The Allied powers and Germany agreed to an armistice, or cessation of shooting and fighting, that would take effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. That armistice paved the way for the Treaty of Versailles, which brought WWI to an official close.That is the origin of the American celebration first known as Armistice Day, later changed by Congress to the more inclusive Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is a curious phenomenon. Historically, governments have used the powers of their militaries not only against foreign enemies, but against their own people as well. And people don’t typically want to celebrate those who hurt them.
SUBJECTS DON’T CELEBRATE MILITARY-BACKED TYRANTS
One little discussed strategic difference between a tyranny versus a free people going to war is that a tyranny must always reserve a significant number of soldiers and weaponry at home to keep domestic subjects (not citizens) in line. A tyrant typically doesn’t have the option of directing all national military power against a warring foreign enemy because a tyrant also has to wage a kind of constant war at home against those he wants to control.
A free people, however, when moved to make war, can throw all their efforts and resources into taking war to their enemy. That’s why a tyrant ought to think long and hard before provoking war against a nation of free people: A free people can unleash 100% of their total national power against a mortal foreign enemy, which any tyranny is hard pressed to match.
There’s more than a military disadvantage to tyranny. When a government uses its military to control and confiscate from its own people, those people become filled with resentment, anger, fear, and depression. The psychology of subjects in a tyranny is similar to the psychology of someone in an abusive personal relationship: unhealthy and a source of great unhappiness for the individuals who are unjustly controlled. Sometimes those negative emotions become too much to be contained and spark violent revolution.
And, thus, the poor souls suffering under tyranny at the hands of heavily armed government soldiers typically don’t celebrate anything like a “veterans day,” at least not voluntarily. Within a tyranny, why would anyone celebrate their abusers?
VETERANS DAY REVEALS THE CHARACTER OF THE UNITED STATES
Yet, we Americans celebrate Veterans Day. And we celebrate our veterans not because we are coerced or commanded to, but voluntarily and happily. That speaks volumes about the character of the American regime.
Oh, American history is filled with imperfections and failings, to be sure. Any human enterprise, large or small, will always fail at various times, in various ways. But in reflecting upon the meaning of Veterans Day, we see something of the beauty, the goodness, the freedom that still remains in the United States.
The United States military, from the humblest of beginnings to something large, powerful, and envied the world over, has always been under the command and supervision of our civilian government, which has always been under the command and supervision of us, the citizens. The United States military serves at our pleasure. We, the citizens, do not serve at the pleasure of the military. We the citizens are the principals, those in the military are our agents.
That’s why it’s right to thank and honor our veterans who have served us so well, facing with brave hearts dangers that would make lesser hearts wilt with cowardice. A nation that freely, voluntarily celebrates its own military veterans is a nation that is doing something right. And for that, we Americans should be thankful.
To those whom I know, and the many I do not, who have served in our military, I offer deep respect, thanks, and appreciation. The highest honors are yours, ladies and gentlemen of the U.S. armed forces. You deserve it.