Friday, December 25, 2015

2015 Christmas Message

A couple of interesting anniversaries worth remembering at Christmastime.
First, a century ago the "Great War" gave way, albeit for just a moment, to a spontaneous Christmas truce between Germans and Brits locked in brutal trench warfare. So the story goes, and to the chagrin of commanders and higher-ups, soldiers put down their arms for joint burial services, exchange of tokens, and even an impromptu soccer match. It's all the more extraordinary because if there were ever a war that was a greater miscalculation (see Thomas Fleming's "An Illusion of Victory"), WWI was it. Indeed, its post war 'treaties' set the stage for WWII and a century of bloody Wilsonian interventionism.

Christmas also marks another war remembrance, this time WWII's Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Hitler's charge through American lines with some 400,000 troops represented the Third Reich's last gasp through western Europe. The turning point came at Bastogne when Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's outmanned forces repelled four enemy divisions after rebuffing German demands to surrender with a succinct reply, "Nuts." Later, JFK would famously invoke the battle in the Cold War: "I hear it said that West Berlin is militarily untenable. And so was Bastogne. And so, in fact, was Stalingrad. Any dangerous spot is tenable if men--brave men--will make it so." The siege (and for all practical purposes the war) ended after Patton's Fourth Armored Division rolled into the city on Dec. 26th, subsequently made famous by the eponymous movie title.

So on this special day of peace and goodwill toward man, it's always worth recalling that great nations fight when their own freedom is threatened, but never do so when it isn't.

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