As I've been catching up on the weekend's happenings—the non-LEGO Whorehouse related ones, that is—I've been struck the generational differences inherent in some recent posts from milbloggers like Commander Salamander, Gulliver at Ink Spots, Elizabeth Dickinson at Foreign Policy Online, and SWJ's Major Mike Few.
The experiences an officer gains during his or her first years in service—when our minds and mores are most malleable—will shape their worldview for the rest of their careers. As such, both of America's forays into Iraq—as well as other social and political phenomena—have shaped Gen Xers and Gen Yers in very different ways.
Commander Salamander reminds us that there are many events which define each generation of officers. The generation which lived through Vietnam was so haunted by Vietnam that they threw away much of the counterinsurgency doctrine, turning their attention instead to Air Land Battle. Subsequently, Gen Xers were defined by events such the First Gulf War, the end of the Cold War, Tailhook, and the military drawdown of the 1990s—possibly leading to a sense of military hubris, and a "do more with fewer troops" attitude.
We will always owe Gen Xers a debt of gratitude, for it was they who trampled Saddam's armies in the deserts of Iraq in a 96-hour blitzkrieg. Indeed, it was this generation's all-volunteer force, armed with sophisticated precision-guided weaponry, which returned home to victory parades, vindicating the specter of the Vietnam War. But in many ways, the relative ease of Desert Storm may have added to a sense of hubris; a belief that overwhelming military force—and precision fires in particular—could solve the world's ills.
With the wars in Afghanistan turning into decade-long endeavors, there is a sense of profound skepticism among the post-9/11 generation about the utility of force, for certain. But there's something else as well. Whereas those that lived through the Vietnam War harbored their resentment towards the civilian leadership, I think many of us feel the same way about both the military and civil leadership—at least during the first few years of the war.