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July 28, 2009

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Therein lie some of the fundamental weaknesses of COIN Doctrine: the number of troops required is generally not available for the prolonged lengths of time required (at least, not as our armed forces are presently configured).

I'm not sure that it makes sense to lay the blame at the feet of COIN doctrine. COIN exposes one of our military's institutional weakness, namely the inability to say "no, we can't do that". Even if we scrapped COIN tomorrow, a military that can't admit that some missions are beyond it is going to end up destroying a lot of lives sooner or later. You can't be a good leader or subordinate if you can't say no.

It's just that COIN Doctrine advocates a particularly high ratio of troops to population, and advocates for a prolonged period of engagement.

And yes, the military will always have these problems. But as long as the public is being told about this shiny new silver bullet called "counterinsurgency doctrine" that will help us to win all these unwinnable conflicts, it's useful to point out that it's not really silver. Or a bullet.

this whole war has been a total fncking waste

What's the reason hollow-point bullets are banned for military use? I tried some quick googling, and found it's from the Hague Convention, but never really got an answer as to why they're banned.

Eastridge said he shot more than 1,700 rounds. When asked how many people he killed, he said, “Not that many. Maybe a dozen.”

He was court-martialed a short time later on nine counts, including drug possession and disobeying orders. Killing civilians wasn’t one of them.

For that, he said, he was put on guard duty.

Christ that's nuts.

In the First World War, doctors called the condition shell shock. In World War II, they called it combat fatigue. After Vietnam, they started calling it post-traumatic stress disorder.

I know that PTSD really exists, but I think we have now learned the hard way that the doctors in the Great War who wrote of "shell shock" had grasped that apart from the routine horrors and terror of war, an explosive shock wave passing through the body has a physiological effect on the brain, and that this effect produces profound physiological symptoms. Particularly in the context of the Iraq war, it helps to separate the mainly psychological effects of prolonged terror from the physiological effects of explosions. It helps to keep the damage done by war straight.

What's the reason hollow-point bullets are banned for military use?

hollow points cause more damage, which is equated to more suffering, which is what the Hague Convention prohibits.

"And yes, the military will always have these problems. But as long as the public is being told about this shiny new silver bullet called "counterinsurgency doctrine" that will help us to win all these unwinnable conflicts, it's useful to point out that it's not really silver. Or a bullet."

In particular in places where there is no "local" presence that will eventually hold the territory. COIN works (not as a silver bullet but as a tactical plan) to quell counterinsurgencies if, in fact, you plan to occupy.

Certainly it isn't appropriate in the circumstances in Afghanistan.

hollow points cause more damage, which is equated to more suffering, which is what the Hague Convention prohibits.

For the record, I know next to nothing about guns. But from my quick reading earlier, I was given the impression hollow points are quicker to kill and cause less suffering (they're apparently encouraged when hunting). But then, in military operations perhaps the aim is more to disable the enemy than to necessarily kill them. I really have no idea.

Or perhaps the technology has moved on a lot since the Hague Convention.

Regular exposure to gross violations of bodily integrity; being ordered to violate social/human norms by killing people; well-justified paranoia and hypervigilance; traumatic brain injuries from explosions; exposure to/complicity in/silence regarding immoral or inhuman actions. That's what war is. Of course it damages people. That's why we don't show real gore on the evening news every night. Unfortunately that also means that most people have no exposure to the real consequences of war.

What sickened me prior to the Iraq War was that even many progressive supporters or fence-sitters seemed to have no conception of the personal cost of the war on the people who would be sent to fight it; a lot of talk about our brave/righteous/powerful military but not much about the horror of experiencing and participating in killing, the permanent emotional damage they would suffer, the wives and girlfriends and kids who would wind up dead back here when some of those traumatized men returned home - not that there are not traumatized women too, but it is disproportionately men, and men seem to be the ones who have the explosions of violence from PTSD - and the decades of medical and psychological support that some of these veterans will need.

I respect the people who serve in the US military. I think there are times when it is necessary to send them places where they are going to wind up damaged and having to kill people, where the cost of all of that is worth it. But that's why I don't want them sent off when it isn't worth it.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here. Sorry. I just am so disappointed with the childish boosterism and denial that substitutes for real assessment of the costs of war. And I don't see the public attitude being much different, although I think the military is beginning to re-internalize the understanding of how much damage active combat does to their soldiers; unfortunately they seem to need to re-learn that every few years as a new generation of leaders eager to try out their new toys takes over.

We will continue to shoot your children riding bicycles and let them bleed out until you love us.

(Part II of the Gazette story)

For the record, I know next to nothing about guns. But from my quick reading earlier, I was given the impression hollow points are quicker to kill and cause less suffering (they're apparently encouraged when hunting). But then, in military operations perhaps the aim is more to disable the enemy than to necessarily kill them. I really have no idea.

The idea was that expanding rounds would cause messier wounds, either due to the head expanding or fragmenting in the victim's body. This was viewed as being intended to make an incapacitating wound more likely to be maiming or lethal.

It was to no small degree an extension of the principles of the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868, which banned explosive ammunition in small arms. The key notion cited in that link is that normal bullets can do a perfectly fine job of killing or incapacitating infantry, so there is no military necessity to use messier ammunitions.

I was given the impression hollow points are quicker to kill and cause less suffering

yup

But then, in military operations perhaps the aim is more to disable the enemy than to necessarily kill them.

yup. that's basically what the Hague Convention says. it references the "Declaration of St. Petersburg; November 29 1868", which says:

    Considering that the progress of civilization should have the effect of alleviating as much as possible the calamities of war:

    That the only legitimate object which States should endeavour to accomplish during war is to weaken the military forges of the enemy;

    That for this purpose it is sufficient to disable the greatest possible number of men;

    That this object would be exceeded by the employment of arms which uselessly aggravate the sufferings of disabled men, or render their death inevitable;

    etc..

don't kill em, just get em off the battlefield.

nice sentiment. too bad it didn't anticipate bombers and AC130s and cruise missiles and ICBMs.

Hollow points have various advantages: dropping the person you hit is one (because the expanded round transfers all the energy to the target, rather than passing through), having fewer ricochets is another, less likely to penetrate walls and get the kid on the other side is a third.

Full metal jacket rounds have a disturing propensity to pass fully through people...particularly skinny people. This is why you may often hear complaints about US weapons. They are basically designed for western europeans, rather than the often more slender opponents of today: there is just not enough meat to cause the tumbling of the round that causes the damage with standard NATO rounds.

So the hollow point corrects for that.

That being said, I collected all the hollow point ammunition my company had managed to get their hands on and used it for training ammunition at the range, because it seemed like a stupid thing to get charged for a war crime over.

This is a good place for information.

No, its not a stupid thing to get charged for a war crime over. And the .223 isnt "designed for western europeans".
We go back to the Sepoy Mutiny, and the term "dum-dum".
DumDum was a Brit garrison town and an arms center. The bullets of the day were cast lead- large, heavy things. To make them more destructive, deep x's were cut into the nose of the bullet. this made much more grievious wounds. So much so, being caught with tem in your kit by the enemy- be it Brits or mutineers- was en excuse to shoot you on the spot.
this carried well into WW1 for the same reasons, & it has been soldiers custom in many wars to shoot out of hand anyone with dumdums, or the new, improved hollow point.
In Viet Nam I carried a 9mm pistol loaded with vey hot holowpoints sent by my old man. If I were to be captured with them in my posession, Chas. would have been well within the norms of war to cap me on the spot.
The use of the .223 over the 30-06 or 7.62 NATO (both .308 diameter, about 150 gr) has to do with two main factors: our diminutive S Viet cannonfodder could carry a LOT more .223's over the std American NATO round. And the m16 was a lot lighter. Big $ was being made, campaign coffers were stuffed, and soon various Usual uspects- GM, Hydra-Matic, etc, were cranking this sorry assed excuse for a combat rifle out a the entire military establishment saddeled the troops with this thing.
the "tumbling effect" wasnt much of an issue with the .30 cal "ball"ammo. combine hyper velocites with very light wieght, & you get the .223 ricochet effect. Its a way to inflict the damage without violating international agreements.
In both Iraq & Afghanistan, where firefights are at longer range than Viet Nam, the .223 is not- NOT- knocking people down. The tried & true old .308 DOES.
Feel free to cary hollowpoints in a war zone. No sniveling if it turns out not so good for you tho.
(PS- during War One, the Hun started using OAK bullets for the splintering effect. The execution of prisoners caught with them put an end to thier use. This is a case of the troops acting in thier own interest, no matter how stupid or depraved the higher ups are.....

"Marquez's 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far."

Andrew Olmsted's (last) unit was the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry division, out of Fort Carson.

I was going to answer the hollow point question, but see jrudkis got to it. One note: "...less likely to penetrate walls and get the kid on the other side is a third."

If one is actually in a battle encounter where one is absolutely sure there are no civilians, there are times when being able to shoot through a wall can be an advantage. But that would never be true in a COIN operation, let alone any ensuing urban warfare. If you were fighting, say, in Stalingrad on the other hand....

So there's an argument to be made that in COIN warfare, hollow points might cause fewer civilian deaths, by engaging in less wall (and body) penetration.

But, yeah, those are the reasons hollow points are considered less humanitarian, and have long been legally banned for use in warfare. I see that the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 has already been mentioned.

They're also historically known as "dum-dums," if anyone gives a damn, after the arsenal the British first stored them at in India. The UK now bans all expanding ammo, including hollow-points.

"I know that PTSD really exists, but I think we have now learned the hard way that the doctors in the Great War who wrote of 'shell shock' had grasped that apart from the routine horrors and terror of war, an explosive shock wave passing through the body has a physiological effect on the brain, and that this effect produces profound physiological symptoms."

Too bad for his career that George Patton was never informed of this.

"Certainly it isn't appropriate in the circumstances in Afghanistan."

The theory there is that the Afghan Army and police will be built up sufficiently, and sufficiently competently and uncorruptly, as well as, of course, their political leadership, to enable their own self-occupation.

That's the theory.

The one positive note I'll make is that at least, as I've previously noted here, the insanely counter-productive poppy-eradication program, which I've blogged about the insanity of for a bunch of years, has finally reportedly been halted.

Finally.

"But then, in military operations perhaps the aim is more to disable the enemy than to necessarily kill them."

Historically, in all-out war, that was true. Wounded soldiers require several more soldiers to carry them off the battlefield, and care for them. Then resources of the nation have to be devoted to carrying for the wounded vet. You're effectively removing several of your enemy from the battle, rather than just one, and to some degree causing the enemy more trouble all around, and arguably lowering morale, as well. Tactically, (severely) wounding was better than killing. To be completely cold about it.

It's orthogonal to COIN, though.

"We go back to the Sepoy Mutiny, and the term 'dum-dum'."

To get super-nit-picky, dum-dums are technically soft-point, not hollow-point; thus the whole "carving x in them" thing; not that this is particularly relevant to anything.

Part I of this story appeared in the July 26th edition of the paper, two days ago. Part II appeared yesterday.

Although Memorandum is not easily searchable, the only trace I can find of this story showing up their by checking their archives is as of late evening of July 26, when there was a single link to it by Alan Colmes' Liberaland. By 1 a.m., that single entry was gone from Memeorandum.

Technorati claims 24 links, although, to be sure, Technorati is incredibly unreliable.

But this story hasn't seemed to have gotten much play yet. And most of the Technorati links are to blogs with low "authority" (links to them).

I've added a tiny contribution, because I apologetically don't have more words right now, but thought it better to try to link now than wait until more words came to me.

This is a story that needs much huger play in the blogosphere.

I've sent an email pointer to a bunch of bloggers urging them to link to Eric's post, and the story.

Too bad for his career that George Patton was never informed of this.

Posted by: Gary Farber | July 28, 2009 at 08:06 PM

Patton was informed... he just wasn't in the field when that (movie hyped) incident happened.

My dad, who beat his way across the rump of Italy recounted a story about a fellow solider who just started "digging a foxhole to the other side of the planet" one day after being ordered to move out.

My dad was the NCO in charge and had to seriously threaten to shoot the guy unless he stopped and obeyed the order to move out.

They sent that one in for re-grooving at their earliest opportunity (a week later).

It was called 'battle rattle', and Patton knew. Everyone knew/knows.

FWIW, Thomas Pynchon, in Gravitys Rainbow proposed that the V2, the first supersonic weapon used, caused more terror than actual physical damage, and it could be extrapolated that now, when everything is 'happening fast' it just exacerbates the soldier's mental state.

Continual hypervigilance-that-won't-save-you-anyway has to be a mind-killer.

Continual hypervigilance-that-won't-save-you-anyway has to be a mind-killer.

eg. Dick Cheney

A couple of months ago on NPR there was a piece about a town in CT that was trying to do something for and/or about the GWOT vets returning home there.

The chief of police was interviewed, and stated that, in his estimation, odds were about 1 in 2 that his officers were going to be facing one of these guys in a hostage situation.

The takeaway here is that war, any war, under any conditions, is violent destructive insane mayhem. That is what it is. People who participate in wars get damaged, and some of them are damaged beyond repair.

People who suggest wars as constructive instruments of foreign policy should be viewed as barking insane moral imbeciles, because that is what they are.

"Patton was informed... he just wasn't in the field when that (movie hyped) incident happened."

It wasn't movie hyped; it was one of the most well-known events of his career long before the movie, including during the war. Newspapers at the time made a huge deal about it, which was why he had to make the prominent public apology he had to make. It's in every major biography of the man, including, of course, Manchester. The movie included it because it couldn't possibly not include it.

Patton STILL knew... "...one of the most well-known events of his career long before the movie," or not.

For what it's worth, I've now done my own set of excerpts and short comments on these two stories, here.

It wasn't movie hyped

Indeed, it almost ended his career. It's why he spent Normandy commanding a dummy force at Calais.

I might mention that, having read quite a few biographies of Patton, and a hell of a lot of histories of WWII, that the movie Patton, despite, of course, doing a certain amount of condensing and re-arranging, and containing a few minor distortions of fact, is generally a pretty accurate picture of the man. The vast majority of events shown actually did take place.

This is quite unlike, for instance, The Battle of The Bulge, which I recently had occasion to watch again for the first time in many years, and was struck by how insanely ludicrous it was. The Ardenne, of course, is a massive forest, and the battle took place during a massive winter storm; these facts are absolutely crucial, since it's: a) part of why the German attack was so successful and surprising (although the Allies should have known better, what with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of the First World War), and b), why the U.S. had no air cover, which was an overwhelming factor in German success.

Despite this, the film shows the battle taking place in on a vast plain, in clear weather, surrounded by mountains. (Apparently it was filmed in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, Madrid, Spain, according to IMDB.)

That's setting aside stuff you kinda expect, like instead of genuine Sherman and Tiger tanks, and other German panzers, they use Korean War era tanks (that sort of thing is common in films about WWII made twenty years after the war; similarly, later war films also tend to show anachronistic weapons).

And, basically, most of the rest of the story is just made up, aside from the general idea of a German surprise attack which succeeded for a while, and then had problems with fuel. Eisenhower personally denounced the film when it came out, for its huge inaccuracies and distortions.

Just by way of comparison of getting a war film basically right or wrong.

(Most are more wrong than right, of course, with a smattering of exceptions, such as A Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day, or Blackhawk Down, all of which are relatively accurate. And Saving Private Ryan got the D-Day experience right, even though the story was made-up.)

Meanwhile, I do hope everyone has read the story Eric originally linked, and Part II.

Did everyone notice that that same brigade has now been sent to Afghanistan?

Think about that.

Thomas Pynchon, in Gravitys Rainbow proposed that the V2, the first supersonic weapon used, caused more terror than actual physical damage

Rifle bullets are supersonic.

Also, a shock wave does cause physiological effects - TBI, traumatic brain injury, for example - but that's not directly related to PTSD. You can get PTSD without ever being blown up, and you can be blown up and get TBI but not PTSD. PTSD isn't a neurological problem, it's a psychological problem, in as much as such things can be separated.

"PTSD isn't a neurological problem, it's a psychological problem, in as much as such things can be separated."

You can get PTSD for any kind of emotionally traumatic experience, or series of experiences.

But some people are more prone to it than others because of neurological differences, recent studies have shown, which I don't have time to link to right now, due to contractors being here dealing with the after-affects of the fire a few days ago.

The V2 did less damage because it created a deep crater before exploding by sheer kinetic force. The explosion then went mainly upwards. Also it had to use less sensitive explosives because the rocket heated up too strongly through air friction. The V1 came in at relatively low speed (=>not much of a crater) and could carry a stronger explosive (and also cost about a 10th of a V2 to produce).
---
Anti-personnel mines are also designed today to not kill but just maim because "just" wounded comrades have to be dealt with immediately while the dead can wait.
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Btw, the conventions also ban poisoned weapons (but those were considered dishonorable for millenia before that anyway).

Gary: Did everyone notice that that same brigade has now been sent to Afghanistan?
Think about that.

Commanded (overall) by Stanley McChrystal, veteran leader of kill teams and units in which torture was routine and "authorized".

cleek: This whole war has been a fncking waste.

As has the Afghan one.

But apparently it's still the height of unserious hippie-dom to take the position that all wars are fncking wastes.

"But apparently it's still the height of unserious hippie-dom to take the position that all wars are fncking wastes."

I think few would contend that all wars aren't fncking wastes. I think some would contend that some wars are necessary to fight nonetheless. WWII on our side being the usual best example cited, and our Civil War from the North's side being a familiar argument, as well, though obviously that one remains far more controversial amongst Americans.

There's always a case to be made for complete pacificism, to be sure, if you're willing to always pay the price. Those who fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto, for instance, ultimately fought futilely, and Gandhi would have argued that they shouldn't have, but I wouldn't have made that argument to them myself. For example.

Afghanistan makes a much better case, by now, for a war whose continuation is something to be highly skeptical about. (I think the initial overthrow of the Taliban remains justified, myself.)

"Btw, the conventions also ban poisoned weapons (but those were considered dishonorable for millenia before that anyway)."

I was reading up more the other day, somewhere or other, on the plans to invade Japan. Given that the success of the Manhattan Project didn't happen until so very late in the day, very serious consideration was given to using massive poison gas attacks on Japan, on top of the already massive incendiary attacks that themselves killed far far far more people than the two A-bombs did.

Stat:

[...] In the Pacific War, during the last seven months of strategic bombing by B-29 Superfortresses in the airwar against Japan, a change to firebombing tactics resulted in some 500,000 Japanese deaths and 5 million more made homeless. 67 of Japan's largest cities lost significant area to incendiary attacks. The most deadly single bombing raid in all history was Operation Meetinghouse, an incendiary attack that killed some 100,000 Tokyo residents in one night.
Let's see: ah, here's some googled support for what I read elsewhere on the consideration of use of poison gas on Japan prior to invasion:
[...] Early in the war, President Franklin Roosevelt officially announced that the U.S. would only use poison gas in retaliation for first use by the Axis powers. I am not aware of any serious consideration by senior American officials of initiating use of poison gas prior to Iwo Jima. Due to the severity of losses in the assault landings from the fall of 1943 to the end of 1944, as well as the relatively small size, isolated location and lack of civilian population on Iwo Jima, senior officers up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a proposal for preemptive use of poison gas against the Japanese garrison. This proposal reached President Roosevelt as the Commander in Chief; he vetoed it.

In May 1945 General George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, revived the idea of using poison gas against bypassed Japanese defenses during the invasion of Japan. He intended to use poison gas on a relatively limited scale against individual bunkers, caves and the like housing detachments of Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender. Marshall apparently did not envision spraying over a wide area. This proposal reached President Harry Truman in June. He vetoed it on the basis that it violated the policy of "no first use" set by President Roosevelt. What might have happened if the U.S. became embroiled in a lengthy and very costly struggle in the Japanese Home Islands is hard to say.

In 1945 there was serious and detailed examination of the use of chemical warfare against the Japanese rice crop. The intention was to force a Japanese capitulation by starvation. The Judge Advocate General of the Army ruled that the applicable treaties then binding the U.S. forbade the use of chemical weapons against human beings, but not against plants and therefore using chemical weapons against Japanese rice fields was legal. This proposal remained under consideration for use in 1946 when the war ended.

[...]

Official U.S. policy was that the United States would not be the first to use poison gas but would use it in retaliation if the enemy (Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan) resorted to gas warfare.

The United States considered using poison gas shortly after the battle for Tarawa in November 1943. The chief of the Army's chemical-warfare service believed that the United States had an overwhelming advantage over Japan in this field and that gas could shorten the war.

The United States also stockpiled poison gas munitions -- chemical artillery shells, chemical bombs, and spray tanks -- in the Pacific by mid-1945. Plans were being prepared to use these weapons in retaliation if the Japanese resorted to chemical or gas warfare.

The heavy U.S. losses on Iwo Jima in February 1945 and Okinawa in April and May 1945, however, made some more receptive the use of gas against Japanese troops. On May 29, 1945 General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, talked to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson about the use of the atomic bomb. After that he discussed the possibility of using gas against outlying islands. He mentioned saturating with mustard gas last pockets of resistance that had no other military significance. In mid-June 1945 Marshall sent Fleet Admiral Ernest King an Army study that claimed the use of gas could shorten the war and decrease American casualties.

The question was seriously debated by senior military commanders in the summer of 1945, but it centered on tactical use of gas, that is using gas against last-ditch suicidal pockets of Japanese defenders. The strategic use of gas on a massive scale was not seriously studied nor proposed by any senior American leader.

Marshall's position appeared to be that poison gas was no more brutal than using a flame-thrower on a person, or an incendiary bomb, or blowing their head off. It's not a lunatic point.

Poison gas was banned after WWI as much for the practical fact that it wasn't very effective, given the way winds shift, and the defensive measures your own troops have to take, as much as for any idealistic reasons, so far as I can tell.

The soldiers in the applicable unit have committed serial acts of violence, including murder, since their return.

On a quick initial skim it seems to jump out that -- as so often -- more often than not the violence is directed at women. Unless you factor in the vets who kill themselves or try to.

Gary's comment prompts me to revise mine: What's still considered too hippie-like and unserious is to take explicitly into account when war is being advocated that war itself does this, and inevitably.

It's worse, as in this case, when the war in question is a war of choice based on lies, continued on the basis of those and other lies, and managed primarily with domestic political ends in mind.

Multiple deployments, e.g., are required because of the political impossibility of a draft or the economic/political impossibility of recruiting enough troops to avoid multiple tours.

"war itself does this, and inevitably."

And we have a winner.

My wife and I have a good friend, the father of the woman who introduced us in fact, who fought in WWII. He's 90 now. Lovely man, successful inventor and businessman, with a wonderful family. A witty, accomplished, urbane raconteur and man of the world.

He still finds himself waking up in the middle of the night fighting Germans in his sleep. 65 years later.

Afghanistan was defensible, although I believe it was avoidable, in the sense of not being necessary.

Iraq was and continues to be an unremitting clusterf**k.

The only people war doesn't f**k up are psychopaths.

The only people who think war is a constructive way to resolve political conflict, ditto.

"What's still considered too hippie-like and unserious is to take explicitly into account when war is being advocated that war itself does this, and inevitably."

No argument there.

"It's worse, as in this case, when the war in question is a war of choice based on lies, continued on the basis of those and other lies, and managed primarily with domestic political ends in mind."

For those with an interest in historical perspective, Matt Yglesias' two posts in the last two days pointing out that our fighting the Spanish-American War, buying the Phillipines, and then fighting a pointless war to keep them, make a fair analogy, indeed, to Iraq, though not the way Ross Douthat meant it.

These were conquests sold to America for domestic reasons, for glory, and the notion of American Greatness and Manifest Destiny, and almost literal empire, and we gained nothing but a pointless historica liability in the Phillipines. Contrary to their being a military asset, they were impossible to defend, a suck on our military resources, and a strong provocation to turn Japan against us when we'd previously had quite friendly relations with Japan.

Douthat three days ago claimed that:

[...] These twists and turns make Iraq look less like either Vietnam or World War II -- the analogies that politicians and pundits keep closest at hand -- and more like an amalgamation of the Korean War and America’s McKinley-era counterinsurgency in the Philippines. Like Iraq, those were murky, bloody conflicts that generated long-term benefits but enormous short-term costs. Like Iraq, they were wars that Americans were eager to forget about as soon as they were finished
But in fact we gained nothing but losses and trouble from conquering the Phillipines. Lost lives, lost treasure, lost moral standing, and lost honor.

Maybe it is an analogy to Iraq.

Obviously, dr. ngo is endlessly better qualified than I am to speak to the above point, of course.

"The only people war doesn't f**k up are psychopaths."

That isn't really quite true. First of all, most people in the military didn't used to actually fight in combat; this is different now.

Second of all, really, people vary in their susceptability to PTSD to a large degree according to the biology of their brain.

Not the best cites, but see here and here. These aren't among the better cites, because these are about diagnosis after the fact, not predictive, but there are studies I've read that indicate we are likely on the way to predictive scans helping to indicate in advance who might be more susceptible, as well, although this is in very early stages for now, at best.

The facts are that people vary widely in their responses to the worst traumas; some have nightmares for life, some never recover, but some recover relatively quickly, and suffer little or no long-term trauma at all. You simply can't generalize all that far about PTSD, and vets of combat do, in fact, vary considerably in their longterm responses.

For a variety of reasons, some people are able to put trauma behind them and others aren't so much. This isn't a moral judgment, of course, in any way, and bears no relationship to morals, or intent, or "sucking it up," or anything voluntary, for the most part, but it's true for reasons still largely unclear.

Gary, when I referred to posioned weapons I had in mind less poison gas (a relatively new weapon and a category of its own) but addition of poison to conventional weapons like blades and bullets (replacing the then obsolete arrows).
As for poison gas, the US had a number of gas casualties in WW2 when a freighter carrying the stuff was bombed in the harbour of Bari (Italy). Because the presence was top secret, nobody informed the medical personnel leading to both a number of unnecessary deaths/lasting health damages and contamination of hospitals ect. with mustard.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Raid_on_Bari>link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bari#The_1943_chemical_warfare_disaster>link

"As for poison gas, the US had a number of gas casualties in WW2 when a freighter carrying the stuff was bombed in the harbour of Bari (Italy)."

Thanks for the links about that; I hadn't known about that incident.

The dog I love but could not adopt, the dpg of my heart, Lassie, was adopted by a military family. From what I understand she absolutley fell in love with her human dad. He's in Iraq now. I worry all the time that when he comes back they won't be able to go back to normal, that he will be damaged either physically or mentally and that they won't be able to keep their family life together. It's a young family; the wife is only twenty, although she's an exceptionally mature twenty. There is so much periferal damage to this war, so many quiet tragedies that aren't publicized and hardly anyone knows about. I sure hope Lassie's family won't be among them.

"The dog I love but could not adopt, the dpg of my heart, Lassie, was adopted by a military family."

That's good news, at least.

"He's in Iraq now. I worry all the time that when he comes back they won't be able to go back to normal, that he will be damaged either physically or mentally and that they won't be able to keep their family life together."

The situation for American soldiers in Iraq has changed a lot now; there's a great deal less danger for most of them in the current situation, so there's less (not none at all) to worry about than for most of the past six years, fwiw. They're relatively restricted to bases, and out of the cities now, remember, and technically confined largely to training, etc. This is somewhat fudged to some extent, but there's no doubt that the pace and intensity American soldiers overall are exposed to has drastically dropped since where it was just two years ago.

But some of this would depend specifically on Lassie's "dad's" job.

"There is so much periferal damage to this war, so many quiet tragedies that aren't publicized and hardly anyone knows about."

Well, some of us are trying to publicize them; Eric wrote his post; others have posted; I added mine, and gotten a couple of links, and other people will link to them, and so on, and there will be more to follow. There have been other stories up to now, though not as many as there might be. There will be more. Wars and their results become easier for a polity to look at as they recede into the past. America didn't begin to seriously look back at Vietnam in popular culture until over a decade after U.S. troops had left. The Deer Hunter was one of the first serious looks at Vietnam vets, and it didn't come out until 1978. Platoon was 1986.

I use these simply as examples of a war, and its effects on veterans, truly starting to sink into a popular culture, rather than just with news junkies and political activists. Incidentally, I've read very good things about the just-released The Hurt Locker.

I've mentioned before that circa 1979 I spent about a year working at the Seattle Veteran's Action Center, which took care of Veitnam vets with problems: PTSD, largely, and also homelessness, drug problems, and simply all the other problems some had developed. I predict similar volunteer/non-profit/private endeavors will arise as regards Iraq/Afghanistan vets, simply because the need will rise again, and already is rising again.

And there, too, will be another place people can volunteer, although for sure the best volunteers are other vets. Vets relate endlessly better to those who have actually Been There. But there are still things others can do to help out besides direct counseling, which non-vets shouldn't be doing. (It wasn't what I did; I did paperwork, and general helper and support work.)

To be sure, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars put together are on vastly smaller scales than Vietnam; to quote Wikipedia as a source:

The U.S. Census Bureau (2004) reports there are 8.2 million "Vietnam Era Veterans". Of these 2.59 million are reported to have served "in country".
At present the U.S. has approximately 128,000, and while far more have rotated through in the past six years, many several times, as has been much discussed, the numbers, including the smaller numbers in Afghanistan, remain drastically lower than the number of soldiers who served in Vietnam (where many also served in positions that were not remotely under the same degree of threat soldiers in Iraq have been). So on numbers, at least, the number of vets with problems will be smaller, though I'm willing to bet that the percentage of vets with problems will be higher, due to the nature of there being little resemblance "rear-echelon" service in Iraq compared to Vietnam (where there were certainly urban threats and attacks, as well, but to a vastly lower degree than in Iraq).

"The facts are that people vary widely in their responses to the worst traumas; some have nightmares for life, some never recover, but some recover relatively quickly, and suffer little or no long-term trauma at all. You simply can't generalize all that far about PTSD, and vets of combat do, in fact, vary considerably in their longterm responses."

Fair enough. Allow me to restate.

People who are involved in active combat duty during wartime regularly find themselves with serious psychic and emotional trauma to deal with.

Quite often, emphasis on "quite", these effects can last for years, decades, or entire lifetimes. Even for otherwise happy and well-adjusted people.

A not-insignificant number of people have their subsequent lives seriously compromised by their wartime experiences. The lives of some are utterly ruined.

IMO all of that is pretty safe to say.

I find that I've lost my patience with folks who minimize the human costs of war. Not talking about you, Gary, or really anyone here. I'm talking about people who, still, to this day, discuss the "military option" as if it were simply another card available to play as desired.

I'd like those folks to STFU.

It's neither sweet nor seemly to die for your homeland. It's tragic, and bitterly sad. When there's no choice, there's no choice. But it's been a long time since that was the case, for this country at least.

[...] People who are involved in active combat duty during wartime regularly find themselves with serious psychic and emotional trauma to deal with.

Quite often, emphasis on "quite", these effects can last for years, decades, or entire lifetimes. Even for otherwise happy and well-adjusted people.

A not-insignificant number of people have their subsequent lives seriously compromised by their wartime experiences. The lives of some are utterly ruined.

Absolutely agreed.

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