Sunday, February 03, 2008


A couple of recent sets of stories have been floating around that haven't been connected by the media, but I'd like to take a shot at it (forgive the pun).

One set is about homicidal military personnel returning from deployments, the NY Times article linked here kicking off the discussion.

I was glad to see that Ralph Peters, while I find him a bit too strident in his tone most of the time, noted the relevant statistics. Military personnel are less likely than the general population (age matched) to be involved in violence following their deployments. Apparently, many other conservative bloggers were left howling by the NY Times piece. It appears the NY Times editors didn't make sure the writers did their due diligence on it, or as Peters and others suggest, lacked the objectivity one might desire of such a report.

For those who think that military personnel are bloodthirsty souls, I recommend a fairly thorough treatment on the topic: LTC Dave Grossman's "On killing." We are trained, but for most of us there is no delight in pulling the trigger.

The other set is about increased rates of suicide among military personnel. The article I saw today noted that statistically, the rates of suicide in military personnel is also below the U.S. general population (again age matched). But it is buried in the text of a larger article discussing the dramatic rise in the military's suicide rate since the war has begun.

Social scientists may be crying out at this point (all one or two of them that might be reading this)- "healthy worker effect!" Valid point.

That being said, military personnel are undoubtedly dealing with greater pressures and stressors, and some of them choose to "deal with it" or "express" their reactions to the stress through suicide gestures or suicide itself, or violence towards others. They have been trained in the lethal use of force, and have access to firearms, etc. Where I'm at, there are no easy answers to it other than to work hard with each other to make sure people don't get to that point. We are on our own, and so we have to watch out for each other.

Just thought I'd try to point out some mental health issues facing the military- and our society as a whole.

Concluding, a MacArthur quote, with the acknowledgment that it ignores those innocents caught in the crossfire, or those struggling with unrepaired infrastructure, unstable government, etc:

The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

No comments: