Consider for a moment the various reasons that armies have been deployed in the course of human history.
To conquer. To pillage. To destroy. To expand empires. To extract riches. To enslave peoples. To exact revenge. To convince one side that the other side's god is more loving.
It's not a pretty picture, the long history of human warfare.
Yet, look at it in the context of the American experience.
We have fought for our own freedom. For the freedom of Europe - on multiple occasions. For the freedom of people in Southeast Asia. For the free exchange of goods. For the freedom of waterways. To liberate Kuwait. To defeat communism.
And now, why do we fight?
We fight not to conquer Iraq, or to take its land or even its oil, as die-hard cynics seem to hope. We fight, once again, for freedom - freedom from fear at home, freedom from terrorism around the world, freedom to live and work and love unburdened by the gathering black cloud of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
We fight because these threats are both aggregating and growing. Because humanity is at a turning point yet again - the point at which we choose either the non-confrontational path toward appeasement of tyranny and terror - a silent, subtle sort of slavery - or the short-term blood and pain and sacrifice that leads to true freedom and real peace.
As a side-benefit, we offer the Iraqi people the same sort of freedom we are called upon to defend. There are troubling signs they aren't ready for freedom, or don't understand or believe it is imminent - or that Saddam's oppressive thumb simply prevents them from reaching out for it still. We hope that will change over time. We will give our soldiers' lives toward that end.
Meanwhile, a weak-willed world watches on confusedly, oblivious to the threats posed by terrorist regimes - or just maddeningly unwilling to confront them.
This is why we fight. Because we must. Because freedom, safety, security and lasting world peace depend on it. Because most others won't fight, not even for these urgent, critical, noble objectives.
America's enemies - both abroad and right here at home - are blind to it. But America is changing the nature of war. We fight not to conquer or exploit. We fight to remain free, and to spread that freedom if at all possible. We fight to protect civilians under our enemy's control, and to get them food and water and the basic human rights and dignity denied them by their own rulers.
These things go infinitely beyond the realm of illusive nuances, and yet so many can't see them.
Well, we can see them. They're crystal clear.
They're why we fight.