MADDOW: Sebastian, let me follow-up with you on that. You have said that you donâ€˜t think society understands war very well. Obviously, you have a book out now called â€œWarâ€ thatâ€˜s based on your time with these soldiers as well.
You said, â€œIf society is going to solve the human problem of war, they have to figure out what it is about combat that attracts young men so much that theyâ€˜re willing to risk their lives to go back out there to get it.â€
After spending all of those months with second platoon out in the Korengal Valley, do you feel like youâ€˜re any closer to figuring that out?
In the terms of my acting class, Rachel is asking for the underlying objective of the soldiers, the Stanislavsky 2.0 version of the old concept of “motivation”. She wants to know what it is that they need so badly that they will volunteer for multiple dangerous tours of duty in the treacherous terrain of war-torn Afghandistan.
Junger’s answer is good:
JUNGER: You know, I think I am. We were at a very remote outpost on this hilltop that we were getting attacked three or four times a day sometimes. The guys – you know, when they come back, they often – they want to back – when they come back to society, how can they want to return to that hilltop into combat?
Society thinks – often, people think that itâ€˜s a question of adrenaline – an adrenaline addiction. I think what theyâ€˜re really addicted to essentially is brotherhood, an otherwise very healthy impulse that is taking place in a very unhealthy place.
And I think if society understands that, they wonâ€˜t – it wonâ€˜t be pathologized(ph) so much and be understood on its own terms. And maybe society can provide that sense of inclusion and brotherhood here rather than in combat.
Got that? Brotherhood. Not adventure. Not patriotism. Not money. The soldiers are seeking a particular kind of connection or belonging with other soldiers, that they apparently see as most obtainable on the front lines of war. In the class, we are constantly in the process of peeling back the layers of the more superficial accounts of human motivation to get to a particular, immediate expression of the human need to form meaningful and lasting ties to others.