Thursday, April 08, 2010

More on Collateral Damage

I posted about the video released by Wikileaks about the death of 2 Reuters journalists due to fire from an Apache helicopter. I summed up the whole thing this way:

It also means really reflecting on what the attributes are to be fully human, even in the face of deadly violence. Did the crews of the Apache helicopters demonstrate those attributes? Or were they just soldiers following orders to intercept and stop insurgents, even if it meant making unsupported assumptions? These are questions that need more reflection, but I am sure they did what they were trained to do, because WE wanted them trained to do it.

The New York Times has now posted an article that discusses the psychology behind what we heard from the Apache crew. The article, in my opinion, broadly supports what I had to say in my article. An excerpt;

"You don’t want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they’re able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don’t seem real,” said Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist and co-author of the forthcoming book “Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment.”

Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human, said Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of the book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” who is a former Army Ranger.

Combat training “is the only technique that will reliably influence the primitive, midbrain processing of a frightened human being” to take another life, the colonel writes. “Conditioning in flight simulators enables pilots to respond reflexively to emergency situations even when frightened.”

Read the entire article. Recall though that our forebears started out killing each other face to face. They looked their enemy in the eye. We seldom do that now. Would we approach war, and killing, differently if we had to look the other person in the eye? Would we reconsider the role violence has in our lives? I fear that the "game" aspect of war will become more the norm, and less a psychological issue, over time if our youth continue to invest a lot of time in online videogames and less in personal interaction.

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