Is it still the greatest honour to die for your country?

War has always been a dreadful event to the weak party despite the pretence of courage. Soldiers are the first to pay for it with their lives. No soldier is ready to die gratuitously. No army likes to have its soldier die. The death of just one soldier in a war can shake the whole nation. It’s not like any other death. His death is for a whole country. The bigger is the number of casualties, the bigger is the grief of the nation. In the USA, there is an opposition to the war in Iraq because of the number of soldiers killed there. The USA has never suffered such a large number of deaths since the Vietnam War.

Among soldiers, there are conscientious objectors, who see war as futile and inhumane. They see it as a disgrace to fight it and to die in it. They either desert or refuse to join the troops.

A nation, without its courageous, well-equipped and trained army is defenceless in time of attacks. The soldiers’ role is to defend it and die for it. Death can be a great honour as dead soldiers are remembered by the nation as heroes. Some see accepting death as a matter of principle because they will die for a cause that can benefit the human race. So it’s no wonder if intellectuals also join the army. Among the US soldiers who died in Iraq, there were those with university degrees and multiple vocations who joined the army voluntarily.

The soldiers’ lot is to face danger. They’re at war to face all possible dreadful consequences from capture, injuries and infirmity to death. At least, those who die in war should be honoured through memorials. Their families, especially their children should be taken care of. They shouldn’t be easily forgotten through the passage of time.

As long as soldiers fight and die for a justified cause, their death should be a great honour. It is when they are made to fight a war to serve the interests of just a particular political class or to wage aggression against a weak nation refusing to submit to a strong one that their death becomes futile.

There is a military joke. A young soldier was stranding next to his general. Suddenly a general from the enemy side was moving towards them. The soldier tried to shoot the general when his general told him, “Stop! Generals don’t shoot at one another.”

When there is a war, it is rare that high ranking officers die in the same proportion as low ranking soldiers who should be at the front. Generals are lucky as they must have survived the wars they took part in. In their current positions they give their orders from remote and secure areas through modern communication systems.

It is still the dream of the American army to invent machines that can make wars by being remotely controlled by satellite. If that happens, the future wars will be a sort of video games and the notion of dying for honour will be a matter of the past. Only machines will be at the front.

But still it is wrong to make wars because of its great cost in human lives and property. It is still a dream that Man can use his intelligence to “invent” tactics for peace. But as there is still literatures and movies glorifying past and imaginary wars, wars will still capture the imagination of many. For many soldiers fighting wars is their raison-d’être. As such, it is still debatable if dying in a war is for honour or just the consequence of mad decisions resulting from the inability to find reasonable peaceful solutions.

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