Today’s war veterans have it better and worse than World War II veterans.
I’m unaware of any Stop-Loss policies during the Second World War. People didn’t sign up for one-year hitches, but fought until they were killed, maimed or until the war ended. Many if not most were draftees. Those who enlisted were probably going to be drafted anyway.
The term, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” didn’t exist at the time. As I remember, people referred to battle fatigue or, that holdover from World War I, shell shock. Unlike today’s troops, men were far more likely to die from their wounds because medical science and the technology for transporting wounded weren’t nearly as advanced as they are today.
But those guys sure knew what they were fighting for. Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us. For the most part we were fighting uniformed combatants and obviously defending our country. Battlefields were far more delineated than today.
Today’s troops are in combat 24 hours a day seven days a week. And today's wars are longer. The enemy could be a woman, an elder or a child. It could be your Iraqi or Afghan buddy. You have to convince yourself you are somehow defending your country from invasion by some third-world country that has trouble with providing decent roads or electricity. And you have to deal with the probability that the people you killed were innocent civilians. And, as these wars go on, the public grows less and less enthusiastic and more and more skeptical about the sacrifices you are making. In World War II, the whole nation participated by doing without meat, gasoline, and even personal jewelry. And, yeah, by paying taxes. Today, the government has decided to pass the financial costs of these wars onto future generations. I think it’s fair to say the people making money off these wars outnumber those making sacrifices for it.
For once, that overused apples and oranges metaphor applies. It’s fruitless to decide whether today’s vets are better off than those of 65 years ago. How can anyone measure the extent of horror, terror and suffering?
We all honor our vets in different ways. Mine is to do what I can to ensure that today’s Iraq and Afghanistan vets will be our country’s last. I continue to challenge the assumptions that fighting in those two countries and sending drones to Pakistan is defending our country from being taken over by some defenseless third-world nation. I once compared the chances of being taken over by a third-world nation to the chances of Mike Tyson being beaten up by my 92-year-old friend, Ruth. But that's probably an understatement. The chances of Iraq’s, Afghanistan’s or Pakistan’s invading us and forcing us all to convert to Islam are about the same as Tyson’s being attacked by Terri Schiavo.
Apparently, that hasn’t deterred South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham. He reportedly told the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia last week that the US should consider sinking Iran’s navy, destroying its air force and attacking its Revolutionary Guard.
I revere the lives, health and mental stability of our young men and women in uniform too much to do anything beyond suggesting that Sen. Graham himself carry out the mission he advocates.
I've heard the usual arguments that I don't understand the "real world,"
that wars are inevitable and that unprovoked attacks on other countries are somehow necessary. My response remains the same--prove that you know the "real world" better than I. While you're at it, maybe you can show how unprovoked attacks by Germany, Japan and Iraq on their neighbors enhanced those nations' national security.
This Veterans Day is an appropriate time for me to state my belief that the biggest threat to our national security is the willingness to sacrifice our young people in uniform for absurd political agendas.