Is there less courage on the battlefield today than during previous wars? If you only looked at the number of awards for valor presented to service members, you might get that impression. There’s been a noticeable decrease in valor citations issued during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with previous conflicts. There are plenty of reasons for this, but a lack of bravery isn’t one of them.

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Photo via Lyndon Baines Johnson Library

In recent comments, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described his take on current Republican presidential candidates’ grasp on national security concerns: “The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler. … People are out there making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable.”

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eric Chan

In his 1967 work “Inside Bureaucracy,” Anthony Downs gives the Law of Increasing Conserverism, which states, “In every bureau, there is an inherent pressure upon the vast majority of officials to become conservers in the long run… conservers tend to be biased against any change in the status quo.”

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Beck

As a civilian pursuing defense policy and the daughter of a fighter pilot, I see the divide between the military community and the civilian population growing ever wider. From my perspective, one of the biggest problems fueling the military-civilian divide is that most civilians are far removed from military service. The degree of separation for the average citizen means that the challenges facing a wartime military remain isolated, in contrast to previous conflicts where rations, taxation and the draft meant that conflict engaged the entire population in the war effort.

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Robert Gates, who ran the Department of Defense for both the Bush and Obama administrations is dropping a memoir, and according to early reviews, he holds little back about how the war in Afghanistan was managed.

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