June 4 was the beginning of the pivotal Battle of Midway in which an outnumbered, outgunned American naval task force improvised its way to a gritty and decisive victory over the Japanese Imperial Navy from which the latter never really recovered.
But it’s also the anniversary of a much more sombre event in 20th-century military history, the great Russian Brusilov offensive of 1916.
Coming just seven months after Pearl Harbor, Midway is the sort of dramatic victory that makes free people proud of their tradition of liberty and the improbably victories that have sustained it.
But the Brusilov Offensive, a desperate effort to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun, is a sad reminder of how much of the world’s population has no such heritage to cherish.
The greatest Russian achievement of the war, it predictably ended in disaster.
The ground taken was soon lost at enormous cost, the innovative tactics that brought initial success were abandoned, the strategic situation became worse and the weak and repressive regime for whom it was fought collapsed within a year into anarchy then dreadful tyranny.
The brave Russians who fought there had no cause worthy of their devotion.
Nor did their Austro-Hungarian opponents nor, I would say, those fighting for Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The same is true in much of the world today.
We in the West are indeed fortunate to have been born free or wise to have chosen freedom.
Let us cherish it both by celebrating our own last and sympathizing with those who have no such past to celebrate.
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