Editorial - 5/14/12

Awhile back, a few pictures of foolish-stunts, embarrassing-to-our-military, were circulated widely. In response, top Pentagon leaders have now rolled-out directives to address bad-behavior, re-emphasizing discipline.  And reminding that such negative actions reflect directly on the image of America, as well as further endangering our troops.  Defense Secretary Panetta referred to these acts as those of (quote):  "a few bad apples" doing "stupid things." He expressed confidence that such are isolated, and don't reflect a systemic-problem within our military.

But there may, in fact, be an underlying systemic-issue at work here, far beyond, but likely related to, such bad behaviors.  The feeling of at least one, previously-deployed, veteran military officer, convinced that those isolated acts, are not, categorically, the result of disciplinary failings by junior officers and NCO's, the Pentagon's current, dodge-ball target, but rather the fault of a decade of war, and its effect on young-troops, made worse by the cumulative-impact of repeated deployments and exposure to battlefield-brutality.  Speaking to the psychological-stresses prolonged war-fighting can bring, this veteran officer said:  Regardless of the degree of discipline imposed, "exposing people to years of bloody combat will inevitably manifest in the kinds of incidents we've seen, and even worse."  Such indiscretions have existed in prior wars, but instant communication hasn't.  And remember, too, the stress of death or serious injury, faced or witnessed, daily, by our troops.  Blaming embarrassing episodes on a "few bad apples" is too simplistic.  The real issue, despite honorable intentions, is the impact on the health and actions of young troops, stemming from seemingly endless war.