Soldiers and Sacrifice

On Monday, Memorial Day, the rituals of war and remembrance will unfold again — lilacs in the air, gunfire salutes, and praise for dead soldiers.

Loss in war is never easy. But the war that Iraq has become makes it doubly hard. Public support, among Republicans and Democrats, has never been lower. The war’s resolution is hard even for the president to describe.

Critics call it a debacle. And yet, Americans in uniform continue to die, fighting to their last breath along the Tigris and Euphrates.

This hour On Point: a Memorial Day weekend meditation on the meaning of soldier’s sacrifice in a troubled war.

Quotes from the Show:

“Nations are in a real sense founded on sacrifice. All you have to do is think of the Declaration of Independence with its pledge to sacrifice our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor or the Gettysburg address which speaks of soldiers who gave their lives to the nation … . When a war sis misconceived or wrong or felt that way by the public it goes very, very deep, it wreaks havoc with this whole framework of faith, going far beyond the war in question to really these national myths and sentiments which are so primal and elemental.” Jonathan Schell

“We can’t forget the soldiers who come home maybe in one piece physically but otherwise they’re not. We have to remember the war leaves many scars that go unnoticed…” Listener

“It’s important to remember, I think, that Iraq is not the first unpopular war in our history, obviously. Thinking back to the Korean War, it was a tremendously unpopular war, Truman’s approval ratings were in the tank, and yet, looking back, we remember those veterans who had a very hard time, the soldiers did, and the sacrifices of those who died in a way that I think is entirely appropriate, whatever the popularity of the war at the time.” Jean Bethke Elshtain


Jean Bethke Elshtain, political philosopher and Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School.;
Jonathan Schell, a fellow at The Nation Institute and the Peace and Disarmament, correspondent for The Nation, and visiting professor of International Relations at Yale University.;
Richard Kohn, military historian, professor of history and peace, war, and defense at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill.

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