The Dark Side of “Comprehensive Soldier Fitness”

Roy Eidelson, Marc Pilisuk and Stephen Soldz

Why is the world's largest organization of psychologists so aggressively promoting a new, massive, and untested military program? The APA's enthusiasm for mandatory "resilience training" for all US soldiers is troubling on many counts.

The January 2011 issue of the American Psychologist, the American Psychological Association's (APA) flagship journal, is devoted entirely to 13 articles that detail and celebrate the virtues of a new US Army-APA collaboration. Built around positive psychology and with key contributions from former APA President Martin Seligman and his colleagues, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million resilience training initiative designed to reduce and prevent the adverse psychological consequences of combat for our soldiers and veterans. While these are undoubtedly worthy aspirations, the special issue is nevertheless troubling in several important respects: the authors of the articles, all of whom are involved in the CSF program, offer very little discussion of conceptual and ethical considerations; the special issue does not provide a forum for any independent critical or cautionary voices whatsoever; and through this format, the APA itself has adopted a jingoistic cheerleading stance toward a research project about which many crucial questions should be posed. We discuss these and related concerns below.

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Nuclear Power: A Psychological Perspective

Marc Pilisuk and Gianina Pellegrini

Note: A print version of this essay will be available in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of the Peace Psychology Newsletter of APA’s Division 48.

With the danger of global warming quite great and the demands for energy use increasing, new arguments in favor of the development of nuclear energy are being heard. Claims are made that despite some notable accidents, nuclear power is typically safe, provides a major source of energy without producing greenhouse gases, and has been effectively used in France and Japan. The transportation and storage of nuclear wastes, while not resolved in the US is viewed as a problem with a technological solution. But psychologists are particularly aware of the use of fear and crisis, or shock, as an excuse to implement solutions without full appreciation of the consequences.

Some progressive environmentalists like Stuart Brand and some environmental scientists like James Hanson are advocating increased use of nuclear power, particularly for the development of “4th generation” thorium reactors, which are claimed to be significantly safer, more efficient and producing much less waste than the reactors now in use. The claim is that 4th generation reactors completely burn the uranium and can also burn the long-lived nuclear waste, which would “solve the nuclear waste problem.” Support by Bill Gates has helped to popularize this view. The Obama administration also seems willing to move in this direction.

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Afghanistan: Women Dying and Torture Run Amuck

Jeffrey Kaye

Two reports coming out of Afghanistan illustrate the depth of hypocrisy and subterfuge characterizing the US/NATO intervention in that country. One could cite a myriad of such examples, so immoral and wrong is the US war there.

In the first report, a 2009 human rights assessment prepared by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department, obtained by The Canadian Press and reported at CBC News, revealed a skyrocketing suicide rate among Afghan women:

"Self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances and women constitute the majority of Afghan suicides," said the report, completed in November 2009….

The director of a burn unit at a hospital in the relatively peaceful province of Herat reported that in 2008 more than 80 women attempted suicide by setting themselves on fire, many of them in the early 20s.

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What If The People Of Afghanistan Could Choose?

Cliff Kindy & Neil Wollman

After an intense review, President Obama recently ordered about thirty thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The question is, should this decision have been made by the U.S. government? The goals for the United States are to prevent an Al Qaida threat in the homeland and to stabilize the Afghan situation, allowing for some level of central government control and a face-saving withdrawal. But who else could or should have weighed in on this decision, and what are their motivations?

The Afghan government realizes that any downsizing of the U.S. presence could threaten its hold on political power. President Karzai recently stated that he expects the U.S. military presence to continue until 2024. The U.S. public is split, mainly along party lines, between those who want an early withdrawal of troops to prevent a quagmire, and those who support the U.S. military presence and fear that withdrawal would squander the investment already made.

The missing voice among these acknowledged players is that of the Afghan public. No country can impose on another a decision that country cannot abide. History is filled with attempts by strong powers to force actions upon weaker ones. This has worked sometimes in the short run, but usually crashes in the long term. The power of democracy is its dependence upon the will of the people who are impacted by a decision.

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Global Security Issues in 2010

Marc Pilisuk

Protest now seems to be divided among many issues and hampered by disillusionment with the insufficient capacity of the Obama presidency to produce change that limits the transnational corporate agenda and by a fatalism about whether the cycle of escalating military responses to provocations by Middle East extremists can ever be stopped.

As I try to understand this, the administration response to the unsuccessful suicide bomber is instructive. Extended wars involving military occupations against dissenting groups in their own country are not popular. Each new one needs a media-assisted depiction of a fearsome and demonized enemy. Given that Vietnam and Iraq are still relatively fresh examples of disastrous military actions and the rather low credibility of governments promoting military escalations, symbols of evil terrorists are needed to lull popular opposition, just as high unemployment is needed to recruit soldiers for escalating the war in Afghanistan.

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PsySR Statement Opposing U.S. Military Escalation in Afghanistan

psysrbanner2In response to President Obama’s early December announcement, PsySR has issued the following statement opposing the proposed U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan. Highlighting key psychological and human rights considerations, we instead call for a heightened focus on development and diplomacy.

In Afghanistan, Escalate Development and Diplomacy, Not War

In a national address on December 1st, 2009, President Barack Obama detailed his strategy to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and to thereby escalate the war.

As an organization committed to the application of psychological knowledge and expertise in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) received this news with great concern. While acknowledging the President’s careful thought and deliberation, we believe that his decision is ill-advised and counter-productive because it fails to adequately recognize the following key considerations:

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Fort Hood: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

Bryant Welch

The Army knew that Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan was shouting political and religious harangues to patients during his therapy sessions at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

When that happens in a psychiatric setting, it is time to radio Houston that we have a problem.

Instead of admitting the serious break down in Army quality control, each day the Army provides a new explanation of why blame for the Fort Hood shootings should be laid at the feet of Muslim terrorists and not the US military.

This problem the military has in confronting psychiatric problems is longstanding.

Unless there is a dramatic change in the military’s use of mental health expertise there will be more Fort Hoods as our troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious psychiatric disorders.

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