28 March 2008

Round Numbers

Mike Dunford over at The Questionable Authority has a post up about the futility of the number 4000.

Somehow or another, I doubt that the parents of the 3683rd soldier to die are somehow injured less than the parents of the 4,000th. I doubt that the parents of the 4010th will feel any differently. And, of course, American soldiers aren't the only ones who have died in the course of this disaster. We don't know how many Iraqis have died. Every estimate that's been published so far has been the subject of some controversy, because the different estimates aren't in complete agreement with each other. After five years, the whole country is still so comprehensively screwed that it's not possible to safely conduct the censuses and surveys needed to come up with an answer that everyone can agree with. The survivors of the family that becomes the collateral damage from an American air strike don't mourn any less than the family of the American soldier killed by friendly fire.

His wife is a military doctor serving in Afghanistan, and he goes on to talk about the "holes" that having a family member in the service leaves in the life of the family. (Dunford has two small children.)

She was home, briefly, for Christmas, then gone again for a few more months. By the time she came back, she'd missed several inches of growth between the two of them and a year of their education. The kids had changed. I'd changed. She'd changed. Fitting everything back together was not easy, and it often wasn't pretty. But we managed. And a little more than a year later, we got to do it all again.

The second time, when she deployed to Iraq, was harder. She'd changed more by the time she got back, we'd changed more, and we had to start dealing with the whole process of putting the family back together again. The whole process wasn't helped by our inability to comprehend why the whole Iraq thing was even necessary to begin with. At least with Afghanistan, we could fall back on the necessity of someone doing something. Even that limited comfort was gone when we dealt with Iraq.

This is the kind of reasoned but emotion-laden stuff that we forget all-too-often when talking about this war, on either side. "The Troops" are not some monolithic entity that are all having the same experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, and pretending that they're all poor kids scared to death, not caring about the overall mission, and just trying to get home in one piece or even that they are all noble gentle(wo)man soldiers fighting for a noble cause in the face of adversity for what may be a pointless conflict is overly simplistic.

The soldiers are people, first and foremost. They have varying opinions about what the best option for the future of Iraq (or Afghanistan) is, and have gone through varying experiences there. War is an incredibly serious thing, and if we could all stop chanting slogans long enough to listen to people like Dunford and others who either have themselves or had family members in these conflicts, then maybe we could actually come to some kind of reasonable consensus on the best option for the future.

Go read the whole thing.

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