Veterans’ Day is November 11 because on November 11, 1918, the Armistice between the Allies and the Central Powers took effect. World War I had been more peculiar, unnecessary and pointless than most wars, but from it comes many lingering features of the American and international political landscape: the messianic idea of “making the world safe for democracy,” even for people who don’t value democracy or want it; the powder keg of a web of global alliances that can be touched off into a worldwide conflagration by a minor incident; the repeated recourse to failed analyses and refusal to reexamine them, no matter how often and spectacularly they fail; the stigmatizing of all opposition and even outright restrictions on the freedom of speech to crush dissent; and more.
Yet in other ways the military landscape of World War I was profoundly different from that of conflicts today. During the Christmas truce of 1914, the British, French and German soldiers came out of their trenches and exchanged Christmas greetings. In some places they even exchanged gifts and played games together. They respected each other as human beings. They recognized that they shared the same values. Yet this was infrequently repeated in subsequent Christmases; the bitterness of war overwhelmed any impulse to see the opponent as a person worthy of respect.
In today’s conflict with Islamic jihad, the jihadis likewise do not respect their non-Muslim foes. The infidels are “the most vile of created beings” (Qur’an 98:6) while the Muslims are “the best of peoples” (Qur’an 3:110). There is no sense of shared values. Yet the leaders and opinion makers among the non-Muslims do not understand or accept this. They continue to believe that gestures of good will will be appreciated and reciprocated. They continue to think that their own careful displays of respect for the values and principles of the jihadis will be received with something other than amused contempt. They continue to send their young soldiers into the Afghanistan meat grinder, imagining that they’re winning hearts and minds by forcing our soldiers to train their “allies” who, in appallingly increasing numbers, turn on them and murder them as soon as they have the opportunity.
Today, then, we should remember and be grateful to those who gave their lives to secure and protect these freedoms for us, and resolve not to throw away without a fight those freedoms for which they died. We should remember that if we are not willing to give our own lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to protect the unalienable rights enumerated at the founding of this Republic, we will most assuredly lose both them and the Republic itself — lose them for ourselves and for our children.
And we are far closer to that than most people realize.
Let us never shrink from the task before us: the great struggle to defend human rights, human dignity, and freedom from oppression and injustice — particularly the oppression and injustice, and assaults to human dignity that are enshrined in the Islamic law (Sharia) that is coming, step-by-step, steadily and apparently inexorably, to an ever more ignorant and indifferent West.