Few would seriously dispute that ANZAC Day is supposed to remind us of the sacrifice made by soldiers in war. About how tragic is every one of those deaths and injuries, and what a high price we should put on ever asking any soldier to take that risk again.
In other words, it should remind us and our elected representatives that war is not a slightly-serious decision that will make us feel big and important. It’s not an opportunity to extend our national influence or impress countries we assume are definitely going to sacrifice their own soldiers in gratitude for this downpayment if we ever ask them.
If our soldiers are ever to be sent to a war it needs to be an absolute last resort. Only somebody who’d utterly failed to grasp the significance of ANZAC Day – or who had stupidly confused it for a day celebrating nationalism – would sell their sacrifice so cheaply as to send them to an overseas military campaign where there was no serious plan for winning it or for what would happen if we did. It may well be that protecting the human rights of other people and establishing a long-term genuine free democracy may be a high enough good to be worth paying the extremely high price of soldiers’ lives – but anything less than that certainly isn’t.
If you genuinely valued soldiers’ lives as highly as ANZAC Day is supposed to remind you you should, then you would not send them until you had such a plan on your desk and had had serious people evaluate its prospects.
I can only conclude that certain recent leaders who sent Australians to die in wars that have left the countries in question in chaos and their citizens in danger not significantly better than what was there before our soldiers’ sacrifice – an outcome that was entirely predictable because no-one in charge of the campaigns appears to have seriously contemplated how they were going to rebuild the countries once they’d smashed them up – that those leaders (or that leader) must have slept through the ANZAC ceremonies they’d previously attended. That they did not listen to the soldiers’ stories. That they completely missed the lesson of what happened at Gallipoli. That they did not grasp just how valuable our soldiers’ lives really are.
Let’s hope that our current and future leaders are paying attention today. Never again. Lest we forget.