One thing common to most of us who revel in virtual combat is that we tend to abhor the actuality of warfare. It seems to us a truism that the more we learn of war, the greater our wish to avoid it.
Bruce Thornton, in his essay “Why We Should Study War”, concludes it thus:
Leon Trotsky allegedly said, “You may not believe in war, but war believes in you.” Though likely a mistranslation, the sentiment is still valuable. War and its horrors will always be with us, along with its unavoidable suffering and cruelty, “such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same,” as Thucydides writes. And as long as we cherish our way of life, with its freedom and human rights, its prosperity and its opportunity, we will at times have to make the awful decision to send our citizens to fight, kill, and die to defend those goods from those who want to destroy them. The more we know about war, the better equipped we will be to make that choice and see our efforts succeed.
May we ever know peace; but may we never forget to study war, and especially to remember those who fell.
At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!