Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Fortress of Yesterday

I just finished a book on Verdun called The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne. Verdun is a city in southern France ringed with a series of fortifications that hosted a titanic struggle during the First World War, where it is believed as many as a million men died. It was designed to serve as a centerpiece of French defenses, but by the start of WWI had fallen into disfavor. Following their humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, the French military abandonded the static defense in favor of the aggressive attack, so it is ironic that Verdun rises to such importance in the Great War. The book itself was very good. A little over three hundred pages, but a quick read for all that. I recommend both the title and the subject without hesitation.

When reading about the First World War, it's the senselessness of the whole thing that really strikes out at you. Now, I'm not exactly a pacifist. I believe that violence is always immoral, but there are times when you have to make a bad choice to stop from making the wrong choice. Killing is wrong, but there are things which are worse. World War I had no greater purpose. It didn't even benefit from the indulgent majesty of dynastic struggles. The Great War would become a force all its own, an indiscriminate, stoic devourer, set loose not in the defense of sacred principle or oppressed people, but rather because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a war with no real causes, with no real goals, and in the end, with no real winners.

2 comments:

Kok Bi said...

i like a war stories...
btw, if u are into books i can recommend u a few..i.e cryptonomicon, quicksilver and confusion by neal stephenson. or u can read some of william gibson's cyber punk books..start with neuromancer then probably move on to pattern recognition (the latest one). if u ever read these books..pls let me know what u think about them...

LeperColony said...

These books are often recommended to me, and I have several times resolved to read them, but I haven't managed to do so yet.