Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The Power of Words
George Carlin remarked that military terminology tends to lessen the psychological impact of the horrors of war until the words no longer describe the actual thing or subject. In WWI, they had shell shock. Pretty accurate description. In WWII, they called the same thing battle fatigue. In Vietnam and today, they call the same thing post-traumatic stress disorder. Huh? Now mine is a noun that describes a deadly explosive device that kills or maims a soldier or vehicle quite well. Mine was used as terminology for an explosive device concealed by ground cover during Vietnam, even improvised ones. Such improvised mines even took out Sheridan tanks. These days, you have improvised explosive device. That sounds like an a piece of crap machine put together at the last minute. It doesn't sound as deadly as a mine even though it is quite deadly, and it is in fact, a mine. But IED doesn't have the psychological impact that the word mine does. This is unfortunate, because such terminology gives noncombatants the idea that war is survivable, when modern war is the most deadly environment modern man can conceive. I wonder if that will be modern man's epitaph on the last headstone of the last mass grave of the last human war.
Here lies Man.
Loved war more than peace.
Now the entire race is at peace.
Because warriors never killed the true foe within themselves.
I learned from my dad the other day that his squadron was losing an armered vehicle a week to anti-tank mines when he was in Vietnam.
It struck me there is a bright side to the Afghanistan War - the coalition casualties are far lower than those experienced in Vietnam. Although the numbers committed are far less.
Afghanistan and Iraq seem to be for lack of a better term target ranges or test environments for the armed forces to discover what weapons and tactics work and which don't. The reason I say this is that the Coalition governments are not really serious about nation building. A lot is said, but very little seems to be getting accomplished in either place.
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