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At first glance, this Washington Post column by Uwe E. Reinhardt, James Madison professor of political economy at Princeton University, looks like a catch-up effort on the part of the Post - a late attempt to follow the NY Time's lead. (Recall both the recent Times story claiming that troops are demanding that Americans suffer more in the war on terror and the op-ed from Stanford professor David Kennedy decrying the distance between the military and the population it defends while simultaneously describing that military as the new Hessians.)
The Post's headline is the first hint: Who's Paying for Our Patriotism? And a little bit of reading confirms the suspicion:
Moral hazard also can explain why the general public is so noticeably indifferent to the plight of our troops and their families. To be sure, we paste cheap magnetic ribbons on our cars to proclaim our support for the troops. But at the same time, we allow families of reservists and National Guard members to slide into deep financial distress as their loved ones stand tall for us on lethal battlefields and the family is deprived of these troops' typically higher civilian salaries.But, perhaps noting the response to the recent Times entries (American academia in general is more out of touch with the public than the military is) the Post has found an author with a claim to more credibility on the topic. Reinhardt's son joined the Marines in 2001:
When our son, then a recent Princeton graduate, decided to join the Marine Corps in 2001, I advised him thus: "Do what you must, but be advised that, flourishing rhetoric notwithstanding, this nation will never truly honor your service, and it will condemn you to the bottom of the economic scrap heap should you ever get seriously wounded." The intervening years have not changed my views; they have reaffirmed them.As an aside, I think I would send any of my children off to pursue whatever lives they chose with more positive words - though admittedly less well crafted. But this is Reinhardt's real topic, so his spontaneous speech to his son (apparently delivered in the wake of 9/11) is an appropriate inclusion here - flourishing rhetoric notwithstanding.
Interesting that the professor would consider a person with some physical disability as condemned to the bottom of the economic scrap heap. While such impediments may result in an individual being denied consideration for tenure at Princeton, there are actually many wounded veterans and others with disabilities who are able to achieve great things in other endeavors.
But in spite of that poor choice of phrasing, Reinhardt's accusations of government (and popular) apathy towards the plight of America's wounded defenders bears further examination.
Let's not deny facts. Nothing can make war less ugly than it is. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the "clearing house" for nearly all military medical evacuees from Iraq and Afghanistan recently treated it's 25,000th patient from the war on terror. However, a very small percentage of those are combat wounds. Many were evacuated for illnesses. Many are returned to duty after brief inpatient treatment. Statistics for Army hospitals treating Operation Iraqi Freedom casualties can be found here. From March 19, 2003, through May 31, 2005 there were 18,729 total evacuations to Army facilities, broken down for cause as follows:
Wounded in action (WIA): 2,527The number of amputations may be surprising to those who've never seen them reported before.
Non-battle injuries (NBI): 5,444
188 Army soldiers, 28 of whom are multiple amputeesThe numbers from Afghanistan are smaller:
60 Marines, 10 of whom are multiple amputees
4 Navy sailors, no multiple amputees
2 Air Force amputees, 1 of whom is a multiple amputee
Total of 254 service member amputees treated in Army hospitals
Wounded in action (WIA): 122
Non-battle injuries (NBI): 408
Total of 28 service member amputees treated in Army hospitals
There is nothing to celebrate in the numbers of injured - but it's interesting that media references are generally limited to unspecified "higher than expected" numbers of wounded. Others claim "cover-up" of the totals, or report "human interest" stories of individuals most grievously wounded that frequently mention the total number of medical evacuations from Iraq. Here's one example from 60 Minutes last year.
(Original post: 2005-08-02 21:58:44)
I believe his reference to the economic scrap heap may be based on over-all statistics on the disabled. However, the number of disabled from the vietnam war have a slim percentage that were not economically impoverished. There may have been a few that found a way to make a decent living. But, based on what I see in the corporate and retail environment and my friends and classmates that were in the war, it is a slim percentage. I agree that a parent should be more positive in supporting their children's choices. But, we also tend to want them to understand the downside of the choices they make.Posted by ps at August 5, 2005 08:00 PM
Uwe may have been referring to the American government's poor track record in caring for the men and women who were injured in the military service of their country. With the exception of World War II, this country's track record has been pretty bad. There are several good histories of the treatment of military veterans post conflict.Posted by Vet 1989 at August 12, 2005 12:44 PM
The right wing can play around with the deck chairs to its heart's content, but the recruiting numbers don't lie. The Army "met" its target in October, but only because it cut the target by one-third from a year ago and has reduced its standards for recruits. You can fool people for a while, but not forever.
The Army finished FY 2004 with 482,000 personnel [less mobilized Reserve and National Guard].
The Army finished FY 2005 with 492,000 personnel [less mobilized Reserver and National Guard]. Some shortfall.
Trolls like Kolb don't understand force managment nor are interested in knowing. Such knowledge would get in the way of their twisted whining. At least with ignorance posters like him can claim they were misunderstood, not that we'd believe them.