The evocation of war is omnipresent in the US. Turn on Fox News and you find a war veteran recounting his experiences on Hill 805 in Vietnam. At one point he says: "I had the privilege of storming the machine gun". The privilege. Walk into the Stanford University bookstore and you find a special display marked "Salute Our Heroes. 20% Off Select Patriotic Titles". Imagine that in your local Waterstone's.(Australian bookshops, meanwhile, have displays labelled "Salute Our Heroes. 20% Off Select Sports Titles"; but I digress.)
When I wrote in this column a few weeks ago about the conundrum of suicide-bombers, the eminent military historian Michael Howard dropped me a line to remind me that European soldiers had been sent into battle in the first world war with the message that there was no higher honour than to die for your country. Not to live, to fight, to kill for your country - to die for it. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. In this respect, conservative Americans are closer to the mental world of pre-1914 Europeans or ancient Romans than they are to that of most contemporary Europeans.
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