In the course of noting correctly that Americans are more disconnected from the wars that are fought in their names than they have been for a long time, the Los Angeles Times rather over-eggs the pudding. The average voter, the paper records, doesn’t know what the country’s soldiers have gone though:
Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors.
Which is why it’s terrible that those soldiers are looked after so well. Wait . . . what?
Today’s military enjoys a lifestyle that in many ways exceeds that of much of the rest of the country: regular pay raises and lavish reenlistment bonuses, free healthcare, subsidized housing and, after 20 years of service, generous retirement benefits unavailable to many other Americans.
It’s difficult to work out exactly what the L.A. Times is arguing here. We can of course have a debate about the scale of our military spending in general. We can argue, too, about the compensation that individual soldiers and senior officials receive. But it seems a little churlish to decry that the state is more attentive to those whom it has sent to be “killed and maimed” and to endure “psychological trauma that many will carry forever” than it is to civilians who do not work for it. Likewise, it seems a touch peculiar to complain about the provision of “free healthcare” and “subsidized housing” when soldiers are, by definition, stripped of most of their individual liberty. Of course the government treats soldiers differently than everybody else; what is asked of them is unique. This peculiar little dig ruins what is a good overall point: These days we tend to go to war and then to forget about it.