Via James Fallows, the story of a marine hit by an IED; something to think about on this anniversary of another war's end:
Some now call it the Forever War, and every day that name grows more appropriate.
Soldiers are dying again in Iraq. President Obama extended the mission in Afghanistan through 2017 after the city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban in October. Leaked classified documents reveal a barely acknowledged drone war in Somalia and East Africa. Plus strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, direct action raids against ISIS leaders, a proxy war in Syria and al-Anbar. Between 1975 and 2000—in Grenada, Panama, the First Gulf War and Somalia—the United States fought a total of twelve days of conventional ground combat. Since October of 2001, it hasn’t ceased.
This longest war in American history has created a warrior caste. Less than one percent of the US population, the “Other One Percent,” served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly half of those veterans completed two or more tours, and 51,000 of them, a Spartan-esque subculture than would barely fill Yankee stadium, have deployed six or more times. The Delta operator who fell in Iraq in October was on his fourteenth tour.
Our professional military is staffed entirely by volunteers. Returning to combat this often is a choice, and our culture has turned to explanations from camaraderie to adrenaline to economics to explain this drive.
But this Veterans Day, it is worth considering another reason, unique to our current conflict: saving a life within a very small world. So small, in fact, that using small world theory, the math tells us that statistically they are not saving the lives of strangers, but of known quantities.