Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The warriors then and now

There has been a spate of editorials in the local papers recently decrying the lack of mental health care for our vets returning home from Afghanistan. The suicide rate among Canadian war veterans is about 50% higher than among civilians.

Most of the commentary has found fault with the military's treatment (or lack thereof) for returning soldiers. I think the problem is deeper than that--it is in the assumptions the military has made in training these soldiers. Military command has not really evolved since WWII. We, as a society, are very different.

In the 1940's, very few North Americans knew much about people in other countries. Consequently, it was relatively easy to desensitize them to the notion that they would be killing other human beings. All you had to do was tell them that the enemy du jour was killing babies and drinking their blood, or something similar, and the majority of your recruits would accept it.

Nowadays, most people have internet friends in other countries, and most of us have grown accustomed to the idea that people who live in other countries are real honest-to-goodness people, with goofy, lovable children, cute pets, eccentric hobbies, and goals and aspirations which, while different from our own, are nevertheless worthwhile. Nearly everybody sees this, and once it has been seen, it cannot be unseen. Our military, with its 1940s mindset, assumes that all they have to do is tell the raw recruits that the Taliban are evil incarnate, and these recruits will cheerfully rain death on an Afghan (or Iraqi) village as ordered. Even though they may not have any Afghan facebook friends, once you have accepted that others are human, I submit that you can no longer rain death on hapless villagers with the enthusiasm that your forebearers in the '40s might have.

Yes, there are animals out there, and you will always find some of these amongst your recruits: those who kill (and worse) joyfully. But the majority of us are fundamentally different than the people in the 1940s,

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