From Paul Fussell’s wonderful book, Wartime:
In the Second World War the American military learned something very “modern” — modern because dramatically “psychological,” utilitarian, unchivalric, and un-heroic: it learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness, or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter. Thus in later wars things were arranged differently. In Vietnam, it was understood that a man fulfilled his combat obligation and purchased his reprieve if he served a fixed term, 365 days, and not days in combat either but days in the theater of war. The infantry was now treated somewhat like the Air Corps in the Second War: performance of a stated number of missions guaranteed escape.
Bush and his neo-con cowards — chickenhawk draft-dodgers almost to a man — never bothered to learn this little lesson as they lied us into another Vietnam. And so they sent better men than themselves back and back and back into the battle. And so, perfectly predictably, those men and their families are now paying the price in joblessness, divorce, addiction, suicide and madness.
President Obama knows no more of war than Cheney or Bush. Let’s hope, though, that he goes for military advice not to the Perles and the Boltons and the Wolfowitzes, but rather to the Jim Webbs and the John Kerrys and the Chuck Hagels.