Wednesday, November 01, 2006

T-7 Days and Counting: History Lessons

Once upon a time, there was a newly-independent country. It had some growing pains as it figured out the best way to govern itself. From the time it declared independence from a tyrannical sovereign until its present Constitution was ratified was 12 years. The country? The United States of America.
  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence
  • November 15, 1777 – Articles of Confederation passed by Congress
  • March 1, 1781 – Articles of Confederation in force after ratification by Maryland
  • September 17, 1787 – US Constitution signed and sent to the states for ratification
  • July 2, 1788 – Confederation Congress learns New Hampshire is 9th state to ratify
  • December 15, 1791 – Bill of Rights ratified
  • May 7, 1992 – Amendment XXVII ratified
I stuck in that last item to point out that the process of perfecting our constitutional government has taken more than 200 years. Pacifying Germany and Japan after their surrenders and nurturing their new governments took years. The efforts to develop constitutional governments in Iraq and Afghanistan are only a few years old.

President Bush puts it in perspective:

But I wanted to tell an interesting story. It's a story about a Navy fighter pilot who, at the age of 18, volunteered, and he said, I want to serve my country because the Japanese have just attacked us. You've got relatives who did the same thing. You've got a grandfather or a father, like I got, who said, I want to fight the Japanese. They were the sworn enemy. Thousands of people lost their lives. This country went to war against an enemy which attacked us.

You know, what's interesting, on the way down from Washington to Memphis, Tennessee, right there on Air Force One, Prime Minister Koizumi -- the Prime Minister of the former enemy of the United States of America -- and I discussed the peace. We talked about the fact that this country had a thousand troops in Iraq to defend the young democracy. He knows what I know. We're in an ideological struggle between people who hate and people who have hope. We've been through ideological struggles before. Freedom wins every time if we -- if we don't lose our nerve. (emphasis added - ed.)

And that's the lesson I learned from my friend, Prime Minister Koizumi. It's amazing what has happened between when 18-year-old fighter pilot George H.W. Bush fought this -- fought the enemy, and his son is talking about keeping the peace with the same country. And the lesson is liberty has got the capacity to change enemies into allies. And my citizens, liberty has got the capacity to turn regions of hate to regions of hope. Liberty has got the capacity to yield the peace we want.

Someday, an American President will be sitting down with duly elected leaders talking about the -- duly elected leaders from the Middle East talking about the peace, and a generation of Americans will be better off for it.

For further reading, The National Archives has a nice history of the Constitution.