Saturday, July 05, 2003
At this point, I must ask, how do our men in arms do what they do? We so often forget that their dilemma is not just age-old material challenges of time and space — Iraq, remember, is 7,000 miles away, hot, dry, and surrounded by overt enemies and canny neutrals — but the exasperating conditions of both postmodern warfare and fighting in the Middle East in general. Both combine to diminish, if not apologize for, the idea of victory, military prowess being defined not as proof of heroism, discipline, and elan, but almost a shameful admission of outdated bellicosity and abject imperialism or colonialism. Indeed, the restraint on the enormous firepower at our military's disposal has almost earned contempt for hesitancy rather than ensured appreciation of magnanimity.
Various explanations come to mind for the unshakeable nature of our soldiers put into such impossible circumstances. Of course, there are the age old motivators in play: unit morale, group loyalty, ingrained training, chain of command, democratic idealism, patriotism, and simple self-survival all play their roles — and an understandable desire to return as quickly as possible to the United States. But there is also transcendence at work; such soldiers believe in their role of doing something good for millions in dire need. It seems just as true that the military has somehow distilled from the rest of us Americans an elite cohort with the most direct ties to the old breed of the sort who fought at Okinawa, rolled with Patton, and reconstituted Japan. Such soldiers somehow remain oblivious to unfounded criticism, confident in their own prowess, and convinced that their nation and its military are clear forces for good.Full Story