From tasteless photos to urinating on dead insurgents, bad behavior by U.S. troops in Afghanistan has hampered America's war effort over the past year, triggering a broad new campaign by defense leaders to improve discipline in the ranks.
It takes leadership to keep troops focused on not reacting badly to the brutal reality of war that they live in.
Sadly, one element of leadership that our military leaders can't address is leadership at the top. When their commander-in-chief won't provide a context for their sacrifice, doesn't seem to think victory (however it is defined) is important, and just appears to want to get past this election without losing, it is hard to maintain focus and accept that your death (or the death of your comrades) is for a greater good. When it becomes just a matter of who survives to go home, it is easy to become brutalized and be brutal--and have no awareness that what you are doing is even wrong.
By all means, address the issue with the lieutenants, captains, platoon sergeants, and first sergeants. But that can only go so far. Whatever faults you want to put on George W. Bush's shoulders, nobody in the military doubted he valued their sacrifice and wanted to win the wars they fought in. Hope and change doesn't translate well into the daily lives of those in Regional Command East who still fight brutal enemies.