The Washington Post reports today that thirty-eight American soldiers killed themselves in July, the most since the Army started releasing that number in 2009. The story says suicides will add up to about 200 active duty troops this year more than any year in the past decade.
Why? No one can be sure, but one thing we do know. When I was covering the Vietnam war in the 1960s, we still had the draft. Most draftees served one tour in combat--it was a year--and then went home. Now the Army is all-professional. It's not uncommon to read stories about troops who've served four or five tours.
The Army, the Post says, had hoped that fewer combat deployments would lower the suicide rate. That seems not to have happened. "There is significant disagreement among mental health experts," the Post writes, over how to deal with this. Yes--I remember writing a similar column a year or two ago.
The irony is, of course, that there are a couple of easy solutions the government seems not to like. One--bring back the draft, so that soldiers see one war tour, not four or five. But the government hasn't done that and seems not to want to. The other is to bring the troops home--no war, fewer suicides, surely.
"All we are saying," as the crowds used to chant during Vietnam, "all we are saying is, give peace a chance."