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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembering Armistice Day

By: Jack Kenny

Those of us of a certain age may remember that Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day – the day the guns fell silent in war-torn Europe at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The Great War, the Global War that we now call World War I, had reached a ceasefire. In the months and years that followed, the victorious allies would rearrange the boundaries of much of the globe, uprooting peoples and nations in a fragile peace that set the stage for World War II.

This year marks the centenary of the Armistice and a reminder that the old is ever new. In 1821, John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State and future president said our young republic would be the friend of liberty and independence everywhere, but the vindicator and champion only of our own. America, said Adams, “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Otherwise, she might gain an empire and, in the process, lose her soul.

America in the 20th century forgot the warning of Adams, and those of his father, the first President Adams, along with the wise counsel of George Washington, who urged his countrymen to stay out of Europe’s many and endless wars. And it was Thomas Jefferson who, in his first Inaugural Address, called for “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, the United States embarked on a course of neutrality that was as short-lived as it was halfhearted. We lent money and shipped armaments to Great Britain. We observed the British blockade of Germany, but not the Germans reciprocal blockade of the British Isles. The war loans we made to embattled Britain gave American financiers a vested interest in the outcome of the war. Though President Wilson’s campaign slogan in 1916 was, “He kept us out of war,” his second term was but a month old when he went before Congress asking for a declaration of war against the Germans, who by that time had declared unrestricted submarine warfare against all vessels bound for the British isles.

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