What is the relevance of "Dulce et Decorum Est" to modern society?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because war and tragedy seem to be constant states of man, Wilfred Owen's sardonic poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" is still relevant today. In his poem Owen mocks the "Old Lie" of the lyric Roman poet, Horace, that to die for one's country is "sweet and fitting." Instead, in World War I, men's bodies were disfigured with the sores and froth from tortured, choking lungs infused with the mustard gas fired into the air. Young men were turned into monstrous beings with "white eyes writhing" in their hanging faces, like "a devil's sick of sin." Others stumbled to the trenches on "blood-shod" feet because their boots have been lost or destroyed. 

Owen writes that war has no glory; it is the perversion of human beauty and health. The earth is on fire or a sludge, or stripped of everything. The motives of war are almost always a lie, as well. Many times wars are waged for profit or political gain, not to make people "safe" or to free people, or any of the noble slogans. Wars waged often leave countries worse off than they were before, such as Germany was after World War I. The social, economic, and political consequences of this war upon Germany were devastating: 1.7 million men were dead and 7 million were casualties; the financial cost of the war has been estimated to be the equivalent of $38 billion. 

Fareed Zakaria, renowned journalist who writes for CNN and The Washington Post, recently remarked on the United States's twenty-first century actions that supposedly meant to rid areas of dictators:

Washington toppled Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya but chose not to attempt nation-building in that country. The result has been chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington supported a negotiated removal of Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime in Yemen and the election that followed, but generally took a back seat. The result again was chaos and humanitarian tragedy. 

So, again for those who have died serving their countries in modern times, it can be argued that the "the Old Lie" lives on.