The Best Defense

Doonesbury's take on the troubles of vets: A response from Garry Trudeau

I asked the author of Doonesbury to respond to your comments on his Sunday strip. Here it is:

By Garry Trudeau
Best Defense guest columnist

As I'm old enough to recall the stereotypes that formed around Vietnam veterans, I'm well aware of this danger. The purpose of my stories has been to participate in the national conversation about the costs of war. JPWREL and VICTOR are correct that the majority of warriors return home without invisible wounds, but it is by no means an "overwhelming" majority. There are an estimated 600,000 veterans (out of 2.2 million who've served in OEF and OIF) who are suffering from either stress disorders, MST, or the effects of TBI. The proportion is considerably higher than in previous wars because of multiple deployments and the aggregate number of consecutive days that participants are in a high-conflict environment, thus in a rolling state of stress and hyper-vigilance.

This is a substantial cohort whose continuing care represents a major challenge to our country. I have tried to represent the sacrifices of the wounded -- both physically and mentally -- across a broad continuum of affliction and recovery: B.D., the amputee, who learns to manage his PTSD well enough to reach out to Melissa, the helicopter mechanic, who recovers from her MST enough to actually re-enlist; Leo, whose TBI leaves him with Broca's Aphasia, but whose resilience propels him into community college, a job at a studio, and a healthy romantic relationship; Ray, who recovered from physical injuries in the Gulf War, led a normal life at home, only to endure multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to the collapse that recently sent him home. All different journeys, all different outcomes.

War changes everyone, and most veterans can manage that change without become impaired or dysfunctional. Their stories are important, too, but by focusing on their less fortunate brothers and sisters, I mean to keep front and center the sacrifices they have all made in our names.

The Best Defense

Most troubling paragraph of the week: Pak nukes are getting looser with time

"A frontal assault of this kind on nuclear weapons storage facilities, which are the most robustly defended elements of Pakistan's nuclear weapons cycle, is no longer an implausible event. The successful location and penetration of such a site by terrorists, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful in accessing nuclear assets, would itself be a transformative event both in terms of the U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relationship and in terms of international anxiety about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Such an assault would also critically undermine Pakistan's reassurances about the security of nuclear weapons elsewhere in the weapons cycle, particularly in transit. As the number of Pakistani nuclear weapons inexorably continues to rise, and as the nuclear weapons security challenges thereby steadily multiply, the odds that Pakistan's nuclear weapons security will eventually be compromised continue to rise."--

Professor Shaun Gregory, Director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford, Britain, in the new issue of West Point's CTC Sentinel.

My italics, just to help scare you more.

I think this is a good contender for the title of Biggest Problem in the World. Speaking of which, a new book just arrived in the mail from the Naval Institute Press, Confronting al Qaeda: New Strategies to Combat Terrorism, by Kevin McGrath. It looks interesting, especially the chapter on Pakistan, but I don't know when I am gonna get to it as I have developed a huge reading backlog.   

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