time, but no matter. There are plenty more where they came from.
General George Patton, a man whose understanding of enemies and war was uncommonly acute, said that one doesn’t win wars by dying for his country. One wins wars by making the other poor bastard die for his. This assumes that while neither poor bastard wants to die, he is willing to do so if necessary for a greater principle, for country, family and a way of life.
We were able to deter the Soviet Union because while they were willing to sacrifice many of their own people to achieve their philosophical and political goals, they were not motivated by religion and there were limits beyond which they would not go. Our Islamist enemies—and they are not monolithic—have no limits, or at least none, once they have nuclear weapons, that would keep them from provoking the most terrible retribution imaginable. How little deterrence do a people, unwilling to so much as admit enemies exist, inspire in the enemies they won’t or can’t identify?
Our current enemies are many and varied. Communism is not, by any means, dead merely because it has embraced some vestiges of capitalism out of the economic necessity of keeping communism from falling entirely on the ash heap of history. The only thing keeping communism at bay has been American resolve and strength, and clear-eyed understanding that Communists always have been and always will be deadly enemies whose ultimate goal is the destruction and/or enslavement of any that oppose them. In Russia’s destructive meddling around the world, in Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and his direct threats to occupy and conquer his neighbors in Eastern Europe, and in his clear intention to destroy NATO, we see the results of forgetfulness and appeasement. In China’s massive military buildup including its construction of island military bases, we see an unwillingness to recognize that just because the dragon isn’t yet gnawing on one’s leg doesn’t mean it represents no threat.
Our current administration has so “forgotten” about the reality of Islam and Iran that we are now pledged by executive agreement, pseudo treaty, pinkie swear, or whatever it is today, to actually defend Iran against any attempt to keep those medieval lunatics from obtaining nuclear weapons, and a significant portion of our Congress thinks that a grand idea. Weren’t the Iranians the guys that took Americans hostage for 444 days, and aren’t they the same people that have killed countless American soldiers in recent years? Aren’t those the folks that plotted to kill—by means of explosives—a foreign ambassador in a Washington DC restaurant and wouldn’t that have caused a bit of collateral damage? Isn’t that the way that enemies—rather than allies—behave?
In Hillary Clinton’s selling of about half of America’s uranium production to Putin in exchange for Clinton Foundation pay for play, we see the realization of the Communist aphorism that the West would sell Russia the rope used to hang it, though doubtless Clinton imagines herself immune from such frivolous worries, just as she imagines herself immune from the law.
It is only the determination, willingness to confront reality, willingness to do what is necessary to deal with reality, and the understanding that liberty is never paid for but must, through vigilance, be purchased over and over again that makes living in advanced western democracies possible. Only in those societies is it possible for people to be forgetful, to take relative peace and safety for granted, to dare to forget that there are, and always will be, peoples, tribes, entire nations that want to kill them. Some of our European and Scandinavian allies are beginning to realize the dangers of complacency and forgetfulness. We have not yet fallen far enough for that realization, though Barack Obama has taken us to the edge of that particular abyss.
One of the most pertinent questions of the age is whether the inability and/or unwillingness of our countrymen, self-imagined elites, politicians and journalists to identify our true enemies, or to so much as admit such a thing exists, renders them our enemies. And if so, what do we do about it?
If—when?–our actual and all-too-real historic enemies decide to take advantage of our “forgetfulness,” we may have compelling reason to make that decision.