Friday, November 11, 2011

The Forgotten Lesson of Veteran's Day

The "War to end all wars" was a prelude for worse to come in the 20th Century. Have we learned the lesson?

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The First World War, the "war to end all wars" had devastated Europe since 1914. To the horrors of poison gas and trench warfare was added the new threat of air warfare and the bombing of civilian populations.

The flawed Versailles treaty, toothless security alliances with allies and the static Maginot Line defense were not sufficient to deter German rearmament under the Nazis. When Hitler ordered the re-occupation of the Rhineland demilitarized zone in 1936 the French Army had the strength, the legal authority but not the will to act. Had they done so, history suggests that Hitler might well have been deposed by his own generals and the world saved from the nightmare that followed.

As Winston Churchill, and later Ronald Reagan understood: peace comes through strength and the united will to act to deter aggression. That lesson has largely kept the peace in Europe since World War II but in more recent times it is apparently being forgotten.

The situation with Iran today is one where a united, resolute will to apply the means necessary to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons might risk a small military conflict. But the failure to apply those limited means may mean a nuclear holocaust at some later date.

Remember today the sacrifice of our veterans who have given their lives to protect our freedom. But do not forget the lessons that their sacrifice calls to mind. Let us preserve peace by remaining strong and united in the face of aggression and threat. The world may not survive another "war to end all wars!"

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