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July 4th is a time for reflection and renewal.

The Fourth of July weekend celebrates community, both locally and nationally. Parades featuring uniformed people (Scouts, Firefighters, Police and Military) are a tradition.

Military uniforms remind us of the role of war both in our history and in the present. That, in turn, reminds us of a key aspect of this holiday. We achieved our independence from Great Britain and that nation’s global empire through our Revolutionary War, a particularly long struggle that, like all wars, was horrific and extraordinarily violent.

That highlights what peaceful Fourth of July ceremonies obscure: that our great nation was founded on an idea that was truly revolutionary in the 18th century. The concept that we all have inherent rights, including the right to rebel, turned the status quo of that era on its head.

John Locke (1632-1704) was a shy, mild-mannered, and extraordinarily productive English scholar and physician who literally changed the course of history. His Two Treatises of Government developed the case for individual natural rights, including the right to rebel against authority.

Locke lived through the extraordinarily bloody English Revolution and Civil War, as well as the political turmoil that accompanied it. For a time he lived in exile. A brilliant recent analysis of his impact on the United States is “America’s Philosopher — John Locke in American Intellectual Life,” by Claire Rydell Arcenas.

While Fourth of July celebrations honor military service, the reintegration of returning war veterans is also important and, indeed, vital to society.

General George S. Patton Jr., a brilliant military leader, was mindful of this recognition. He and General James Doolittle, who led the first air raid on Tokyo, were introduced in a special ceremony at the Los Angeles Coliseum after the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Patton celebrated the achievements of the Third Army in its advance across Europe. In paying tribute to his troops, he singled out in particular the 40,000 people who lost their lives in that final year of the war in Europe. Patton made similar statements regularly in the months leading up to his own death.

Confirmation is particularly important for warriors representing modern democracies. The emphasis on equality and efforts to maintain the peaceful rule of law contrast sharply with military combat.

During World War II, Allied troops were warmly welcomed by the peoples liberated from Axis occupation. It is understandable that our media placed particular emphasis on this dimension.

The Vietnam War was distinctly different. During that long and divisive conflict, the military was strictly forbidden to discuss the issue with civilians. Opposition to the war turned into hostility toward our own armed forces.

President Richard Nixon abolished the draft, diluting anti-Vietnam War sentiment. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq involved much smaller forces. Those serving still face challenges, however. The constant rotation back to theaters of operation has created intense psychological pressures.

Physical dangers have been compounded by enormous emotional strains and families suffer greatly. Too often, our armed forces are sacrificed for domestic political considerations, fostering isolation.

This July 4th weekend is not the best time to specifically discuss foreign policy, but it is particularly appropriate to celebrate and honor veterans.

We should also encourage veterans to run for office. We won the Cold War in part because members of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” who served in the military also served in government. Every U.S. president from Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush was a veteran.

Above all, government needs the kind of level-headed realism that these men and women often bring to policymaking. They help make Locke’s “civil society” a reality.

Arthur I. Cyr is the author of “After the Cold War: American Foreign Policy, Europe, and Asia.” Contact [email protected].