On ‘Celebrating’ War

Yes Anzac Day most certainly is worth commemorating:

As we today commemorate Anzac Day and what occurred 106 years ago – in particular the Gallipoli Campaign – it is always worth pausing to reflect on all this. We must never forget all that these courageous young men did so long ago to keep us free and to preserve liberty. That is why this is a special weekend with special celebrations.

Thankfully many folks still know how important this occasion is, and how vital what took place back then actually was. But not everyone knows nor cares about the meaning of Anzac Day. I am not even an Australian by birth, but I seem to know more about it than many Australians do. I have penned a number of pieces on this, including this one: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/25/anzac-day/

And some folks seem to actually get upset with having an annual Anzac Day. Lefty critics claim it ‘glorifies war’ and say that it should not be a national holiday. ‘War should not be celebrated’ these folks will chirp, as if anyone paying their respects for those who have died on their behalf are just some warmongers who love blood and guts being splattered everywhere.

Let me offer one example of this. Some gal I had not heard of before had an opinion piece in an online newspaper today entitled, “Anzac Day should never be about celebrating war”. Now, because the piece was behind a paywall, that is about as far as I got in seeing what she had to say. While I know nothing about this commentator, the headline was stupid enough to warrant a response.

Assuming the piece itself is as bad as the title suggests, let me say a few words about war in general, and Anzac Day in particular. When we have days set aside that remind us of what took place in the past, we are not of course “celebrating war” as such. We are recognising the many incredible sacrifices that so many made on our behalf in order that we might remain free and prosperous.

As is so often said, ‘freedom is not free’. It costs something to enjoy liberty. And it usually costs the lives of so many young men to allow the rest of us to remain free. We should never take this for granted and we certainly must never forget how dedicated and courageous these young soldiers were.

Yes, as is said, ‘jaw jaw is better than war war’. If diplomacy and negotiations can avoid the horrors of war, then by all means, let us head down that path. But this is not always possible – or even desirable. One simply recalls the “peace in our time” folly of Neville Chamberlain and his reckless attempts to cut a deal with Hitler.

In contrast to him and so many others, we had folks like Winston Churchill who could see things so much more clearly. He rightly spoke about the madness of appeasement and warned about foolishly minimising the threat of dictators and dictatorships. He argued that WWII was fully avoidable, and in 1938 he said this: “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame and will get war.”

And he famously said this about appeasement in 1940: “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear greatly that the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar ever more loudly, ever more widely.”

Yes, war is hell, and we wish it upon no one if at all possible. But it is not always possible. The horrors of war are well enough known, catalogued, discussed and grieved over. Plenty of books and films make the case. On a personal note, while in hospital recently I thought about this a lot. Hearing some patients around me moaning and groaning in pain made me think of how much worse life in hospitals is during a time of war.

I reflected on scenes of warfare and carnage and death and destruction – sometimes as seen through a Hollywood film. Remember the 2001 film Pearl Harbor where after the Japanese bombing makeshift hospitals were set up everywhere and overwhelmed doctors and nurses had to deal with countless victims – some too far gone to attend to, but all in great need.

Yes all that is horrible indeed, and we wish it would never happen again. But just think about what that was all about: back then we had the Nazis and the Japanese seeking to enslave the world. Peace talks were out of the question. There was only one option: war.

Peaceniks and trendy lefties may want to believe that war is never necessary, but they are dreaming. In a fallen world, war sometimes is – as a last resort – necessary, just as in a fallen world police, laws, courts and prisons are needed to maintain a semblance of peace and order.

The truth is, ‘peace’ is not the highest good. Peace with justice is. Sure, there can be peace to a degree in a concentration camp. But we are made to enjoy not just peace, but liberty and justice as well. G. K. Chesterton put it this way in The Everlasting Man: “While a good peace is better than a good war, even a good war is better than a bad peace.”

Or as John Stewart Mill said, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

Some things ARE worth fighting for. Some things are worth dying for. Traditional just war theory offers us some guidelines as to when and how a just war might be carried out. These include a just cause and just intention in going to war, and things like proportionality and sparing innocent civilians – as much as possible – while being in a war.

We enjoy life today because of what others did for us long ago. One meme making the rounds on the social media this weekend has a picture on top of folks enjoying the good life on the beach, while the bottom pic shows young men hitting the beach on D-Day. The top pic has the words: “Your day at the beach” while the bottom frame features these words: “brought to you by their day at the beach”. Absolutely right.

As George Orwell correctly stated, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” And again: “Turn-the-other-cheek pacifism only flourishes among the more prosperous classes, or among workers who have in some way escaped from their own class. The real working class . . . are never really pacifist, because their life teaches them something different. To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it.”

No, we are not “celebrating” war. We are however saying that there are some things which are worth defending – even at great cost. As Faramir put it in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” 

Sadly, as mentioned, peace and justice are not automatic givens in a fallen world full of selfish and greedy people. They must be actively worked for and defended. Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus put it this way over 1,600 years ago: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Anzac Day lockdowns

A brief word about what we are seeing this weekend in Australia. In WA of course the power-drunk Premier has decided that in Perth these three days it would be just great to have a major lockdown. Forget the commemoration – again. And in Victoria we have plenty of draconian restrictions on our services.

Why do I suspect that so many of the lefty peacemongers who seem happy to dump on all those who have fought before to keep us free are likely the same ones fully supporting all the lockdown measures seen today, including the restrictions on Anzac Day services, while supporting massive sporting crowds over the same weekend?

As Victorian MP Bernie Finn and others have pointed out in a meme making the rounds this weekend, the Andrews’ government has allowed 85,000 fans today at the MCG, 8,000 at a Mornington Music Festival, but only 1,400 at the Dawn Service with the Shrine fenced off. Terrific priorities Andrews!

The commemoration of what these brave boys did back in 1915 should be our number one celebration today – not some lousy football game. But the leftist loons – be they in parliament or in the media – seem to think that all the blood that was shed and all the sacrifices that have been made are somehow not worth celebrating and giving thanks for.

They are wrong. Anyone foolishly going on about how we must not celebrate war and that ‘war is not the answer’ really is quite clueless. As Dennis Prager wrote a decade ago:

Slogan: “War is not the answer.” “‘War is not the answer’ if the question is, let us say, ‘What is the square root of eleven?’ But if the question is, ‘How do we stop enormous evils in the world?’ the answer is, unfortunately, quite frequently, ‘War.’ Nazi and Japanese racist genocide were ended by soldiers shooting people, and by bombers bombing people, not by people who believed ‘war is not the answer’.”

There will always be enormous evils, injustices and wrongs in the world. Sometimes the only way they can be defeated or kept in check is by means of war. That is most unfortunate, but that is the way it is in the real world that we live in. So I for one will always proudly join in the commemorations for things like Anzac Day.

We must never forget.

[1727 words]

12 Replies to “On ‘Celebrating’ War”

  1. I agree, well put Bill. Some people just cannot understand why we have had to send our young people to war. We don’t want to kill people like ISIS and other terrorist groups do. We go to war to stop evil governments and powers that want to take over people and nations.

  2. I totally agree Bill.
    Had not Winston Churchill been such a great Leader, Stateman and Tactician we would be talking German today!
    It so saddened me to see the photos in the Herald Sun yesterday of the 41 brave men and woman who paid the ultimate sacrifice and to see the Shrine of Remberance ringed with wire to only allow 1400 people to attend.
    The evil Premier Andrews is doing his best to eradicate our history and change our great traditions.
    Terry Hill

  3. Well done Bill. I do send prayers for your full recovery. Keep us updated on your condition.

    Yes war is a necessary evil. My favourite movie is Hacksaw Ridge (God bless Mel Gibson). Desmond Doss was a decorated war hero without firing a shot! The gold standard.

    Bill, I treasure our selfie pix from Church and State Conference… I’ll set a candle before it for prayer.

  4. A well-written article as usual Bill.
    What these “peace-niks” conveniently forget, is that if we hadn’t gone to war in WW1 or WW2, we would all be speaking Japanese here in Australia, & all Europe would be speaking German, with ZERO personal liberties – a hypothetical situation, yes, but that would have been reality of not fighting or losing the war.

  5. Let us not forget that at Yalta the Allies lead by Roosevelt and Churchill abandoned Eastern Europe to appease the communist totalitarian Joseph Stalin. The silver lining is that these nations eventually each became a liability, a festering thorn in the side of the Soviet Union that contributed to the fall of the USSR.

  6. Stateside some are questioning the fortitude of the current administration to honor our obligations to Taiwan or Hong Kong….in all probability the administration will appease the CCP.

    In closing, thanks for providing some great quotations for our use…

  7. Great reflection Bill.
    Hope your recovery is steady.
    Your last paragraph could have been from Ecclesiastes: a time for peace and a time for war.

  8. So many remind me of the character Hawkeye from the TV show mash who grated on me with his constant peace is so easy to achieve mantra. Yes everyone wants peace BUT different people define peace differently. North Korea and South Korea have 2 VERY different ideas of what peace meant hence negotiations. It isn’t just two parties saying peace. If America threw down her arms today worldwide peace would NOT break out tomorrow. If the West gets rid of ALL of it’s weapons it won’t inspire our enemies to do the same it will tell them we are ripe for the picking.

  9. Indeed. Jesus even told his disciples to buy swords (Luke 22:36) but, on that occasion, two swords were enough – clearly Jesus was opposing an uprising at that time.

    There was the requirement for a war in Heaven (Rev 12:7) and for the Battle of Armageddon (just over half way between Tyre and Jerusalem) plus numerous, God-sanctioned wars in the Old Testament.

    Of course, any war not sanctioned by God is definitely not the answer and the evidence from the scriptures and from history confirms this but the evidence is also that spiritual wars sometimes do need to spill out into the physical.

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