Friday, December 31, 2010

Endless war is ripping America apart from the inside

Devastating story in today's New York Times, about how military deployments affect the families left behind. Aside from the sad, sad anecdotes, we can see that a decade of war could end up producing real social problems:

Social scientists are just beginning to document the rippling effects of multiple combat deployments on families — effects that those families themselves have intimately understood for years. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January found that wives of deployed soldiers sought mental health services more often than other Army wives.

They were also more likely to report mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and sleep disorder, the longer the deployments lasted.

And a paper published in the journal Pediatrics in late 2009 found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home.

Even though the military is composed of a relatively narrow swath of American society, the shear length and breadth of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq means that more than a million families have had to deal with long-term deployments abroad. Think about those problems described above, then mulitiply them by a million and then send them cascading down through the coming decades. We're creating a damaged generation.

This might be worth it -- if America were truly in some sort of civilizational peril. But it's not. 

It never was, in the case of Iraq. A better case can be made for Afghanistan -- the attacks of 9/11, frankly, disabused me of my complete pacifism though I remain very, very dovish. But a decade later we're still tied down in that country when all the available evidence tells us we can't create a satisfactory outcome there and we're probably not making ourselves safer by being there.

The damage we're doing ourself goes beyond wasted blood and treasure, goes beyond the America-in-decline inevitabilities that come from fighting wars on Chinese credit. We're treating the souls of a million families like they're cheap, trifling things. And as with the rest of it, we will pay the price for this. I don't see how the cost is justified.

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