Battle Ready? It May Be Possible to “Vaccinate” Soldiers Against the Trauma of War



Those that fight in a war return scarred—often physically, but almost always psychologically. This article from The Economist looks at the work of Dr. Skip Rizzo who is investigating ways to inoculate soldiers from the potential psychological ramifications of a soldier’s life. The method, which is having some success, is to simulate the difficult aspects of war for soldiers prior to their battlefield involvement.

This treatment, however, presents an ethical conundrum for us. On one hand, if a society asks some of its citizens to fight a war on its behalf, then it is reasonable to assume that all possible care and preparation should be provided for them. A soldier should be trained to properly use their weapons. Likewise, they should be physically fit enough to endure the trials of war. A duty of care toward the soldier also needs to be exercised with respect to the psychological trials of war.

We need to ask, however, whether a soldier should be inoculated against the horrors of war. War is horrible and it should always be seen as such. We should never take lightly a murdered body or a razed building; they don’t represent the world as it should be. In fact, it could be argued that improper exposure to the evils of war might impede a soldier’s ability to make ethical decisions on the battlefield.  The question that needs to be asked, then, is how we can prepare a soldier for the evil they will be facing, without negating the evil itself.

Where do we draw the line between preparing someone for likely trauma, and removing the traumatic nature of an event?

How might we better prepare soldiers to act ethically in a warzone?

Source: The Economist

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