What Anzac Day Says to Our Leaders in the Fight Against Covid-19
Posted on April 24, 2020
When tomorrow dawns, so will Anzac Day: a day of memorial where the armed forces of Australia and New Zealand are honoured for their service to country encapsulated by one specific event in World War 1, the 1915 invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Aegean Sea.
This year Covid-19 will ensure that no marches will occur, no massed crowds at ceremonies hearing the Last Post, no gatherings at Returned Services League clubs and pubs—only simple reflection as families remain indoors or offer a salute from their driveways or retirement villages.
But this year’s commemoration holds a lesson unsurpassed since World War 1 and World War 2.
Gallipoli marks a politically driven defeat in which the Anzac’s finest soldiers were sacrificed to the murderous artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire of a Turkish foe. More than legend, it is a case study of poor planning, abject failure in generalship, misapplication of the military art and of national leaderships acquiescing to expediency. Life was cheap in that campaign.
Now, find the parallel in our current war against Covid-19 where politicians and business leaders are chomping at the bit to sacrifice Australians and New Zealanders yet again for money—and yes, real estate.
Plans are burgeoning for the re-opening of economies bearing little resemblance to those of a few months ago. Yet, these leaders are blinded to expectations of cash registers firing up when in fact, consumers will be more focused on the risks of infection leading to painful, lonely deaths.
If anything, Anzac Day begs national leaders and the generals of commerce to, “Stop!” That they first consolidate their ground and look not to glory but their strategic picture more fully.
Unlike many scholars, I believe that taking the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 was a sound idea—just as today that thin spine of land remains all that separates the West from a Putin regime that dreams of sallying south from its Black Sea ports. In World War 1 its capture would not just have taken Turkey out of the war and hastened the liberation of the Mideast: it would have bolstered Russia through the Caucasus and prevented it from slipping into Revolution years later.
Yes, the world needs a rebirth of robust and vibrant economies. But Anzac Day warns against unbridled haste. Gallipoli could have been taken with the right planning, manpower and logistics. But it failed on all three.
Covid-19 can be beaten through these exact variables—but leaders need to admit that at least until 2021, they will not be in place. How many Australians and New Zealanders then, must die from the virus after tomorrow? Who dictates where they must fall?
The value of patience and of life are the ultimate lessons of Anzac Day: not sacrifice to political whim.
Expediency kills in war. And the Australian and New Zealand public have not volunteered to be cannon fodder this time around.
Lest We Forget.
© 2020 Adam Parker.