The Disparate Lessons Of War

Elizabeth Samet argues that politicians suggesting “some magic correlation between battlefield sacrifice and preparation for political office demonstrates our fundamental inattention to the nuances of the veteran experience”:

Those who witness and deal death almost certainly know something the rest of us do not, but it is facile to suggest that all veterans return from all wars knowing the same thing. There are soldiers for whom the crucible of combat is transformative, others for whom it is but one episode in a life filled with vivid and diverse engagements. Among war’s survivors are some who fight only to prevent its reoccurrence and a few who can’t survive without it—who find its rhythms more congenial than those of peace. “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity,” Dwight David Eisenhower declared, while Theodore Roosevelt, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, felt a “power of joy” in combat and remembered the battle of San Juan Hill as “the great day of my life.” Roosevelt remained a warmonger for the rest of days.