Gwen, one of my regular readers, alerted me to this story about Pentagon and pharmaceutical industry efforts to create a drug to suppress soldiers’ moral qualms over killing.  Psychological Kevlar, in other words, to reduce or eliminate growing mental health problems in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s the trouble with traditional methods of overcoming our aversion to killing: as good as we are at dehumanizing enemy forces and civilian populations, most soldiers can’t help suspecting that the other guy or girl isn’t all that different.  Few of us are spring-loaded to kill . . . oh, we’ll do it, especially if we believe there’s a good reason to kill, but we do it reluctantly and suffer for it afterward.  Unless, of course, there’s race or tribal emnity involved, which there almost always is.  Nevertheless.

From the point of view of the fat cats who send the rest of us off to fight their wars, wouldn’t it be cool if we could turn humanity off for the duration of the conflict?  An ancient trope of science fiction, to be sure, but so was cloning, once.

What I wanna know is, if we do find a drug to do this, what happens when we get what we want in Iraq and Afghanistan, and start bringing our troops home?

And by the way, what is it that we want in Iraq and Afghanistan?  We routed the Taliban.  We established that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  We killed Saddam and his sadist sons.  We kicked all the Baathists out of government and the military. Now that we’ve been there almost five years, it’s clear we’re not trying to get Osama.  Al Qaeda and the Taliban are swarming back into Afghanistan.  We’re not eliminating poppy production in Afghanistan or corruption anywhere.  We’re standing by, even assisting, as Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds prepare for a bloody civil war.  Shit, we’re not even going to get the oil.  So just what the fuck is it we do want, and how will we know when we get it?  But that’s fodder for another entry.

What I wanna know is, if we can figure out how to turn humanity off, can we figure out how to turn it back on again?  ‘Cause these men and women are going to come home afterward, and we really don’t want people who can kill without compunction wandering around our neighborhoods, marrying our sons and daughters, teaching our children . . . do we?

I have a better idea.  Call in the Air Force and let them do the killing.  As we all know, well-educated commisssioned officers launching precision-guided munitions from 30,000 feet don’t face the same stressors as boots-on-the-ground soldiers being shot at from doorways.  Although I must say, when you land after two grueling strike missions in uncontested airspace, it’s somewhat annoying to find your orderly forgot to place the chocolate on your pillow, or that the chef at the officers’ mess used Idahos rather than russets in the vichyssoise.

© 2008, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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