Newspaper article International New York Times

Recalling Another Kind of War

Newspaper article International New York Times

Recalling Another Kind of War

Article excerpt

In World War I, American soldiers died for their country, but modern war is not so much about nation as faith and ideology.

The austere, white headstones stretch in geometric lines, below linden trees, seeming to march into the fall gloaming much as the 14,246 American soldiers whose names they bore once advanced on German lines toward the end of World War I.

Marc Calluy, a hotelier from this village dominated by a 200- foot Doric column dedicated to the United States First Army's role in the 47-day campaign that ended the conflict in 1918, surveyed the vista that has become familiar to him. "We can only pray -- never again," he said.

Then he checked himself.

By coincidence, his impromptu tour of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery just south of here -- "the largest American military cemetery in Europe," according to the American Battle Monuments Commission -- took place last week on Sept. 11, 14 years to the day after the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon signaled a different kind of global conflict. And it was tempting to compare war then and now.

Here, in these hills and forests, 600,000 soldiers from the American Expeditionary Force were deployed under cover of darkness for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, backed by 2,700 field guns that pounded German positions for three hours in preparation for what, at the time, was described as the biggest battle fought by American soldiers. They "died for their country," a carved inscription says.

But modern war, particularly the so-called war against terrorism, is not so much about nation as faith and ideology, and there are no massed divisions on the scale of 20th-century cataclysms.

Just recently, for instance, Britain ordered a drone strike to kill two of its citizens in Syria fighting with the Islamic State -- a clinical excision ostensibly designed to forestall terrorism on British streets.

Compare that with the close-quarters death of Cpl. Freddie Stowers, who perished in his early 20s, the first black American to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in World War I, albeit posthumously in 1991. …

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