So what's to be thankful for this year? A few, things at least.
1. A kind of peace. Not peace itself, of course. That awaits the end of fighting all over the world, not just in bleeding, bomb-torn Iraq but also in the smaller places about which the media inform you only intermittently -- Darfur, Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon and the like. Peace on Earth -- the ideal -- appears always to await circumstances humans seem incapable of affecting.
Still, from the American perspective -- the one that rightly matters most to Americans -- the closing weeks of the year show notable progress in Iraq. Not least because, instead of ordering full-fledged flight from the battlefield, as demanded by the leadership of the Democratic Party, the administration and the military regrouped and refocused.
The much-maligned -- by Democrats -- "surge," without bringing peace, which it wasn't designed to do anyway, is cleansing various villages, rural areas and urban districts of the Islamic terrorist pestilence that seems hardly to concern some Westerners.
The number of suicide bombings has declined precipitously since midyear, even as the number of American casualties has, as predicted by the military, risen. Meanwhile, the protective measures in force since 9/11 must be doing some good. No more attacks of any kind have occurred here.
2. Courage. Read -- I hate to say this -- the death notices of American troops in Iraq, two or three or four of them on some days. Your newspaper publishes these notices regularly. Note the ages of the dead: 20, 21, 22. Does anyone not think it's awful to lose such soldiers?
The point really is larger. It is that these men and women enlisted not before but long after the carnage in Iraq came to dominate news coverage. These soldiers knew they weren't walking into a rock concert. They walked in anyway. Why? One primary reason has to be the persistence, in extraordinary degree, of courage and fortitude in our midst, and of the sense that there exist realities as well as ideals worthy of sacrifice.
Nor is the courage of which I speak the exclusive property of frontline troops. The families of the troops who stick their necks out in battle are warriors of a different sort and mettle. Theirs is not to reason why a parent or spouse hazards everything on behalf of people who wouldn't know Brad Pitt from Tony Romo, yet whose interests the U.S. government has judged parallel to our own. Off our troops go to fight, and back to their homes go the families -- to wait and to pray. Who said there's no courage without a rifle to point at someone?