Yet another story of U.S. military misbehavior in Afghanistan has surfaced today, at least the fourth revelation in the past year. Deplored by the Department of Defense, the Military Leadership and other Administration officials, the behavior was decried as an embarrassment to the United States and dismissed as not representative of the vast majority of American soldiers.
Of course, these reactions are expected and serve to assure the American public that such events are rare and that they undermine the goals of our vital mission. While many are shocked to learn of inhumane behavior by our troops, it is likely that these reports merely scratch the surface when it comes to the atrocities witnessed and/or performed by participants in human warfare. Enduring extreme stress, including the possibility of imminent death, it is understandable that soldiers lose touch with the personal boundaries that may have governed their civilian lives. To deny that humans are capable of such acts in the course of warfare is to close our eyes to the conditions under which they serve. It is only the brotherhood of soldiers that keeps us from learning about the majority of these incidents and it is generally through the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder that we catch a small glimpse of the mental anguish that war inflicts on the individual.
Rather than making an attempt to minimize the frequency or severity of the atrocities that occur in warfare, it is best that we publicly recognize both the immediate and long-term effects of combat on mental health and human behavior. The only effective means of eliminating these tragic events is to put an end to needless military intervention. The futility of our ongoing operations in Afghanistan has become clear to most Americans and, hopefully, will discourage similar engagements in the future. The deaths of so many young soldiers and innocent civilians, coupled with the life-long effects on those who survive, cannot justify what few benefits, if any, result from our nation-building crusade. Those who are the most vocal advocates of military intervention are generally those who never faced the extreme stress of warfare.