By lex, on August 16th, 2011
It’s a fact that four living US servicemen have now been awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan. It’s also somewhat remarkable, given the scale of warfare in Iraq as reflected in both number of troops deployed and casualties suffered, that not one living soldier received the MoH for combat there.
In the WaPo‘s milblog – this is what we’ve come to – writer Greg Jaffe offers a plausible explanation:
In Afghanistan, much of the fighting takes place in remote areas – and, in fact, all three of the living Medal of Honor recipients from the Afghan war have received the citation for action in mountainous regions along the border with Pakistan.
In some of those regions, the tough terrain makes it easier for the enemy to mass on U.S. forces, and the vast distances make it harder for attack helicopters to get into place. Intense firefights can stretch on for 45 minutes to an hour before helicopter support can arrive.
The result is that U.S. troops in Afghanistan have seen more situations in which small groups of personnel have found themselves caught in harrowing battles – without air support – and have been forced to make life-and-death decisions. In some of those battles, the troops who have exhibited such heroism have come out alive.
But all combat is small scale for the individuals involved in it. Heroism and intrepidity does not diminish from squad size contact to brigade or battalion AORs. An army division is made up of individual soldiers, many of whom fought, some of whom fought heroically. But to be awarded an MoH in Iraq, you had to die. And you mostly had to roll on a grenade.
An alternate explanation is that Afghanistan has been pitched by the media and Iraq war opponents as “the good war,” the war on the country from whence the 9/11 attacks originated. Iraq, on the other hand, was “Bush’s Illegal War for Oil and Halliburton.”
For those who fought there, heroically or dutifully, it was simply war.