American troops have engaged in continuous war in Afghanistan since 2001, so nobody can claim that they don’t know that military service might require actual military service. Then again, military recruiters focus on the young not just because they’re physically fit, but also because they have little perspective on what they’re getting themselves into. More than a few studies have found that recruiters tend to be a bit shaky on the details and potential consequences of enlisting—a choice that, at least potentially, locks enlistees into a situation with high stakes.
Even in the age of the Internet and non-stop news cycles, concepts like combat, injury, and death can be abstract concepts for an 18-year-old.
So if Bowe Bergdahl decided that the bill of goods he was sold didn’t live up to the advertising—especially if he began to have moral qualms about his duties.
Unlike Doug I have served in the military. I never served in SE Asia but I am a Vietnam era vet so I know many who did. It took a mental toll on those in combat but even then you knew it was only going to last a year unless you volunteered for another tour. Many of us in the military at that time thought that the war in Vietnam was was a waste and misguided. When LBJ’s White House tapes were released we discovered that those at the highest level also believed this which meant the continuation war was nothing short of criminal as over 50,000 of Americas young men died in a senseless war.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also senseless wars. Iraq is rapidly becoming a client state of Iran so we will end up having nothing to show for the blood and treasure we spent there. And it was worse than Vietnam – multiple tours and knowing that even if you survive one tour you will be back and not survive that one. The mental strain is something I can’t imagine. The same can be said for the war in Afghanistan. We will be out of there in a couple of years with nothing to show for all the blood and treasure we have spent. It will revert back to a “country” of tribal warfare with the Taliban probably picking up where they left off. Is it really all that surprising that some troops figure out they are on a fools errand?
Of course it was different when I was in the service since most of us were either drafted or signed up because we were about to be drafted to reduce the possibility of becoming canon fodder in the jungles of Vietnam. I had it easy – since I was a college graduate I ended up with an office job on the frontier of freedom in downtown Munich Germany. Most were not so fortunate but they were probably more fortunate than the volunteers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.