Several recent articles have appeared in the U.S. news media observing that the Iraqi special forces would like the United States military to have a continuing presence (e.g., Tim Arango, “Taking Lead, Iraqis Hope U.S. Special Operations Commandos Stay,” New York Times, July 2, 2011). If nothing else, the articles testify to the quality of our Special Forces and the remarkable results they produce.
What I don't understand, and what the article remained frustratingly vague about, was exactly what the Americans need to contribute after training the Iraqis for 8 years. As in acquiring any skill or learning any subject, at some point the student simply has to go solo. I wonder to what extent the request is in fact a plea for the Americans to stay because the Iraqi special forces recognize that an insufficient number of Iraqis lack a commitment to having a single a nation and that in the absence of Americans centripetal forces (about which I have written before, e.g., sectarian and tribal) will pull Iraq apart.
Similarly, people flock to the United States as the land of opportunity. The Tea Party and others oppose laws and programs that require citizens to support the nation in tangible ways. Is American patriotism, rhetoric and flag-waving aside, ebbing as fewer people are willing to sacrifice self or wealth to preserve the land of the free?
Historically, many Christians have found satisfaction in government service, in or out of the military, because they believed they were contributing, at personal cost, to an important and valuable cause greater than self. The personal cost might entail going into harm’s way; it more frequently entailed accepting a below-market income for hard, often under-appreciated work. (Who has not made fun of a government bureaucrat but who would want to eliminate the panoply of benefits that government programs produce, including highways, coinage, mail delivery, and social security?)