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This weekend marks a celebration of veterans around the world: from Armistice Day in Europe, to Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom, and Veterans Day here in the United States.
In this reading list, we are looking at the more complicated aspects of what it means to be a veteran—from well-known issues such as crippling PTSD to less-researched problems such as forced enrollment. We also explore the reality of dissenting veterans, as well as the ethics surrounding soldiers who volunteer. And if that’s not enough for you, we have also selected some of our most popular archival pieces on war and security—check out the whole collection here.
The Moral Responsibility of Volunteer Soldiers
a forum with Jeff McMahan
“Even though soldiers do not make decisions about whether their states will go to war, they can make decisions about whether they will go to war.”
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God, the Army, and PTSD
by Tara McKelvey
“In a study of 1,400 Vietnam veterans, researchers found that nearly one-third said the war had shaken their faith in God and that their religion no longer provided comfort.”
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War is Betrayal
by Chris Hedges
“Any story of war is a story of elites preying on the weak, the gullible, the marginal, the poor. I do not know of a single member of my graduating prep school class who went into the military. You could not say this about the nearby public high school class that graduated the same year.”
• • •
Veterans Who Dissent
by Chris Lombardi
Responding to Chris Hedges’s above essay, Lombardi argues that veterans are entitled to object to war, and “often recite their military branch’s honor code with as much pride as irony.”
• • •
by Jessie Kindig
“In 1987, a survey by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs found that 35 percent of diagnosed PTSD patients who fought in Korea had attempted suicide, four times the rate of those from World War II.”
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Matters of Choice
an interview with Andrew Bacevich
“It is pretty clear that the American people don’t have much of an appetite for putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, which would necessarily lead to significant American casualties.”
• • •
An Open Letter from Guam to America
by Victoria-Lola M. Leon Guerrero
“The worst bombs that have ever been dropped on Guam were yours. Please, stop all this bomb talk. And instead, ask yourself why Guam is still your colony.”
• • •
by Oded Na’aman
“Like the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Israeli wars are preceded by a widespread sense of necessity and followed by damning public criticism. What explains this cycling of perspectives, the ritual of affirmation and rejection that endlessly loops?”
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Philosopher William MacAskill contends that humanity’s long-term survival matters more than preventing short-term suffering and death. His arguments are shaky.
In her new book, Danish poet Olga Ravn writes with open love, pity, and compassion for her strange yet familiar creations.
Draconian individual punishment distracts from systemic change and reinforces the cruelest and most racist system of incarceration on the planet.