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Armistice Day, 2017

Another Armistice Day and the prospects for peace are bleaker than they have been for years. Not only are militaristic demagogues in the ascendancy just about everywhere, but the cult of the military is increasingly unchallenged, even in countries generally seen as peaceable, like Canada. Then there’s the threat of nuclear war posed by a much more capable North Korea, and the erratic responses of the Trump Administration.

It’s a day on which I feel increasingly alone. It seems obvious to me, 100 years after the bloodiest year of war in Australia’s history and the revolutions the war produced, that war and revolution are almost invariably a pointless waste of life and human potential, usually ending in disaster for all, and that even grave historical and social injustices are better resisted by peaceful means than by resort to force. But every military anniversary reminds me that this is the view of a small and shrinking minority.

One day, perhaps, peace will come. But not today.

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  1. may
    November 11th, 2017 at 13:27 | #1

    see paradice (and tha rest) papers.

    who benefits?

    we can’t stop being human, but it’s about time there was some kind of filter for positions of authority.

    as in
    “spot the psychopath”

    the fine line between being a doormat and becoming as bad.

  2. may
    November 11th, 2017 at 13:40 | #2

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-11/homemade-mobile-chargers-sparks-indigenous-interest-stem/9135326?WT.ac=statenews_wa

    a way through?

    this is not to belittle.

    my grandmothers brother made it back from France.

    he was a returned soldier.

    he died gasping for breath before his thirtyfourth birthday.

    not counted as a casualty .

  3. November 11th, 2017 at 14:26 | #3

    I completely agree with you and support what you are saying. I don’t always agree with you on every issue, but give you unqualified support on this one.

    You are not alone in this position and as you are someone who has something of a public voice, I think it’s great that you keep saying it, so please don’t be discouraged. Say it even more. Remember the old political saying, which I’m sure you’ll have heard, that you have to keep repeating the message until you’re sick of it, until you think you’ll vomit if you have to say it again – and that’s when people will start hearing it. Politicians stay on message for a reason, annoying as it may seem.

  4. Douglas Hynd
    November 11th, 2017 at 15:30 | #4

    Agree with you – Honest History is one on line project that gives a voice to a more critical approach to the militaristic appropriation of history in australia. http://honesthistory.net.au

  5. Smith
    November 11th, 2017 at 16:32 | #5

    The OP is overly pessimistic. While there is talk of war, there are very few actual wars happening today by historical standards.

  6. hc
    November 11th, 2017 at 17:40 | #6

    Many returned soldiers agree with you on the pointlessness of war.

  7. KIEN CHOONG
    November 11th, 2017 at 20:05 | #7

    Thanks for your annual Armistice Day post, calling for an end to wars.

    I hope one day the world can agree to cap defence spending (vs the US inspired NATO floor on defence spending). Instead, assist developing countries train a professional
    police force. I often think that the civilian casualties at Tiananmen could have been avoided had the Chinese government had a more effective police force. I like to think that the violence in Tiananmen would not happen today, simply because the Chinese police today is better at crowd control.

    Similarly, the Rohingya crisis today would not happen if Myanmar had a more professional police force. Again, a lot of sectarian grievances in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria would have been avoided if the police force in those countries were professional and knew how to diffuse ethnic tensions.

    Kien

  8. November 11th, 2017 at 22:42 | #8

    Remarkable Chinese poem by Chen Li, “War Symphony”. You don’t need to know any Chinese to get it, though it does involve a little work.
    *****languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=35274

    Notice the lack of celebrations for the defeat of ISiS as a territorial power? The Syrian army has taken the last town held by ISIS you can find on a map, and they are only hanging on in inconsequential desert villages. But the trail of devastation left by the war against them is staggering, and nobody thinks the poisonous ideology is dead. See Wellington on “a battle won”.

  9. jrkrideau
    November 12th, 2017 at 04:47 | #9

    I really must keep up on the news. I had never heard of the red and white poppy issue. Of course, almost no one in Canada reads the National Post.

    One can easily understand the Canadian Legion’s point of view. Poppy sales are a major funding source for their charitable works.

    And, my guess is that most Canadians would look an a white poppy with a mystified expression and say, “You’re joking?”

  10. Lt. Fred
    November 12th, 2017 at 09:46 | #10

    WW1 is not the bloodiest war in Australian history. The war between settlers and the Indigenous population was. WW1 is the second bloodiest.

  11. November 12th, 2017 at 13:14 | #11

    I’m interested in a feminist perspective on war. I found a report that argued that women’s participation (in politics/diplomacy/peacekeeping) was associated with greater likelihood of peace and linked it after JQ’s post (same as this one) at Crooked Timber. https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/publication/why-women-inclusive-security-and-peaceful-societies/

    However another commenter there said
    “Val, your article fails to even mention the global system of Western dominance and measures violence using the number of conflicts, including small regional ones, while ignoring the number of dead, maimed and displaced. Instead of concluding that the nation that bombed is the cause of violence, it takes the territory that was bombed and attributes the violence suffered to the level of female participation in politics. Your article is sheer Western propaganda.”

    It seems to me there’s two things being confused there – yes, the article does fail to look at the role of Western imperialism and the number of deaths caused by bombing, I think that’s a legitimate criticism. On the other hand I can’t see that it invalidates the findings. It just means I think that you would also need to look at deaths due to western intervention (accepting that that’s hard to quantify) and look at how that relates to gender equity in the country doing the bombing (providing weapons etc).

    I don’t think that would necessarily lead to different conclusions – eg of western countries, the USA rates fairly low on many gender equity measures.

    Can I just ask if anyone responds to this, please don’t try to use Hilary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher etc as proving points. This discussion isn’t about individuals, it’s about whether gender equity and peace are related.

  12. November 12th, 2017 at 13:18 | #12

    Sorry to add another comment after another long one, but my nascent theory is that the ability to conduct war and more particularly to ‘use’ war as an instrument of international relations, at some level relies on the idea that there is some group of people who don’t get involved. Sorry that’s a bit cryptic but I don’t want to go on too long.

  13. Ross Martin
    November 12th, 2017 at 16:23 | #13

    I’ve just watched the Ken Burns Vietnam War doco series. Most disappointing….it’s hardly an endorsement of the war, but doesn’t confront some of the issues you raise. It doesn’t even mention the Australian contribution.
    I’ve also recently been struck by the jingoism attached to the AIF Light Horse and the Beersheba battle. Emu feathers and horses seem to elicit unrestrained Aussie jingoism. This is not to question the skill or courage of the participants, but by any reckoning, WW1 in the Middle East was a disaster. There is also the continuing myth that WW1 was fought for freedom and democracy.
    Here’s another perspective on the many colonial troops who fought.
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/10/how-colonial-violence-came-home-the-ugly-truth-of-the-first-world-war

  14. david
    November 12th, 2017 at 16:24 | #14

    Howard the war criminal lying to go to Iraq illegally with a million Iraqi deaths and possibly injuries to eg. pretty Aussie girls in the London train and bus bombings in 2005.

    Howard, Abbott, Bush, Trump Blair never fought in one of their or any wars.

    ,

  15. Ralph
    November 12th, 2017 at 19:39 | #15

    Indeed the cult of militarism grows. On Friday, the department where I work decided that because we wouldn’t be there on Saturday 11 November that one minute’s silence should be observed that day. We duly had some solemn words and the sound of the bugle at 11. All promoted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The whole performance completely ignored the significance of 11am on 11 November. A sort of fake historical remembrance.

  16. Ratee
    November 13th, 2017 at 18:27 | #16

    War is where humans can show individual bravery and sacrifice in the midst of humanity’s greatest and most pointless failure and waste.

  17. may
    November 13th, 2017 at 18:50 | #17

    Ratee :
    War is where humans can show individual bravery and sacrifice in the midst of humanity’s greatest and most pointless failure and waste.

    because humans don’t show bravery and sacrifice any where else?

  18. Lesley de Voil
    November 13th, 2017 at 20:39 | #18

    Without wishing to distract anyone from considering Val’s post, I note that I saw purple poppies on display at church morning-tea on Sunday, next to the usual red ones. Enquiries elicited the information that they were there “to remember the horses.” Did any come back at all?
    Enquiringly minds want to know, is there a link between the disappearance of so many beasts of transport, and the rate of take-up of motorised vehicles after WWI?

  19. November 14th, 2017 at 12:20 | #19

    @Lesley de Voil
    Thanks for your consideration, but it looks like no one wants to take up the discussion around gender equity, war and peace at present. Maybe some other time.

    Your issue ties the discussion in to some even broader issues: how we treat other species and the environment, as well as how we treat our fellow human beings.

  20. November 14th, 2017 at 12:22 | #20

    I can summarise some of the issues I’m interested in by saying it’s about the ethic of care (as discussed by Fiona Robinson for example).