Why the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are Politically Sustainable

The New York Times front page today, May 26, 2013, has a story about how the Afghanistan and, earlier, Iraq, war dead are treated on their return to the United States. There is a major difference between these wars and Viet Nam because of the effect of the Outer Tactical Vest and the new, Improved Outer Tactical Vest. This vest protects the torso from 7.62mm bullets and shrapnel, and there are many stories of soldiers being hit by multiple rounds and surviving. The effect of this vest on the politics of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is dramatic, as the KIA totals are politically manageable.
     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, are conditions suffered by war veterans. I am sure these conditions have afflicted war veterans forever, Odysseus maybe, but they have been magnified in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brock Hunter, a Minneapolis lawyer, represents Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who have criminal problems that are, in part, caused by traumatic events during their deployment.  In a recent speech, Hunter described Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
    Mr. Hunter cited statistics that indicate  the politics of the tactical vest. There have been 2,500,000 personnel that have served in the two wars. Of these, 300,000 suffer from PTSD caused by the emotional and physical stress of war. There are also 320,000 veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury caused by an explosion that would have killed them in an earlier war, only to have their brains and a good portion of their bodies devastated in their survival.  
    In Viet Nam,  2,100,000 served and  over 52,000 died. The long lists of  KIA made the war politically unsupportable.  Soldiers wore rudimentary vests in Viet Nam, but the new vest is so effective it allows combatants to survive events that would have certainly killed them earlier. A doctor friend who works at the VA told me of a patient that lost his arms, legs and eyes to an explosion. This casualty was a survivor of the tactical vest. There have been 8,000 US and coalition deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.  
    The politics of the vest means that because so many survive, KIAs remain relatively low and the war is politically sustainable. If just 15% of the Traumatic Brain Injured had died, deaths would  be at Viet Nam rates, and it would be impossible for a President to continue the wars. Hence, the new, improved, nearly impenetrable, tactical vest is making war politically possible by saving the grievously injured combatants, who only count as wounded.
    The vests are an important improvement to combatants’ equipment, but I do think we should know that Afghanistan and Iraq are as horrible for our troops as Viet Nam ever was, lest we think we have developed some sort of safer warfare and grow tolerant of its anguish.

2 thoughts on “Why the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are Politically Sustainable

  1. Pingback: “Why the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq Are Polically Sustainable” and “Immigration and The Mexican View of Our History.” | http://www.clarkgriffithblog.com

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