Monday, November 12, 2018

Armistice Remembered

France does a good military parade, all the more poignant as the world commemorated Armistice Day at the end of World War One, the Great War. While the Western Front cut through trenches in France, the Eastern front was fluid, and quite deadly for military and civilians. As Americans we might have learned much about the Western Front, trench foot, and shellshock from books like "All Quiet on the Western Front". France victorious and Germany defeated. But the Eastern Front, whose stories were muted by the Iron Curtain, resulted in real geopolitical consequences.
 They include the collapse of Franz Joseph's Austro-Hungarian empire, Bolshevism in Russia, Turmoil in the Balkans, and the end of the Ottoman Empire. Washington, DC commemorated the Eastern Front in various ways, this past month. The Emperor Karl League of Prayer sponsored a Solemn Mass, followed by discussion on the exiled Austrian emperor's geopolitical worldview in 1918. A concert at the National Gallery of Art remembered the wartime struggles of Serbs and the genocide in Armenia.

And the military parade? While countries big and small, authoritarian and democratic, affluent and troubled, host annual military parades, such a tradition was never established in America. The Founding Father's resistance against large standing armies, and historically strong pacifist factions, certainly contribute to avoidance of outward military displays. Another aspect is practical for servicemembers, their families, and their units. Outside of training commands and small elite groups, drill and ceremony is an afterthought to the larger goal of operations, tactics, and military readiness. Servicemembers enjoy weekends and holidays when they can get them. Routine watchstanding and officer rotations make full weekends a well-earned and cherished rarity. Securing liberty for a mid-weekend parade is something NCOs and concerned officers would rather avoid. In contrast, Service Academies and ROTC units, located near population centers, are accustomed to marching drill. Shine those leathers again, and adjust your cover.