Older and Wiser?

“Older and Wiser?,” contribution to a symposium in the Weekly Standard, 19 September 2005.


AT MY AGE it is difficult to learn, but it’s still possible to relearn. From 9/11, the salient event of the last 10 years, I relearned the distinction between friend and foe. For the United States to be hit in a manner so viciously effective was quite unexpected, and it put me in an extraordinary anger that has not subsided. The attack had its preliminaries now visible from hindsight, but nothing seemed to predict the appalling success for evil that occurred.

A sudden, successful attack by evil men is always a shock. Not only does it interrupt the routine and rhythms of peace (which include of course much partisan infighting), but it also challenges our belief in justice. For justice demands to be enacted and made good. You cannot believe in justice without believing in the viability of justice, and that means justice enforced and justice in peace. It is not only peaceniks who believe in peace. But peace is always a particular peace, the peace of our particular justice, not universal or perpetual peace. The peaceniks reveal this in their bumper stickers that say that if you want peace, first get justice. Their justice, however, tries to overcome the distinction between friend and foe so as to include everybody. When everybody is included, peace will be universal and perpetual because nobody will have a claim that peace as it stands is unjust to him or to his party. This would be peace with a capital P, and it would supersede all the particular peaces resulting from particular claims to justice.

Weekly Standard