The Purpose of War is to Die for One’s Country
(From “The Soldier’s Faith,” Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Perhaps no statement exemplifies the The Law of Sacrifice more clearly than a passage from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ address (excerpt below). He speaks of a faith that is “true and adorable” leading a soldier to “throw his life in obedience” to a “blindly accepted duty”—for a cause which “he little understands” in a campaign “of which he has little notion.”

What makes a soldier “adorable”—in the eyes of society—is precisely his willingness to “throw his life away”—regardless of the nature of the cause.

The essence and perpetuation of warfare as an institution derives precisely from this belief in the goodness of sacrificial death.

From an address delivered on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, at a meeting called by the graduating class of Harvard University:

I do not know what is true. I do not know the meaning of the universe. But in the midst of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt, that no man who lives in the same world with most of us can doubt, and that is that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use.