Postcards from Tradocia

social inflation

May 8 is the 60th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe). April 30 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.

Both of these events mark the end of wars that were vastly more destructive and costly, both in money and in human lives, than the one in which I find myself now. My grandfather was a tail gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe during World War II, a part of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. During the years 1942-1945, the Eighth Air Force alone suffered over 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 deaths. To put this in perspective, that represents the death of every soldier in the 256th BCT six times over – and the 8th AF was only one part of the gargantuan war effort.

Our efforts seem to pale in comparison to those of what has been termed the “greatest generation;” by and large we know little of the hardship that soldiers faced sixty or even thirty years ago. In saying this, I don’t mean to denigrate in any way the sacrifices and struggles of those soldiers and Marines who have seen the worst of things here; it’s an issue of scale.

As I’ve mentioned before, my Iraq deployment thus far hasn’t quite lived up to my epic expectations. As a Signal soldier parked (relatively) safely within Camp Liberty, I hardly consider my actions to be “heroic.” But while discussing this very topic with the Pontiff, I had what I consider to be a minor revelation.

Note that I’m not a sociologist or historian, and as such my conclusions could be completely wrong. However, it’s reasonable to assume that the average 18-25 year old male during World War II probably led a more arduous life than their counterparts 60 years later; many more probably lived on farms, maybe had less money; had no internet, no cable TV, no 24-hour news channels; had no power steering, no robot lawn mowers. From this generation sprang the soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen of World War II. By comparison, “kids these days” are media-saturated weed-smoking couch potatoes (if I had to provide a one-sentence summary). And before you accuse me of fantastic hyperbole, I include myself in that definition (weed smoking excluded), though it sounds terribly curmudgeon-ly.

So, while it’s true that our sacrifices seem minimal in comparison to those made over half a century ago, maybe when adjusted for “social inflation” they are more proportionate. Science, technology, health care, military strategy, and social norms have all changed vastly in the last sixty years, so much so that a war like WWII today would be an anacrhonism as much as the Ford GP, making Iraq our war – a media war, a network war, a war of technology and ideas.

14 Comments

  1. Delobius

    About the photo of the Ford GP: where are their kevlars?! How can they ride in a tactical vehicle without a helmet? (Especially while getting that much air…)

    And how many style points is that jump worth?

  2. Seth

    Delobius,
    Your points are well-taken here. I am always skeptical of generational comparisons and you bring up some of those issues. The idea of “social inflation” is exceptionally creative and insightful. Both individually and culturally, warfare exacts a tremendous cost (the worth of said cost being hotly debated in all corners) regardless of the number of dead, the type of equipment and the nature of strategy. Heroism, as such, is often defined by the nature of the conflict in relation to the group fighting the battles as it is to the individual actions taken by individual soldiers. All that is to say that the willful entrance into the action is itself heroic, regardless of the action you see while in said action.
    Peace,
    Seth

  3. Jason

    I’d like to also comment that the media seems to “socially inflate” Americans more so then our foreign counterparts from pretty much anywhere, while i realize this makes “better” news, to me it seems unfair to the 46 or so iraqis that died today, that one american marine will probably carry the same “weighted” story tomorrow.

    hold on…

  4. Jason

    I always remember reading in history books about wars and they talked about the loss of lives on both being roughly worth the same. If the Roman’s lost 5000 soldiers and the Goths lost 7500, then the Romans probably “won.” Now, if the insurgents lose 75 and we lose 2, the media questions the necessity of the loss.

    Not sure where this is going, but it does bug me a lot that the media tells us a story and the troops tell another, because I personally trust the troops.

  5. Delobius

    That’s a good point, Jason – I’ve been kicking around some ideas about those issues (media bias and reactions to casualty figures). Think I’ll write about them tomorrow…

  6. Anonymous

    Jason wrote:
    “I always remember reading in history books about wars and they talked about the loss of lives on both being roughly worth the same. If the Roman’s lost 5000 soldiers and the Goths lost 7500, then the Romans probably “won.” Now, if the insurgents lose 75 and we lose 2, the media questions the necessity of the loss.”

    I’m noticing that creeping in down here too (Australia). Mostly on the stations with commercial ties to CNN and so on. I don’t like it. Dead is dead.

    Turkish soldiers march in our ANZAC day parades down here (commemorating the losses at Gallipoli in WWI) and I like it that way.

  7. Spike

    That was me, BTW.

  8. cindy

    Alex- Although your role in Baghdad might not be quite as epic as you expected (and for that your family is happy), you are doing a job that not everyone can do. It takes all kinds of skills to protect freedom in the world. Thanks again for what you are doing to keep us safe and to bring liberty to the people of Iraq.

  9. Steve H USA

    I am continually amazed, surprized and delighted by today’s military recruits. Especially when I hold much the same opinion as you do about the, “kids these days”.

    We must concider that our opinion is formed by looking at the most visible segment, which also tends to the most disorderly. The least visible and most responsible segment of today’s youth is overlooked and under appreciated. Though these “yutes” make choices to do things the right way, it also shows that some of today’s parents are still doing their jobs too.

    The “Fourth Estate’s” bias and decline into being liberalism’s mouth piece is making it irrelavent. Bloggers, now are the only way to get news. Blogger may have a bias which is usually stated. The MSM is foolish enough to think it can still claim to be unbiased and their hypocracy is plain to see.

    It is natural for someone to elevate their own countrymen’s value higher than a non-countryman. Everyone does it, though many will never admit it. The true test is how high a country values non-countrymen and how close that value is to their own countrymen. I believe most American’s score very high on that test.

    Then you also have the Liberals here in America, who seem to be very happy to see American’s in Iraq killed as it appears to them to reaffirm their irrational hatred of Bush.

  10. Seth

    Steve H,
    You say:
    “We must concider that our opinion is formed by looking at the most visible segment, which also tends to the most disorderly. The least visible and most responsible segment of today’s youth is overlooked and under appreciated”
    Why, pray, would the same logic not also apply to these “liberals” who wish death and destruction to the US military (though I am unclear to whom you refer in this blanket generalization…certainly not the liberals I read or hear on TV – and if those are liberals on TV, then I can’t imagine what constitutes a radical for you.)
    Seth

  11. Mom and Dad

    From your Dad (who had a college deferment until he dropped it in the draft lottery):

    Body counts aren’t the measure. This was amply proved in Vietnam, in WW II and WW I.

    The murder of the 20th Century’s World Wars are now illegal.

  12. Bryce and Lola

    You’re doing a fine job in communications and we are also proud of you. Love, G&G

  13. kelly

    I think a bi-product of the war in Iraq is a philosphical/idealogical war here. Seth’s comments about liberals using the death of Americans to fuel hatred of Bush, hmm.. What are these blanket statements (from both sides) for? To save ourselves from the truely lengthy discussion of how gray everything is? Or create “us and them”, reminds me of how war gets started. I disagree in perpetuating the voice of few as a representation of the whole. I dont share this view of liberal, or know anyone who does. great topics on your blog.

  14. kelly

    Hey I meant Steve H USA, in reference to his earlier comments not Seth.

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