Psychology and the Prevention of War Trauma: An Article Rejected by American Psychologist
by Marc Pilisuk and Ines-Lena Mahr ▻http://www.projectcensored.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Psych-Prevention-of-War-Trauma-Revised.pdf
There is more than one #narrative that guides the services provided by psychology to the military and its soldiers. The dominant narrative is that wars happen and that a peaceful but powerful nation such as the United States responds to the aggression of other nations or groups using military force when diplomacy or other efforts at persuasion are not successful. This view presumes decisions to engage in war emanate from decisions by democratically elected officeholders to protect us. War requires a great mobilization of technology, supplies and soldiers. Soldiers are recruited for such patriotic service and undergo serious physical and mental challenges, some continuing long after the time of service. Within this framework the sacrifices are justified and the building of psychological resilience for soldiers—as described in an entire issue of the #American_Psychologist dedicated to #Comprehensive_Fitness_Training makes perfect sense. “The program’s overall goal is to increase the number of soldiers who grow through their combat experience and return home without serious mental health problems” according to Michael Matthews, a professor with the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
There is however another narrative that casts the contributions and responsibilities of psychology to the military in a different light. In this perspective violent eruptions occur because some people are deprived or displaced and see no non-violent options to improve the quality of their lives. They see control over the resources needed to make their lives better as increasingly centered among a relatively small group of brokers of concentrated power and wealth. It is the decisions of this elite group, according to this second narrative, that necessitate violence and suggest a common root underlying war, poverty and environmental destruction. Resource depletion now causes or intensifies most overt conflicts, and serious global malnutrition affects 925 million people. Such structural violence is neither accidental nor inevitable. Rather it is, in this narrative, a natural consequence of a system inordinately influenced by a small, interconnected network of corporate, military, and government leaders with the power to instill fear, to increase their excessive fortunes, and to restrict information, particularly about their own clandestine dealings. With the predictable benefits of violence going to a small set of corporate and government officials, the recruitment and motivation of soldiers, and of the public, requires a measure of concealment or deception as to who will pay what costs and who will receive what benefits. In this view the sacrifices required from soldiers not only go well beyond what resilience training may prevent, but are not justifiable in the first place. This second narrative calls psychologists to different tasks. They are to draw attention to voices that have been excluded, to clarify the deep psychological and social consequences of the dominant narrative, and to illustrate for people who have been adversely affected, the ways to resolve conflicts without recourse to killing.
The resilience training program flags a larger concern that the discipline of psychology needs to come to grips with the implications of its involvement in facilitating the psychological preparation for war.