Veteran's Day 2008

We celebrate Veteran's Day in the United States on 11 November because that is when the Armistice that ends the First World War was signed.

There are lots of reasons World War II is studied more than World War I--most of them are legitimate and some (more footage, for example) are because the Second World War is easier to study.

I've never been able to shake the idea, however, that one very big reason World War I is not talked about is that it is an utterly pointless war--nothing was won, nothing was decided, millions were killed, and the stage was set for greater carnage and unspeakable horror.

And being utterly pointless, it's a typical war. The Civil War and the Second World War decided great issues and produced substantive victories. That's not the norm for war--most of them are exercises in murderous nihilism, the result of mistakes and tragic errors.

So, we study the "good" wars so that when somebody looks at us the wrong way, the image the populace has of war is that of a great endeavor, of national purpose played out on the world stage. That way, it is easier to convince the people that war is necessary.

And it is, obviously, the men and women of the service that pay the biggest, sometimes the ultimate price for this. The committment it takes to sign up for the military is beyond most of us, and those that can serve deserve our respect, and they deserve our effort in understanding the reasons they are called to combat, not passive acceptance of the call. It's really the least we can do.

Reading for the day:

Richard Powers, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.


Benjamon Britten, War Requiem.

No comments:

Post a Comment