"Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this
year - the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war.
The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far
outdistance the 88 U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan, according to
Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press.
The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and
Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The
military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse,
domestic violence and other misbehavior." Burns/AP
I speak not of the marines. Of them I know little.
The Army, the American people's Army, decided a generation ago to become an army of married. bourgeois, middle class people who would conform to the mores of Middle America, something rather like Tolkien's "Shire." No more would enlisted men be the "scum of the earth, enlisted for drink" of popular imagination. Officers would be sought from the same population as enlisted people. Internal disciplinary and selection processes have pushed the force steadily in the direction of fulfillment of that goal. The soldiers of my youth who were not interested in Middle Class life have been steadily squeezed out.
Snce 2001 the Army has fought in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were at first beyond the ken of the narrowly defined and recruited Army of the turn of this century. Flaming insurgency was defined and described institutionally for a couple of years as "combat in cities." Why? It was because the civilian population as a major factor was incomprehensible for an Army that had expected to fight in the woods or desert where there would not be significant civilian presence. Flexibility has been bred out of the system. Creative thinking is now a task to be undertaken by corporate contracters.
Today's Army has now largely transformed itself into a global gendarmerie bent on applying the COIN philosophy of pacification as an evolution of warfare to a new and higher state. Absurd.
Nevertheless, the soldiers who have been called upon to execute the thankless task of inflicting societal transformation on unwilling societies are showing the strain. They are family men with wives, children and responsibilities in the homeland, our homeland. They are in easy communication with their families, families who are always in their minds. Is it surprising that many are choosing what the CG of the 1st Armored Divsion sees as the easy way out?
This a serious matter. The numbers are abnormally high in a professional force. In the aftermath of these wars, the Army needs to re-think its self image and the kind of people that they insist on having in the ranks. pl