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Opinion | What Do I Owe the Dead of My Generation’s Mismanaged Wars?

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the author's reflections on the deaths of American soldiers in the mismanaged wars of his generation, particularly the Afghanistan war, and the difficulty of memorializing the dead of such conflicts.

🙋 Q&A

[01] What Do I Owe the Dead of My Generation's Mismanaged Wars?

1. What are the author's reflections on visiting Arlington National Cemetery with a relative from Ireland?

  • The author and a fellow Marine veteran took the author's relative from Ireland to visit Arlington National Cemetery.
  • The relative found the cemetery to be quite moving, as it was more serene and dignified than he had expected.
  • The author then took the relative to Section 60, where the newest graves are, and told him that the sight filled the author with rage, as these were young lives thrown into a mismanaged war where even their deaths were mostly ignored.

2. What are the author's thoughts on the end of the Afghanistan war?

  • The author notes that the Afghanistan war finally ended in 2021, taking with it a few American children of the 2000s.
  • The author also mentions the moral failure of leaving tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. at risk in the now completely Taliban-controlled country.
  • The last American casualties were 11 Marines, 1 Navy medic, and 1 soldier, who died in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport while trying to manage the chaos of the poorly planned evacuation of Afghans.

3. How does the author feel about memorializing the dead of failed wars?

  • The author notes that it is easy to let one's heart swell with pride when passing certain graves at Arlington National Cemetery, as they represent heroes who ended slavery or defeated fascism.
  • However, the author states that the same cannot be said for more morally troubling wars, such as the Philippines or Vietnam, and that for the dead of his generation's wars, the reasons they died sit awkwardly alongside the honor he owes them.

[02] Conclusion

The article explores the author's personal struggle with memorializing the dead of the mismanaged wars of his generation, particularly the Afghanistan war, and the difficulty of reconciling the honor owed to the fallen with the moral ambiguity of the conflicts in which they died.

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