Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Heroism in Iraq ... Via Andrew Sullivan, the Army Times had a great story a few days back on Pfc Stephen Tschiderer.

The short version: on June 2 Tschiderer, a medic, was shot in the chest by a sniper while patroling Baghdad. Presumably Tschiderer was wearing a vest, because he then "popped right back up, took cover and located the enemy’s position." Once the sniper had been secured, Tschiderer then treated the sniper's own wounds.

Clearly, Tschiderer's actions here stand on their own regardless of context. At a minimum, he acted in a remarkably professional manner; at most, his actions were merciful and heroic.

That said, I also can't help noticing the way context informs our understanding of what heroism is. For instance, in the second world war, when our enemy was just as capable as we were -- and when the outcome was very much in doubt -- our celebrations of heroism often involved surpassing bravery or lethality. Watch any of the specials on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, or Iwo Jima, and you'll see what I mean. Yet in Iraq, where we are clearly stronger than our enemy, the heroism we celebrate often centers -- as with Tschiderer -- on magnanimity.

I don't say that to implicate one of the two as being better than the other. I just find it a curious difference worth pointing out.


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