I share Matt Yglesias’ distaste for “Veterans Day.” Taking November 11 out of its historical context serves no real good purpose; as John Quiggan points out, the many of the worst crimes of the twentieth century are rooted in the events of August, 1914. Instead of a day of reflection about the tragedy of World War I and its effect on the Western world, we have a feel good, happy “Support Our Troops” day which plays into nothing so much as a particularly right-wing vision of what it means to be a patriot.
In just short of twenty months of fighting, 126000 Americans died in the worst conditions imaginable before November 11, 1918. The United States got off easy; 1.3 million Frenchmen, 1.7 million Russians, 900 thousand Britons, 1.2 million Austro-Hungarians, and 1.8 million Germans also died. And all to no good purpose; the conflict did little but set the stage for the twin disasters of the Russian Revolution and the Second World War.
It’s worth remembering, not glossing.