- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2000

"This House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country," thundered the Oxford debating society motion on Feb. 9, 1933. Drafted and seconded by David Graham, librarian to the society, it passed on that date by a vote of 275 to 173. Thus, 67 years ago today, only a month after Adolf Hitler rose to power, did England's "best and brightest" contribute to the "low dishonest decade" of the 1930s. Today "youthful indiscretions" is a euphemism for sex, drugs and rock n' roll. But once such indiscretions were much worse. Once they caused tyrants to grow bold and free men, fearful.

Back then, Britain bestrode the world. Her empire and commonwealth governed one-fourth of the world's population and territory. Any assault on the governments of free men had to reckon with Britain's response. Graham, in a defensive, somewhat Clintonian statement asserted that "there has never been a shred of evidence that Hitler was encouraged by the 'King and Country' motion, or even that he knew about it." He placed the blame for encouraging the dictator on the British establishment's unwillingness to face Hitler.

This avoids the issue of responsibility nicely, but if World War I was won on the playing fields of Eton, World War II was nearly lost by the debating society of Oxford. When the leaders of a whole generation, educated, knowledgeable, and privileged, rejects the demands of country or honor, and indeed any responsibility for defending the patrimony of 1,000 years, it is not strange to find elites avoiding the steps needed to defend those liberties.

That was long ago and far away. Today the United States bestrides the world. She guards the sea lanes and rules the air. Her economy inspires envy in all who look upon it. And her leadership?

America today is controlled by men who in their youth resolved not to fight for king and country. In the 1960s the elite colleges and universities of America produced William Jefferson Clinton, and men like him. They denounced America's war against communists in Southeast Asia. Mr. Clinton has never expressed a change of heart on his protests against America while avoiding the draft in Britain. He has never reconciled that opposition with his sending young men to do battle in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Haiti and Somalia for reasons less clear than those of Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam. Moreover, he has identified the greatest totalitarian power remaining on the planet as America's "strategic partner."

The "best and brightest" of the American baby boom generation has failed utterly to recognize the folly of its youth and join the cause of freedom. Many men Bill Clinton's age served their country well during the Vietnam war, and others aided mightily in the struggle against Soviet power in the 20 years thereafter, but sadly, they have not come to define the 1960s generation.

The most powerful and hostile adversary of the United States today is Communist China. Thirty years after chanting "Ho Chi Minh is going to win!" the aging Yale and Harvard liberals appease the Middle Kingdom. Even threats by Chinese generals that Los Angeles will be destroyed in nuclear fire fail to rouse them. Circumstances change but the leaders of the 1960s generation remain the same.

The contrast with the actions taken by Graham's generation could not be greater. Graham and his colleagues learned something from the events of their times. Fluent in German, Graham joined the BBC and broadcast against the Axis in Germany, and occupied France. When that war ended and the cold one began he directed the BBC's Russian language and Eastern European section. Though he never fought, Graham used his education and talents to undermine two totalitarian regimes with news and information.

His friends and contemporaries went on to fight the Axis powers. Later, they served in Korea and Malayasia against communist invasions and insurgencies. They founded NATO and stood firm against totalitarianism for 50 years. King and country had reason to be proud of those accomplishments.

John McCain's powerful victory in New Hampshire is in no small part attributable to his contribution to similar national accomplishments. The plain speaking of a man not afraid to fight for freedom, even when the educated elites were abandoning the cause, captivates a new generation of Americans. But Mr. McCain is 63. He was born in depression and raised during wartime. He is not of the vaunted 1960s generation. Albert Gore, George W. Bush and Bill Bradley are. Each of those men served honorably in his country's uniform. But larger sacrifice and steadfast adherence to principle are not part of their stories.

The political icon of our time remains Bill Clinton, draft avoider, and exponent of appeasement of totalitarianism in China, North Korea, and now, Cuba. Thirty years from now obituaries like those of David Graham will appear for Mr. Clinton and men like him. Will they reflect a change of heart and brave deeds done for the nation and cause that in their youth they scorned? On best evidence until now they will reflect a far sadder story; that of men who carried fecklessness and faithlessness with them throughout their lives, even to the grave.

John Julian Vecchione is an attorney with Ross & Hardies.

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