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by Lindsey Rowland

This is a generation, he says, that is difficult to define and was not expected to do very well on the battlefields of war. The Millennials are stereotyped, he writes, as “spoiled off-spring of guilt-ridden baby-boomer parents who plied them with toys but never told them who they really were. They were raised on the Internet and in malls and gave way to social declines like Columbine.” They were labeled “Generation Kill” by Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, who was there when Marines took over Baghdad. Film-maker Michael Moore painted the Millennials as heavy metal fans who invaded Iraq to the sounds of the “Drowning Pools” song, ‘‘Let the Bodies Hit the Floor’’ or ‘‘The Roof is on Fire.’’

Mansfield argues that the stereotypes about this generation are wrong. The Millennials prove it again and again. Mansfield tells the story of today’s soldier from the battlefields of Iraq. He explains that today’s soldier is knowledgeable about why he fights and who he fights for. Today’s soldier is equipped with high-tech gear that makes him more effective than ever before. And today’s soldier is seeking a religious basis for why he fights. Mansfield’s words are descriptive as he depicts the American soldier in his realm, “From time to time, the soldier runs his palms over the short, blond hair that covers his scalp, as though driving his tears to the back of his skull.”

Mansfield book is not all stars and stripes as he goes into his second point: the problems with today’s policy of separating religion and war. The book talks about President Bush’s prayer in the Oval office each morning, compared to a military that has no religious base. Because the U.S. has no official religion it is hard for there to be a religious-based military.

Military chaplains are restricted from going into any real religious depth with soldiers, who come to them in times of death and killing. The American soldier can be as religious as he wants to in his personal time, but separation of church and state forbids him from expressing his religious reasons for fighting a war. Yet the soldier wages war with an enemy that fights mainly on religious grounds. Mansfield does a good job of bringing this disparity to light.

Mansfield explains the “Just War Concept” created by Augustine in the fourth century and continued with Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. In the classic The City of God, Aquinas identifies two questions that a moral person must ask before going to war. “When is it permissible to wage war?” and “What are the limitations on the ways we wage war?” Mansfield says that soldiers must have faith that their leaders will not wage war without just reason. A war in defense against an active aggressor was easily justifies. No ones questions the United States actions after Pearl Harbor, nor the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

But the Bush administration decided to go to war with Iraq they replaced this concept theory with the “Bush Doctrine” to justify the invasion of Iraq. This came as a blow, because President Bush is an evangelical Christian and his administration is more faith-based than any administration since Carter. The decision was based more on the idea that those who support terrorism and allow it within their borders must also pay the price, but this blurs the lines and boundaries of war. War is about killing combatants, but with such a wide battlefield, who are the legitimate targets?

Mansfield believes we are doing our soldiers’ an injustice by not giving them a religious base to fight from. “Soldiers must know, in clear terms, not only why they fight but also if their cause is just, moral, righteous, even holy.” The soldiers he believes have been given no moral or spiritual framework and now they face death in Iraq and deserve something better.

The Faith of the American Soldier is written with high regard for the individual soldier and what he does, correcting the original stereotype of the Millennials. But at the same time taking a constructive look at what America fails to equip its fighting force with, denying them the moral, spiritual tools they need.

Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.

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