Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A salute to Washington, the essential man

George Washington, in his person and actions, bound the nation together.

washington_1772
washington_1772

The older I get, the more I like Sidney Bechet’s music. And also the character of old George Washington. Sure, he was low-key. But that was a virtue, not a vice.

Reading about the Revolution over the summer, I began to wonder if we would have won the Revolution without him. Kevin Phillips points out in The Cousins’ Wars that there is a straight line connecting the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. Each was essentially a civil war, and each had at its core a clash between types of Cavaliers and types of Puritans.

The difference in the American Revolution was that Washington, of Virginia Cavalier background, rode into Puritan New England in July 1775 and took command of the citizens’ army in Massachusetts and made it a national force. Thus Washington in his person and actions bound the nation together.

The older I get, the more I like Sidney Bechet’s music. And also the character of old George Washington. Sure, he was low-key. But that was a virtue, not a vice.

Reading about the Revolution over the summer, I began to wonder if we would have won the Revolution without him. Kevin Phillips points out in The Cousins’ Wars that there is a straight line connecting the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. Each was essentially a civil war, and each had at its core a clash between types of Cavaliers and types of Puritans.

The difference in the American Revolution was that Washington, of Virginia Cavalier background, rode into Puritan New England in July 1775 and took command of the citizens’ army in Massachusetts and made it a national force. Thus Washington in his person and actions bound the nation together.

Image credit: Charles Willson Peale/Washington and Lee Universty

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.