On the Eve of Veterans/Armistice Day*

Given tomorrow’s significance, I thought to check the latest figures for the global weapons market.

With a depressing lack of surprise, I found that the US, as it has been for some time, tops the world tables for the sales of weapons to other nations.  According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency within DOD, we sold $31 billion and change in FY 2010 — the third straight year with more than $30 billion ways to kill folks sold.

In data assembled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, (which measures arms sales in constant 1990 dollars, which is why its raw numbers don’t line up with DOD’s) the US accounts for about 30% of the total arms sales world wide.   Russia is next, followed by Germany, France, and the UK.

In that context, I’m not sure if our number one ranking is a win for American exceptionalism, or if the fact that we are joined at the top of the league table by almost all of the principal World War I combatants simply reconfirms that human beings are exceptionally poor one-trial learners.

*My uncle and grandfather (for whom I am named) were both career officers in the Royal Artillery.  My Grandfather Tom served from 14-18, mostly on the Western Front, and received, in addition to multiple medals for gallantry, both the Mons Star and the 14-18 Medal.  Hence, I remember not just veterans, but the specific conflict whose ending at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month fixed the office of remembrance on that one specific day.

Image: John Singer Sargent, “Gassed” 1918






78 replies
  1. 1

    In that context, I’m not sure if our number one ranking is a win for American exceptionalism, or if the fact that we are joined at the top of the league table by almost all of the principal World War I combatants simply reconfirms that human beings are exceptionally poor one-trial learners.

    “one-trial”? How many have we been in since then? at least five big-ish ones.

    Oh, and why do you hate America, tom levenson? /teabagger

  2. 2
    JGabriel says:

    Tom Levenson:

    With a depressing lack of surprise, I found that the US, as it has been for some time, tops the world tables for the sales of weapons to other nations.

    Great. We’ve got free markets for the Major Barbaras of the world, and sociaIism for the Andrew Undershafts.

    .

  3. 3
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I am one of the very few people I know who wears a poppy from November 1st through Veterans’ Day (or, this year, until Remembrance Sunday). When I was a kid, there were vets on every corner with heaps of funky red oilcloth poppies; we’d stop by on the way to school on November 11th, drop a couple of pennies or maybe (big spenders!) a nickel in the tin can, and pin on the poppy to wear the rest of the day. Schools routinely observed the two-minute silence at 11:00 o’clock on 11/11. I’m feeling very old just writing these words, but it’s a ritual I miss very much. Was always sorry they turned both Memorial Day and Armistice/Veterans’ Day into Monday shop-til-you-drop days off.

    Get off my lawn, etc. (And that walk to school? Uphill all the way. Both directions.)

  4. 4
    Neutron Flux says:

    It is interesting to me that you put up a Veterans Day post and somehow make the link that the US sell’s a lot of weapons.

    I am a veteran and I have not sold one weapon to anyone.

    This connection that you allude to sucks.

  5. 5
    Citizen Alan says:

    I hold out hope that once the sole surviving American veteran of WWI (Frank Buckles, age 109) passes away, we can move Veterans’ Day from the historically trivial anniversary of the signing of the Armistace to the first Tuesday in November. That way, we can honor our veterans by making sure as many people as possible have Voting Day off.

  6. 6
    Catsy says:

    In data assembled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, (which measures arms sales in constant 1990 dollars, which is why its raw numbers don’t line up with DOD’s) the US accounts for about 30% of the total arms sales world wide. Russia is next, followed by Germany, France, and the UK.

    And that’s with consideration of the sheer volume of Kalash-family rifles in the world.

    Jeez.

  7. 7
    Dee Loralei says:

    One of my Great-Grandfathers was gassed in that war, never really made it back to normalcy.And died relatively young. My great grandmother was a widow for 3-4 decades and died at 98. But hey, the armory in Ardmore, OK was named after him.

    And to all who served, you have my thanks.

  8. 8
    Bnut says:

    What happens if you take out weapons we only sold to NATO countries or Japan/SK/Taiwan? I am playing devil’s advocate here, but it’s not like the weapon of choice for the insurgents of the world is the M16 and the AT4.

  9. 9
    Maude says:

    @Citizen Alan:
    I hope you’re kidding.

  10. 10
    Jenn says:

    So are poppies for Remembrance/Veterans Day entirely a British Empire-related thing, or do folks in the States ever wear them too? I was talking with some friends about wearing poppies for Veterans Day, and was greeted by confused stares, and a “No, that must be a Canadian thing.”

  11. 11
    Bnut says:

    @Jenn: My veteran’s day: Get drunk with my service buddies. That’s all that the day should be IMHO. Fuck the parades, and the POGs strutting like papercuts deserve Purple Hearts, the fake speeches by pols, all of it.

  12. 12
    MattR says:

    @Maude: I fully support Citizen Alan’s plan.

  13. 13
    JGabriel says:

    Jenn:

    So are poppies for Remembrance/Veterans Day entirely a British Empire-related thing, or do folks in the States ever wear them too?

    We used to when I was in elementary school in the 1970’s. It seemed to be a fading tradition even as I got into high school in the early 80’s though.

    .

  14. 14
    Dee Loralei says:

    @Jenn: When I was younger we did,(60’s,70’s maybe even the 1980’s also.)Not real sure when or why it went out of style, but maybe it’s because so few of the actual soldiers from that war were around in the later quarter of the century. Hell there’s hardly any WWII vets left.) The American Legion used to make them and sell them I think. But many of those guys are gone now.

  15. 15

    Armistice day, way back when.

    My grandfather was a tenant farmer, working a plot of land not too far from a little town. When news of the Armistice filtered down to that corner of the world, the church bells started ringing. And kept ringing.

    Grandpa came in out of the field and connected the horse to a vehicle of some sort [cars came later] and went into town to see what the issue was.

    When he got there, everyone was celebrating the end of the war. And even more fantastic was that somebody produced a radio and placed it in a public place and everyone could listen to the news reports.

    According to my mom, Grandpa came home happy as a pig because the war had ended. And thoroughly amazed at the radio!

  16. 16
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Jenn: These days, you are right, it is pretty much a British/Canadian (also Australian) thing. I work with a lot of Canadians so I’m quite accustomed to the ritual. But as I described in my post above (#3), it used to be a very common thing in the States as well. Can’t really remember when the tradition of wearing poppies disappeared, but I think it was already beginning to die out before the name got changed to Veterans’ Day (and before it became a Monday holiday). I suspect it may just be in the U.S. that with most of the veterans themselves getting old and dying, there was no longer the impetus to do an annual tribute. We didn’t lose anything close to the number of soldiers the Brits, Canadians, Aussies did in WWI. Also, we have Memorial Day which began as a specifically Civil War remembrance, and the British Empire countries of course do not observe that holiday.

    Edited to remove a few superfluous and annoying words.

  17. 17
    andrea says:

    Jenn, I had a buddy in Canada send some poppies. In past years, I bought poppies from VFW guys selling them in downtown SF. Haven’t seen them this year.

  18. 18
    Delia says:

    @Jenn:

    I remember the poppies from when I was in grade school. They were deep orange and made out of crepe paper, I think sold by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But that was late 50s, early 60s. I haven’t seen them for a very long time. They weren’t around when my kids were in school.

    My grandfather was a vet. Like most Americans, only there for the last year of the war. I believe I heard he came down with mumps in the trenches.

  19. 19
    soonergrunt says:

    @Neutron Flux: Besides having fuck-all to do with Veterans’ Day, it’s also a huge false equivalence.

    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Norway, Poland, and Japan among others all have two things in common:
    They aren’t in the habit of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors (although I know someone here will claim otherwise) and they all bought weapons from the U.S. These are weapons that those governments believed they needed for some reason or another. We don’t just sell to anyone. We’re not the Chinese or the Russians.
    American weapons tend to be rather elaborate and expensive. The aircraft that we sold to South Korea, and Singapore at $75 million/each and the planes we sold to Australia at $30 million/each and the armored vehicles, aircraft, and other sundries to Saudi Arabia for billions of dollars total are not purely defensive in nature.
    No weapon ever made was.
    But small arms are the engine of conflict the world over, and all of conflicts in the world feature at least one side, and usually both, killing each other by the thousands with Russian made AK-47s, or Chinese copies, and so on and so on and so on.
    Of course, if you really want to get your genocide on and need it cheap, you could just buy a few hundred thousand machetes.
    If cost is really an issue in your genocide planning, you could just starve a million or so people to death.
    I’m sure the U.S. is responsible in some way for those things too.

  20. 20
    soonergrunt says:

    @Jenn: It used to be much bigger here than it is. The VFW, the DVA, and The American Legion give out paper poppies to people, but Veterans’ day hasn’t been a big day for public events for as long as I can remember.

  21. 21
    freelancer says:

    Behold, I have found the rarest of rare things: A post on Crooksandliars.com that can be called a “must read”.

  22. 22
    jacy says:

    @Jenn:

    I can only speak for the immediate area, but down here in Louisiana, the VFW gives away silk poppies for donations. You can find them all over. I keep one in my visor in my car.

    The local schools are having assemblies tomorrow, and my kids’ school (Catholic) is holding a special mass and assembly. My younger kids get to carry flags for the assembly because their brother’s in Afghanistan. Still not as big a deal as I remember it when I was a kid.

  23. 23
    gbear says:

    My dad was a WW2 vet who served in the navy. He had dropped out of school before he enlisted, and when he finished with his service he went back to his high school to get his diploma. He didn’t really talk much about his time in the service so I don’t have many memories of what it was like for him, but I do remember him talking about how humiliating it was to have to go back to following high school rules for one more year.

    edit: Freelancer, C&L does manage to land at least one good posting per day, but the bad ones really stink. They’re taste in music is really awful too (they think of themselves as musical insiders but they’re more like musical villagers).

  24. 24
    Jenn says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    We, of course, didn’t lose anything close to the number of soldiers the Brits, Canadians, Aussies did in WWI.

    Yeah, it’s mindboggling thinking about the impact of WWI on that cohort of Canadian young men. It’s been a long time since I looked at the numbers, but it certainly had a profound impact on the country. (Doing some back of the envelope figuring, based on the 1914 census, the 2006 age distribution and % of the population that were between 15 and 30, and the 60,000 men killed and 155,000+ men wounded, that ends up being about 8% of the men between 15 and 30 dead and a further 20%+ wounded. I remember hearing stories of all the young men in some western communities basically being wiped out.)

    we have Memorial Day which began as a specifically Civil War remembrance

    What?! I thought that was to remember to go to the mall and shop!

    /extremely cranky snark

  25. 25
    Douglas says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Norway, Poland, and Japan among others all have two things in common:

    You forgot Iran. And Iraq.

  26. 26

    Yes, well who says America doesn’t make anything anymore?

    :-)

    It’s our hometown jobs program. My Congress Critter explained it to me a year or so ago at a meeting. He said this is why it’s so hard to cut the Defense budget. Defense contractors like Lockheed Martin have factories in 20 different states, so whenever someone tries to cut one of their programs, like the F-22, they have 20 Senators to go whine to.

    It’s the permanent war economy, peeps.

  27. 27
    Bnut says:

    @Douglas: You mean the the stuff we sold to the Iranian that doesn’t work anymore? And the weapons we gave to Iraq bc we fucked their old shit up?

  28. 28
    Lancelot Link says:

    You forgot Iran. And Iraq.
    And…umm….that other country in the middle east that begins with an I and is “in the habit of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors”.

  29. 29
    soonergrunt says:

    @Douglas: Iraq waging a war against any neighbors these days?
    Iran buying a lot of US made weapons these days?
    Yeah, we sold to both sides during the Iran/Iraq war. Go dig up Saint Ronnie of the Shitty Thought Processes and ask him about that.

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    We didn’t lose anything close to the number of soldiers the Brits, Canadians, Aussies did in WWI.

    Every time I visit the family in the UK, I’m surprised again by how every little town and village has a memorial to the “Great War” on which is listed those from that area that were lost. They really did think it was the war to end all wars. And then it happened all over again a few short years later.

  31. 31
    cleek says:

    the DoD has spent $180,000,000 since you posted this.

  32. 32
    Cacti says:

    @Lancelot Link:

    Or the recent coups in Haiti and Honduras that came at the point of M-16s.

  33. 33
    Douglas says:

    @Bnut:
    I meant way back
    (Old anti-war joke, ca. 2003: “How can Rumsfeld say he knows Saddam has weapons of mass destruction?” “Cause he still has the receipts.”)

    @soonergrunt:
    Excuse me if I’m somewhat doubtful that the US military-industrial complex is suddenly much much more moral than it was 20-30 years ago.
    Which isn’t to say that the US are as bad as Russia or China, but don’t pretend your shit don’t stink.

    And while I wouldn’t specifically put any blame on the US, that the global weapon trade is still this big 92 years after the “ar to end all wars” ended is a really sad statement about humanity (and US actions, like the invasion of Iraq, really haven’t helped in that regard).

    Also, I hope I won’t have to ask Saint Palin about what her ideas about selling shit were…

  34. 34

    My Dad was a Dunkirk vet, he was 16. (Lied to get in the service although strangely enough when he went to get his birf certificate years later he found out he was actually two years older than he thought he was, so he didn’t need to lie). Spent alot of time in India (oh the stories he would tell about that time). Rememberance Sunday in the UK is a big deal. There is a service (in the Albert Hall) as I recall, with a concert and hymns and a reading of the poem (always) “We will remember them” with the entire audience repeating the words “we will remember them”. The Queen usually attends (if not her then another one of the family), there are Remembrance Services all over the country at the various cemetaries where the wreaths of poppies are laid on the graves of veterans. Poppies are still sold and worn if my intel is correct and Rememberance Sunday is still very much noticed and honoured. It is amazing to me that the USA a country that claims to be all “pro military” tends to view Veterans Day as “meh, its a day off work when they show war movies on TMC” There really aught to be a national remembrance service in the US. I think it would make the rubes sit up and take notice of what the holiday is supposed to be about.

    Oooh looky in this video there is a sailor from HMS Seahawk! I served there!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLCX5RV_0Yw

  35. 35
    soonergrunt says:

    @Lancelot Link: Yeah. Because Israel just trumps EVERYTHING and the one point COMPLETELY VOIDS THE ARGUMENT SO THERE!
    That would actually work, if…
    ALL $30 billion of the weapons we sold were to Israel.

  36. 36
    Fuzz says:

    @soonergrunt:
    I was thinking that too. The really irresponsible thing they did was allowing all the Warsaw pact countries to produce their own versions of the AKs and they could sell them as well. So at one point you had Russia, China and Eastern Europe all giving thousands of Kalash rifles to every third world guerilla army in Africa and Central America. The sale of Russian and Soviet bloc arms has made the world more violent for the past 30 years, not selling F16s and destroyers.

  37. 37
    Radon Chong says:

    I’ve held a 14-18 medal in my hand. It’s a hell of a thing to contemplate. Here’s to the Old Contemptibles!

  38. 38

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Another clip here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....&NR=1

    “At the going down of the sun, we will remember them”

  39. 39

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Final clip. The poppy ceremony. It always makes me tear up seeing the poppies falling on the serving members. You can see a few of them tearing up and swallowing hard. It is very moving.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  40. 40
    josefina says:

    @Neutron Flux: @soonergrunt: Why do you think Tom’s post criticizes combatants or devalues their service in any way? That’s not at all how I read it.

    Given his asterisked postscript—and visual he chose—he clearly honors the individual sacrifices war demands, the individual valor and courage and love in the face of death it requires.

    He does not honor the larger mechanism—the “military-industrial complex,” to coin a phrase—that designs and produces ever more refined mechanisms for maiming and killing other humans, body and soul, and then markets said mechanisms wholesale.

    I wish this were nearly as widely repeated as the Niemoller “first they came for” thing. It’s much less difficult to distort: Dulce et Decorum Est

  41. 41
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Jenn: We used to do it here too. I have no idea when people stopped wearing poppies or when Vets stopped selling them. I guess the last time I saw a Vet selling poppies was in the 1970s.

  42. 42
    Roger Moore says:

    @Catsy:

    And that’s with consideration of the sheer volume of Kalash-family rifles in the world.

    The Kalashnikov is never going to be a really big money maker; it’s too low tech. It’s cheap to make and easy to copy. The result is that cheap knockoffs can be found for under $100. Even if one country could dominate AK sales, they’d still have to sell an absurd number of rifles to get to the top of the heap at those prices.

  43. 43
    Cermet says:

    What an utter waste WWI was! That so-called victory that killed so many tens of millions of soldiers (40+ million from all causes?) and contributed to the Flu (that start in the US of Ameriks in a SC military training camp, by the way) which killed far more than WWI and for final result that Germany (which had Social security and many advanced care systems and was just fighting England for apiece of the colonial pie) would be destoried but before the war ended, the Germains would send Lennon to Russia) resulting in Stalin to arise in Russia (via Lennon) and over 30-40 million would die from the great starvation in Russia; then in Germany the down trodden people would rise up from the wreckage with NAZI’s, and during that time many millions of Chinese would be murdered by Japan in the thirties and of course, Hilter’s war that accounted for 60+ million at least – and we remember that worthless WWI as a victory?! If only Germany had won WWI these things might never have happen but then, if the asteroid hadn’t hit the Earth 65 million years ago, we wouldn’t have evolved so would-a, could-a bullshit. The holiday celebrates only stupidity.

  44. 44
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    The poppy ceremony, reading “In Flanders Fields” and hearing “The Last Post” — it always reduces me to sobs. I’m not a churchgoer by any stretch, not even Xmas and Easter, but I usually try to attend the local Remembrance Sunday service at the one Anglican church that specifically caters to Brits, Canadians and Aussies.

    For anyone who wants a poppy of their very own and lives close to a major city, stop by one of the Canadian or UK or Australian consulates in your town. They always have poppies in the lobby with a box for donations.

  45. 45
    josefina says:

    @Cermet: Sssshhh! If my kids hear you, they won’t want to hang up their gas masks on the mantel for Colonel Mustard to fill up with gifts!

  46. 46
    Neutron Flux says:

    @josefina:That is how I read it.

    I have no problem with talking about how many weapons we put into the mix.

    Veterans day. US sales of arms.

    These two are not the same thing.

  47. 47
    PurpleGirl says:

    In 1971, Veterans Day was included in the Uniform Monday Holiday law. In 1978 it was returned to be a floating holiday observed on November 11th. Since then many businesses do not observe it and do not close for the day. There are even some school systems that do not close for it.

  48. 48
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Radon Chong: My father has his great-grandfather’s GAR medal. Great-Great-Gramps was with Sherman all the way to Savannah and beyond.

  49. 49
    Tom Levenson says:

    @josefina: @Neutron Flux:

    Many thanks, Josefina, for this reading, which is indeed how I hoped the post would be read.

    Neutron F: I appreciate your push back on what you see as a conflation. But I really do see Nov. 11 as a day of remembrance, and one of things I think it worth thinking about is the failure of the War to End All Wars to end all wars. In that context, it doesn’t seem a stretch to give a moment’s attention to the obstacles to preserving the peace we face still. Among which is included the global arms trade. Not just the US end of it, as I thought I made clear above, but the whole shebang, in which the US is merely the largest, but by no means the only player.

    If this still seems a bit much to you — then we simply see this corner of the world differently.

  50. 50
    PurpleGirl says:

    I have a friend who has an ancestor who was a member of what became the Lost Battalion. On the day of the last mission, he was in hospital (in Paris, I believe) and did not go out with them. He never got over their loss and that he was the sole survivor of the battalion.

  51. 51
    stickler says:

    Soonergrunt:

    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Norway, Poland, and Japan among others all have two things in common: They aren’t in the habit of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors (although I know someone here will claim otherwise) and they all bought weapons from the U.S.

    Um, excuse me? Germany and Japan certainly could make a claim to having a “habit” of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors. Hell, even Poland used to invade Russia every now and then, just for kicks.

  52. 52
    frogspawn says:

    Both my grandfathers served on the Western Front; paternal was a Canadian infantry officer, maternal was a British private who was wounded and captured by the Germans in 1916. As I recall, he was working in a German coal mine in 1918 and on 11/11/18 at 11 AM they downed tools. The Germans tried to get them to keep working, but their attitude was “Fuck you, Jerry, the war’s over, mine your own goddamned coal.”

    I’m gonna crack another cold one in both their memories. It’ll always be Armistice Day to me.

  53. 53
    ET says:

    When the Sargent exhibit was at the National Gallery that painting was part of it. It was HUGE and made the image that much more powerful.

    You can tell from the image that there is a very “mustard” tint to it which is even more obvious in person. A very powerful panting.

  54. 54
    stickler says:

    And as somebody who actually gets paid to teach modern European history, let me chime in on the significance of 11/11/1918 as being a particularly poignant moment to commemorate. World War One was a catastrophe for every country that fought it, and it could be claimed that it was the Ur-Catastrophe of the twentieth century. It didn’t need to be waged in the first place, and the suffering it inflicted was out of all proportion to the gains made by the “victorious” powers.

    1914-1918 was, perhaps, the most phenomenal waste in human history — and at the same time, a marker of the modern age. Men who fought and died in that disaster went through some of the most agonizing experiences ever inflicted on humans.

    And I think Americans really don’t, generally, understand how great the trauma was for Europeans (and, obviously, Canadians and Australians too). By war’s end, of all the French men of military age (18-45) alive in 1914, one third were dead. Germany lost 2 million men (out of a total population of 67 million). Britain lost more men in WWI than they would do in WWII.

    Chart available on Wikipedia.

  55. 55
    Tom Levenson says:

    @ET: Yup. In person that image is unbelievable. I saw it both in London and in Boston when the Sargent exhibit came here.

    For anyone heading to London, it makes a trip to the Imperial War Museum that much more worth while.

    And, lifted from the IWM site, here’s Wilfred Owen, getting down to the quick:

    Dulce et Decorum est

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in.
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.
    — Wilfred Owen (1917)

  56. 56
    Fuzz says:

    @Cermet:
    WW1 was also the death of empires (though some places obviously still held colonies a little longer) and gave rise to ethnic nationalism. Without ww1 and the end of the empires almost none of the countries in Eastern Europe even exist, and the Middle East looks vastly different as well. It had a lighter death toll but ww1 did as much, if not more, to shape the world today than ww2.

  57. 57
    Neutron Flux says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    If this still seems a bit much to you—then we simply see this corner of the world differently

    As I have said, I have no problem with your thought about the arms trade and world peace.

    Just tone deaf to me.

    I like your work BTW and I have your Newton book. We are on the same side here. Just saying you picked to the wrong occasion to lament that countries sell arms and that peace looks farther off in the distance than it has for a long time.

    But, if that is not what you meant, I am cool with that to.

  58. 58
    martha says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: so was my husband’s great grandfather…with Sherman, that is. 17th regiment infantry, company B. (he was the youngest son, his son the youngest, and my husband the youngest by far, so the long spread in generations…)

  59. 59
    Roger Moore says:

    @Jenn:
    The USA didn’t see the same level of casualties during WWI, but it did see something like that level of casualties during the Civil War. The Civil War killed something like 10% of the men of military age and crippled a lot more. I think that a big reason the US was so eager to maintain its neutrality during WWI was that people still remembered how bad the Civil War had been.

  60. 60
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Neutron Flux: Glad to be on your side, or vice versa. And truly, it didn’t occur to me that a veteran would find the juxtaposition insulting. I guess Memorial Day is the one that I would have felt a shift in focus more troubling.

    That’s the point, to me, of emphasizing the World War I thread that runs through the 11/11-ness of the ceremony.

    Certainly though, harmony and/or dischord are in the ears of the beholder (sic– metaphor creep alert.)

  61. 61
    Roger Moore says:

    @soonergrunt:

    They aren’t in the recent habit of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors (although I know someone here will claim otherwise) and they all bought weapons from the U.S.

    FTFY.

  62. 62
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Roger Moore: @stickler: @Jenn:

    The death toll in both WW I and the US Civil War were appalling, and hit an eerily similar proportion of the combatants: 2% mortality for the nations involved (though the losses were much higher for those completely at one another’s throats, like France and Germany).

    That led me to write a post on my home blog a long time ago that took that simplistic metric as a way to think about just how badly we had already botched the Iraqi war. If you’re interested, you can find it here.

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    Fun fact. My DHs band uses “I vow to thee my country” as their warm up song, in deference to me. It always makes my spine tingle when I walk in the band room and they are playing it. The song, (and yes I know it is silly) is why I will stay a Brit, I was born a Brit, I will die a Brit.

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    Fun fact. My DHs band uses “I vow to thee my country” as their warm up song, in deference to me. It always makes my spine tingle when I walk in the band room and they are playing it. The song, (and yes I know it is silly) is why I will stay a Brit, I was born a Brit, I will die a Brit.

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    josefina says:

    @Neutron Flux: @Tom Levenson:

    Neutron Flux, at first I just didn’t get your point. But I thought about what you wrote and I think I get it now. You think there ought to be one day that’s about honoring the service and sacrifice itself, without dragging in larger political issues. But if that’s what Nov. 11 is all about, then why aren’t we honoring the service and sacrifice of individual Hun, Nazis, VC? It’s almost impossible to honor combatants without honoring the cause, and all that implies.

    Tom, maybe you could ask the host to put up a Veterans Day post with “Dulce et Decorum Est” as the entire text. I recommend thisversion, with lots of explanatory footnotes and leading to an amazing website.

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    Cermet says:

    @josefina: Nazi’s!? You got the wrong war there buckaroo – WWI caused WWII but the holiday really is about WWI, and the Germans in WWI were as much good guys as we, the English or French but the Kings/Queens and other low lifers along with their inbreed brood just had to play war – costing more millions than any time short of all the Black Death plauges put together…or until WWII.

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    soonergrunt says:

    @josefina:

    He does not honor the larger mechanism—the “military-industrial complex,” to coin a phrase—that designs and produces ever more refined mechanisms for maiming and killing other humans, body and soul, and then markets said mechanisms wholesale.

    Why mention it at all? If that’s a huge issue for him or you, then why not wait until Friday, or why not post it last week? Why does it only occur as a subject for discussion in association with Veterans’ Day?
    Hell, lets just take it all the way to the logical conclusion and compare current military personnel from the western nations to the Nazi SS. After all, like the SS, most western military forces are primarily white males (so we can beat on that horse too!) who wear uniforms.

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    soonergrunt says:

    @stickler:

    Germany and Japan certainly could make a claim to having a “habit” of waging wars of aggression against their neighbors.

    Recently? Oh, wait. They did that before they lost that war. Neither country has done that since. They have constitutions that specifially forbid that stuff. They have huge pacifist movements in their political landscapes. That’s like Junior High School history class, or at the latest Freshman European History at any marginally decent college, which begs the question:
    Are you that fucking stupid?
    edit

    And as somebody who actually gets paid to teach modern European history, let me chime in

    Oh, dear. That IS unfortunate.

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    Andy K says:

    @gbear:

    They’re taste in music is really awful too (they think of themselves as musical insiders but they’re more like musical villagers).

    Ouch. That hurts.

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    Batocchio says:

    Thanks – I do a post every year for 11/11, and will be rounding up other posts. I still prefer the name Armistice Day.

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    stickler says:

    Soonergrunt:

    Look. You included Germany and Japan on a list of countries that don’t invade their neighbors.

    That sort of thing fairly ridicules itself.

    Yes, they haven’t for a while now and aren’t likely to do so anytime soon. But still.

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    Jordan says:

    Hm. Selling weapons and military hardware isn’t the same thing as “exporting war” or recreating the conditions for WWI. What the US is actually doing is selling influence by extending security guarantees to its allies. The alternative is…*not* selling influence and not extending security/trade partnership/guarantees of aid to its allies. In which case, the world being what it is, some other country or countries will step in to that role.

    What is likely to happen if the US cedes that influence to others? I think it’s important to have a pretty good answer to that question before advocating such a policy, assuming that’s what you’re doing here, Tom.

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    soonergrunt says:

    @stickler: About the only things German and Japanese societies of today have in common with their antecedents (my word-a-day calendar strikes again) is their physical locations and their languages.
    These are societies where the decision to modernize military forces that were never even adequate to a passive defense is a huge controversy in both countries.
    It’s been this way for two generations and going on a third.
    That point is or should be blindingly obvious to anyone who knows modern European history.

    Anyway, today is Veterans’ Day. I’ve got to get around because I have a busy day. I’ve got a memorial ceremony at ten AM followed by planting a couple of dwarf pines on the graves of a couple of buddies who died in Afghanistan, followed by a light lunch, and then at two PM, I’m selling a gross of anti-tank rockets to the nation of Botswana because we all know who those things go together.

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    soonergrunt says:

    @Roger Moore: Thanks for the needed clarification.
    I thought it rather obvious after two generations, but apparently I was wrong on that point.

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    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for this post, and for as usual pulling in some stunning artwork to go along with it.

    One of my grandfathers fought in the US Army on the front line in the Meuse-Argonne sector during 1918. If he had not survived, or had been seriously wounded, I wouldn’t be typing these words, as my father would never have been born.

    A couple of random thoughts:

    The global arms trade, bad as it is, has to be put in perspective. A common factoid is that with 2 wars currently in progress plus the permanent MIC, we in the US spend as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. If you take that figure as roughly an even 1 trillion $, then that means that global military spending ex the US is about 3.5% of global GDP ex the US. IIRC that is about the same as the mean level of military spending by the Belle Époque powers of continental Europe. So in that very macro-level sense, nothing has changed since 11-11-1918, but on other hand things haven’t gotten much worse either.

    As to the enduring character of the human taste for conflict which lies beneath these statistics, it strikes me as both ironic and symptomatic that right here on this very thread, amongst folks who for the most part agree with each other more than they disagree about politics, and regarding a subject whose (to my mind at least) only truly proper response is profound contemplation and respectful silence, we are having a nice little argument. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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    […] at Balloon Juice, I wrote yesterday of war in the abstract, of the sorrow to be read in the numbing, enormous tallies of weapons bought and […]

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    liz says:

    Interesting thoughts. I never thought about it quite like that before. Thanks for posting this!

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