Go to war and every politician will thank you, and they'll continue to do so — with monuments and statues, war museums and military cemeteries — long after you're dead. But who thanks those who refused to fight, even in wars that turned out to be tragic mistakes?
What brings all this to mind is an apparently heartening exception to the rule of celebrating war makers and ignoring peacemakers. But it turns out to be not quite as simple as it first appears. Let me explain.
Dec. 25 will be the 100th anniversary of World War I's famous Christmas truce. After five months of unparalleled industrial-scale slaughter, fighting on the Western Front came to a spontaneous halt.… Seguir leyendo »
One hundred years ago today, Austro-Hungarian artillery and gunboats on the Danube began shelling Serbia — the first shots of the great cataclysm that over the next four and a half years would remake our world for the worse, in every conceivable way. We think of the First World War as having its causes in Europe, where the greatest bloodshed and destruction would take place. But several of the illusions that propelled the major powers so swiftly into war had their roots in far corners of the world.
The biggest illusion, of course, was that victory would be quick and easy.… Seguir leyendo »
For the last half a dozen years, I've been mentally living in the world of 1914-18, writing a book about World War I. I've haunted battlefields and graveyards, asked a Belgian farmer if I could step inside a wartime concrete bunker that now houses his goats, and walked through an underground tunnel that protected Canadian troops moving ammunition to the front line.
In government archives, I've read reports by officers who survived battles in which most of their troops died; I've talked to a man whose labor-activist grandfather was court-martialed because he wrote a letter to the Daily Mail complaining that every British officer was assigned a private servant.… Seguir leyendo »
Today, millions of people on another continent are observing the 50th anniversary of an event few Americans remember, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. A slight, goateed man with black, half-framed glasses, the 35-year-old Lumumba was the first democratically chosen leader of the vast country, nearly as large as the United States east of the Mississippi, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This treasure house of natural resources had been a colony of Belgium, which for decades had made no plans for independence. But after clashes with Congolese nationalists, the Belgians hastily arranged the first national election in 1960, and in June of that year King Baudouin arrived to formally give the territory its freedom.… Seguir leyendo »