Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No one gets left behind


Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin's mother took a call from President Bush tonight extending his condolences after the Army identified the missing soldier's remains in Iraq.

Bush has met several times with the Maupins during the past four years and pledged to them that everything would be done to find out what had happened to their son after he was captured by insurgents on April 9, 2004.

Carolyn Maupin took the President's call on a cell phone at 9:45 p.m. behind the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Batavia.

Carolyn Maupin's friend, June Izzi Bailey, said she was told the White House had just found out about the DNA match and called the family as quickly as possible.

Maupin's parents were notified earlier Sunday when a three-star general visited them and gave them the news, they said.

"Matt is coming home. He's completed his mission," his father, Keith Maupin, said.

Worth taking a moment to mention these folks, who are doing good work. Contrast that with this little discussion (h/t: In From the Cold):
On Wed., Mar. 6, Operation Anaconda hit a snag. A United States Navy Seal fell out of his helicopter over the Afghan mountains and was quickly dragged away by enemy forces. Risking their lives to save the body of their comrade, soldiers pursued the enemy fighters, eventually retrieving the body after a 12-hour chase. The victory, however, did not come without losses. By day's end, six American soldiers had been killed and 12 had been wounded.


"It never crossed any-body's mind [to debate the policy]. You're an eternal optimist. Even if there's one guy you can take back, then it's worth it to take back one," Golson said. "It's a code of ethics, a way of life. It's part of the culture of being in the military, that you are a cohesive unit. And you don't leave anyone behind."

Most professors, however, disagree with Golson's honor-based ethics, in which a body's recovery has value in and of itself, not simply because other individuals, such as family members, value its recovery.

"We care about objects we have histories with," Philosophy Professor Shelly Kagan explained. "Obviously you've been through a lot with your body. Even when the thing is broken, it still has some kind of emotional importance and value."

Adopting an essentially utilitarian position, Kagan pointed out that "in our culture there is some importance given to the possession of the body of a loved one." And insofar as the return of the body is important, to loved ones or others, the body should be rescued provided there is no risk to life. But if soldiers may be harmed in a recovery operation, Kagan advocates weighing the risk to the soldiers against the importance of recovering the body.

It goes on in that fashion for several paragraphs. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a better example of Ivory Tower syndrome. It's not that their logic is particularly flawed. They just don't "get it." It's not something that is questioned, it's not a matter of no one gets left behind, but only if we have to expend another 2 lives, or only if we can keep the expenses under $500,000. It goes without thinking and without saying.

No one gets left behind.