Today is an emotive day as we rightly remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the past so we can be free in the present and the future. I know some feel uneasy about it, but for me there is a clear divide between appreciating and acknowledging the sacrifice of the fallen AND having a strong contrasting opinion about whether our government should have sent them on that battlefield in the first place. This is particularly pertinent now when we reflect not just on the World Wars (on which most of us agree we had no choice but to fight back, well certainly WWII) and the wars of the last ten years which are much more controversial
The thing that strikes me at this time of year is how little reflecting there appears to be on how we got ourselves into these situations of the past where so many have had to die, what were the reasons? Have we learnt from those experiences? Are we now wise enough to make sure we never repeat the scenarios of the last 100 years? Can’t we just go back to the Middle Ages and leave to our leaders to slug it out, I’d back the Queen to nail Sarkozy any day.
Lessons learnt doesn’t just mean questioning political strategies such as is it wise to further punish a defeated foe (for many our treatment of Germany post WWI laid the foundations for the social discord that Hitler was able to tap into and rise to power off the back of) or to appease a dictator ( a question as valid in the Arab Spring of 2011 as the murky world of late 1930s Europe) but also lessons of battlefield strategy.
I’ll never forget my GCSE History class learning about the pompous generals so well parodied by BlackAdder who sent thousands of their own men to unnecessary deaths in the WWI trenches, one of whom Douglas Haig has a statue in Whitehall. You can make an argument for these individuals’ arrogance and strategic incompetence costing as many lives as the opposition. The sort of the individuals who thought a tank would never replace a horse, doh..
So as we remember those who have gone before, to me it’s as important to remember the mistakes individuals & societies made that led to those deaths.
And then work very hard to make sure we never repeat them.