In a letter to the Advocate-Messenger, denouncing human rights violations in Iraq, I compared U.S. military training with that of the Nazi military. Clarification is in order:
I refer to post-Vietnam-era aggression training. Nazi Germany was the first regime to apply psychology to military training. To train recruits to kill, the Nazis turned to Jungian psychologists, who tapped soldiers' aggressions before combat and later helped them rationalize their actions. The U.S. military, meanwhile, discovered that soldiers were troubled by killing, even in battle. The result was the adoption of aggression training, by stages, over a long period. There are excellent articles on this process, by military psychologists and sociologists in the Journal of Armed Forces and Society.
Aggression training breaks civilian inhibitions regarding violence by isolating recruits in small, closed groups with their own ethical code. Among soldiers, under aggression training, killing is prized in a tactical context, yet the consequences of violence are masked by evasive terminology: "collateral damage," "battle damage." Discipline, theoretically, contains aggression, "unleashing" it in combat. Most soldiers separate war and peace, military and civilian life, but too many cannot. We see rapes, beatings, murders, suicides, drug addiction, high rates of alcoholism, and soldiers killing wives in domestic disputes after rapid demobilization from extreme combat in Afghanistan. Aggression training is dangerous; for the new warfare of peace-keeping, we require new systems of recruitment and training. Our military must be reintegrated into society through conscription and revitalization of the ROTC system in our colleges. We need to give our soldiers better pay, post-enlistment prospects, and decent pensions. When they are wounded we need to take care of them, not dump them like garbage in secret hospitals, as has happened to many of the thousands of unsung wounded of Bush's war.