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When we hear the word “decadence” most of us think of personal immorality amid fantastic extravagance, of Sodom and Gomorrah. But there’s a greater decadence: when a nation or civilization loses the will to defend itself.

By that standard, much of our governing “elite” is thoroughly decadent, insisting that all values are relative, that every civilization, culture or religion is as valid as any other – or even that others are superior to our own system of government and our heritage faiths. The most-privileged Americans make excuses for monsters that drench a religion in blood.

What could be more decadent than obsessing about the “rights” off anatics who saw off the heads of living victims in front of video cameras? To insist that the use of interrogation methods that inflict no lasting injury is a greater threat to humanity than barbaric extremists who murder thousands in cold blood, who massacre minorities and even their fellow believers, isn’t only decadent, but degenerate.

We face a terrible divide between Americans who still believe that our way of life, for all its imperfections, is worth defending, and the minority at the pinnacle of influence – whose members believe that our country is always wrong. Those who sacrifice nothing mock those who sacrifice everything. And to these incredibly privileged, protected elites, whose children would never dream of “wasting their time” in uniform, the United States of America, the greatest force for freedom in all of history, is a menace, at home and abroad.

Those who now decide matters of war and peace have lost the will to win. With breathtaking speed – in the space of a single lifetime – we have sickened from the robust health of the nation that fought through to victory in World War II, to a wheezing, worried “superpower” that lacks the fortitude to kill fanatical butchers who dream of slaughtering us. We no longer win wars for the simple reason that we’re no longer willing to do what it takes to win.

The phony argument made by the left is that, if we apply our power without restraint – if we destroy our enemies and accept the collateral damage – we risk becoming as bad as them (or worse). That’s nonsense. In WWII, we bombed German cities into rubble and ended the war – saving millions of lives – by dropping two atom bombs. And we didn’t turn into Nazis or the Imperial Japanese. Instead, we lifted the world to the greatest degree of freedom and prosperity it’s ever known.

But those who lead us lost their way. From Korea to Iraq, we’ve shied from doing what it takes to win – and make no mistake, victory is always possible. But we exaggerate faults in ourselves and imagine virtues for enemies. And we pull our punches, sacrificing our own troops in half-measures.

Political correctness has even permeated our military, which has been saddled with legions of lawyers. A commander goes into combat worried about lawsuits. Effete rules of engagement protect our enemies. Soldiers are punished for trivial infractions victorious generations would have laughed off. And a president celebrates the family of a deserter while slighting the wives and children of the fallen.

That, my fellow Americans, is decadence.

Those who never fought for anything greater than a parking space wave pale fingers to warn us that it’s immoral to win, if we don’t do so gently. But strategic immoralities come in various grades. And the greatest immorality of all is for the United States to lose.

The late Samuel Huntington was wrong: We aren’t experiencing a “clash of civilization.” The clash is between our civilization and fanatical barbarism. And history instructs us that, when a civilization loses the will to defend itself, the barbarians win.


Ralph Peters is a longtime member of the “Armchair General” team and the author of the new Civil War novel “Valley of the Shadow.”

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Armchair General.