The AVF & All-Volunteer Literature
Here’s a thoughtful comment (or question) about contemporary war literature from former Army Capt. Matt Gallagher.
“Modern America tends to view military conflict through the prism of Vietnam, and much of early Vietnam War literature was written and shaped by draftees. But my generation of servicemembers signed up for war, whether or not we signed up explicitly for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. How does creative work produced by (or about) military volunteers relate to a citizenry separate and distinct from those volunteers? When wars are carried out by the volunteers in the citizenry’s name, but not necessarily with the citizenry’s backing, how does that affect the way stories from those wars are interpreted and understood?”
I think he is right that there is a fundamental difference. Some of the great literature of World War II and Vietnam comes out of guys who resented that the world had put them in a given place — think of Catch-22 or The Naked and the Dead. Or Going After Cacciato. All the books from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been written by people who asked to be there.
It makes me wonder how today’s new vets differ in other ways from those of previous generations.
Meantime, Columbia University, which is in the City of New York, has a dean for veterans’ affairs. He ustabe a Marine. This strikes me as a smart move, both to help students and as a marketing tool, especially at a time when many academics have no freaking idea of what the military is or does.
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