Originally created to honor the achievements of America’s First President George Washington and Sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln, Presidents’ Day in an era filled with threats to the safety, financial security, and freedom of all Peoples around the world reminds us that history was shaped by individuals rising to the challenges of their times. Both Washington and Lincoln were given the opportunity to become great leaders thanks to war, yet it was their service to the “greater good” and the interests of the “common man” that transformed them into legends.
Where President Washington fought to build a new kind of government that existed to serve the People, instead of the People serving the government, i.e. the few, President Lincoln fought to preserve the way of life that blossomed from that original struggle. Although war is waged by those whose who put their desires above the needs of the many, it is fought by those who want a better life and want to preserve a better way of life. In many respects, it is far easier to destroy what exists for the gain of the few than it is to expand and share the gains of society with everyone, which is why leadership must fight for the “greater good,” instead of serving their own interests.
With the Islamic State and other terrorist threats metastasizing throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the fight against Islamic extremism is about preserving regional stability and the current order of nation-states. The recent beheading of 21 Egyptians in Libya by the Islamic State and the ensuing military response by the Egyptian government offers a textbook example of why war is fought. The Islamic State is seeking to impose its authority and way of life onto everyone else through violence while Middle Eastern governments are recognizing the need to fight due to the spreading threat of globalized terrorism to their authority.
It is important to recognize groups like the Islamic State have been able to propagate due to a lack of proper governance as well as massive civil unrest that opened places like Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank to terrorist activity. It is, however, more important to realize that the governments of the Middle East failed, and continue to fail, to serve the interests of the ”common man” in their approach to governance.
Where the governments and the Peoples of the Middle East have a strong common interest in fighting vicious groups like the Islamic State, the war on terrorism is not the only war in the Middle East. There is also the war on tyranny. Much like the Islamic State, many Middle Eastern governments also threaten the Peoples of the Middle East due to their own suppression of basic civil liberties, economic opportunities, and individual safety. Middle Easterners must, therefore, simultaneously fight Washington’s war to create a better way of life for all and Lincoln’s war to preserve their opportunity to create that better way of way life. Governments, in turn, must stop using the war on terrorism to wage a war of tyranny against their own Peoples.
On the other hand, it is also important to recognize the Middle East is not the only place facing a war on tyranny. In the West, economies that exist to serve the needs of people have been inverted, so people now exist to serve the economies. The European Union, for example, was formed during a time of plenty when fiscally irresponsible behavior on behalf of governments and individuals could be ignored. In economically unsustainable countries like Greece, the drive to preserve the governing structure of the Eurozone is a higher priority than ensuring the Greek People have their basic needs addressed. In essence, the European Union, which promised to improve people’s lives, is making them worse.
Although the Greeks have been irresponsible, the rest of Europe encouraged he type of behavior that created the Greek Debt crisis in the first place. Instead of building a stronger national economy, the Greeks were able to enjoy a higher standard of living by simply being part of the Eurozone and living on credit. The same is true in America were growing income disparity and poverty were subsidized for decades with easy credit instead of being addressed through jobs-driven economic redevelopment.
In order to preserve the broader US, European, and global economies, Western governments have focused on solutions that address the unstable fiscal situation instead of solutions that attempt to serve the needs of the “common man.” Just as Middle Eastern nations must not engage in oppressive policies as they conduct their war on terrorism, Western governments must not address economic issues by propagating a war of tyranny. As US Presidents Washington and Lincoln taught the world, serving the many, especially when it includes a multitude of underserved, is a desperate struggle, yet is a necessary one that creates a better, more sustainable way of life for all.
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