Veteran’s Day

Cidu Bill on Nov 11th 2017

The first time I posted the link to this Arlo and Janis story (runs for six days), somebody told me they should run it in the newspapers every year. Since that’s not likely to happen, I’ll do the next best thing by posting the link each year.

And on the same basic subject, it’s probably hard to really appreciate this one unless you were 18 years old during a very specific time:


 (Please note that the first 260 comments are from previous years)

Filed in Arlo and Janis, Bill Bickel, Jimmy Johnson, Veteran's Day, comic strips, comics | 269 responses so far

269 Responses to “Veteran’s Day”

  1. mzip Nov 11th 2009 at 07:50 am 1

    Thank you for posting the link. I think I’ve read that story last year already, but thank you for posting it every year.

  2. chuckers Nov 11th 2009 at 07:51 am 2

    Subtle. Would very definitely have been a CIDU if you hadn’t mentioned the 18 year old thingy.

  3. Molly J Nov 11th 2009 at 08:18 am 3

    The linked series is very moving. Thanks for posting it; I think I must have missed it last year.

    And yup, I’m an old enough fart to remember my older brothers and the lottery.

  4. Nicole Nov 11th 2009 at 09:18 am 4

    I didn’t read the series, I just read this comic and it nearly made me cry.

    Years ago I was in Washington DC, and decided to visit the Vietnam War memorial. I was a teenager during that time, and thought I should at least see it once.

    There was a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of just putting up a wall with the names of the dead carved into it. There were people who wanted the heroism of the statue of the men raising the flag over Iwo Jima. They felt that naming the dead somehow dishonored those the memory who fought in the war.

    When I arrived at the memorial I stood for a moment and and just looked at all of the names. Then I slowly walked from one end of the memorial to the other, occasionally reading a name or touching one. When I got to the end, I wept. I didn’t know anyone who died over there, I wept for them all.

    We were children during that war. We didn’t understand what we were doing when we would hurl insults at the soldiers as they came home from the war. After that day at the Viet Nam war memorial, I understood. Ever since then, regardless of my opinion of the war they are fighting in, I honor and respect the men and women fighting in it.

    To those who thought that a wall with the names of the dead somehow was an insult to the Americans who fought and died in the Viet Nam war, you were wrong, so very very wrong.

    To the verterans reading this, whether you fought in a war or not, drafted or volunteered, there are no words that I can say other than thank you. Thank you to those veterans not reading this, and most of all thank you to those veterans who will never read anything ever again.


  5. Nicole Nov 11th 2009 at 10:22 am 5

  6. Daniel J. Drazen Nov 11th 2009 at 11:04 am 6

    I got it, all right. My younger brother pulled #1 during his turn. He beat it by enlisting and serving in Germany for 3 years where, in his own words, the Army got him off of pot and onto white wine.

    RIP, Timm.

  7. Christian Nov 11th 2009 at 11:16 am 7

    Not to make light or anything, but is the old guy holding “Death cat” in his lap in the last panel of that story arc?

  8. Morris Keesan Nov 11th 2009 at 11:42 am 8

    I was a skinny 18-year-old, and keeping my weight down enough to qualify as 4F if necessary, and keeping Canada in the back of my mind as a fallback position, when my lottery number came up somewhere in the high 200s. But when I read this A&J strip, I didn’t even think of the draft lottery until seeing Bill’s comment. I think the strip makes perfect sense with “winning the lottery” in a metaphorical sense. By being alive, being Americans (most of us) who have enough disposable time and income to have Internet connections and hang out at CIDU, we’ve all won a lottery, compared to millions of third-world people who have a good chance of not surviving the week.

  9. Frank the curmudgeon Nov 11th 2009 at 12:29 pm 9

    A day for all of us, veterans and lottery winners, to give thanks for another day to remember those who were not so fortunate.

  10. Elyrest Nov 11th 2009 at 12:59 pm 10

    Nicole - Thank you for your eloquent comments about the Vietnam Wall and Veterans. I was affected the same way when I visited the memorial. I remember coming across it and thinking this isn’t much and then going down into the area and walking from one end to the other. I was in tears way before the end. I still remember a note left there by a woman for her “brown-eyed boy” who she would never see again.

    I too am old enough to remember the lottery vividly. I have many cousins who were all of an age to be drafted. My Mom sat and watched with all of their birthdates in front of her and cheered as they were all high enough that they were safe. Then she cried.

  11. Chakolate Nov 11th 2009 at 04:37 pm 11

    I was in the tv room of my college dorm when the lottery took place that would decide my brother’s fate. His number came up 328.

  12. PLACEHOLDER Nov 11th 2009 at 04:42 pm 12

    This comment was removed because it referred to an Arlo and Janis link that’s been changed. I wanted to leave something in its place, though, because a lot of people referred to other posts by number, and deleting posts would re-order everything.

  13. Dan V Nov 11th 2009 at 06:32 pm 13

    I was 17 the year the draft was abolished, so I never had to sweat the lottery personally. Some of my classmates weren’t so lucky. I’m thankful for all those who served, especially for those who gave their lives that others might be free.

  14. Singapore Bill Nov 11th 2009 at 08:30 pm 14

    Wow! Bill, that series is incredibly powerful. Thanks for showing it to me. A nice change from rah-rah jingoism that sometimes appears at this time of year.

  15. Larry Nov 11th 2009 at 08:41 pm 15

    I got a 312 in the lottery in 1974. I was subsequently classified 1H. A lot of my HS buddies got lower numbers, and a 1A. Some got their asses shipped off to Nam before they knew what was happening.

    There were a few that I never saw again…. I do miss them.

    Thankful, I am.

  16. Rebecca Nov 11th 2009 at 08:44 pm 16

    Maybe I’m too young to appreciate it. The look on that German’s face is pretty funny.

  17. Drdan Nov 11th 2009 at 09:22 pm 17

    I was 14 when the draft ended, before that my earliest memory of my parents was them telling me how important education was so I could be an officer, I didn’t really get it until later when they used to show the drawing of the number, and my parents checked to se which of my cousins might go, when the draft ended I was still “forced” to pursue my education, but the possibility of my being an officer was never brought up again. I’m a minority and I remember my folks saying “______” like you die up on the front for nothing, kind of insensitive but looking back I understand

  18. Mark in Boston Nov 11th 2009 at 10:38 pm 18

    I wonder how many names are on the wall in Vietnam.

  19. zbicyclist Nov 11th 2009 at 11:12 pm 19

    1. Thanks for running the link.

    2. The interesting thing is that 1969 lottery wasn’t a fair pull. It’s pretty well established that if you were born late in the year, you were much more likely to get a low (bad) number. Guys like me, born in February, were likely to get high (good) numbers. I got 290. It was hard to celebrate because in every group of guys, there was somebody with a low number.
    This gets blamed on the fact that they didn’t mix up the numbers enough, and it was an innocent mistake. For arguably the most important lottery of the 20th century? I don’t know.
    actual numbers here:

  20. MrKenneth Nov 11th 2009 at 11:32 pm 20

    High school friend’s name is on the third panel to the east of the apex.
    that means it was early in the war. West Point grad, forever 22. God bless them all.

  21. paperboy Nov 12th 2009 at 03:52 pm 21

    The subtle reference reminds me of the Arlo strip on Nov.22, 1988, which had, if memory serves, 3 panels of Arlo sitting on the stoop just silently thinking, the last panel with him thinking “25 years…”.

  22. Pete Nov 13th 2009 at 05:28 pm 22

    You can sort the strips by date, then they will show with the earliest at the top0, and latest at the bottom.

  23. Darren S. A. George Nov 13th 2009 at 07:33 pm 23

    I might have been born then (and I’m Canadian), but I still understood the comic. Knowing that it’s Remembrance day makes it obvious.

  24. Sally Nov 11th 2010 at 07:18 am 24

    Mark in Boston@18 - of course you can just google it
    “With the addition of six names added in 2010 the total is now 58,267 names listed on the Memorial. Approximately 1200 of these are listed as missing (MIA’s, POW’s, and others).” -

  25. Kamino Neko Nov 11th 2010 at 07:23 am 25

    There’s a difference between understanding it, though, Darren, and fully appreciating it.

    I fully admit that, while I understand it, as a Canadian born decades after our last draft, I don’t fully appreciate it, in the sense that I can’t know the fear of unwillingly being sent off to fight in a losing war I didn’t believe in.

  26. Detcord Nov 11th 2010 at 07:49 am 26

    I note all the comments are from 2009. I hope no one minds my adding to it in 2010.

    I remember following the war as a child, via an old radio in the basement. One might say I, and my brothers, grew up with it in the background. I knew no one who was actually involved. Then “The Lottery” came (which is also the name of a very weird short story) and my parents and oldest brother took a more personal interest. It was 1971 when his birth date was pulled. I can’t remember it exactly, but I know it was double digits. His best friend got No. 3.

    There was never any thought of “going to Canada”. We’re not that way inclined. But my mother, especially, was not happy. She was lucky in WWII, as her 3 brothers came home - though they were damaged, all physically and one mentally. Many others that she knew did not return.

    I understand that, in the waning days of Ancient Rome, some male citizens of a certain age would, in time of strife, cut the thumb off their right hand. This meant they couldn’t hold a sword and were, thus, excused duty. Did Rome, as an Empire, fall because of this, or was it just a symptom of a wider, societal, malaise? Does history repeat itself, or does it just seem that way?

    Thanks for posting this Bill. It’s right to remember.

  27. Bill A Nov 11th 2010 at 08:02 am 27

    Thank you for posting this. As I read the series, I always thought (and still do) that Arlo was referring not to the fact that he wasn’t drafted, but rather that he (and his family) is here because his Dad survived the war (the real lottery). Again, thanks.

  28. Findus Nov 11th 2010 at 08:47 am 28

    Sally (24), that number was not what Mark in Boston (18) commented on. The number of fallen North Vietnamese soldiers is estimated at 1 million. A commemorative wall would be several miles long. The number of casualties in the South Vietnamese army was around 250 000.
    Just gruesome food for thought, not the expression of an opinion.

  29. hm Nov 11th 2010 at 09:32 am 29

    My dad was an officer in the Navy, 2 tours of duty in Viet Nam. He never talked about it, (other than a funny story about eating hot pickled jalepenos to stay awake and warm on birdge duty overnight). It wasn’t until recently (when I received a bunch of stuff from his house he was selling to travel in an RV full-time) that I began to better understand that instead of being on some big ship in the Mediterranean (which is all I had heard about), he actually was mostly on patrol boats “upriver”. I found boxes of slides with pictures he took throughout SE Asia, and then I found pictures of him returning home and being greeted by my mom and seeing me for the first time. Those pictures really brought it home to me in a way that I hadn’t ever realized. It also made me think of all the moms and children whose husband/father never came home.

  30. Keera Nov 11th 2010 at 10:56 am 30

    I spent summer vacation in Normandy this year (as some of you may remember). I walked through both the American cemetery and the German one. Tens of thousands dead - so I and others could live in peace and prosperity. The names on the headstones remind us they were real people. I so hope that somewhere, somehow, they know their efforts and lives weren’t wasted.

    And now I’m crying - for them, for all of them, for all the wars, for the dead and the survivors. I so wish they never had to make the sacrifice, but I am so grateful they did.

  31. Scott Nov 11th 2010 at 12:15 pm 31

    I got an 11 in the lottery. I was lucky in that I didn’t graduate from college until right after Nixon ended the draft.
    My daughter just graduated from college, and what is interesting is how Vietnam dominated our thoughts in a way that Iraq never dominated her’s or her classmates thoughts.

    I was delivering the mail during the lottery drawing in 1970, and every house had it on the radio.

  32. Jeff S. Nov 11th 2010 at 12:28 pm 32

    My dad served in the Navy and was at Normandy. That’s all I know about his service. He never talked about it, and now he’s gone.

    My oldest brother served in the Navy during the Viet Nam war, but he learned conversational Russian, so he didn’t serve IN Viet Nam. That’s all I know about his service. He never talks about it.

    Whatever happened to them, affected them too much to talk about it. War sucks, but I am so thankful they both survived. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be the person I am without their service.

  33. DavidF Nov 11th 2010 at 05:06 pm 33

    Arlo and Janis and Jeff and Pam Murdoch (Crankshaft) seem to live in that strange comics time zone where, based on the age of their kids, parents, and the rest of their day-to-day life, they ought to be about my age (mid-40s), but these kinds of strips (and the Murdoch’s remembering rioting at Kent State awhile back when they were taking their kid off to college) seem to indicate they’re actually in their late 50s to early 60s. Anyway, Happy Veteran’s Day.

  34. Kay Nov 11th 2010 at 06:19 pm 34

    I vividly recall The Lottery. Boyfriend got a high number, whew. Years later married a guy with a high number. What happened to the guys with the lower numbers is what today’s about. I can’t help thinking, as cruel as it can be, a draft now would certainly get this country’s attention regarding our two present wars, and maybe history would be different.

  35. ty Nov 11th 2010 at 07:19 pm 35

    I’m not sure what is happy about Veteran’s Day. When I see ads on American tv for Veteran’s Day furniture sales, I’m thankful for Canada calling it Remembrance Day, which keeps the focus where it should be - the cost of war, the cost of maintaining our freedoms. (No offence to veterans.)

  36. Steffen Nov 11th 2010 at 08:28 pm 36

    I’m a 22 year old Canadian. I think I do appreciate this comic. I was thinking earlier today, nothing to do with Remembrance day, but a lecture about Tartars raiding Russia for slaves, that it’s very lucky for me that I was born exactly when and where I was and not even a generation earlier or any other country, including in particular the US during Vietnam.

    It’s a good time to be alive in a lot of the world. It’s a shame it wasn’t always like this, and that it’s not in the rest.

  37. James Pollock Nov 11th 2010 at 08:44 pm 37

    Memorial Day is in May, where we (ideally) all pause to reflect on those who did not return from service. Today is about those who did, and those who continue to serve. It is about separation from home, from family, from safety, from comfort. It is a day set aside to thank those who endured these and other privations.

  38. ty Nov 11th 2010 at 09:30 pm 38

    Thanks, James Pollock, I stand corrected on the differences between Memorial, Veterans’ and Remembrance Day. Still don’t think furniture sales are appropriate, though.

  39. Kilby Nov 11th 2010 at 10:32 pm 39

    Speaking of inappropriateness: November 11th is the traditional start of “Carnival” in Germany, which is a tedious (but nevertheless frequently televised) series of artificial celebrations culminating in an orgy of Mardi Gras parades (depending on the city, these occur either on “Rose Monday” (such as in Mainz) or Shrove Tuesday (Cologne).

    I have long suspected that the kickoff date of the “carnival season” was chosen to whitewash the unpleasant “other” significance of Armistice Day (which is, of course, utterly unknown in Germany), but it is quite possible that it is all just a bit of curious numerology (for example, the ceremonies all begin at 11:11 am), and of course the German “Mardi Gras” celebrations significantly predate WWI).

  40. Cidu Bill Nov 11th 2010 at 10:50 pm 40

    A few years ago, I was having a discussion with a friend of my son’s, who said he thought 9/11 should be declared a day of remembrance. I told him it would just end up being a day off for students and government workers, and would quickly become commercialized. He said he doubted that, and I said “I have two words for you: Memorial. Day.”

  41. Winter Wallaby Nov 11th 2010 at 11:10 pm 41


    I note all the comments are from 2009.

    Ha, I hadn’t realized this before I got to your comment. I read all the way down thinking, “Wow these comments are pretty similar to last year. Nicole told that exact same story last year.” :)

  42. Detcord Nov 12th 2010 at 02:47 am 42

    Winter W. (41)

    Yeah, but 2 slipped in ahead of me as I was reading them. The folks had some pretty interesting things to say.

  43. Findus Nov 12th 2010 at 02:50 am 43

    Kilby (39)
    Nov 11th is also St Martin’s day. It was a day to settle accounts after harvest. If the payment was in the form of a goose, it was eaten around that day by the creditor. Generally, there were seasonal celebrations on that date in the spirit of thanksgiving.
    The Carnival calendar is linked to the church year and predates Armistice by centuries.

  44. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Nov 12th 2010 at 03:12 am 44

    DavidF - not sure why you feel these items dictate a particular age (within a 15+ year range). _I_ get the feeling A&J are around my age (55) based on those same facts: I had a lottery number (one low enough to require a physical, especially since I was (incorrectly) classified 1A rather than 1H) - the last lottery was the year after “my” lottery, my father served during WW2 and Korea (if my parents were still alive, they would be 91 and 85), I certainly remember Kent State (I was in high school, but I think high-schoolers then were more politically active than those since, undoubtedly due to Vietnam), I have kids aged 17 and 20, and my (and my wife’s) day-to-day activities are pretty much what they have been for the last 25 years (go to work every day, deal with kid issues, deal with house issues, etc.) I couldn’t be more than a couple of years younger and have all these be true (maybe up to 5 or 6 if the lottery referred to an older brother and I was aware of Kent State due to that), but I could certainly be 10 or more years older and still have them apply. (And people of my age are likely to refer to the “Kent State massacre” rather than the “Kent State riots”…)

    That said, there are certainly comics (perhaps most) that have temporal distortions due to in-strip references that are reasonable when they are made but become anachronistic because the characters don’t age, at least not in real-time. I don’t read Crankshaft, so I can’t comment on that, but I think A&J has mostly avoided that to date, though the characters appear to age somewhat slower than real-time, so it is getting close to the point where anomalies will become likely. Doonesbury already has some - while the characters supposedly age in real-time now (with the core characters (Mike, BD, Zonker) on the order of 60, I don’t think there is any way that BD could have served (in the field, anyway) in both Vietnam and Iran, and some of the characters (Duke, maybe Joanie and Rick) are seemingly younger than they should be.

  45. Lihtox Nov 12th 2010 at 10:07 am 45

    I’m only 35, but my Dad “won the lottery” back then, which means I did too.

  46. Kilby Nov 12th 2010 at 10:54 am 46

    @ Findus (43) - The culmination of the German “Karnival” (on the eve of Ash Wednesday) is indeed ancient; my speculations were aimed solely at the odd beginning date for the so-called “fifth season”. I did a little searching, and discovered (to my surprise) that the related “feasting” celebrations on Nov. 11th go back at least in part to the 19th century. It would appear that part of the original motivation was to use up stocks before Advent began. I therefore assume that the carnevalistic fixation with the number “11″ developed afterwards.

    P.S. Germany doesn’t have a uniform date for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest), but the recommended date (such as in most church calendars) is the first Sunday in October.

  47. Guero Nov 12th 2010 at 04:27 pm 47

    I won the lottery, but it cost me $20. When they held the first drawing, I got #363. The next day, a buddy of mine bet he had a higher lottery number than I did. I figured the odds were pretty much in my favor. He got #365.

    On a more serious note, Scott @31, there are reasons people are less engaged in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars today. I’d say elimination of the draft being the biggest, but there was also a conscious effort on the part of the Bush administration to avoid any action that could possibly be perceived as a sacrifice on the part of the American public in the war effort. Embedded (read controlled) newsmen; no pictures of returning caskets; hell, he even ran up a trillion dollar debt rather than inconvenience anyone with taxes to pay for the war. That’s not to say there haven’t been sacrifices. Ask anyone with a family member on their second or third tour of duty, not to mention the close to 7,000 dead and tens of thousands wounded. Politicians learned their lesson well from Vietnam.

  48. Cidu Bill Nov 12th 2010 at 04:37 pm 48

    Guero, I guess you’d never heard of Sky Masterson.

  49. Guero Nov 12th 2010 at 05:15 pm 49

    Thank you, Bill. I couldn’t remember the full quote or where it came from , so I didn’t put it in my post.

  50. Larry Nov 15th 2010 at 09:09 pm 50

    Thanks for posting all the old comments Bill. I just now got to read them.
    A lot of thoughtful people we have around here. Thanks all.

  51. Larry Nov 15th 2010 at 09:12 pm 51

    Sally # 24

    Not Googled, but a miniature of the wall came to our area, my wife asked and we learned there are 9 females on the wall !

  52. PLACEHOLDER Nov 11th 2011 at 08:10 am 52

    This comment was removed because it referred to an Arlo and Janis link that’s been changed. I wanted to leave something in its place, though, because a lot of people referred to other posts by number, and deleting posts would re-order everything.

  53. PLACEHOLDER Nov 11th 2011 at 08:16 am 53

    This comment was removed because it referred to an Arlo and Janis link that’s been changed. I wanted to leave something in its place, though, because a lot of people referred to other posts by number, and deleting posts would re-order everything.

  54. Keera Nov 11th 2011 at 12:02 pm 54

    Thanks for the links, Kilby! I wanted to re-read the story. Stuff like this moves me more the older I get. And the older I get, the dumber war gets.

  55. PLACEHOLDER Nov 11th 2011 at 12:09 pm 55

    This comment was removed because it referred to an Arlo and Janis link that’s been changed. I wanted to leave something in its place, though, because a lot of people referred to other posts by number, and deleting posts would re-order everything.

  56. Ron in Provo Nov 11th 2011 at 04:40 pm 56

    Keera, war is dumb, but when the other guy starts killing people you have to take action. Surrendering to evil is NOT an option.

  57. Other John Nov 11th 2011 at 06:04 pm 57

    I try to thank veterans whenever I see them. Today at work, I simply had more opportunities to do so.

  58. Jeff S. Nov 11th 2011 at 07:50 pm 58

    Since my previous post, we have visited the Viet Nam Memorial in DC, and more importantly, our son was sent to Afghanistan. He is due home in March.

  59. Keera Nov 12th 2011 at 11:18 am 59

    Ron @56, the older I get the more I wish people would avoid war at any cost, rather than fight one at any cost.

  60. Detcord Nov 12th 2011 at 01:23 pm 60


    Really? At any cost?

    You would sacrifice your life, liberty and sacred honor rather than fight for yourself or your kin? Most thinking people avoid war - even the ones without moral values - as the cost of war is extremely high. But not everyone does so - and though it takes (at least) 2 to make war, it takes only 1 to make a massacre. Would you standby if such a massacre were happening right in front of you?

    All it take for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

  61. Lost in A**2 Nov 12th 2011 at 02:23 pm 61

    I was inclined to let Keera’s comment pass, but since you bring it up, Detcord: Chamberlain and Czechoslovakia were the first things that came to my mind. Followed closely by Rwanda and Bosnia.

    “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything.”

  62. James Pollock Nov 12th 2011 at 04:30 pm 62

    Detcord, what, may I ask, was your interpretation of Obama’s (and ultimately, America’s) actions with regards to Libya? For it, agin it, no opinion?

    Bringing up WWII is interesting, as the United States had intended to stay out of it, and we were late to join in.

    Switzerland seems to do a good job of avoiding wars AND massacres

    I fall into the middle camp… I think that many are too quick to decide war is the only option, and wars of choice are to be avoided. On the other hand, wars that are not of choice are to be fought with ruthless efficiency. A variation on “speak softly and carry a big stick”, really… some people focus on the “big stick” part and lose sight of the “speaking softly”.

    My philosophy is “Don’t start any fights, but finish any you find yourself in.”

  63. Ron in Provo Nov 12th 2011 at 07:53 pm 63

    Here’s a poem that makes my point:

  64. Detcord Nov 12th 2011 at 08:40 pm 64

    Ron in Provo (63)

    That was a very good poem. Thanks.

    James, being in Britian, I don’t know much about Obama and his policies. I kind of lost it when he went Kow Towing to every Tom, Dick and potentate. Not sure this bit (below) is a poem, I think it’s more of a warning - and it came from Germany. Consider it a cautionary tale with regard to doing nothing:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    …attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets…

  65. Paperboy Nov 12th 2011 at 10:00 pm 65

    “First they came for the Communists,
    and I spoke out!
    What happened after that I know not,
    because I was arrested and executed.”

  66. Morris Keesan Nov 13th 2011 at 05:52 pm 66

    I like Salvor Hardin’s view of violence.

  67. Ron in Provo Nov 13th 2011 at 06:14 pm 67

    Morris, I assume you mean: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

    That may be true as long as you’re referencing the person who starts the violence. OTOH, if I discovered someone molesting my handicapped daughter, would you judge me as incompetent if, instead of nicely asking him to stop, I were to attack him with a blunt object?

  68. Cidu Bill Nov 13th 2011 at 06:19 pm 68

    Intending no disrespect to our soldiers, veterans and war dead, I believe that every war the United States has been involved in has been either a war of opportunity or a war that could easily have been avoided, with the sole exception of World War Two. And I include an asterisk there because, while we absolutely did have to fight World War Two, the war itself was simply a sequel to World War One, which never should have happened.

    And I reserve judgment on the Civil War, which might have been inevitable.

  69. Mark in Boston Nov 13th 2011 at 07:17 pm 69

    Do you think that the War of 1812 was a smart move for us, and that it worked out well?

  70. Detcord Nov 13th 2011 at 07:28 pm 70

    Cidu Bill (68)

    To a degree, I can see your point - and I assume you exclude the Revolutionary War as the United States did not exist then. If not, then we disagree. I also assume you consider the expansion westward (from the Eastern seaboard) to be opportunistic - and I think one could make an argument for such - though those were different times and it’s a bit harsh to judge history by modern mores.

    Not so sure I agree with you about the War of 1812 though and yes, I would say the Civil War was inevitable - given the conditions at the time - and at the start of our fledgling nation.

    Perhaps the First World war should never have happened, but frankly - given the various treaties and trip-wires involved - I would say that one was inevitable too. Had the US kept out of it, the world would have been a different place, as it is fairly plain that the US tipped the balance at a critical moment. Not sure that place would have been a better one, had we kept out.

    The Korean War was a commitment and the US would have been craven not to keep it. Going beyond that commitment is what got us into trouble.

    Vietnam is another story. Given that Ho Chi Min was our ally in WWII, Vietnam should never have happened - especially the part where we supported the French attempt to re-colonize the country after WWII. Had we supported Ho’s (eventually successful) attempt to break away from the clutches of France - we would have had a friend in an otherwise unfriendly area. A real opportunity lost - that one - and we paid dearly for it.

    The first Gulf War was also a treaty commitment - so I have to disagree with you there too. Only problem is we won the battle and then promptly threw away the victory. That one still rankles - and made the second one inevitable.

    To be honest -and to extend the metaphor - you might as well say we ought not to have policemen. They wage war on those who would destabilise our current society. The ultimate alternative is anarchy - and not the fluffy stuff today’s anarchists are disingenuously peddling.

    Sorry about the long post. I got a bit carried away – but this is important stuff you’ve raised.

  71. James Pollock Nov 13th 2011 at 08:43 pm 71

    The fact that wars have been required due to treaty requirements does not mean that they were unavoidable; it means that the avoiding needed to be done earlier, when the treaties were created.

    Also, there is some evidence that the first Gulf War was entirely avoidable… Saddam sent feelers out to the U.S. Ambassador to find out what the U.S. position would be if Saddam invaded. He got a noncommittal answer, which he interpreted as acquiescence, but probably actually indicated inattention by the ambassador. (Remember, we’d supported Iraq in its war with Iran. Saddam thought he was “in” with the U.S. until he found out that he wasn’t.)

    OTOH, I think the first Gulf War ended exactly as it should have… Iraq’s forces removed from Kuwait. GHW understood the headache that would have resulted from invading Iraq and (in my opinion, wisely) kept us out.

    I also think that smashing the Taliban in Afghanistan for harboring the terrorists who attacked us ranks as a “necessary” war… and had we kept our attention on it, we’d probably have more stability in the region and increased safety, security, and freedom for all.

  72. Morris Keesan Nov 14th 2011 at 12:58 am 72

    Ron in Provo #67, since you present those as if they were your only two options, then yes, most definitely.

  73. Ron in Provo Nov 14th 2011 at 01:41 am 73

    Morris, it has been my sad experience that bullies tend to laugh at or simply ignore entreaties to “play nice.” There certainly may be exceptions to that rule, but I’ve never met them. And when an innocent person is being harmed, while it would be nice for someone to take on the task of informing the authorities, someone has to tackle the guilty party immediately and force them to stop.

  74. Morris Keesan Nov 15th 2011 at 03:59 pm 74

    Ron, you’ve emphasized my point by appearing to totally miss it. There’s a wide range of options between “nicely asking him to stop” and “attack[ing] him with a blunt object”, and it’s sad if you can’t see them.

  75. Ron in Provo Nov 15th 2011 at 08:10 pm 75

    Really, Morris? Let’s see what some might be:

    1. Myself — I have cardiomyopathy and a bad back. I have no military, police, or martial arts training. If it’s up to me to stop a rapist, I will have only one shot at it before I, too, become a victim. That means I will need a weapon, but I don’t carry one and will have to improvise. Rocks and bricks are plentiful.

    2. Others — very few rapes happen in public places where I could call out to others and get them to intervene for me. Of course if that were possible, I would alert others. It would be far safer for me and the rapist would be more likely to be caught.

    3. Police — their average response time is much greater than the rapist will need to complete the deed and flee. So dialing 911 and pleading for a miracle probably won’t save her.

    So, what would you suggest that a disabled person do when faced with such a situation?

  76. Some Old Guy Nov 11th 2012 at 04:32 pm 76

    Thanks for posting this again, Bill. Brings back many memories. They stopped calling up people 5 numbers before they reached mine. Even my dad (a career Marine) was happy. Happy Veteran’s Day, Colonel. Rest in peace and Semper Fi.

  77. jjmcgaffey Nov 11th 2012 at 05:41 pm 77

    Thanks for posting. It’s not something that directly affected me, and my dad was in college, the Peace Corps, and the Foreign Service at least partly to avoid the draft, so never was actually in the lottery. Still. It affected my country, in a lot of ways.

  78. Inkwell Nov 11th 2012 at 06:03 pm 78

    I think I’m gonna cry. The thing is, we always dehumanize the other side, what with wartime cartoons and propaganda posters. Our soldiers are always noble, theirs are always monsters.

    All Arlo and Janis had to do was show the poor man’s face to tell us that perception was wrong.

  79. buzz Nov 11th 2012 at 09:03 pm 79

    I was drafted in 1972.

  80. Bob Nov 13th 2012 at 02:53 pm 80

    @buzz - glad you’re here 40 years later to tell us that and not a name on a wall.

  81. Blinky the Wonder Wombat Nov 11th 2013 at 12:18 pm 81

    Thanks for reposting, Bill. I still get choked up reading this arc.

    I am thankful that I never had to do the unpleasant deeds many of our veterans had to do. War is truly hell.

  82. Elyrest Nov 11th 2013 at 01:09 pm 82

    Thanks for posting again, Bill. I get choked up reading this too. My Dad, a WWII vet in the Pacific Theatre, died this year at almost 90. WWII was the defining thing in most of the young lives of my parents generation. Dad was proud of serving, but he rarely talked about the war. He never wanted to travel around the world on a ship again though and, after serving in China , hated rice for the rest of his life. Thanks, Dad.

  83. Jeff S. Nov 11th 2013 at 02:18 pm 83

    I well up each time I read it too. My father served 3 years in the Navy during WWII, but the only reason I know that is, I’ve seen his service photo, and the Find-A-Grave article says so. Granted, my parents were 40 when I was born, so that happened LONG before I was born, but it’s a chunk of his life I don’t know much about.

    Thanks to all that served. My gratitude for your sacrifices goes beyond words.

  84. Cidu Bill Nov 11th 2013 at 02:55 pm 84

    I had an interesting related experience recently: I was midway through a book about World War One, when I got to talking to my cousin at a family gathering. We discussed the fact that in that war, our grandfather was a soldier for Austria-Hungary. This was news to me, because I’d always assumed he was a little too young to fight in that war (which in fact was true as well). Kind of changed my reading of the rest of the book (though I was already spoiled for the ending).

    It made me think about this A&J story, though, because it was a reminder that sometimes the “enemy” could just as easily be us.

  85. Lost in A**2 Nov 11th 2013 at 03:40 pm 85

    Puts me in mind of Alsace-Lorraine, where villages with memorials for both sides are not rare.

  86. Some Old Guy Nov 11th 2013 at 05:43 pm 86

    Semper fi, Colonel [aka Dad]!

  87. Detcord Nov 11th 2013 at 06:34 pm 87

    Cidu Bill: Your (84) comment begs the question, which ancestor from the old country caused you to be an American?

  88. mitch4 Nov 11th 2013 at 07:44 pm 88

    One spring during my college years I was working on my financial aid application for the following year, and in the list of special-qualification awards I noticed one for students whose grandfathers had served in the armed forces during the First World War.

    But a little more checking made clear they meant the U.S. forces. Pop Charlie had been in the Russian Army. Ah well.

  89. Boise Ed Nov 11th 2013 at 07:59 pm 89

    My dad won the lottery the way I think you meant, JJ; I was born 9 months after he got back to the USA. If one is of a certain younger age, like me, winning the lottery was not having your draft number called and thus staying the hell away from Vietnam.

  90. Cidu Bill Nov 11th 2013 at 08:53 pm 90

    All of them, Detcord. Unless I’m misunderstanding the question.

  91. LarryLunts Nov 12th 2013 at 03:58 am 91

    During the 1970s, I was very opposed to the draft, since I regarded Vietnam as an unnecessary war, and I was fortunate enough to draw high draft numbers. All these years later, I have changed my mind. In an era of never-ending Oil Wars, I believe that a draft is necessary. But it must be a universal draft, with no special deferments for the children of the rich and powerful. Only when the children of the members of the millionaire’s club we call Congress are subject to the same risks as the children of the poor, will we have reasonable restraints on the use of violence as an instrument of political policy. Do you think that if Jenna and Barbara Bush had had to face a very real threat of being drafted and placed in harm’s way; that their father would have needlessly invaded Iraq?

  92. Cidu Bill Nov 12th 2013 at 04:32 am 92

    I agree with everything James Pollock wrote (2 years ago), except for his statement that the first Gulf War ended as it should have: I thought it was obvious at the time that inconclusive end to the war, and the conditions we imposed on Saddam that he clearly was not going to tolerate indefinitely, made a second Gulf War absolutely inevitable. Just another case of a Bush declaring Mission Accomplished.

    This isn’t to say we had any choice in the matter, since we made a devil’s bargain to get the cooperation of the other Arab countries.

  93. Lost in A**2 Nov 12th 2013 at 09:08 am 93

    Boise Ed, *you* won the lottery as intended in the comic at the top of the page. Like you, Arlo did not have to go.

  94. Morris Keesan Nov 12th 2013 at 09:31 am 94

    I’ve always interpreted Arlo’s implication that he won the lottery not as meaning that he won by not having to go, but that he won because his grandfather survived the war and was able to reproduce.

  95. Kilby Nov 12th 2013 at 10:37 am 95

    I just re-read the series for the first time in at least two years, and it reminded me while that winning the draft lottery is good, pulling a plastic ball with a high number is not nearly as searing or life-changing an experience as winning the “real” lottery that’s played on the ground with lead bullets. I’d call the grandfather the biggest “winner” of them all, but there’s a bit of a pyrrhic flavor to it.

  96. Elyrest Nov 12th 2013 at 11:52 am 96

    I’ve wondered what my Dad would’ve been like if he, and all of his friends, hadn’t been wrenched out of life at 18 and sent halfway around the world. I know that he was still affected by it 70 years later. He talked about his high school graduation and that the guys on either side and both in front and behind him were all killed in the war. He went to his best friend’s grave in the 1970s and cried, although his friend had died 30 years before. It seems mankind enters wars so easily without much thought to the repercussions that echo through the years and touch people not born for decades to come.

  97. Detcord Nov 12th 2013 at 02:45 pm 97

    Sorry Cidu Bill (92)

    I guess I was a bit obtuse and made a broad assumption. Unless you emigrated from the old country of Austria-Hungary yourself, (which I suppose is possible), I imagine that one or several of your ancestors emigrated to the States. I was curious to learn which one (or ones as the case may be). Nothing earth-shattering, just curiosity.

  98. Winter Wallaby Nov 12th 2013 at 04:25 pm 98

    Unless you emigrated from the old country of Austria-Hungary yourself, (which I suppose is possible)

    Detcord #97: I know Bill likes to call himself a Geezer, but I don’t think he’s 95+ :)

  99. Dave in Asheville Nov 12th 2013 at 07:21 pm 99

    Elyrest #96 >He went to his best friend’s grave in the 1970s and cried, although his friend had died 30 years before.

    I feel that Saving Private Ryan captured this at the end - I always get all choked up. And it is because of the Arlo context. I feel that even *I* have won the lottery (46 now) by just having been born at a lucky time where I didn’t have to face war or a draft or the like* (though, I was in the National Guard during Gulf Storm, but my unit wasn’t activated).

    *This idea extends for me now to include first responders, post 9/11. Really, anyone facing a need to put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others.

  100. Dave in Boston Nov 13th 2013 at 05:55 am 100

    It really beats me why so many people continue to think, in the face of so much contrary evidence and logic, that a draft would discourage the powerful and corrupt from starting wars. If anything it would just ensure that the powerful and corrupt have the manpower on tap to attack whatever they want.

  101. Detcord Nov 13th 2013 at 01:51 pm 101

    Winter Wallaby (98)

    Your comment is slightly odd. Cidu Bill mentioned a relative from the Austria-Hungarian empire. Grandfather in fact. So Bill might have emigrated as a small boy, a young man, a not so young man etc. Or his Father, Mother or Grandfather/Grandmother emigrated. None of this implies 95 years for Bill. I am curious as to how you arrived at that number? I also think that’s enough curiosity (from me) for a while too. ;)

  102. Winter Wallaby Nov 13th 2013 at 02:01 pm 102

    Detcord #101: You parenthetically mentioned the possibility that Bill emigrated from the Austro-Hungarian empire himself. The Austro-Hungarian empire ended at the end of WWI, in 1918, so this would require Bill to be at least 2013-1918 = 95 now.

  103. Morris Keesan Nov 13th 2013 at 02:01 pm 103

    If Bill emigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he would have had to do so no later than October of 1918, which would make him at least 95 years old now. If he’s younger, then he might have emigrated from Austria or Hungary, but the empire was dissolved at the end of WW I.

  104. Morris Keesan Nov 13th 2013 at 02:02 pm 104


  105. Winter Wallaby Nov 13th 2013 at 02:10 pm 105

    My comment wins because I showed my math.

  106. jp Nov 13th 2013 at 08:27 pm 106

    +Dave in Boston #100: The thinking is that if the draft had NO deferments whatsoever, as mentioned by +LarryLunts #91 (e.g., college, wealth, connections), then at least the CongressCritters who had draft-age children would think twice (thrice?) before agreeing to a draft.


  107. Mark in Boston Nov 13th 2013 at 10:57 pm 107

    The hypothesis that a universal draft would reduce wars is just about as plausible as Plato’s hypothesis that an army of lovers cannot lose because each soldier fights his utmost to protect his lover.

  108. Morris Keesan Nov 13th 2013 at 11:53 pm 108

    I am reminded of the Malvina Reynolds song “We Hate to See Them Go”, aka “The Bankers and the Diplomats”:
    A sample lyric:
    The bankers and the diplomats are going in the army,
    It seemed too bad to keep them from the wars they love to plan.
    We’re all of us contented that they’ll fight a dandy war,
    They don’t need propaganda, they know what they’re fighting for.

  109. Dave in Boston Nov 14th 2013 at 03:47 am 109

    jp: I’ve seen the alleged reasoning, it just fails to coexist with reality.

    Does anyone really think that the powerful and corrupt can’t arrange for their draft-age children to be the ones who get safe stateside postings?

  110. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2013 at 07:37 am 110

    Since I was asked…

    My maternal grandfather came here from Russia because in 1916 or early 1917 the Tzar said “Sam, I want you to risk your life so that afterward you and your people can be continue to be victimized by state-sponsored pogroms,” and he said “Oh, screw that.” There are several versions of how my grandmother joined him here: since we’ll never really know the truth, I’ll ask my 90-year-old aunt for her version, and that one will become the official family history.

    My father’s family escaped Austria shortly after Anschluss. I recently came across a big batch of photos of my father and aunt as children in Austria, some with other children (friends? cousins?), none of them dated or with anything written in the back, so any story behind them is lost forever. The lesson, kids? Paper photos, digital photos, whatever… if they’re worth keeping, date them and label them. You might remember the details — for now — but the time will come when somebody will need to know.

    Some years back, I came across a photo of my great-grandfather, taken in 1890. If my grandmother hadn’t thought to write something in the back of it, then for all practical purposes he would have ceased ever to have existed. Instead, my grandchildren will know what their great-great-great grandfather looked like.

    –end of Public Service Announcement

  111. Morris Keesan Nov 14th 2013 at 10:05 am 111

    My maternal grandfather and Bill’s had similar ideas, but mine left a little earlier. He was living near Warsaw, in what must have been Russia that year, got drafted into the czar’s army, and deserted. Three times. And got caught twice.
    The third time, he got smart, headed away from home, circled around, and took a month to get back home, where he hid in an aunt’s attic for a while, then made his way via Auschwitz to Hamburg, got on a boat, and arrived in New York in 1913.

  112. mitch4 Nov 14th 2013 at 10:33 am 112

    As mentioned in #88, my (paternal) grandfather was in the Russian Army during WWI. His unit went over to the Reds in the Civil War after the Revolution. He and my grandmother stayed in the USSR into the early 1920s, and their eldest child (my Aunt Marie) was born there. I don’t know if their entry point was actually Ellis Island, but in any case they soon settled in Akron OH, where all their other children were born (including my father). Pop Charlie worked in the rubber-tire industry and did some union organizing. Though they wanted / needed to leave the USSR, their general political views remained somewhere on the Left, and were passed down to most of the family.

  113. Elyrest Nov 14th 2013 at 11:35 am 113

    “their general political views remained somewhere on the Left, and were passed down to most of the family”

    And conservatives say people on the Left have no family values. ;-)

  114. Detcord Nov 14th 2013 at 03:20 pm 114

    Cidu Bill (110)

    Thank you for the Public Service Announcement. It was, in fact, quite interesting, and your father prescient - to a brow-wiping degree. Whew! And may I also admire your verve and energy. Not often seen in a 95* year old. ;)

    *…and I will need to brush-up on my fact-checking skills. This crowd is sharp!

  115. Larry Geiger Nov 14th 2013 at 06:22 pm 115


    My thanks to all the guys “who didn’t win”.

  116. Mark in Boston Nov 14th 2013 at 10:36 pm 116

    Bill, you’ve got a picture of your great-grandfather. Us geezers’ great-grandchildren will have pictures of their great-grandparents. Gen-X people’s great-grandchildren will have pictures of their great-grandparents as young men and women. My 20-year-old nephew’s great-grandchildren will have baby pictures of their great-grandfather.

    Children born this year will no doubt have great-grandchildren, but those great-grandchildren will find no pictures of their great-grandparents in boxes in the attic.

  117. David S. Nov 14th 2013 at 11:56 pm 117

    I discovered recently my father was in a foreign country when he got his draft notice, and the people with him convinced him not to go home to meet the draft board.

    Yes, apparently a draft notice is not justification for the Marine Corps to let you go home from Vietnam. He says his Sergent just laughed when he asked.

  118. Dave in Boston Nov 15th 2013 at 02:03 am 118

    Mark: that isn’t clear. The way things seem to be going, the great-grandchildren of children born today will have their great-grandparents’ complete personal papers going back to childhood. Not in boxes in the attic, though.

    Who ever gets around to cleaning out their old computer files? And once they die, their descendents, having no time to do it either, will just keep everything. Probably in the future it will fall to otherwise bored schoolchildren to wade through the stuff.

  119. Elyrest Nov 15th 2013 at 11:52 am 119

    ” And once they die, their descendents, having no time to do it either, will just keep everything.”

    Unfortunately, what often happens, is they toss everything.

  120. Dave in Boston Nov 15th 2013 at 03:11 pm 120

    Well, that varies. There are also people who toss photo albums…

  121. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2013 at 05:20 pm 121

    Mark, it’s a generational thing: we have a lot of photos of my kids with their great-grandmother. My aunts are great-grandmothers many times over. But my great-grandfather died in Austria decades before I was born and for Jews of my generation, there’s often a huge divide in the family tree during the late 30s and early 40s: not a single one of my Jewish friends ever knew a great-grandparent, and many of them never knew any of their grandparents.

    So in my case, finding a perfect photo of my great-grandfather (for whom I was named, in fact) was the equivalent of discovering Troy.

  122. Mark in Boston Nov 15th 2013 at 11:16 pm 122

    Everyone’s photos are on hard drives now, and hard drives die. Some people back up their photos to the cloud, but cloud companies go out of business. Think about the photos you took in the last week. Where will they be in 50 years?

    I never served in the armed forces, but my father served in the Navy in WWII and the Korean War. His ships: USS San Jacinto (CVL 30), and USS Belleau Wood (CVL 24) in WWII, and USS Hyman (DD 732) in the Korean conflict.

  123. Dave in Boston Nov 15th 2013 at 11:25 pm 123

    My archival materials that I care about are stored in multiple places. It’s not Iron Mountain, but it’s reasonably resistent to accidental loss.

    Although it helps to know what you’re doing… anyone can do this.

  124. Cidu Bill Nov 16th 2013 at 05:07 am 124

    Speaking of Boston, Dave in, I took the extra step of putting all of our irreplaceable photos and and other digitalized documents on a flash drive and giving it to my son in Boston to safeguard. So even if New Jersey gets nuked, the family photos will survive.

  125. Elyrest Nov 16th 2013 at 11:26 am 125

    Bill - I think if Jersey is nuked Boston isn’t far behind.

  126. Dave in Boston Nov 16th 2013 at 01:35 pm 126

    Because of EMP nukes specifically are hard to handle. But there are plenty of other things (flood, fire, tornados, etc.) for which offsite backups are a good thing.

  127. Mark in Boston Nov 17th 2013 at 07:53 pm 127

    Dave in Boston: After you die, will anyone in your family know about any of those multiple places?

    And here’s a tip for those of you who use online services like, or web mail vs. Outlook. After you die, is your executor going to even KNOW about the online services that have your important mail and financial records?

  128. Dave in Boston Nov 17th 2013 at 09:36 pm 128

    Mark: yes. And yes, it’s also a good idea to have instructions for next of kin on file somewhere - what accounts exist, what needs to be paid promptly to avoid complications, who should be contacted, etc. And where the will is, and stuff like that.

    Note that in some jurisdictions it can be difficult or impossible (AIUI) to get prompt access to a decedent’s safety deposit box; be sure to check this sort of thing when doing your disaster planning. There’s no point having emergency instructions that can’t be retrieved. (But also remember that the material in such instructions is inherently sensitive and would be a gold mine for identity thieves.)

  129. Detcord Nov 11th 2014 at 02:09 pm 129

    This can’t stop at 2013. So, to rememeber, as this is Remembrance Day, all of those who have fallen. May they Rest In Peace. 11/11/2014

  130. Elyrest Nov 11th 2014 at 02:41 pm 130

    Amen, to that, Detcord.

  131. Mary in Ohio Nov 11th 2014 at 06:33 pm 131

    Yes. Thanks.

  132. Morris Keesan Nov 12th 2014 at 08:56 pm 132

    For a slightly different view, I think it’s worth reading this piece in The Atlantic.

  133. Ooten Aboot Nov 14th 2014 at 08:04 am 133

    Morris, the tradition, and the controversy, in Canada are similar to what the Atlantic article describes in the UK. Lt Col, John McCrea who wrote “In Flanders Fields” was a Canadian physician serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Canada, by the way, lost approximately the same number of soldiers to enemy action in that war as did the USA, from a population about 1/10 the USA’s.

  134. mitch4 Nov 14th 2014 at 10:37 am 134

    From that Atlantic article:

    Indeed, some argue that Veterans Day is often confused in the United States with Memorial Day, and that the holiday, which was only codified as federal law in 1978, has little of the pomp and circumstance evident in the U.K.

    This is to me the crux of the problem as currently encountered. I’m not unsympathetic to the point that Armistice Day was explicitly about establishing a peace; but even after giving in on that, there are issues with the current practices.

    The problem is, first of all, that the two remembrance holidays are generally explained as honoring the same constituencies; and second, that those are a narrow selection, and many who are excluded deserve recognition as well.

    Currently, both Veterans Day and Memorial Day in the U.S. are explained as honoring soldiers (I should say Armed Services members) who were killed (or some would include ‘injured’) in the course of service. That’s sort of the intersection of two classes — people who served in the armed forces, and people who were injured or killed in armed conflict.

    So let’s separate the holidays to recognize those two larger sets. both of course include the intersection, so this change should not be seen as slighting anyone who currently is being remembered.

    The revised Veterans Day would recognize anyone who honorably served in the Armed Forces, whether or not they had even a paper cut injury. And the revised Memorial Day would recognize anyone who suffered injury or death in war or armed conflict, including “the enemy”, civilians killed or left homeless and stateless, and “collateral damage”.

  135. Detcord Nov 15th 2014 at 04:34 am 135

    According to Wikipedia:

    Memorial Day is defined (in the US) as a day on which those who died on active service are remembered, usually the last Monday in May.

    Likewise, Veterans Day is defined (in the US) as a public holiday held on the anniversary of the end of the First World War (11 November) to honour US veterans and victims of all wars. It replaced Armistice Day in 1954.

    In Britain, the 11th Day of the 11th Month is called Remembrance Day. The 11th hour of that day is specifically recognised with a minute of Silence. If Remembrance Day does not fall on a Sunday, then there is also a Remembrance Sunday.

    We had that here 4 days ago.

  136. mitch4 Nov 15th 2014 at 10:38 am 136

    Thanks for the research, Detcord. Your summary doesn’t quite agree with what I get from Wikipedia under “Veterans Day”:

    Veterans Day is an official United States holiday that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11.

    Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

    This latter account of Veterans Day would match my proposed revision, in recognizing all service veterans regardless of death or injury — though I still think it is popularly expressed with that narrower restriction, so there is still need for reform in that aspect.

    And that account of Memorial Day, which I think accurately reflects current popular understanding, differs from what I’m suggesting it should be,both officially and in popular understanding and practice. It should recognize not just “the men and women who died while serving” but also civilians who were killed or injured.

    How are D-Day commemorations handled? Don’t we include the French farm families who were bombed or shelled, by either side?

  137. Elyrest Nov 15th 2014 at 11:48 am 137

    mitch4 - I like your version of Memorial Day. Wars affect, and are fought by, so many more people than just the military. And most of the military in most wars started as civilians and ended up, if they survived, back as civilians. My quibble with the way history is taught in schools, for the most part, is that it centers on wars. I didn’t get a good handle on history until I realized that all the events that really changed things happened outside of war.

  138. Boise Ed Nov 15th 2014 at 06:15 pm 138

    Applause for Elyrest [137]! And for the original idea of Armistice Day.

  139. Dave in Boston Nov 16th 2014 at 03:19 am 139

    I kind of think WWI should have its own holiday. It’s that much more important now that it’s no longer in living memory.

    Having a holiday covering non-military-personnel killed in war would be a good thing, but I also kind of think that should be its own holiday and not rolled in with other stuff. Dec. 29 would be an appropriate day, and adding a holiday to the calendar that week would have little practical cost; but I’m not sure that’s a suitable time for a serious holiday.

  140. Detcord Nov 16th 2014 at 05:04 am 140

    mitch4 (136)

    Interesting, my source was also Wikipedia. Can Wikipedia offer a, “slightly”, different text in the States as opposed to Britain? Still, after reading your version, I am struggling to see much difference between the two.

    As to what you think, “should be”, I suggest you take it up with Congress, as they set it up. Or perhaps you should take your idea to the People of the United States - as they are the ones who are supposed to have the real say on these things. I certainly do not think you can do this on your own.

    Personally, I disagree with your latter suggestion, though I would support recognition for those who worked with the Underground Resistance. They took a lot of risks for the allies. Regarding the innocent civilians you mention, I can only say, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” For those innocent civilians in the Resistance, Yes, for the rest, No. You might as well give recognition for every highway death - and there are a LOT of those.

  141. Detcord Nov 16th 2014 at 05:25 am 141

    Elyrest (137)

    As you have probably read, I disagree with mitch4 (136) and now, with you. Those who choose to defend their country deserve recognition (i.e. Veterans Day). Those who died serving their country deserve special recognition (i.e. Memorial Day). I’d say the British war-workers might fit in both categories (depending on their circumstances), but that is for the British people, and the Queen to determine.

    I wondered about The Civil War in the States, and came across this note - to my way of thinking - answered both questions.

  142. mitch4 Nov 16th 2014 at 10:25 am 142

    Heya, Detcord, I’m all right with leaving it at “let us agree to disagree” for the “how it should be” issues — that is, the content of them.

    I’m left more dissatisfied, thought, with the appeals to authority. In 140 you tell me, As to what you think, “should be”, I suggest you take it up with Congress, as they set it up. Or perhaps you should take your idea to the People of the United States - as they are the ones who are supposed to have the real say on these things. And in 141 you tell Elyrest, but that is for the British people, and the Queen to determine.

    But what are you getting at with those remarks about the authority behind these definitions? That we shouldn’t be expressing opinions about this sort of matter? Or not on an informal forum like this? Or not unless actively involved in calling up our representatives, starting a petition drive, making something happen? That doesn’t make much sense to me — don’t you ever want to just express your opinion on how something should be?

    Let me also point out that my argument is not so much, or not only, with the legislated definitions but the popular practice and media understandings. Maybe local radio and TV news don’t work this way in your locale, but I frequently hear things like “This is the day we honor our fallen warriors” (on both of these holidays indistinguishably) — based on the newswriter’s recollection of how it’s always been done, not any official proclamation. That’s what originally got my goat.

    Thanks for the (origins of Veterans Day) reference. It’s really quite interesting. Here’s one key passage: Interestingly, it was a Kansas shoe shop owner who turned Armistice Day into Veterans’ Day. In the year 1953, Al King suggested that Armistice Day should be replaced by All Veterans’ Day. Do you read that, along with me, as implementing a broadening? It was broadened from WWI vets to All Vets — meaning those killed at other times, other wars. My proposal is to really make it All Veterans — not just those who were killed.

  143. mitch4 Nov 16th 2014 at 10:26 am 143


  144. Detcord Nov 16th 2014 at 11:34 am 144

    Hi mitch4

    I think maybe you missed the point that we were discussing the customs of two different countries.

    Surely, you know that you have the right to petition your congress… person, if you want to change a law. Yes? It is similar, if not exactly the same, here in Britain. Thus, we were discussing the various approaches to honouring those who serve (and sometimes die) for their country. You raised a point suggesting changes to the current laws regarding Veterans Day. At least, your 136 comment seemed to imply such. Did I mis-read those comments? You do know you have to petition Congress to do that, yes?

    I have never done this, but I suppose I could petition’s the Queen to achieve something similar. More likely I would approach my Member of Parliament to make the petition. Does that answer your question?

    Speaking as a veteran myself, and this is strictly my opinion, I believe that Veterans Day is intended to honor all Veterans. I was not aware of the United Kingdom having a similar day for veterans, but (thanks to your question) I have learned it seems they do - though it is not a public holiday. From what I read, it began in 2006. So, now, the only difference is that one is a public holiday and the other isn’t. Does that help?

    You added a third country into the mix - France - and I would say I know nothing of their commemorations - save that they have something called Bastille Day, which is now the name given in English-speaking countries for the French National Day, and is celebrated on the 14th of July each year.

    I think I see the point you are making in your 3rd paragraph - and though I respect your suggestion - I most strongly disagree with it. The former (citizens taking up arms) is an act of volition. The latter, people unwillingly caught-up in war, is one of unfortunate happenstance (much like an automobile accident). Honoring people for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time seems, well, weird to me. Where is the honor in that?

    Regarding You’re welcome. I found it most interesting. Glad you did too. :)

  145. Elyrest Nov 16th 2014 at 11:34 am 145

    Sorry, Detcord, feel free to disagree, but when you limit recognition of war to the military and close fighters you help create a myth of war that helps perpetuate it and that the only heroes out there are the ones on the front lines. That might be why so many wear the trappings of patriotism, but seem to be missing the understanding of what it really means. That might be why there are so many monuments to war, but rarely to peace.

    Have a peaceful Sunday.

  146. Mark in Boston Nov 16th 2014 at 10:59 pm 146

    So many monuments to war, and rarely to peace? They rarely put up a monument to war while the war is going on. I would say that almost all the monuments are put up after it’s over and put up to commemorate either:

    1. the fact that the war is over, that is, the peace, or

    2. the people who died as a result of the war, and never with the implication that this was a good thing, but if anything with the implication that it was good that the war stopped and no longer killed people, and that it would be even better if the war had never happened at all.

    I can think of many monuments “honoring the brave soldiers who fought and died” in such-and-such a war, but I can think of none that go like “This monument commemorates the Civil War, the greatest and most excellent war of our country’s first hundred years of existence.”

  147. James Pollock Nov 17th 2014 at 12:16 am 147

    “The former (citizens taking up arms) is an act of volition. The latter, people unwillingly caught-up in war, is one of unfortunate happenstance ”

    Most wartime soldiers are drafted (present ongoing war excepted).
    There is certainly some honor due to those who volunteer to take up arms during a time of conflict… but it is not special nor limited to only those who serve in the military. People who work as firefighters (both in cities and in forests) put their own health and safety at risk to serve others, as do a whole host of others (currently newsworthy… medical professionals who go to where the disease outbreak is.)
    Conversely, many (including myself) enlist in peacetime.

    True fact… the Framers of the (U.S.) Constitution tried to prevent the country from keeping a standing army. They thought a ready militia should be sufficient.

    Memorial Day is the most important public holiday. Veteran’s Day, not so much.

  148. James Pollock Nov 17th 2014 at 12:22 am 148

    ““This monument commemorates the Civil War, the greatest and most excellent war of our country’s first hundred years of existence.”

    Assuming the Revolutionary War is disqualified by reason of having been completed prior to 1789.

    I think the popular opinion in the U.S. is that the Revolution was a Good Idea, and, alas, there is a sizable minority who believe the U.S. Civil War was, too.

  149. Detcord Nov 17th 2014 at 05:00 am 149

    Elyrest (145)

    War is no myth. It is a real, nasty, business. In response to your comment, I can only repeat what has been written before. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good ‘people’ to do nothing”. Are you really willing to do nothing? Granted, it takes at least two to make a war, but only one to make a massacre.

  150. Detcord Nov 17th 2014 at 05:07 am 150

    Mark in Boston (146)

    The best monument to Peace is the Freedom we enjoy now. No rock or edifice can ever beat that.

    I am also very glad that, so far, no one in this modern age has built a monument celebrating war. However, I believe such monuments have been erected in ancient times. Greece, Rome, Persia and I am sure many other cultures have all done this in the past. Very glad we are not there.

  151. Detcord Nov 17th 2014 at 05:38 am 151

    James Pollock (147)

    I agreed with CiduBill that I would not spar with you as it gets too heated.

    However, this time I must concur with your comment. In WW1, 2 million Americans volunteered for service - and a further 2.8 million were drafted. In WW2, 6.332 million Americans volunteered, and 11.535 million were drafted.

    On the other hand, my comment, “The former (citizens taking up arms) is an act of volition”, is proved by the first numbers I posted, above. Nevertheless, I do acknolwedge that, for the majority in both wars, it was an act of coercion.

  152. Elyrest Nov 17th 2014 at 09:48 am 152

    “War is no myth. It is a real, nasty, business. In response to your comment, I can only repeat what has been written before. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good ‘people’ to do nothing”. Are you really willing to do nothing? Granted, it takes at least two to make a war, but only one to make a massacre.”

    Detcord, please, a plea for the honor of peace is NOT anti-war. I know that there is really never any actual peace in the world, but the real “fighting”, the kind the stops the killing, has nothing to do with weapons of war. As much as they have been mocked over the years, The Peace Corps are doing real work to help people live. That’s what I mean - there are other ways. The world isn’t just black & white.

  153. James Pollock Nov 17th 2014 at 10:07 am 153

    “War is no myth. It is a real, nasty, business. ”

    Alas, there IS a myth, a particularly powerful one, about war. Refer to General Sherman’s speech in 1879, with the famous words “”There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”
    (To tie back into earlier commentary, Sherman was a proponent of harassing civilians to affect the morale of the opposing fighting force.)

  154. Winter Wallaby Nov 17th 2014 at 01:22 pm 154

    James P #153: “harassing” is a rather mild way of describing Sherman’s policies towards civilians.

  155. James Pollock Nov 17th 2014 at 03:53 pm 155

    “’harassing’ is a rather mild way of describing Sherman’s policies towards civilians.”

    Well, they were just Indians, after all. It’s not like they were civilized people or anything.

  156. Boise Ed Nov 17th 2014 at 04:46 pm 156

    Yes, Detcord [144], I do “have the right to petition [my] congress… person” but I don’t have enough money to make them listen. Especially not after the “Citizens United” law from the Supreme Court.

  157. Lost in A**2 Nov 17th 2014 at 10:20 pm 157

    Mr. Pollock, he practiced on white folks before taking on the Indians.

  158. James Pollock Nov 18th 2014 at 12:50 am 158

    “Mr. Pollock, he practiced on white folks before taking on the Indians.”

    Er, no. First it was Indians, then it was white folks, then it was Indians again.

  159. Dave in Boston Nov 18th 2014 at 05:48 am 159

    I’m disappointed with the rhetoric in here the past couple days; it’s not up to this site’s usual standards.

    At the moment I only have a couple things to say; maybe more later.

    (1) The present “ongoing war” is not an exception; it’s the common case. For major powers, anyway: historically for every episode of shooting where the major power was engaged to the limit of its capacity and at risk of being wiped out or overrun, there’s probably a dozen or more episodes of shooting where a relatively small force rolls right over a small political entity. Many of these we don’t even remember much after a while. It would not make sense for the US to have sent 18 million soldiers to Iraq, or to Vietnam either. (Or to Kuwait, or particularly when invading Grenada in the 80s. I doubt 18 million people would even fit on Grenada.) Despite this, at least in the US every time shooting starts somewhere we get holier-than-thou talking heads, usually on the left, telling us that it’s a moral crisis that there’s no WWII-scale draft and home-front war effort. I am seeing echos of this fallacy in the current conversation.

    (2) Whether a past war was a ‘Good Idea’ is a really shallow reduction of what’s ordinarily a very complex topic, shallow even on the modern scale of sound bites. Can we try to be a bit more specific?

  160. James Pollock Nov 18th 2014 at 10:55 pm 160

    ” historically for every episode of shooting where the major power was engaged to the limit of its capacity and at risk of being wiped out or overrun, there’s probably a dozen or more episodes of shooting where a relatively small force rolls right over a small political entity.”

    In the United States, at least, we generally have a way of telling these two types of shooting apart from each other… Congress either declares war, or it doesn’t.

    Note that, before you draft civilians into the military, you recall those already trained, when possible. Prior to the first Gulf War, I got notified that I should expect to be recalled to active duty (I was still in the IRR, the individualized ready reserve, and thus subject to recall.) Then the guys on the ground did a great job, and I got notified “um, never mind.”

    The complaints “leftists” have with the lack of a draft in the face of a long-term war that is not an existential threat to the country, is that poor people are more likely to enlist than are wealthy people, or, more correctly, than children of wealthy people. Since government leadership positions tend to go more towards people who are wealthy, you get the uncomfortable situation where the people making all the decisions about conducting the war have no children who are actually fighting in it, and they don’t even know anyone who has children fighting in it. The belief is that perhaps these decision-makers would be slightly less likely to commit forces to areas subject to hostile fire if they did.
    My own opinion on the current ongoing war part B (Iraq) is that we shouldn’t have put any Americans into the country. Second choice, if we did feel the need to go into the country, it should have been with at least a million boots… a considerably smaller force was actually sent, and quickly found itself unable to control the situation on the ground between the time when the opposing military force was smashed and the territory pacified.
    (Compare the United States’ successful efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power with the United States’ successful efforts to remove Moammar Quaddafi from power, in terms of budget, American casualties, and collateral damage to civilians and opposing military forces.)

    “Whether a past war was a ‘Good Idea’ is a really shallow reduction of what’s ordinarily a very complex topic”

    Of course it is. That’s the point of a simplification. Works the same way with any kind of historical analysis. For example, you could apply the same sort of simplification to the question of whether westward expanion was a Good Idea or a Bad Idea.. Or abandoning the gold standard. Or deregulating the banks back in 1998. Obviously, usually you start with “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”, but then either go on to “and that’s how it turned out” or “but because of something they didn’t take into account, it didn’t turn out that way.”

    As an example, take the Vietnam War. It seems fairly clear that in a vacuum, the United States would naturally align themselves with the nationalist Vietnamese over the colonialists. It wasn’t that simple, of course’ we thought we needed France’s help to form NATO to keep the Russians and their European client-states in check, so we backed the French over the nationalists. After the French got their hats handed to them by a force which wanted independence a LOT more than the French wanted their colonies back, we stepped in ourselves to prop up a corrupt government that was disliked by the people for a number of perfectly valid reasons, and thus we committed more and more combat troops to propping it up. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (didn’t want those dominoes to fall, after all.)
    So, the reasons why the United States got involved in Vietnam are many and various. You might even say “complex”. But, in historical hindsight, it can be summarized as “getting involved in the Vietnam was a Bad Idea.”

    One of the results of the Vietnam War was that an entire generation equated military service with evil soul-lessness. (Not everybody, of course, but enough to shape decision-making). One of the results of THAT was the fact that anti-war protesters of the last decade were careful to say that they weren’t against the troops, who of course just went where they were told to, as they are required to do, but against the policy-makers who sent them. It didn’t help that we had a righteous war (Afghanistan) at the same time as a substantially less-righteous war (Iraq).

    The fundamental difference between wars of necessity (say, WWII), where the United States itself is threatened, and wars of choice (say, Iraq) where the United States’ overseas economic activity is threatened but the country itself is not, is this: In a war of choice, public support is strong for a brief war with few casualties (on our side… popular sympathy for whoever our armed forces have been sent to fight is usually pretty low, even if they eventually become allies) but the longer the war takes, and the more casualties we take, public support wanes. Whereas, in a war of necessity, people get tired of being at war, but they don’t suggest we should just walk away. (”Give Peace a Chance” would not have been a thing had it been written 30 years prior.)

    Specific enough?

    Returning to the original point: Memorial Day, wherein we honor the fallen for the sacrifice they have made for us, is the most important holiday we have. Veteran’s day, not so much: Yes, those who serve, particularly in wartime, have also made sacrifices for our benefit, but A) there are veterans who have not made substantial sacrifice as to be worthy of public note (See REMF) and B) there are people who have made similar, or even greater sacrifice for us, who did so other than in the armed forces. Because of the combination of A) and B), singling out veterans as being particularly worthy of a holiday isn’t completely accurate.
    So, thank you for your service. Our government provides many services specifically for those who have served, and these are earned (and I join your outrage when they are mismanaged). But that’s all. Re-open the post offices and the banks.

  161. Winter Wallaby Nov 19th 2014 at 02:29 am 161

    Even among declared wars, few if any strike me as ones where we were “at risk of being wiped out or overrun.” The Mexican and Spanish-American wars were wars of choice for territorial expansion. In the War of 1812 and WWI we had legitimate grievances and important interests at stake, but neither Britain or Germany had any intention of occuying the United States. Even for WWII you have to stretch to say that the U.S. mainland would have been overrun any time in the immediate future.

  162. James Pollock Nov 19th 2014 at 07:18 am 162

    It’s true, the oceans have done a lot to preserve American territorial integrity. Early in our national history, the natives were able to harass the occupiers of their territory but always had limited capability to effectively resist it without outside help.

    The Mexican-American war was lopsided, but the war of 1812 wasn’t. While Germany had its hands full with the Russians and the British when the U.S. entered the war, there’s little doubt that a Germany that conquered all of Europe would have turned its attention to us eventually; we fought that war in Italy and France so we wouldn’t have to fight it here. I think it’s also fair to assume that Imperial Japan would have looked covetously at the Pacific coast, at least, if they went unchallenged in the Pacific.
    I count the Revolutionary War, the war of 1812, and WWII as the wars that presented real threats to the United States; The Civil War presented a different challenge (if the United States were split, would either half have been able to carry out westward expansion? Probably not… we’d have wound up with somewhere between 4 and 7 separate countries where today there is only one (and Sarah Palin really WOULD be able to see Russia from her porch.)

  163. Lost in A**2 Nov 19th 2014 at 12:08 pm 163

    Mr Pollock, I was surprised to learn how early the Viet Nam conflict started. What might have happened had Woodrow Wilson not refused to meet with Ho Chi Minh while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles?

  164. Winter Wallaby Nov 19th 2014 at 01:13 pm 164

    The war of 1812 was not lopsided, but the British had no interest in wiping us out or overunning us. We could have easily avoided that war if we had been willing to put up with some impressment and neutral rights shipping issues. Similarly with Germany in WWI, there’s little reason to think that Kaiser-era Germany would have turned its attention to us eventually. Of the five declared wars, I only count one (WWII), where you could plausibly say that we were at risk of being wiped out or overrun. (I’m not counting the Revolutionary War or Civil War as “declared wars of the United States,” although those are certainly open to debate.)

  165. Winter Wallaby Nov 19th 2014 at 02:41 pm 165

    Side note on the War of 1812: I used to read a lot of American history, with particular interest in 1787-1861, and of course the War of 1812 is a BIG deal in American history. It was a bit of a shock a few years ago when I read some British history textbooks, and the volume on the 19th section had one page on the War of 1812. Basically it was presented as a footnote - sort of a pointless distracting side story - to the Napoleonic wars.

  166. James Pollock Nov 19th 2014 at 03:19 pm 166

    Yes, well… Napoleon was a little bit closer to home for the British, wasn’t he? Not surprising that they were more concerned with him than with us.

  167. Winter Wallaby Nov 19th 2014 at 03:28 pm 167

    Yes, it make perfect sense once I saw it, but I hadn’t anticipated it, it was still a surprise to me.

  168. Cidu Bill Nov 23rd 2014 at 12:06 am 168

    I’m going to be unilaterally polite and not mention the name of the person who made this comment:

    “Dude, seriously? You cant see that “lottery” here means getting shot in battle? Man. Either you’re really reaching for material for this thing, or… you’re really reaching for material for this thing”

    Dude, seriously? Not only are you incapable of reading either tags or FAQ’s, that’s not even REMOTELY what he’s talking about.

    I’m always amused at how often people — invariably first-time visitors — start their comments with “This is so obvious, what’s wrong with you people?” and proceed to offer an answer that’s outrageously wrong.

  169. Cidu Bill Nov 23rd 2014 at 12:07 am 169

    Winter, a new country that “willing to put up with some impressment and neutral rights shipping issues” is far less likely to become an old country.

  170. Winter Wallaby Nov 23rd 2014 at 12:56 pm 170

    Bill #169: Lots of other neutrals put up with similar issues under those circumstances and went on to become old countries. I’m not saying that they weren’t legitimate grievances (although many of them were equally well grievances with France) - just that putting up with them wouldn’t have seriously threatened our existence.

    I tend to doubt we would have gone to war over these things had we not also been chomping at the bit to take over Canada. Of course, a country that takes every opportunity to conquer neighboring territory is far less likely to become an old country.

  171. James Pollock Nov 23rd 2014 at 05:26 pm 171

    “I tend to doubt we would have gone to war over these things had we not also been chomping at the bit to take over Canada.”

    They said we’d be greeted as liberators…

  172. Dave in Boston Nov 24th 2014 at 03:18 am 172

    Eh, maybe. There was a lot of anger over the impressment issue. However, if the US had limited the war to handing the Royal Navy its ass repeatedly, things probably would have played out a bit differently.

    Anyway, responding to James’s long comment:

    As other people have pointed out, Congress declaring war correlates poorly with the scale of war efforts. And I meant specifically a moral crisis about the lack of a “home front” — as I said somewhere else recently (and in this thread last year) I’m aware of the theory about the draft.

    And of course a simplification is going to be simplifying. But there are simplifications that retain the essentials of something, and simplifications that erase all the important properties and leave only inanity behind. And while I don’t particularly disagree with your example regarding Vietnam, you’ve missed or ignored an important point: it’s much easier to conclude that something was a bad idea than a good idea. (In general there are many questions where there are no clear right answers, but that does not preclude the existence of many other clearly wrong answers.) It was your use of “good idea” that I had objected to.

    So, what do you mean by whether a war as a “Good Idea”? (Especially in connection with the Civil War…)

  173. James Pollock Nov 24th 2014 at 02:46 pm 173

    “So, what do you mean by whether a war as a ‘Good Idea’?”

    Can we achieve our objectives at a cost that is acceptable to us? Are our objectives actually important to us?
    This is a historical judgment, and often cannot be made except with historical perspective.

    Simplifying (egads!):
    The Civil War was a Bad Idea because they couldn’t achieve their objectives at all. (They assumed they’d get help from European powers, which did not come through.)
    Vietnam was a Bad Idea because we didn’t even know what our objectives were, and because Vietnam’s form of economy turns out to not be highly relevant to the United States..

    Removing Saddam Hussein from power may have been a Good Idea, but doing so via the second Gulf War was a Bad Idea.

    The problem with using military force is that once you start, it’s fairly difficult to stop. It usually requires one side or the other to give up on winning. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is that your people will start to consider it a Bad Idea.

  174. Dave in Boston Nov 26th 2014 at 01:56 am 174

    “they”… so you are thinking about the Civil War from the Southern side? That was not obvious from anything you said previously.

    Whether fighting that war to preserve the Union was a “Good Idea” is a much more difficult question.

  175. James Pollock Nov 26th 2014 at 02:40 pm 175

    “so you are thinking about the Civil War from the Southern side? ”

    Yes, they’re the ones who started it. It was a war of choice for them. It was a war of necessity for us.

  176. Dave in Boston Nov 26th 2014 at 03:13 pm 176

    Not really. Allowing them to secede was a perfectly viable option.

  177. James Pollock Nov 26th 2014 at 07:53 pm 177

    “Allowing them to secede was a perfectly viable option.”

    Sure, and surrendering to the Axis was a perfectly viable option, too.
    (shifting gears)
    And hey, Rome could have allowed its Empire’s Eastern half to secede, too. How’d that turn out for them?

  178. Winter Wallaby Nov 26th 2014 at 09:13 pm 178

    Allowing secession is quite different from surrendering. It may have been in the North’s interest to prevent secession, but it wasn’t a necessity - the non-Southern states could have formed a perfectly viable government that would have been fine for the people living in it. To compare surrendering to the Axis (”hey, Germans, you can take over our country, and we will cease to exist”) with allowing secession (”if you don’t want to be part of our country, we’ll just go our separate ways, with our own separate governments”) strikes me as an example of over-eagerness to declare wars as “necessities.”

    Separation is not always bad. Czechoslovakia decided to peacefully separate into two countries. Great Britain recently offered Scotland the opportunity to peacefully separate. Etc. . .

  179. mitch4 Nov 26th 2014 at 10:22 pm 179

    And how about Slovenia? I halfway recall they managed to separate peacefully, shortly before the other parts of Yugoslavia descended into terrible warfare over the further separations.

  180. Boise Ed Nov 27th 2014 at 04:47 am 180

    Given the aftermath of the terrible handling of “Reconstruction,” the USA might have been better off letting the CSA secede. In hindsight, the USA would now be a far more progressive nation of the world and the CSA would be an illiterate backwater, largely financed by the oil in an incredibly polluted Gulf of Mexico. (FWIW, at least two of my great-great-grandfathers fought for the CSA.)

  181. James Pollock Nov 27th 2014 at 07:36 am 181

    “In hindsight, the USA would now be a far more progressive nation of the world and the CSA would be an illiterate backwater,”

    Yeah, and the Pacific states would likely have been in neither one. I doubt that the USA could have held any of the western territories, Russia would still own territory in North America, and who knows how long the Kingdom of Hawaii would have held on.

    Without the single strong United States, there’s nothing to curb France’s expansion into Mexico, and so both North and South America remain firmly colonial. (Take that, Monroe Doctrine!) When the Great Powers get themselves into the Great War, there is no American economy held in reserve to pull the Allies out of the stalemate. WWI never ends, meaning there is no harsh peace imposed on the Germans, which means that Hitler never comes to power.

    The Internet is never invented. (Look at the original 5 sites… in a world where the CSA seceded, they’re in different countries. That’s not why there’s no Internet, of course, but it’s a useful shorthand.)

    So… no Hitler, but also no CIDU, because the United States said “Fine, then! Go! See if we care!” when the Southern states wanted to leave and take 60% of the territory. (And that’s assuming a best-case scenario, where the two manage to avoid war with each other and with their neighbors to north and south.)

  182. Dave in Boston Nov 27th 2014 at 11:39 am 182

    If-history is so much fun! But I need to call BS on a lot of that. For one thing, California was already a state by 1860, and the rest of the West was already US territory. Only the states that actually seceded (plus perhaps a few of the slave states that didn’t secede in the real timeline; but perhaps not too) would be part of the CSA. Maybe some of the adjoining territories would have defected as well; but there’s no overwhelming reason to think so. Meanwhile, though Alaska came after the Civil War, it seems likely that it would have gone through more or less the same to keep the CSA from getting it. Then, there’s the question of how long the CSA would have held together and whether after enough time for the economic situation to shift some the border states wouldn’t have wanted back in.

  183. James Pollock Nov 27th 2014 at 12:19 pm 183

    “But I need to call BS on a lot of that. For one thing, California was already a state by 1860″

    So was Oregon. I stand by my alternate history… I think the Pacific States would have broken off from the USA to form their own country, and the territories between the Pacific States and the United States would, too, as the Union focused on the “home front”, once you take “Manifest Destiny” off the table. Without the overriding pursuit of one country, shore to shore, the differences between west coast and east coast would have been enough to split them off.

    I also think Texas reverts to an independent nation rather than stay in the CSA, once the United States are no longer united. I think the fragmentation is much more severe than into just 2 nations (north and south). You wind up with the northeast as one country, the southeast as one country, Texas independent, California independent, the northwest part of the dominion of Canada, several smaller nations in what would have been the plains states with at least one of them run by natives rather than by transplanted Europeans, the Kingdom of Hawaii never even vaguely part of the U.S., Russia never offering the sell the Alaskan territory (if they did sell it, it would be to Canada.) One possible path has Canada fragmented, as well, into western Canada (roughly, Pacific to Rocky Mountains), Eastern Canada (roughly, Rocky Mountains to Atlantic), and Quebec… all under British control.)

  184. mitch4 Nov 27th 2014 at 12:53 pm 184

    There was a movie called C.S.A. which treated that alt-history premise. I did see it, but don’t remember any of the statehood or foreign-relations projections, just the idea that slavery would have continued and as police state developed around its enforcement.

  185. mitch4 Nov 27th 2014 at 12:56 pm 185

    Here’s the IMDB synopsis, not exactly what I remembered:

    The BBC presents a documentary on slavery in America entitled CSA and it traces the history of the present-day Confederate States of America. The BBC retells history beginning in 1863 when the Southern States managed to overcome a mis-managed attempt to secede from the union and win over the northern states that were fighting to keep the country a slave-free entity. With the assistance of French and British Troops, the Confederacy wins a decisive victory at the battle for Gettysburg. Within a short period Ulysses S. Grant surrenders to Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln flees to Canada. The Northern States are absorbed into the Confederacy; Boston and New York are burned to tinder and the right to own slaves is protected by the Constitution. From this point up to present day the Confederate States of America grows to become the most powerful nation on Earth. The CSA is dominant in wars with Spain and other Latin American countries and enters a partnership with Adolph Hitler in order to remain the strongest nation. Today the CSA sustains pressures over its use of slavery from Canada and the Muslim Nation. Slavery in the CSA, as it was originally for the seceding states at the outbreak of the Civil War, is the economic spine of the country and leaders accept it into their vision as endemic to the quality of the nation. The CSA is blind to the humanistic quality of the institution on the individual in regards to black people in the country. When a long-time slave of John Fauntroy, (Larry Peterson) — a politician and great-grandson of one of the main leaders against Lincoln — comes forward with shocking news, a rupture in the political structure of the CSA seems imminent.

  186. Boise Ed Nov 27th 2014 at 05:10 pm 186

    James [181]: You make some good points, but I think the USA would have still had most of the West. Maybe not what became Arizona and New Mexico, though, and you’re right that the CSA wouldn’t have stopped France. Would having Mexico strengthen them, or spread them out too thinly? Even without the West, though, I think the USA would still have DARPA and thus created the Internet. And yeah, that assumption of no subsequent USA-CSA war is iffy at best. In Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series, in which the CSA wins the 1860s war, they fight again 20 years later, and yet again in the Great War.

    James [183]: The West Coast Republic is an interesting supposition, but unlikely IMO. If that did happen, the USA transcontinental railroad would probably be a no-go. Maybe Canada would still build one, and become the economic powerhouse of the continent?

    Mitch4: Even with the French and British helping, I can’t see the CSA taking over the USA.

  187. Dave in Boston Nov 27th 2014 at 06:54 pm 187

    James, I completely don’t follow your reasoning. With no war, what “home front” is there? And east/west sectionalism has never been anything like a strong enough political force to cause a schism. And like your previous post, much of what you’re suggesting is anachronistic by 1860; it might be plausible for 1830.

    As for Manifest Destiny, I’ve never fully understood the proposition but I’ve always understood it as principally referring to acquisition of all the territory to the west (complete well before 1860) and not itself directly connected to Lincoln’s conviction that the Union must be preserved.

    Also, don’t forget that the intellectual currents at the time leaned towards unification into larger political entities, not independence for every slightly different cultural unit. (That came later.)

  188. Lost in A**2 Nov 27th 2014 at 08:34 pm 188

    Actually, “independence for every slightly different cultural unit” came earlier. If Britain had played their cards just a bit differently, the US would have broken on the Allegheny/Appalachian ridge before the end of Washington’s term. Spain had its chance before the end of Jefferson’s first term. And New England was almost always ready to go off on its own. Had the Union not fought the Confederacy, the Union would have splintered.

    Interestingly, I read recently, but I don’t remember where, Reconstruction would have gone quite a bit differently had Lincoln not changed Vice Presidents.

  189. James Pollock Nov 27th 2014 at 11:48 pm 189

    ” I completely don’t follow your reasoning. With no war, what ‘home front’ is there?”

    A long southern border with a tense (at best) relationship with the CSA, and the ongoing debate about slavery, on this time with abolitionists traveling south and runaway slaves heading north to cause friction. You get a border that is at the same time extremely porous and defended by regular and militia forces both. The CSA has to secure this border to keep slaves from escaping north (no more law requiring the slaves to be repatriated) and the USA dealing with incursions by raiding parties seeking to recapture the slaves on the north side of the border and (probably) to hinder abolitionist efforts.

    You get a lot of attention focused on the southern border, and not a lot of attention paid to the native Americans in the intermediate-western lands. General Sherman never becomes a general, never has the drive to the sea, and never develops the tactics that were used to defeat the great native American tribes. California has a tenuous relationship with the rest of the United States, and is big enough (and has gold fields still producing enough) to consider breaking away right after the CSA establishes the precedent. Oregon won’t, but with the natives making settlement difficult in the plains states keeping western migration down, eventually they’ll start to feel isolated.

    A disunited United States loses steam in industrial development, and instead of becoming a major manufacturing power, becomes a mid-tier power instead. Simmering, never settled differences with the CSA keep serving as a distraction for two, three generations… long enough to get to the Great War. Very likely, the USA and the CSA settle on different sides; you may or may not get the Civil War fought with WWI weaponry.

    As for DARPA, the Internet was first developed as a communications system to use if the Russians nuked enough of our telephone system to deprive us of effective command-and-control infrastructure. But… in a world where the USA allows the CSA to secede without a fight, and the West Coast isn’t part of the USA, and Russia still controls Alaska… Japan has no argument with the USA, meaning there’s no push to build the atomic bomb, and either the Manhattan Engineering District either never tests it and/or the Army never uses it. Darpa funds development of encryption systems rather than packet-switching.

    “don’t forget that the intellectual currents at the time leaned towards unification into larger political entities, not independence for every slightly different cultural unit. (That came later.)”
    Things that were happening on the North American Continent were somewhat different from things on other continents. South America and Africa had the problem of being covered in jungle and being full of tropical diseases; once the Spanish got most of the gold out, the call to settle there wasn’t as strong. On the other hand, the vast central region of the United States was wonderful potential farmland, with (almost) no farmers on it already.
    Manifest Destiny (the notion that all of the western lands would be acquired AND SETTLED by America) drove a lot of federal policy, which in turn drove development policy (i.e., the federal government worked really hard to convince the railroads that they should build out into the newly-settled land, meaning giving them huge land grants).
    If the federal government isn’t actively subsidizing westward expansion, it dies. The railroads focus their capital on linking existing markets and shipping ports. It’s still possible to transship across the North American continent, but it would be far more expensive. Without the draw of the railroads linking existing markets to newly-settled land, the number of settlers drops (the fact that the army is much less able to protect settlers certainly doesn’t help, either.)
    The people who liked city life in the established cities of the U.S.A. stayed there. The ones who absolutely couldn’t stand living, go to the frontier. But the number of people who are willing to pull up stakes and head west is going to vary depending on just how likely success there is going to be, and a U.S.A. that not only lacks the states of the C.S.A., but has an armed border with it, cannot divert nearly as many resources to settling the west. This isolates the Pacific states and causes them to be much more self-reliant and less of a market for northern industrial goods.

  190. Winter Wallaby Nov 28th 2014 at 04:09 am 190

    All the alternative history is wrong, wrong, wrong. Time is like a river - if you make a change in it at one point, it creates ripples immediately downstream, but far downstream, nothing changes. (Wow, I just came up with that analogy! It’s pretty good, isn’t it - feel free to copy it.)

    If we had let the CSA secede peacefully, the Pacific states would have indeed attempted to secede in 1892. But in that secession, internal fights within the Pacific states lead the USA to intervene, and the Pacific states are kept in the union by force. After the economic panic of 1904, the CSAs economy is badly struggling, and they actually apply for readmission to the Union, and are accepted. Because we’re still struggling with our internal problems, we don’t intervene in WWI, but Britain is economically stronger, having picked up trade that we couldn’t handle, and is able to defeat the Germans in WWI without us. By WWII, the alternate history looks pretty much like our history, the only major difference is that Bulgaria is a neutral, rather than in the Axis. By 2014, the alt-history world is almost exactly like ours, with one difference: the Bill Bickel who runs the CIDU blog is a real estate agent in Washington. Spooky.

  191. Winter Wallaby Nov 28th 2014 at 04:30 am 191

    Wait, I was wrong, making a change to history isn’t like throwing a rock in a river. It’s like a butterfly flapping its wings (man, I am hot with the analogies tonight!). The effects amplify with time. If we had let the CSA secede, the sun would have gone nova in 1984.

  192. James Pollock Nov 28th 2014 at 10:42 am 192

    “All the alternative history is wrong, wrong, wrong. Time is like a river - if you make a change in it at one point, it creates ripples immediately downstream, but far downstream, nothing changes. ”

    Rivers that aren’t controlled by the Corps of Engineers can and do change their courses.

    Truly, the line of history that ended with the sun’s supernova in 1984 was the darkest possible timeline. Community was cancelled in that timeline after only 2 seasons, and all the characters had goatee beards.

  193. mitch4 Nov 28th 2014 at 11:56 am 193

    As long as I’m referencing movies, I disliked the 2004 “The Butterfly Effect” — in title and exposition it seemed to espouse that view (like WW’s #191); but the story was very much based in the “convergent river” idea (like WW’s #190). And didn’t seem to know these were contrary.

    Wow, looking it up on IMDB I see there were two sequels! How could such a bad movie have even one sequel?

  194. James Pollock Nov 28th 2014 at 02:04 pm 194

    ” How could such a bad movie have even one sequel?”

    If a bad movie made money, it’s going to have sequels.

    Plus, sometimes sequels are made “strategically”, in order to keep contract rights alive.

  195. feuerstein Dec 4th 2014 at 06:48 pm 195

    I’m willing to honor everyone who has fought for their county, regardless of what side they were on. I explicitly exclude that honor of anyone who has killed another human being.

  196. mitch4 Nov 11th 2015 at 02:30 pm 196

    Interesting to review this long and varied thread. On Veterans Day.

    I don’t know if the public mood could have changed that much in just a year, or if it has been mine, or just chance of what news coverage I get exposed to. But today I did not get the sense of Veterans Day trying to displace Memorial Day. Instead, a focus on the valor and generosity of military service.

    Thanks to those in previous run of this thread who explained about Armistice Day and “11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month”. Could I ask for a footnote: what is Poppy Day, and why was it a couple days earlier?

  197. James Pollock Nov 11th 2015 at 02:53 pm 197

    “Remembrance Day (sometimes known as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.”

    You used to see references to “remembrance day” in For Better or For Worse, and I guess, can now look forward to seeing them again.

  198. James Pollock Nov 11th 2015 at 02:53 pm 198

    Oh, and calling it “Poppy Day” probably refers to the poem, “In Flanders Fields”.

  199. narmitaj Nov 11th 2015 at 04:03 pm 199

    In the UK at least, Armistice Day is the 11th November, and lots of people stop and have a period of silence at various war memorials or at work, but the main public ceremony is (and has been since 1945) at 11am on Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day, where the Queen and various political, religious and military leaders lay poppy wreaths at the Cenotaph (literally “empty tomb”) in Whitehall; then veteran groups have a big parade.

    People wear paper poppies to mark remembrance, for up to two weeks before the 11th. There’s not too much social pressure these days on ordinary people to wear one all the time - it could always be on your other jacket, or have fallen off - but there certainly is on public figures like politicians, newsreaders and even chat-show guests… various newspapers like the Daily Mail do poppy-shaming. To be on the safe side (and to show respect) foreigners join in; 50 Cent wore one last week on Graham Norton for instance. The previous week on Norton Sienna Miller got in trouble as she did not wear one.

    Poppies are traditionally made by ex-service people, generally with disabilities: see

    In Flanders Fields sounds a bit like it might be an anti-war poem to start with: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row” but then ends calling for the fight to carry on…

    “Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.”

  200. mitch4 Nov 11th 2015 at 04:09 pm 200

    Thank you, James and Narmitaj. “Nearest Sunday” was the special element I was missing.

  201. Frosted Donut Nov 11th 2015 at 04:52 pm 201

    On my way home just now, I thought of this. As always, thank you Bill. I think this is a fine way to celebrate Veteran’s Day.

  202. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 01:54 am 202

    @ poppies (196-200) - I knew about the connection of poppies with Armistice Day, but I have not seen a specific reference to them since I last watched the last scene of the last episode of “Blackadder IV”. This year Barney & Clyde has turned up with a “poppy” joke (more cynical than reverential).

  203. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 05:41 am 203

    P.S. No poppies, but this New Yorker cartoon is still worth mentioning here (it’s pretty cynical, too).

  204. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 05:45 am 204

    P.P.S. Here’s one with more poppies and less cynicism: For Better or For Worse, 12-Nov-2006.

  205. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 06:47 am 205

    P.P.P.S. In case anyone is keeping score, Matt Wuerker contains zero poppies, and zero cynicism.

  206. Andréa Nov 12th 2015 at 07:13 am 206

    Could someone ’splain to me why anyone would say, “Happy Veterans’ Day”? It’s like Memorial Day - we’re commemorating wars and those who fight them. What’s to be “Happy” about???? I heard and read the phrase several times yesterday, and was puzzled . . . I thought it was in bad taste, like the store that gives 11% off to veterans . . . just another selling push, also Walmart’s ‘Greenlight a Veteran’ (by buying a bulb in WM, of course).

  207. Andréa Nov 12th 2015 at 07:28 am 207

    . . . and then we have the other side of the coin, so to speak . . .
    (Can anyone identify the book he references? I thought ‘Slaughterhouse Five’, but it was written in 1969, so is not 60 years old.)

  208. James Pollock Nov 12th 2015 at 08:28 am 208

    Could someone ’splain to me why anyone would say, “Happy Veterans’ Day”? It’s like Memorial Day - we’re commemorating wars and those who fight them. What’s to be “Happy” about????”

    Veteran’s Day is NOT like Memorial Day. Memorial Day is for remembering those who gave their lives in defense of ourselves and our interests, the most important holiday there is for a free people. Veteran’s Day is for thanking those who served… whatever their service was… and returned.

    That last word is the key to your question. Veteran’s Day is for those who went to war and came back; and for those who enlisted to serve, but in peacetime.

    Finally, of course, one can wish for someone to be happy regardless of what day it is.

    “Can anyone identify the book he references?”
    I would have said it’s probably Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein, except Starship Troopers is directly referenced in the text.

  209. Terry Nov 12th 2015 at 09:00 am 209

    I think you have to go with Starship Troopers. It’s the only novel, in my memory, that fits so neatly into the description.

  210. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 10:00 am 210

    @ Andréa (207) - While Starship Troopers (only the book, not the movie!) does fit very well into the essay’s description(*), I think that James Pollock is correct @208 that the internal reference makes another novel more likely.

    I’ve never read “The Forever War”, but the sentence structure makes it a possible candidate, although its publication date (1974) would rule it out. The answer (both from the reference in the article AND its publication date) may be “The Green Berets” (1965), but I’ve never read that book, either.

    P.S. (*) The “finding a home” situation in Starship Troopers is complex, which could be counted both for and against it. The book does have Rico enlisting and finding his place (and command) within Heinlein’s “Mobile Infantry”, but this takes place within a setting that the war is expected to continue for a very long time (even decades), so “the job is not yet done”. Moreover, Rico’s own father becomes his platoon sergeant, so that the M.I. becomes his “family” in a literal as well as figurative sense.

    P.P.S. The referenced book can’t be Slaughterhouse Five, there is not one iota of “Rah Rah Military is Awesome” in that book, and its subtitle (”The Children’s Crusade”) and the prelude about how Vonnegut began writing it makes this clear, as well.

  211. Kilby Nov 12th 2015 at 10:04 am 211

    P.P.P.S. Ooops, sorry, I can’t do math. 2015-60=1955, which argues against both Starship Troopers (1959), and The Green Berets (1965).

  212. James Pollock Nov 12th 2015 at 10:10 am 212

    “The answer (both from the reference in the article AND its publication date) may be “The Green Berets” (1965), but I’ve never read that book, either.”

    I haven’t, either, but several clues in the text strongly suggest to me that the book is a science-fiction work.

    Note that “six decades” doesn’t necessarily mean “a period of 60 years). A book published in the 1960’s would cover the “six decades” criteria (the six decades being the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and 10’s).

    Also, the M.I. definitely becomes Rico’s new home, as his old home (Buenos Aires) gets destroyed by the bugs.

  213. Judge Mental Nov 12th 2015 at 11:41 am 213

    FWIW, I think it *is* “Starship Troopers” that the author of post is referring to.

    - As James [22] pointed out, the post’s use of “six full decades” does not necessarily mean 60 years. Since it was written in 1959, we are in the 6th decade since its written (meaning the entirety of the 60’s, or in other words, the “full” time since the decade in which it was written)

    - He doesn’t merely “suggest” that it is science fiction, he flat out says “a certain well known classic science fiction novel” (totally eliminating “The Green Berets”).

    - The divisiveness of the book’s take on military service, as well as “terrible Hollywood adaption” are spot-on descriptions of “Troopers”.

    A book that is both “sci-fi classic” with strong thoughts on “military service” already limits the field significantly. Take into a count the time period , its divisiveness , and the bad film adaptation, and I think we have a pretty strong indication what novel he was talking about.

  214. Judge Mental Nov 12th 2015 at 11:48 am 214

    ugh.. obviously I was referring to James Pollock’s post at [212] and not [22]. James is a pretty astute fellow, but I don’t think he has psychic abilities to see 6 years into the future.

  215. Ted from Ft. Laud Nov 12th 2015 at 01:57 pm 215

    As Judge Mental says, there aren’t really any other good choices besides Starship Troopers, and with regard to the “except Starship Troopers is directly referenced in the text” - in a comment, the author states that the title is mentioned in the piece.

  216. Winter Wallaby Nov 12th 2015 at 02:07 pm 216

    Kilby #210: No one who has read it would describe “The Forever War” as embracing war “willingly and without regret,” or being “pro-war.” The conclusion of the book has the 1000+ year war end with the soldier coming home and being told “The war is over. Sorry, we’d like to tell you there was some point to all this, but it was just a stupid misunderstanding.”

  217. Winter Wallaby Nov 12th 2015 at 02:10 pm 217

    Andrea #206: Re: “Happy” Veteran’s day. That bothers me too.

  218. Stonekettle Nov 12th 2015 at 05:22 pm 218

    Judge Mental et al,

    The novel is Robert Anson Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

    “Six decades” was intended to be a general statement, not an exact measure. Since many of the things I write are passed around year after year, or referenced by things I and others write later, this keeps me from having to continuously update the figure (well, at least it limits the updates to once a decade anyway).

    Not everybody, nor even a majority, of the people who read my essays are science fiction fans, as such when I use science fiction works to illustrate a topic, I’m careful to include non-scifi references as well, thus Kubrick’s anti-war film Full Metal Jacket and John Wayne’s patriotic pro-service The Green Berets were included for those readers.

    …and then we have the other side of the coin, so to speak . .

    I’m a little uneasy about that description. While a career in the military was right for me, I’m most certainly not advocating it for everybody and I’m adamantly opposed to involuntary military service such as conscription or a draft - as such, I’m in full agreement with the cartoon above. I do not believe military service is the only way to be a good citizen, or even the best way. Freedom, liberty, means choosing for yourself. I’m appalled by the recent idea that America should use its military might in “pre-emptive” war instead of solely in defense and I think because of that any American should be very, very careful when considering service today. War should always be the last desperate option only after all else has failed, not some damned glorious spectacle or something to be engaged it because it’s easier than diplomacy. While I may be pro-service, and I am vehemently anti-war.

    Perhaps this piece will better clarify my view, How the Heroes Die>

    r/Jim Wright
    Stonekettle Station

  219. James Pollock Nov 12th 2015 at 10:07 pm 219

    “as well as “terrible Hollywood adaption” are spot-on descriptions of “Troopers”. ”

    I’m going to defend Verhoeven. Starship Troopers, the novel, is one of 4 Heinlein novels to win the Hugo award (and, back in the Astounding readers surveys, it wasn’t uncommon for Heinlein to have several entries near the top, under his own name and under his various pseudonyms.

    Starship Troopers is a great novel… perhaps not at the level of a “To Kill a Mockingbird”, but then, Heinlein had more than one in him.

    The movie is not a faithful adaptation of the book. But it’s not a bad movie, although it’s casting for everyone but Sgt Zim was iffy. If you want actual bad, get ahold of Starship Troopers 2.

  220. Dave in Boston Nov 14th 2015 at 03:06 am 220

    I never bothered to see the movie, based on input from friends who reported that it totally missed the point of the book. Which didn’t surprise me, because most of the blather you could/can find on the internet and elsewhere about the book also misses the point.

  221. James Pollock Nov 14th 2015 at 11:17 am 221

    Heinlein didn’t put any propaganda in the book, really. Rico comes from a family that doesn’t value military service, in a society that does. He enlists as an act of rebellion against his father, and learns (Heinlein’s view of) why men serve in the military. Heinlein assumes that most people are not capable of understanding.
    Verhoeven relentlessly examines the propaganda element. He imagines a government that doesn’t particularly value the men (and women) in the military forces. They’re cheap and easily replaceable, so getting into a war is not a serious matter.

    I think the difference is the era. Heinlein was a career military man who was cashiered for reasons of health and who desperately tried to rejoin during WWII. But the U.S. military hasn’t faced an existential threat since 1945… we’ve faced proxy wars and brushfires.
    Entering WWII, the U.S. was an underdog, with strong isolationist feelings at home and about the 35th largest military force in the world. The perspective has changed. The war against the Bugs is an existential one in the book, it’s a war of choice in the movie. Heinlein says “we fight because we have to”, Verhoeven says “we get sent to fight because somebody gains from it.”

    Spoilers may follow.
    Another difference is that Heinlein starts his story with Rico already a soldier, and then proceeds to explain how he got there in flashback. We know he’s going to become a professional soldier because we’ve already seen it while he bumbles through training. Verhoeven starts with Johnny Rico, the impulsive twit who’s never had to sacrifice anything in his life, and we don’t see him become the professional soldier until the very end of the film. Heinlein is deadly serious throughout the book, Verhoeven intentionally punctuates his version with humor, most notably the propaganda commercials.

    I agree that much of the commentary on Starship Troopers misses Heinlein’s point(s). They find it undemocratic because the franchise is limited to those who have served. But, in Starship Troopers world, military service is only one of many ways to serve, and earn the franchise. Rico lands in the infantry because he hasn’t any other skills, and infantry is one area where they can teach you all the skills you will need from scratch. In both book and film, they make clear that it is NOT an unskilled job.

  222. Ian Osmond Nov 14th 2015 at 12:53 pm 222

    The movie STARSHIP TROOPERS started out as a script called BUG HUNT AT OUTPOST NINE. It had some superficial similarities to STARSHIP TROOPERS, but not really a whole lot, but it was close enough that the studio decided that they should probably secure the rights to STARSHIP TROOPERS just to be safe. And, once they had the rights, they decided to throw in some names from the book, and a few other superficial similarities.

    However, the basic plot is different.

    If you watch STARSHIP TROOPERS the movie and imagine that it is called BUG HUNT AT OUTPOST NINE, and figure that the names are just a random coincidence, it turns into a pretty good movie. It is a terrible adaptation of STARSHIP TROOPERS because it is NOT an adaptation of STARSHIP TROOPERS.

    But considered as its own work, entirely separate from S-T, it’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot to recommend it.

  223. Joe SMASH! Nov 14th 2015 at 05:13 pm 223

    I’m a playwright, and I recently had to explain what the Draft was to some student actors. COLLEGE student actors.

  224. Mark in Boston Nov 14th 2015 at 10:16 pm 224

    So it’s not quite the same situation as “The Witches of Eastwick”, where the movie starts out like the book but about halfway through just starts to go off on its own and ends up nothing like the book.

  225. James Pollock Nov 14th 2015 at 10:38 pm 225

    Starship Troopers isn’t a plot-driven novel. It’s a slice-of-life story made memorable because A) it depicts a soldier’s life so accurately despite being set in the future, and B) the society that Heinlein projected, wherein the franchise is earned by service rather than being a reward for being both 98 degrees and 18 years of age.

    The Bugs both book and movie are fairly clear symbolic stand-ins for the Commie hordes, just waiting for an opportunity to destroy the free humans. But Heinlein was a LOT more afraid of Commies than Verhoeven was. Heinlein thought their very existence was a threat to us, while Verhouven takes the cynical approach, that the fear is being used against us by our leaders (making the society of the movie more fascist than it was in the book.) The way the society is illustrated is vastly different (in the book, it’s shown by Johnny’s schoolwork, in the movie, by the intercut propaganda pieces.) The movie has an integrated military (male and female) in a way that Heinlein would have approved of, but was too far-out for him to have put in a novel in 1960. Heinlein put women in the Starship Troopers military, but has them piloting starships. Verhoeven put them into the ground forces, as well.

  226. Singapore Bill Nov 15th 2015 at 06:40 am 226

    @224 James Pollock. Starship Troopers certainly does have a plot, which is all about how war changes people, particularly Rico. It’s quite a good book. Now the movie, on the other hand, is just crap. The only thing actually worse than the Starship Troopers movie are the condescending fanbase who keep trying to tell me that if I don’t like it, I just don’t understand all the clever satire. It’s like the remake of Battlestar Galactica that way.

  227. James Pollock Nov 15th 2015 at 09:51 am 227

    “Starship Troopers certainly does have a plot, which is all about how war changes people,”
    It does have a plot, but that isn’t it.

    “The only thing actually worse than the Starship Troopers movie…”
    Did you see Starship Troopers 2?

  228. Carl Nov 15th 2015 at 10:49 am 228

    I’d argue that Starship Troopers has war changing people as a theme, not as a plot.

    It’s actually an explicit plot point in Heinlein’s Space Cadet.

  229. Kilby Nov 15th 2015 at 11:06 am 229

    Thanks to Singapore Bill @225 for confirming that I am not alone in thinking that movie was crap.

  230. James Pollock Nov 15th 2015 at 11:09 am 230

    “I’d argue that Starship Troopers has war changing people as a theme, not as a plot.”

    I’d argue that it’s not war that changes Johnny. I mean, war changes things for people, whether they’re in the war or not, and the attack on Buenos Aires definitely affects him… but he’s changed before the war even starts.

  231. mitch4 Nov 15th 2015 at 11:39 am 231

    Heinlein put women in the Starship Troopers military, but has them piloting starships. Verhoeven put them into the ground forces, as well.

    Not to forget, the shower scenes also. L:-)

  232. Boise Ed Nov 16th 2015 at 02:24 am 232

    Singapore Bill [225]: What Kilby [228] said. And no, I didn’t see the sequel and I did enjoy the book.

    mitch4 [230]: Ah yes, the best part of that movie!

  233. Meryl A Nov 17th 2015 at 03:47 am 233

    James Pollock (208) - Yes, the two holidays are tending to become blended together and the original idea of of one in memory of those who died (started after the US Civil War, originally called Decoration Day as ladies in both the north and south decorated the graves of those who died with flowers) and one to honor those who served in the military.

    Poppies are sold by Veterans in the US also in advance of Veteran’s Day. The men selling them always looked like WWI veterans, until I realized my perception was off and they were WWII veterans and then Viet Nam era veterans. It is not as common now, but up to about 10 years ago it was.

    On Veteran’s Day this year we went for dinner at Ikea and a movie. Not because it was Veteran’s Day, but because when the $2 classic at 1pm on Monday afternoon program was discontinued by the movie theater we go, they made a senior Wednesday discount rate (which would not get us to go there on Wed) and the last 2 weeks of the $2 movie they handed out free passes to use on any Wednesday to the end of the year. The end of the year is coming, Robert likes to watch his James Bond movies without annoying people around, so we used a pair of our 4 free passes. We eat at Ikea every Saturday night (dinner for 2 under $20) and the staff knows us. We picked up our trays after getting our main courses and as we walked away, the employee called us back - he wanted to make sure we knew that if one or both of us were Veterans we were entitled to a discount on the meal. I thought it nice of him to think to tell us even though it did not apply. We may repeat this Wednesday and see the Bond movie again with our other pair of tickets.

  234. James Pollock Nov 17th 2015 at 09:56 am 234

    “Poppies are sold by Veterans in the US also in advance of Veteran’s Day. The men selling them always looked like WWI veterans, until I realized my perception was off and they were WWII veterans and then Viet Nam era veterans. It is not as common now, but up to about 10 years ago it was.”

    Must be regional. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone but a florist selling poppies.

  235. Meryl A Nov 25th 2015 at 02:40 am 235

    James Pollock (234) - they are not real poppies, but paper poppies which are intended to be pinned to ones clothing or otherwise displayed to show support for veterans. Still common in England I understand from online friends there and used to be common here. I guess technically they were not being “sold”, but are given when one made a donation to the veteran’s association the veteran was representing. They normally seem to be set up outside of stores. Last time I saw one - within the past 7 years as husband was with me so it is since he quit his job - they were between a Walmart entrance and an adjacent supermarket entrance (our Walmarts here are not Super Walmarts so they do not have a supermarket in them).

    I am guessing that somewhere in the prior 233 posts there was a reference to “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

    In looking up who wrote the above poem I found the following link - The Poppies Of Flanders Field -‎ So they are called buddy poppies and it is the VFW which is “selling” them.

  236. Chakolate Nov 12th 2016 at 01:28 am 236

    Thanks for posting this again, Bill.

  237. Terry Nov 12th 2016 at 09:17 am 237

    In 1972, when I was 18, my number was in the high 100s. The next year it was in the 20s, but they never used the draw from either year for induction.

    I know I would have reported and served if drafted, but it turned out that (by chance) I was a “fortunate son.” I walked past the Vietnam Memorial in May of this year. Anyone can be an armchair quarterback; I will just say that I am very sorry for those men and their families.

  238. Fluffy Bunny Slippers Nov 12th 2016 at 09:40 am 238

    I really like the strip… However, you do realize that this will eventually have a Geezer tag due to the the fact that the average american has been born after the war was long ended. This fact is lampshaded by the strip itself, mind. Perhaps that is why i like it so much.

    In related news: Happy 20th Birthday Veteran’s Day Arlo Strip!

  239. Irene Nov 12th 2016 at 01:23 pm 239

    My son is active duty. I get a little sick every time I here a news story break. Last night I was working and my hubby called and asked when I would be home. Son called a little while later, just to chat. After, I put together the conversations and realized- he was home. First time I have seen him in over a year. When we are together, he has gotten used to me hugging him every time we pass each other. I can’t bear to tell him that when I do, it is because I am thinking of all the moms who can’t do that any more.

  240. Mona Nov 12th 2016 at 01:28 pm 240

    Irene, I am glad your son is home (for now). Your story brought tears to my eyes.

  241. zookeeper Nov 12th 2016 at 03:13 pm 241

    Very much heartfelt. I was pre-lottery, but I too got a pass. The universe working in mysterious ways. Hugs all around.

  242. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2016 at 02:51 pm 242

    On Veteran’s Day Weekend, just by coincidence, I spotted this article in a March 1967 issue of Life (I’d bought it to give to my brother’s 50th birthday this coming March, so of course I wanted to read it first — it’s not as if it was in mint, unread condition, after all).

    (Clicking the graphic should blow it up)

  243. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2016 at 02:59 pm 243

    Semi-OT: It occurred to me this morning that I could no longer remember my lottery number. I’m sure I remembered it last year (I’d say 255 if I had to make a guess).

    This isn’t a geezer thing: my memory remains intact even if my hairline doesn’t. I guess after 40-odd years, my brain decided that the specific number just wasn’t important anymore. In effect, it probably never was: like Arlo’s, all that really mattered was that it was high enough.

    Of course, finding the number online would probably take me about a minute — and once I see the number, my brain will completely reject the reality that this was a second-hand memory, and insist that I really remembered the number all along.

  244. Meryl A Nov 15th 2016 at 03:55 am 244

    Irene - I thank you and your son for his service.

  245. Meryl A Nov 15th 2016 at 03:57 am 245

    What surprised me this year was that none of the comics I read in the newspaper or online even mentioned Veteran’s Day this year. In the past there was a commonly a strip about it, such as this one. Not even Arlo and Janis had one this year. (Yes, there are a lot of comics I don’t read that might have had one.)

  246. James Pollock Nov 15th 2016 at 04:59 am 246

    When our troops are engaged in a foreign war, Veteran’s Day seems more important. Since we’ve almost completely wrapped up our foreign operations (at least as far as American-boots-on-the ground go), Veteran’s Day recedes into the background.

    Memorial Day is the important one, and always has been.

  247. Ted from Ft. Laud Nov 15th 2016 at 01:25 pm 247

    Bill @ 243
    I don’t think I ever memorized my number. I was in one of the last couple of lotteries (next to last?), and by that point all of the troops were out of Vietnam and no one had actually been called up for a year or so, so it seemed a bit less significant. Nonetheless, we didn’t ignore it, as all the infrastructure was still operating. I do remember my number was in the mid-100s - high enough by the rules then in place that if the draft had still been going on, I wouldn’t have been called. However, it was low enough that I _was_ called for a physical, which did jolt me enough to get me to go down to the induction center with a bit of haste to point out I should have been classified 2S, not 1A (just in case). So lucky by lottery, but even more lucky by birth date - if I had been a couple of years older, I might have been called, as my number in the last lottery actually used (for 1972) was low enough that, although unlikely, I _might_ have been called up (I remember this was something that friends and I checked at the time).

    That 2S indicates an additional way that I was (potentially) lucky, in a way that also points out some of the unfairness of the draft - none of my relatives or friends (or close relatives of friends) were called either. (There _might_ have been some from my high school that had connections that were drafted, but no one close to me, so I was not aware of it.) That was partly age - being at the tail end of the draft era and lacking among those connected with me males that were more than a few years older - but also because of the socio-economic status of basically everyone I knew (not high, but high enough). Everyone went to college as a matter of course, and so were deferred (and while the value of that deferment declined around my time, so had the draft). Those old enough to have graduated (who didn’t go on to grad school or other) would have been at risk, but apparently no one I had connection to was old enough to be affected that way, or they continued their deferment in other ways (or were lucky…). And if necessary, there were other ways to be deferred that were far more available to the well off or well connected, with the result that the vast majority of the draftees were poor or lower middle class - for the very great part, the well off went only if they wanted to.

    So we protested the war along with everyone else - though not much more vociferously than we protested non-union lettuce (admittedly, this might largely be because the US involvement was seriously winding down by my junior and senior years of high school) - but I (and effectively everyone I knew) lacked a personal connection to the war.

    Not so to other wars - my father was an overseas vet of both WW2 and Korea (though he (for the most part) was not in active combat, so lucky again…) - and most of my friends and relatives had similar connections. But that was history rather than something that viscerally and directly affected us.

  248. Kilby Nov 15th 2016 at 03:56 pm 248

    Some holidays are important enough that they should not be shoved around to a convenient Monday. Armistice Day had a sacrosanct character. Memorial Day has become just another weekend barbeque opportunity.

  249. James Pollock Nov 15th 2016 at 05:21 pm 249

    “Memorial Day has become just another weekend barbeque opportunity.”

    For you, maybe.

  250. Mona Nov 15th 2016 at 06:20 pm 250

    Hubby and I knew it was Veteran’s Day. We were lucky that it was not raining, Hubby put our American Flag out first thing in the morning. And yet, it took until Hubby had made his sixth trip out to the mailbox before I realized that mail would not be delivered that day.
    When he got back from the mailbox, I asked him “Why did you put the flag out this morning?”
    “Because it is Veteran’s Day.”
    “Do they deliver mail on Veteran’s Day?”

  251. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2016 at 07:48 pm 251

    Follow-up to #243 (not that anybody asked): it was 225.

  252. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2016 at 07:49 pm 252

    Mona (250), are there any days the Post Office doesn’t deliver Amazon mail?

    I suspect only Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  253. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2016 at 07:55 pm 253

    I suspect the reason people are paying less attention to Veteran’s Day is that we’re running out of veterans of our good wars (the float holding WW2 vets in our local parade has all but shrunk out of existence).

    Of course, respecting veterans according to how much we respect their wars is ridiculous: they all served on our behalf. Honoring firefighters doesn’t mean we approve of the fires, after all.

  254. mitch4 Nov 15th 2016 at 08:06 pm 254

    I was a sophomore in college when I turned 18 in Nov. 1967, and my whole family were already antiwar, including my father the lawyer who was a member of the ACLU Legal Panel (as he was for most of his life) and a cooperating attorney with the American Friends [i.e. Quakers] Service Committee, and was handling draft cases both for those organizations and private clients, and had huge binders of their workshop materials on how to deal with the draft boards.

    So in the same envelope as my registration I enclosed my application for Conscientious Objector status. The AFSC had cases arguing you could claim an upbringing with a deep moral or philosophical objection to killing, without a regular religious affiliation and devout observance of that as a belief. (They even had some briefs to deal with “just war” exceptions, and self-defense or defense-of-others in civilian life trick questions.) So I knew how to fill out that application, and truthfully.

    The C.O. application was never ruled on. I had a health exception (asthma, and psychologically unfit) — it wasn’t called 4F because it could be changed upon reexamination, but was something I don’t remember but think was a kind of 1, like 1Y. And I had my 2S, which was still good at that time, though as Ted indicates, the lottery system later made it less valuable.

  255. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2016 at 08:13 pm 255

    Ted from Ft. Laud (#247), it was largely moot for us as well (most of the people in my freshman college class had been born in 1955), but we still paid attention: because as Yogi Berra said about the war, it ain’t over until it’s over.

    It was, oddly enough, a bonding experience: everybody was out in the hallway, a radio on in every room, and every door open.

    And the difference between a 25 and a 225 still mattered.

  256. Arthur Nov 15th 2016 at 11:39 pm 256

    the float holding WW2 vets in our local parade has all but shrunk out of existence)

    “Soon no one will march there at all” - Eric Bogle

  257. Kilby Nov 16th 2016 at 02:57 am 257

    @ JP (249) - No, not for me at all, it’s not a holiday in the country where I live. When I reflect on the subject, it’s on Armistice Day, and not on whatever convenient Monday Congress happened to select.

  258. Cidu Bill Nov 16th 2016 at 03:01 am 258

    Actually, Arthur, they’re all kind of riding at this point…

  259. DanV Nov 16th 2016 at 11:40 am 259

    By the time I turned 18 in 1975, draft registration had ended and the armed forces were downsizing and converting to an all-volunteer force. I looked into enlisting, but due to my extreme nearsightedness and colorblindness I was told “thanks, but no thanks.” Had it been a decade later, they may have snapped me up for my math and computer proficiency. Pretty much thankful I never had to go to Vietnam, and also thankful for those who have served, whether or not it was a “good war”.

  260. Ted from Ft. Laud Nov 16th 2016 at 04:37 pm 260

    Bill @ 255 - We certainly didn’t ignore it, but given that events has moved on, we weren’t too concerned about it.

    I’m also a 1955 - our lottery was sometime in the spring of freshman year (1974). The last actual call up was the end of 1972, all the troops were out of Vietnam in the spring of 1973, and the draft authorization ended in the summer of 1973. So by the time the lottery actually happened, it would have required a major turnaround for us to be at risk, and there didn’t appear to be any interest in Congress or elsewhere to do so. Further, Watergate was a major issue by mid 1973, and Nixon almost certainly didn’t have the political capital left by late 1973 to try to ramp things in Vietnam back up (and Ford lacked both the capital and the interest to do so after Nixon resigned). So I think the bulk of our interest/concern was in that the war had been a big part of our existence - we grew up with it and with some level of fear of it and the draft - and even though it was effectively over and gone, it felt like it was still a presence.

    And like I said, the fact that my number was low enough for me to get called for a physical certainly got a reaction from me, though not at the time (since I thought I was 2S). It wasn’t until I got a notice actually showing me as 1A and “inviting” me for the physical that I got really interested…

  261. Bob Nov 11th 2017 at 01:08 pm 261

    Watching the recent Ken Burns’ documentary on Viet Nam reinforced my thankfulness for the timing (i.e., year) of my birth, a 2S classification, and a high draft number. Very thankful to those who served regardless of which war/conflict.

  262. Cidu Bill Nov 11th 2017 at 04:04 pm 262

  263. Kilby Nov 11th 2017 at 06:17 pm 263

    My 18th birthday was long enough after the war & draft ended that I never received a classification or number, but soon enough that I was highly offended about the way that Reagan lied about wanting to end draft registration. He reversed that campaign promise very quickly after entering office, and it remains in force today.

    P.S. It seems highly insane that the government still requires men to register for a draft system that has not been used for over 40 years, but we do not have a system to automatically register all citizens to vote when they turn 18. Apparently practicing for war is more important than practicing for democracy.

  264. Winter Wallaby Nov 12th 2017 at 03:07 am 264

    Kilby #263: It makes as much sense as a system where you can be old enough to fight in a war, but not old enough to drink a beer.

  265. Kilby Nov 12th 2017 at 04:42 am 265

    Or vote, which was the reason the 26th amendment was passed.

  266. James Pollock Nov 12th 2017 at 07:41 am 266

    “I looked into enlisting, but due to my extreme nearsightedness and colorblindness I was told “thanks, but no thanks.” Had it been a decade later, they may have snapped me up for my math and computer proficiency.”

    Well, I was ALSO extremely nearsighted and math- and computer-proficient, but not until 1985. They were utterly disinterested in the latter, and willing to overlook the former because I was willing to commit to being trained in a “critical skill”, specifically, 462×0, aircraft armament systems.

    We (mostly) managed to stay out of military conflict while I was on active duty. The Persian Gulf War started (and ended) while I was on inactive reserve.

    On the subject of being old enough to serve, old enough to drink, and/or old enough to vote, I enlisted in 1985 after having voted in the 1984 election, my birthday is in October so I was just barely able to register before the election. Back then, the drinking age had just been changed from 18 on federal installations (including military bases) to match the drinking age of the state the installation was in. You can’t drink at all during basic training (which is in Texas) but you can in tech school, which for me was in Colorado, which still allowed 18-year-olds to drink.
    In contrast, my daughter’s birthday is in November, so she finally got to vote in a Presidential election in 2016… at 21.

  267. Ignatz Nov 12th 2017 at 09:28 am 267

    My birthday was the #1 pick when I was 12 years old. Thank goodness I was only 12.

    My brother made up a phony draft letter and sent it to me in the mail as a practical joke.

  268. Cidu Bill Nov 12th 2017 at 12:49 pm 268

    I was cleaning out the basement the other day and came across my younger son’s draft card. Clearly he hasn’t missed it over the past six years.

    It’s my recollection that back in the day we were legally required to carry it on our person.

  269. Meryl A Nov 14th 2017 at 03:52 am 269

    For those of you who are Veterans - or might still be serving - THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

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