In this of all weeks, I think it is worth spending some time giving thanks for the good things Britain and America have done for the world and each other. Mark Steyn used his Orange County Register column this week to remind us just what America has done for the world:
Americans should be thankful they have one of the last functioning nation-states. Europeans, because they've been so inept at exercising it, no longer believe in national sovereignty, whereas it would never occur to Americans not to. This profoundly different attitude to the nation-state underpins, in turn, Euro-American attitudes to transnational institutions such as the United Nations.
But on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens – a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan – the United States can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.
Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in – shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy – most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base.
If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.
Mark is, as so often, right. America protects and helps, but does not rule, to its own cost, a cost that is generally paid without much complaint. This is a truth that needs to be acknowledged this week wherever people are taking time out of their days to give thanks.
Meanwhile, Americans should always acknowledge - as so many of them do - that their constitutional settlement is itself an inheritance of an English tradition that was solidified only after the spilling of much blood. The value our two cultures place on liberty is rare enough in the history of the world; that we have spread the benefits of liberty is all the more consequential for that fact. The continued strength of the transatlantic alliance is the current manifestation of that shared inheritance, and is something we should give thanks for.
As an aside, British conservatives often deplore the import of American holidays and customs, and quite rightly in most cases (Halloween supplanting Guy Fawkes Day has dealt a blow to a traditional method of reminding young people of the importance of Parliament). Yet I cannot help but feel that in the secular society Britain has become a formal recognition of gratitude would be welcome. Individual Britons could do well to spend some time this week thanking and receiving thanks from their American cousins.
-- Iain Murray