Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bill Kristol's fond memories of the First World War

Professional warmonger Bill Kristol is noticing that 1914 is the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. And he's worried that reminiscences of what a massive, preventable, destructive slaughter that was will tarnish his comic-book faith in war and killing.

In Pro Patria Weekly Standard 01/13/2014, he writes that memories of the First World War tend to focus on all the unpleasantries of the business. But he's hopeful that this year people can see beyond that to the redemptive glory of mass slaughter:

This year, a century later, the commemorations of 1914 will tend to take that rejection of piety and patriotism for granted. Or could this year mark a moment of questioning, even of reversal?

Today, after all, we see the full consequences of that rejection in a way Owen and his contemporaries could not. Can’t we acknowledge the meaning, recognize the power, and learn the lessons of 1914 without succumbing to an apparently inexorable gravitational pull toward a posture of ironic passivity or fatalistic regret in the face of civilizational decline? No sensitive person can fail to be moved by Owen’s powerful lament, and no intelligent person can ignore his chastening rebuke. But perhaps a century of increasingly unthinking bitter disgust with our heritage is enough.

Besides being the centennial of World War I, 2014 also happens to be the bicentennial of the Battle of Fort McHenry, a minor battle during a conflict of infinitely lesser significance than World War I, the War of 1812. The bombardment of the American fort near Baltimore produced a poem. "Defence of Fort McHenry" is far less likely to appear in anthologies of the greatest poems of the English language than "Dulce Et Decorum Est." But the greater work of art is not always the better guide to life.
It always feels a bit silly to treat words flowing from the keyboard of Dan Quayles' former speechwriter Bill Kristol seriously. Especially when it comes to war, about which he has a remarkable public record extending over decades of being spectacularly wrong. And singularly unreflective about his spectacular wrongness.

Bill Kristol's "better guide to life": the glories of war and mass destruction

But in all the commentary I've seen about the First World War, none at all comes to mind that specifically rejects "piety and patriotism" as such. Certainly not in the triumphalist narratives so common in American commentary. Not even the poem he cites beforehand.

And how can a piously patriotic American warmonger like Kristol say that the War of 1812, in which Britain invaded the US and tried to reassert its dominance on the North American continent at the expense of the American Republic, was "a conflict of infinitely lesser significance than World War I"? Piety and patriotism are shocked!

Charlie Pierce cites Kristol's article and quotes the middle paragraph included above, and concludes (Bill Kristol and Marital Virtue Esquire Politics Blog 01/16/2014):

So saith the Moloch of the Green Room, from whose hands still drips the blood of Other People's Children.

Decent folk should spit on him. Daily.
Tags: ,

No comments: