The Magazine

In Dubious Battle

The Great War, of modern memory, at 100

Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By J. HARVIE WILKINSON III
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The grim years of 1914-18 may seem distant to us now, in time and place, but they should lead Americans to count each day of peace as a blessing. Peace through strength may be no guarantee, but it remains America’s best bet. And this means strength in all its interlocking aspects: military, economic, technological, political, and moral. Strength that affords America a menu of measured options of unmistakable effect; strength that, alone, lends aspirational speech its credibility; strength that allows the United States to lead, unabashedly, in promoting world stability and freedom in the company of friends and allies.

It’s a tall order for democracy, where the temptation to choose short-term indulgences over necessary sacrifice is ever-present, and the pursuit of diversion and the relaxation of vigilance is not often shared by determined enemies. The Great War’s lesson is not one of isolationism, but of perseverance. And dismay at the follies of statesmen and generals should not lessen our respect for Peter Hart’s ordinary combatants, who fought almost beyond the point of human endurance. 


J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who sits on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is the author, most recently, of Cosmic
Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance