Weekend reading – valuable articles you may have missed

Contents

I.  Iraq: The Hidden Human Costs“, book reviews by Michael Massing, New York Review of Books  (20 December 2007)

II.  Invisible Wounds of War“, RAND (2008) — “Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery”

III.  The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?“, Michael Massing, New York Review of Books  (3 April 2008)

IV.  The Militarist“, Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect (28 April 2008) — “Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain may protest that he hates war, but no American leader has promoted it more avidly. McCain is not only the most hawkish neocon on the horizon; he genuinely sees war as America’s most ennobling enterprise”

V.  Maverick or Manueverer?“, Mark Schmitt, The American Prospect (28 April 2008) — “John McCain has enjoyed a reputation for “authenticity” because of his commitment to “reform” and his “maverick” status. But this reputation is evidence of Washington’s sadly twisted standards, not McCain’s virtue.”

VI.  Reagan and the draft“, Lawrence Korb, Washington Times (16 May 2008) — A powerful rebuttal to “Military check-up time“, Michael O’Hanlon’s May 4 article in the Washington Times — in which O’Hanlon says that the US Army is in great shape, disputing statements by senior officers about its difficulties recruiting and retaining good people.

Excerpts from these articles

I.  Iraq: The Hidden Human Costs“, book reviews by Michael Massing, New York Review of Books  (20 December 2007) — He reviews the following books:

  1. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick
  2. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War by Evan Wright
  3. House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by David Bellavia
  4. Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier’s Perspective by Paul Rieckhoff
  5. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor

II.  Invisible Wounds of War“, RAND (2008) — “Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery.”  Excerpt:

Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments – many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations – may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat.

The study discussed in this monograph focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury, not only because of current high-level policy interest but also because, unlike the physical wounds of war, these conditions are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other servicemembers, family members, and society in general. All three conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The effect of traumatic brain injury is still poorly understood, leaving a large gap in knowledge related to how extensive the problem is or how to address it.

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan – 300,000 in all – report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

In addition, researchers found about 19 percent of returning service members report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.

III.  The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?“, Michael Massing, New York Review of Books  (3 April 2008) — He reviews the following books:

  1. The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq by Joshua Key
  2. Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army by Kayla Williams
  3. My War: Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell

Excerpt:

In Canada and much of Europe, higher education is heavily subsidized by the state, and the tuition at most institutions is nominal if not free. As a result, practically anyone who wants to attend college and is able to meet the admissions standards and pay for room and board can do so. In America, we’ve elected to put our money elsewhere. In the 1990s, for instance, New York State faced a choice between spending on prisons and spending on higher education. It chose the former. As a result, New York today has state-of-the-art prisons and run-down campuses. The SUNY system in particular has been starved of funds, and Governor Eliot Spitzer, recognizing the economic value of an educated workforce, has made revitalizing it a top priority. Until that happens, however, getting a college degree will remain a tough proposition for many.

In the struggle of many young men and women to pay for a college education, however, the military sees an opportunity. As a recent Defense Department report observed:

The most dramatic social force affecting military enlistment is the interest in college attendance. Youth are focused on education and work, with the Military as an afterthought. The percentage of minorities completing high school is increasing, and college is becoming a reality for a greater proportion of the minority population. This increase in college aspirations and college attendance should be expected to continue.

… In today’s America, the hunger for a college degree is so great that many young men and women are willing to kill-and risk being killed-to get one.

IV.  The Militarist“, Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect (28 April 2008) — “Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain may protest that he hates war, but no American leader has promoted it more avidly. McCain is not only the most hawkish neocon on the horizon; he genuinely sees war as America’s most ennobling enterprise”

Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that the GOP is poised to nominate a presidential candidate who will appeal to its anti-war base. What is surprising is that the candidate is Sen. John McCain.

… Despite neoconservatism’s close association in the public imagination with the Bush administration, and despite McCain’s image as a moderate, a look at the record makes clear that McCain, not Bush, is the real neocon in the Republican Party. McCain was the neocons’ candidate in 2000, McCain adhered to a truer version of the faith during the early years of hubris that followed September 11, and as president McCain would likely pursue policies that will make what we’ve seen from Bush look like a pale imitation of the real thing. McCain, after all, is the candidate of perpetual war in Iraq.

The candidate who, despite his protestations in a March speech that he “hates war,” not only stridently backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq but has spent years calling on the United States to depose every dictator in the world. He’s the candidate of ratcheting-up action against North Korea and Iran, of new efforts to undermine the United Nations, and of new cold wars with Russia and China. Rather than hating war, he sees it as integral to the greatness of the nation, and military service as the highest calling imaginable. It is, in short, not Bush but McCain, who among practical politicians holds truest to the vision of a foreign policy dominated by militaristic unilateralism.

… McCain explained his new approach in a March 15, 1999 speech at Kansas State University. The cornerstone of his thinking was a sweeping doctrine, “call it rogue-state rollback if you will” of “supporting indigenous and outside forces that desire to overthrow the odious regimes that rule these states.” All decent people, of course, greatly admire the work of dissidents laboring under autocratic rule. But actually making support for such dissident movements the centerpiece of our approach to these countries carries significant dangers. In particular, most observers in and out of government thought it was likely to prompt a new fiasco along the lines of the Bay of Pigs.

But despite McCain’s loss in 2000, the strategic concepts he outlined back in 1999 came to be at the core of what we today term the Bush doctrine. Most significant is the emphasis on preventive war as a tool of policy. As outlined in McCain’s disquisition on North Korea, the fact that some state does not, in fact, pose an imminent threat to the United States is no reason to refrain from attacking it. On the contrary, the fact that a state is nonthreatening is a reason to attack it as soon as possible, lest it become more powerful over time.

… McCain’s Rooseveltian vision is not of a willingness — even an excessive willingness — to use force to advance the national interests or important dearly held moral principles. Rather, he sees the nation as having an interest in fighting wars. The combat itself constitutes the advance of important moral values, elevating the country from such banal national security concerns as “safety” and creating the opportunity for heroic displays of courage of the sort McCain himself made in Vietnam.

V.  Maverick or Manueverer?“, Mark Schmitt, The American Prospect (28 April 2008) — “John McCain has enjoyed a reputation for “authenticity” because of his commitment to “reform” and his “maverick” status. But this reputation is evidence of Washington’s sadly twisted standards, not McCain’s virtue.”  Excerpt:

Most heavily lobbied fights, especially over the telecom regulations that come before the Commerce Committee, which McCain chaired for years, and the billion-dollar contracts scrutinized by the Armed Services Committee, where he also serves, do not pit special interests against the public interest. They are battles among very wealthy people and companies over which of them will get much richer through a publicly conferred advantage. It’s easy to be a maverick standing up to one special interest while serving the interests of another.

VI.  Reagan and the draft“, Lawrence Korb, Washington Times (16 May 2008) — A powerful rebuttal to “Military check-up time“, Michael O’Hanlon May 4 article in the Washington Times.

As the person charged with saving the all-volunteer force (AVF) under President Reagan, I find Michael O’Hanlon’s May 4 Commentary comparing the quality of today’s ground forces with that of the quality of the force of the 1970s, the early Reagan years, or even 1985, to be misleading.

Mr. O’Hanlon’s data about West Point’s graduates is also misleading. By January 2008, 54 percent of the class of 2000 had left the service and 46 percent of the class of 2001 had left. It is true that as of June 2007, only 32 percent of the class of 2002 had left.

But many could not leave because of the Army’s stop-loss policy, which prevents soldiers from leaving until three months after their unit returns from Iraq or Afghanistan. And others re-enlisted because they knew if they got out after five years, they most probably would have been called back over the next three years from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, the former commandant of the Army War College, has pointed out that for West Point graduates, eight has become the new five-year obligation. Let’s see how many of the class of 2002 are in by 2010.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Brief!  Stay on topic!  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling)

For more information about the Iraq War

  1. About the candidates for President – useful articles
  2. My posts about the war in Afghanistan in Iraq
  3. Important articles about the Iraq War– include some about our use of airpower.

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