The Fog of War

That well-known phrase referring to the confusion and uncertainty common during a battle seems like it is not unique to the battlefield. I grew up in a military family, and have memories of the occasional soldier or sailor going off the deep-end, usually injuring property and themselves more than anything or anyone else, but sometimes an unlucky few who happened to be close by never had the chance to regret it. But nothing like the mind boggling events that unfolded this last week at Ft. Hood.

There is no question that military service at the front is a dangerous business, and things happen that aren’t always explainable. I find it ironically that the Ft. Hood tragedy happened in the same town that decades ago had the horrible massacre at Luby’s, in a time before Texans freely carried handguns. I remember vividly the argument that had people been packing, someone might have stopped or reduced the carnage during that tragedy in a Texas cafeteria. Now we have this recent horrific event that defies us to make sense of the why, the how. Of all the places you’d think someone on a rampage would have little success, it would be on a military installation. Yet, amidst all that training and weaponry, no one was armed initially. One wonders if firearms as de rigueur will be the norm on bases in the future. I’m not pro-gun by any means, just sense the irony at work.

Bob Greene’s CNN column lays out the challenges brought on by the Fog of War, the likely progression of the days following, and the intense interest in learning who the slain were, their comrades, and a renewed appreciate of what these young men and women go through. But why, oh why, does it take the senseless loss of life to awaken the American psyche like this? Why are we systemically deaf to what we’re doing to our young (and not so young) citizens? How many Americans really understand the damage that’s going on by repeatedly sending our patriots back to the insanity with little regard (or a sense of intentional ignorance) to the mental damage?

Wars are sadly a fixture of our history, yet modern warfare seems to be pushing our mental capacities to cope far beyond what’s humanly possible to handle. Or is it just that such sensationalized media reporting make it seem unusually so? I believe many a Vietnam vet would argue that the mental damage from that senseless engagement is no different than the post-trauma stress syndrome that’s getting more and more publicity.

In conversations with my father about his wartime and military experiences before he passed on, he believed back then his generation served with a purpose, that everyone believed in the cause behind the war. Fast forward to 2009 and it seems not many of us consider the why of what we’re doing over in the Middle East as reason alone to go blindly into the Fog of War.