"The Next War" uses anaphora (and parallelism) to highlight the irony of the soldiers' relationship to Death and, it follows, the speaker's cynicism about warfare. The speaker repeats "we" or "we've" at the start of clauses, followed by a verb, seven times in the poem.
In lines 1, 4, 7, and 8, this repetition directly describes actions the soldiers make over the course of the war in response to Death . Though these responses are at first unexpected, the poem's use of repetition ultimately creates a sense of inevitability regarding the soldiers' actions.
The speaker says that "we've walked," "We've sniffed," "We chorussed," and "We whistled" in response to Death's presence. Rather than turn away from Death's bad breath, the soldiers "sniff" it instead. Rather than disrupt Death's song, the soldiers bolster his voice with their own. Rather than run away from Death's scythe as he cuts them down, the soldiers choose to whistle blithely instead. Again, this repetition highlights the soldiers' ironic response to Death, and builds the reader's expectation that no matter what Death does, the soldiers will respond positively as a group—a response that underscores the horror of war.
Lines 10 and 12 contain another use of anaphora in the repetition of the phrase "We laughed." In line 10, the soldiers laugh at Death, an act that highlights the psychological impact of war. In line 12, the soldiers laugh at the concept of war itself, as they know that more soldiers will continue to arrive to fight on the battlefields of greater, future wars. The war they are currently fighting, therefore, is pointless and meaningless. This repetition emphasizes that their laughter is not joyful or optimistic. Rather, in each case, the soldiers' laughter represents their horror, trauma, and hopelessness.