The official Sebastian Junger community
I hold no brief for Eric, since I think his assessment of Sebastian, the book, the film, and soldiers is incorrect, and his language intemperate and insulting. At the risk of making myself equally unpopular, however, I think he does raise one point we should perhaps all be thinking about, namely, what if we are making a mistake? I know many of you have lived more deeply, read more deeply, thought more deeply about the War in Afghanistan than I have. I do not question the nobility and worth of you, your fathers, sons, brothers who have chosen military service. Sebastian's book does a wonderful job of showing their cohesion, brotherhood, courage, and self-sacrifice. It creates new insights into how one survives what otherwise would be unsurvivable. If our plans are mistaken, our strategy flawed, or our leaders incapable of leading, it does not diminish an iota the worth of our men in uniform. At the same time, the worth of our soldiers is no guarantee of the correctness of our strategy or the justness of our cause. As we reflect on those we have sent for our own safety into harm's way, where they will both suffer much and inflict much suffering, I think it behooves us to at least ask ourselves whether we are doing the right thing. I do not have an easy answer, despite my grave misgivings, and even less so since reading Sebastian's book. But I think we should all reflect, for the sake of ourselves and others.
I gotta agree on the PC thing, Gregg. It's out of control, in my opinion. It's yet one more example of morally policing the entire country/world because a handful of jackasses can't seem to muster a thimble of respect for their fellow man. I also think political correctness has become a calculated distraction in terms of addressing the actual issues at hand.
Of course, my mother says that I had my tact surgically removed at birth. LOL - I'm an above-board, cards on the table, mince no words, and take-no-prisoners kinda girl. I'm also a sweet little Southern belle, but if you try to patronize, intimidate, or over-polite me I'll whip out the four-letter words in a New York minute, if purely for my own entertainment.
I also agree Bill is an excellent writer!
Gregg, Katarina, thank you for your generosity of spirit and many kind words. As Gregg said, that is the American Way. I think that one of the great things about "War" is that whatever one's view of the conflict, one cannot help but come away with greater admiration for the troops. I am really hoping to get a chance to see Restrepo soon.
Gregg, I agree with you that soldiers are required to follow orders and execute their mission, in all but the most extraordinary circumstances. (It is my understanding that the American military recognizes that there is such a thing as orders that are illegal.) I also agree that the point of "War" and presumably Restrepo is not a wider discussion of the purposes of the war. But I also think that as citizens of a great democracy, we have a different duty. First we have a heavy responsibility to those we send to war on our behalf. Personally, my biggest question about how well we meet that responsibility has not to do with how well we support the troops in combat, but how well we care for our veterans in the long years after they come home. Mind you, a great many vets need no help from me, thank you very much. But there are others. Second, however difficult the challenge, we as citizens are supposedly the decision-makers in this country. In light of all the powerful groups that influence Washington, it may seem futile or quixotic sometimes to take our responsibilities as citizen-decision-makers seriously. But I think we owe it to our troops and to ourselves, since the troops act in our name. When we unleash the awesome destructive power of the United States military, when we hazard the lives of our best young men and women, we should make those decisions consciously in full knowledge and responsibility. Even if the subject matter of "War" is not these decisions, I think the book is an important catalyst for thinking about the war in every respect.
So much for my brief note of thanks. Thanks again, guys, not just for the kind words but for helping me try to figure things out.