More proof that David Brooks is giving George Will a run for his conservative editorial money. In
"Boots on the Ground, Hearts on Their Sleeves", Brooks observes that American soldiers are fulfilling a dual charge that reflects the civil-military order that gave rise to the early American republic. In short, soldiers are answering the call to civility in the most demanding of situations. A few excerpts:
Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?
At spontaneous moments, when order threatens to break down, the soldiers, aviators and marines jump in and coach the Iraqis on the customs and habits of democracy. They try to weave that fabric of civic trust that can’t be written into law, but without which freedom becomes anarchy.
When you read their writings you see what thorough democrats they are. They are appalled at the thought of dominating Iraq. They want to see the Iraqis independent and governing themselves. If some president did want to create an empire, he couldn’t do it with these people. Their faith in freedom governs their actions.
Because our heritage includes a commitment to and practice of a "just war" theory steeped in the thought of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, perhaps another way of explaining the modern American soldier is to say that regardless of his religious beliefs, he at least acts like a Christian when he goes to war. To be sure, there is also a pacifist tradition that flows from Christian thought about public life and duty. That said, one cannot take too lightly or appreciate too greatly what I consider the heavier task that American soldiers carry out in today’s Iraq. In the words of the prophet Micah (6:8), "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." May God continue to bless our efforts over there.