Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dulce et decorum est pro patri mori?

Some beautiful Prussians from Minden Miniatures

Dear Reader,

As a student of military (and German) history, I am often faced with the horrors of war. Even in the relatively tame 18th century, many innocents suffered in war. Frederick II of Prussia often regreted on his bombardment of Dresden during the Seven Years' War. From ancient times, through the Kabinettskriege period, all the way to the horrors of the twentieth century, warfare has been part of human interaction. The title of the post, a quote from Horace ("It is a good and seemly thing to die for one's country") was famously reproduced by poet Wilfred Owen, protesting the horrors of the First World War. 

Having established the horrors of war, it seems odd it would be so romanticized. We remember the Seven Years' War, (and most other wars) with historical miniatures, video games, and reenactment. Homer famously said, "Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing, and dancing sooner than war." Something about conflict seems to make for a good game. Those who play at such games, (myself included) should be careful to remember that actual war is not as enjoyable as rolling dice on a green, miniature coated map. Most of the soldiers who died in the eighteenth century expired in horrible pain, with no comfort save the religious icons they wore on their person. Therefore, as a caution to wargamers, I would say, "Dulce bellum inexpertis." Essentially, "War is sweet to those who have never experienced it."

Soldiers know this better than most. They don't want to go to war any more than you or I would, especially if they have been unfortunate enough to see combat before.  The perfect example of this is my grandfather, George Haden. George signed up for the marines the day he graduate from high school, during the Second World War. Scarred by his wartime experiences as a marine in the Pacific, he would wake up at nights, still thinking he was in the midst of hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese. However, though he suffered psychologically for the rest of his life, he never regretted his decision to enlist. There are times when soldiers are required.

Whether it is the Seven Years' War, or the Syrian Civil War, warfare is a fundamental part of human existence. I will not say, "for good or ill," because it is just ill. Because of this, it needs to be understood.

Thank you for journeying with me, as I try to better understand this terrible part of human society.

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