For starters, let me say that I think the best way to honor the sacrifice of veterans is to avoid sending our military into conflict except as a last resort.
Alas, reality persists … Mark Thompson has a blogpost up on Time’s website today that’s the best Veteran’s Day read I’ve seen today. It’s an excerpt of a piece now appearing in the print magazine and soon on the web, but worth reading even in its Cliffs Notes form.
Thompson outlines what he sees as a widening gulf between the military and the US general population, a gulf brought by the increasingly large sacrifices of the people in military uniform as compared to the lack of involvement or sacrifice among the rest of us. Over the past decade in particular, we have readily jumped into a number of wars, without willingness to actually pay for or really even be aware of the costs. We have financed them with credit cards (no tax increases to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan and instead gave tax cuts at about the same time), avoided a draft and instead forced people in uniform to longer and longer deployments and tougher personal sacrifices. And we’ve increasingly used automated death machines (like drones) so that we can kill (often even civilians) without putting our own lives on the line. We, the general public, have taken to fighting wars and pursuing right in a way not much different than the way Joe Paterno fought pedophilia. And instead of making us more careful about sending our troops into action, it’s made us more casual about it than ever. (Witness, for example, the debate over engagement in Libya.)
The best thing we could do to mark this binary Veteran’s Day would be to change this course. I wish we had the will.