Post-Afghan War Traumatic Stress

Where’s the glory in fighting a war using drone planes? Wonder why Pakistanis have so much contempt for us?

20 thoughts on “Post-Afghan War Traumatic Stress

  1. I just don't buy it, Ted, on several levels. First, you adopt a conventionally militant view of 'glory'. . . .does glory come from looking into a person's eyes as you steal the life from their body? That's shallow.

    Second, the idea that technology which separates the killer from the target somehow results in a dismissal of the impact of actions is empirically false when looking over the history of warfare and technology. I've mentioned this before, and others have seconded me, but you ignore that, of course.

    Sorry, this must have been a lazy day for you. It's not even original when limiting to your own material.

  2. Actually, from past wars, Bomber pilots are more likely to have "Severe Guilt" to the point of debilitation. They are less likely to freak out on the fourth of july when a kid tosses a firework nearby, or almost strangle their girlfriend when she leans over him to wake him up, but the 'detachment' makes him more likely to feel guilt over the people they kill with their bombs.

    For instance, the pilot that dropped the Napalm that the lil Vietnamese girl tore her clothes off over… He felt horrible about it for decades and went to apologize to her.

    So, I bet in a few years we'll have some active anti-war "Drone pilots" with horrible guilt feelings…

  3. Anon is correct…and I'd like to add that psychological scarring is often far worse and long lasting than physical scarring. I think to dismiss it in such a mocking way, especially when this isn't exactly a pressing issue in public discourse, just makes me wonder if Ted just throws crap out every now and then because he hasn't got anything better.

  4. Don't take everything so literally, Aggie. No doubt, pilots (and possibly drone plane operators) feel guilt. The point is to mock the whole idea of remote control warfare.

  5. Ted,

    Yeah you're telling me. It makes me sick the entire idea of remote control warfare. It's just a step away from turning war into a video game. Thus turning human lives into a trivial number.

    Not only that but it advances the possibility of more wars and more foreign deaths at the hands of America. The general public doesn't like to see dead GIs. Well soon they wont have to. Who cares that we kill an incalculable amount of people innocent or not.

    If anyone has a problem with the last sentence I'd like to know how exactly you can tell if someone is innocent or not when shooting them a thousands of miles away.


    "First, you adopt a conventionally militant view of 'glory'. . . .does glory come from looking into a person's eyes as you steal the life from their body? That's shallow."

    In fact that is not shallow at all. That's what makes war hell and that's what makes people less disposed to go to war.

    General Sherman's point was to make war hell so it wouldn't be repeated. It in fact has worked since Viet Nam when the general public viewed the reality of war uncensored for the first time. We haven't been as committed to a war as we were then. We have lost lives in this one, but it's a fraction of what would have been lost in Viet Nam in the same amount of time.

    Secondly, bombers and pilots were at the scene. They can sometimes even feel the heat of their bombs a mile up in the sky.

    The issue is that we are turning war into a video game. Turning people previously unwilling or unable to look a man in the eye and shoot them into mass murderers if they so desire.

    You may not think so but there is an extreme difference between shooting a man through a computer than holding him as you squeeze the last breath out of him.

  6. But Ted, I don't get the idea of mocking remote control warfare either. The goal of military action is to achieve objectives with minimal casualties for one's side. Remote controlled warfare is precisely that. Furthermore, though not even close to perfect (or even effective) the use of drones is far less abusive to the civilian population than simply carpeting an entire country with neutron bombs, resulting in zero American casualties but probably 90% casualties for the target country. Warfare isn't a game, it is the most abusive and violent extension of a) politics, b) ideological subjugation, and c) economic domination. Nobody is suggesting that this is somehow better for the targets.

    That is why it is illegal, that is why perpetrating it is criminal. Starting a war, even if perceived justifiable, should result in the imprisonment of the leadership that took the action. EVEN in cases where the threat was real. That is the only way to make sure political leaders really do only use military force as a last resort.

  7. I had a bit of this discussion with Ted during the actual war. The point that Ted is trying to make is perhaps best summed up by a Captain Kirk speech in Star Trek, where Kirk is confronting two planets who have waged computerized, bloodless warfare for more than 500 years. But the casualties were real. Kirk responded, "You've made war so neat and painless, that you have no reason to STOP!!" Ted's basically making the same point as you are, above, Aggie, that only feeling the consequences can stop people from making war.

    Al-Qaida has their religious fanaticism to insulate them from feeling the consequences. America has technology.

    Funny enough, the leader Kirk delivered the speech to was a character called "Anon 7". Anonymous 7 -13-09 @ 1:29??

    Aggie, I must have missed your other posts where you claim that technology separating the actor from his target doesn't diminish the impact of actions. You've never heard of the Milgram experiment?

    Promoting and defending remote warfare is a red herring, if you are actually concerned about stopping warfare. By Aggie and Anon1:29's logic, we could just send an army of robots to do our genocide for us, wipe Iraq clean of all "targets", and that would be perfectly moral, because none of The Troops would have to suffer the emotional impact and trauma later. That's what Aggie says is the purpose of warfare, right? The most "bang" in exchange for the least amount of casualties on our side. Our poor suffering Troops would be protected from guilt and remorse because they'd be removed from the decision-making process. The Pentagon is working hard on that solution at this very moment. Is that where you want to go with this argument?

    So it's indeed sad that bomber pilots feel remorse decades later in life, but that doesn't help the thousands and thousands of Iraqi casualties very much. I think part of Ted's point is that the technology makes it too easy to commit larger atrocities in the here-and-now, based on ill-considered impulses, reflexes, propaganda, bigotry and hatreds.

    Much the same could be said about the American people in general, as well as the soldiers, which is why support for a war, any war, decreases as media coverage of its human consequences increases.

    At some point you have to wonder if the soldier is "operating" the technology, or the artificial easiness of the technology is controlling him. Ted isn't preaching any "glory" in hand-to-hand combat; what he's saying is that in the old days, before aerial bombardment, to kill 100 foreigners you had to march hundreds of miles through hostile territory and swing a 20-pound sword many hundreds of times. (Or lug a heavy rifle & tons of ammo around, and risk getting shot at yourself.) The inefficiency was a bit of a self-limiting factor on the yield. Today with a joystick, you can sit comfortably at an ergonomic keyboard, kill 800 people in an 8-hour day, and still get the OSHA-required lunch break and two coffee breaks. No limits. It's too easy. Even if you have nightmares years later. The nightmares and regrets ought to be telling us something. Eliminating the nightmares, by refining remote warfare, is only treating the symptom.

  8. "General Sherman's point was to make war hell so it wouldn't be repeated."

    No…No…No…NO! General Sherman was trying to viciously beat the fight out of the confederacy, it had nothing to do with making a social statement about war being hell. Sherman was trying to win, and he was a mean son of a b*tch about it.

    Warfare IS NOT a game, each side tries to reduce the cost of blood and treasure. That is what guerrilla warfare is about, that is what human wave warfare is about, that is what suicide bombers are about, and that is what unmanned drones are about; using whatever tactical and resource advantage each given side has to win. Generals try to defeat the enemy, the confederacy needed a massive beat down, he gave it to them. Everything else is either an afterthought or the sophomoric reinterpretation of someone in the humanities.

    The idea that war is SUPPOSED to be a specific kind of experience is completely idiotic. The idea that the purpose is to MAKE it into a specific experience, and one experience is qualitatively more valuable than another is also idiotic.

  9. Remote control warfare doesn't make me any sicker than conventional warfare. All bullying murder is disgusting.

    How much courage does it take to be outfitted with the finest weapons and armor on Earth to go out and face an outnumbered and outmatched foe who is likely confronting you with the shirt on his back and a rifle?

    Who's the hero?

  10. I'm with Aggie. For one thing, though they also kill indiscriminately, drones do not rape and pillage. War is a dirty business, remote controlled or not. If the point is to mock the lack of bravery of such operations, I fail to see what's so funny, unless you took your John Wayne war flicks too seriously.

  11. Anyone else read "The Spiders" by Patrick Farley?

    It showed how such a war could be fought very peacefully. It was kind of a post-9/11 if Gore was Prez and technology was today's level versus late 90s. It involved lots of robotic drones and recruited the USA and lots of the world to control robotic "Spiders" (and also flyers) to mass watch Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden. Along the way they tried to help, not hurt the people.

  12. If people like me had their sway, most countries (not the psycho US) would actually slightly increase their military (in sheer personnel size). The only wars allowed would be UN peacekeeping missions, and everyone would have an incentive because that would be the only way to train their troops.

    There cannot be a NATO or single-nation peacekeeping mission.

  13. The Milgram experiments were about authority, not about the separation of the actor through technology. Given authority, human beings will torture some to death, because an authority figure stands behind them and tells them to do it. Not only will people torture someone to death if told to do so, they will go ahead and do it without any real reason.

    Sorry, you misinterpreted what the Milgram experiments were truly about.

  14. One big difference between bomber airplanes and current technology killer drones is the play-back feature. They can tell whether an operator is fudging his attacks (like in Catch 22, when they get tired of bombing Italian civilians and start bombing the sea).

    We are nowhere near having Soldierboys but the trend since WWII has been toward terrorizing civilian populations with remotely controlled devastating weapons and things like landmines. Honestly, I can't imagine how Pat Tillman was killed.

  15. No, Aggie, you didn't follow my link. The primary conclusion and original purpose of the Milgram Experiment was about authority, yes. However, Stanley Milgram and others tested variations where the subject (the "teacher" who was giving the word quiz and administering shocks) was in lesser or greater contact with the "authority" and also the "learner" (fake victim). Milgram got 90% of "teachers" to administer shocks to the "learner" (fake victim) when the learner was in another room and the teacher only heard his voice. Compliance decreased something like half when the teacher could see the learner, and compliance decreased 70% when the teacher was instructed to actually hold the learner's arm to the "shock" device in person.

    Distance from the victim does indeed affect how willing people are to perform violence. The entire reason the U.S. military has spent trillions of dollars on remote weapons automation is because they get "better compliance" (defined as: unthinking obedience) from their own soldier, the U.S. soldier, when the soldier is at more of a remove (distance, or technology) from his target.

  16. I think Ted's question "Where's the glory" (above the comic, not in the comic) was an unfortunate choice of words. But what I think he's getting at is: if there is any glory in war, it's out-thinking the enemy, out-strategizing him, defeating his tactics and accomplishing your goals while thwarting his. The more automated and remote that warfare becomes, the less you're thinking.

    Creating more "compliance" through dehumanizing warfare may not be the "entire" point of trillions of dollars of research, as I foolishly said a few comments ago. However it is definitely one of the goals. I dunno if you've had any military experience, Aggie, but if you have, it would not be surprising if your superiors never mentioned this to you.

    Further reading:

    Army confronts guilt about battlefield killing

    * The U.S. military's views on how to equip soldiers to kill grew out of work by Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall during World War II. Gen. Marshall determined that fewer than 25% of U.S. riflemen in combat fired their weapons.

    "Fear of killing rather than fear of being killed was the most common cause of battle failure," he wrote. Critics have since raised questions about the reliability of Gen. Marshall's data, but the premise of the report — that many soldiers balked at pulling the trigger — has been widely accepted.

    To overcome this resistance the Army began training soldiers on lifelike pop-up targets that more closely resembled what they would see in actual combat. Soldiers repeat the same drills until their reactions become second nature.

    The training has worked. By Vietnam 90% of soldiers fired their weapons…

    Such reflexive training is good because it keeps soldiers alive, Maj. Kilner says. But it can also cause problems. "When military training has effectively undermined soldiers' moral autonomy they morally deliberate their actions only after the fact," he wrote in a 2002 article in Military Review, a U.S. Army military journal.

    Soldiers who can't justify their actions will be more likely to suffer crippling guilt, nightmares and post-traumatic stress, he suggested.

    {Thomas' commentary} The drilling and repetition was specifically introduced to delay or disable soldiers' moral analysis. It was, in effect, moral distancing. And the result was more feelings of guilt and remorse because the soldiers knew they had acted without thinking and morality. So when we develop new technology to further distance ourselves from our targets, it is not a good thing for us. To say nothing of the victims.

    The Temptation of Remote-Controlled Killing

    * We couldn't match terrorists' love of death, their willingness to take their own lives in the course of taking ours. But we could counter their expendable human killers with expendable inhuman killers. The joystick answered the jihad.

    In the long wars before us, limiting American casualties isn't just helpful. As we've seen in Vietnam, Kosovo, and Iraq, it's the central factor in sustaining public support and ultimately prevailing. That's why the White House added a public-opinion expert, Peter Feaver of Duke University, to the National Security Council last summer. Feaver says faith that we can win is crucial to public support for war. But he acknowledges that such expectations merely modify the underlying variable: our "tolerance for the human costs of war." Eliminate the costs—kill with impunity—and you can wage war forever.

  17. The entire reason the U.S. military has spent trillions of dollars on remote weapons automation is because they get "better compliance" (defined as: unthinking obedience) from their own soldier, the U.S. soldier, when the soldier is at more of a remove (distance, or technology) from his target.

    Thomas, you are incorrect. The military uses remote technology because it is cheaper then flying a fighter. A drone can circle an area undetected for hours. It requires less logistically, and training someone to pilot a drone is less expensive then training a fighter pilot.

  18. People who discuss this issue rarely say, "I have thought about me and my family on the wrong end of a mistaken, long-distance computer-activated attack with much death and destruction. Pundits at both ends of political ideology are closet "Shock and Awe" creatures, hoping and thinking that bombing an enemy or an alleged enemy and innocents with different names and religions will solve the root problems of terrorist attacks on the USA and other so-called civilized nations. Our country is no more or less corrupt than are the leaders of other countries. Our lawmakers and lobbyists do business-as-usual, because it's the easiest and most profitable way. Then they lobby to keep wars going by waving the flag of 'true patriotism,' that is, send someone else's young men and women to war. On a one-person level, I will never encourage any young person to see the military as a viable alternative to a bad situation in civilian life. I do respect out war dead and disabled, but war has changed in the USA. We allowed the greediest sons-of-bitches to get their bloody hands on the government and the military. And they sleep fine at night behind their overstuffed, off-shore bank accounts and investments in the military industrial complex. But who cares what General/President Eisenhower said in the 1950s. What did HE know? This is how crass these greedy cock-suckers are with our Constitution and our citizens.

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