Contributing factor or smoking gun?
Spectators will try to make this scandal about many things: the arrogance of powerful men; conniving mistresses; the silent epidemic of sexual assault in the armed services. But these explanations obscure an underlying problem: the devastating influence of an open-ended war — now in its 11th year — on the families of U.S. service members.
As much as I'd like to blame the war in Afghanistan for this (and other) recent failures by our military's top brass to behave properly, I simply can't. Not only would it be an insult to those who have endured multiple deployments and still remained true to their spouses, it would also be excusing behavior which is inexcusable. In peacetime, that would be wrong. Now it can cost lives.
Make no mistake, I am not a prude. For the most part, I view sex as an integral component of a normal, healthy existence. Our society has attached some unhealthy attributes to it, by simultaneously promoting it and restricting it. I suppose there are some benefits in that contradiction if you're heavily invested in pharmaceuticals. But the rest of us, not so much.
But we're not talking about average, run-of-the-mill folks, whose choices affect their immediate family and friends. We're talking about (for the most part) men who put soldiers and civilians into harm's way, very often on a daily basis. There's no room for mistakes, or distractions, or a guilty conscience, or any of the other common attributes of an extra-marital affair. And there's no room for sympathy when a leader chooses to go down that road.
Here's what's at stake:
A Rocky Mount native died Tuesday in an explosion while deployed with the U.S. Army to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Rayvon Battle Jr., 25, was assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Battle, a Northern Nash High School graduate, joined the military in 2005.
Battle deployed to Iraq in 2007 and again in 2009. He had only been in Afghanistan for about three weeks when the incident occurred, which military officials said is under investigation.
I hesitate to speculate, but since SSG Battle was an engineer, it's likely he gave his life attempting to disarm an IED. In other words, he gave his life to protect the lives of his fellow soldiers. In light of that, I don't think it's too much to ask the men who decided to send him down that road to keep their goddamned fly zipped.