Weekly Standard, 14 November 2011.
What exactly do we celebrate on Veterans Day? To be sure, we mean to honor the brave men and women, living and dead, who have fought America’s battles, past and present. But honor them how, and for what? About these matters, we lack a clear national answer.
Part of the confusion is built into the history of the holiday. It was first celebrated as Armistice Day, commemorating the cessation of fighting between the Allies and Germany in World War I—at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. When, a year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first Armistice Day, he spoke of the “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service” and the “gratitude for victory.” But because World War I had been regarded as the “war to end all wars,” Wilson’s reasons for esteeming the victory had everything to do with lasting peace: “the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” Armistice Day was a day that celebrated the pacifist and internationalist dreams of a nation—and a world—sickened by maiming and slaughter on a hitherto unimaginable scale. The dreams were not to be realized.
American Enterprise Institute