Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day: A Hundred Years After the Great War Began

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation stated that there were approximately 50,000 people in attendance for the the Remembrance Day service in Ottawa today. The War Memorial, only days ago the scene of the killing of a soldier on ceremonial guard duty, became the focal point for a resurgent patriotism expressed by the many people who came to be there. Perhaps the nice weather was partly responsible for the larger than usual turnout. Perhaps the permanent return of the Canadian military mission to Afghanistan had settled in. But there seemed also to be a growing unease expressed by those interviewed. They felt the need to come to our capital and 'remember' the sacrifices made by many before them and renew their pledge to their country and its ideals.

The year of 2014 represents the 100th anniversary of beginning of World War I. I made it my assignment to learn more of the causes and consequences of this "War to End All Wars." One of the significant books written with this anniversary in mind was The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 written by the eminent Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan. Her painstaking account of the Zeitgeist and diplomacy leading up to the outbreak of the war is a litany of missed opportunities and failed diplomacy. Add to that the rising tide of nationalism, the resurfacing of historical resentments and the sparks of unanticipated events or actions, and you have the recipe for war. Macmillan's last paragraph serves as a stern reminder for us all. "…If we want to point fingers from the twenty-first century we can accuse those who took Europe into war of two things. First, a failure of imagination in not seeing how destructive such a conflict would be and second, their lack of courage to stand up to those who said there was no choice left but to go to war. There are always choices."