Over the last decade and a half, American service members have steadily deployed to multiple combat zones in support of the Global War on Terror. As they return, many find it difficult to transition from a high operational tempo to the monotony of civilian life. But in 2017, it would seem the issues service members face are not at all one sided. As troops come home and struggle to find their place in society, their civilian counterparts also struggle to determine how they will make room for them. This is the premise of Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military, one of the latest contributions from the Hoover Institution.
While the book is not necessarily reserved for an academic audience, it’s likely to put a reader to sleep, especially if they were anticipating a series of quotes from General Mattis. With that being said, if the concept of a divide between the military and civilian population intrigues you, there is no better place to access exclusive research than this book. Especially considering most research for similar studies were conducted pre 9/11.
The editors carefully picked the contributors, who thoughtfully researched and composed each chapter. With an even mix of civilian and military backgrounds, it’s impossible to determine bias but also easy to see that their individual backgrounds offer a wealth of life experience.
The book itself reads like a research paper, in that Mattis and Schake establish the
methodology in the beginning, while each section covers a certain aspect and is accompanied by charts and citations.
If you were looking for a introspective, spiritual DIY manual on how to transition from military to civilian life, I would personally recommend On Assimilation, by Leo Jenkins. His narrative is a cautionary tale about a soldier’s difficult reintegration into society but Warriors & Citizens is not. It is an academic study, relying heavily on social research.
Warriors & Citizens presents a comprehensive analysis of civilian oversight, stereotypes, proximity, and millennials. I would be remiss to say this book’s only offering is a rundown of how and why relations between civilians and our military are lacking. The book also includes constructive criticism, complete with a conclusion by its editors with suggestions for solutions in improving these conditions.
If I am being honest, when I first received the book I skimmed its chapters and the page I happened to flip included the suggestion that service members are coached by the VA to “maximize their benefits,” such as education assistance but also in terms of disability. Based on my experience, I would argue that instructors for the Army’s transition program did more of this than the VA, who made it incredibly difficult to even get my tuition paid on time every single semester for 3 years straight. Mattis and Schake argue that this contributes to the victimization of the veteran and the entitlement of our generation. “Post Traumatic Strength,” one of the subsections of the final chapters, states that
“Removing veterans from the workforce further isolates them from broader society, whether we do so by classifying them as disabled, paying them for disabilities that are questionable, or removing the work incentive that characterized previous generations of veterans returning from war.”
So what does this mean? The issues within Warriors & Citizens place a fairly equal amount of blame on the warrior as well as the citizen in the most respectable manner. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on for any of these issues, if you grab this book with an open mind then you are sure to get something out of it.
With the tone set by this book and his recent appointment to the position of Secretary of Defense, it will be interesting to see how Mattis and his team will tackle some of these issues. We wish General Mattis the best of luck as he sinks his teeth into the current state of global threats requiring his attention.