There is no doubt one question left unanswered as we witness the daily advances made by the Taliban in Afghanistan: what difference did an American presence make? The same extremist group the U.S. sought to topple after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, remains strong, bent but unbroken. On Sunday, Talib fighters seized three Afghan cities, including the commercial hub of Kunduz.
Over the last week I’ve been steeped in two books, one about Afghanistan, and one about the experience of war. Both were written by Sebastian Junger, who appeared briefly in a newsletter from last week. When he and I last spoke, we discussed how the camaraderie and self-sacrifice, the survival training and heightened awareness, follows soldiers back home. It is there that it is of little use, but such responses do not have to be seen as alien.
That which the soldier carries home is a valuable tool that could be used to improve society. But first the society must collectively understand and address the moral injury garnered through combat duty.
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