Christopher G. Ingram is an infantryman and veteran of Afghanistan. Prior to joining the Army, he taught international conflict at Louisiana State University and worked as a political consultant in local, statewide, and congressional campaigns. He previously worked on Capitol Hill as a foreign policy staffer in both the House and Senate and has a master's degree in International Affairs from American University. He currently resides at Fort Benning, Georgia, with his wife and their two miniature versions of themselves. He has been featured in Small Wars Journal and the Journal of Politics.
If you fear spiders, your reaction to a spider in your house may not be proportionate to the threat. While you may be tempted to burn the house down to kill a spider, the majority of spiders are not venomous to humans. Fear can paralyze your ability to react appropriately.
If war drives innovation, institutions smother it. Over the last decade, battlefield ideas and the urgency of persistent threats have led to improvements in armor, equipment, and weaponry, but a personnel system that predates the conflict continues to promote risk aversion and treat individuals as interchangeable pieces. This system frustrates many within and outside of the military. As a future leader, perhaps you’ve considered taking your talents elsewhere, but you believe in the mission of military service and want to take advantage of your talents within, instead of outside, this system.
If “support for the troops” or “honoring our veterans” was enough to get elected, the halls of Congress would be crawling with vets in 5.11 pants. However, what we are witnessing after 13 years of conflict is a “dramatically diminishing number of veterans in Congress.” There are several reasons for this decline, and it is unlikely we will return to a time when most members of Congress have a military background. For every example of a successful veteran election campaign, there are several more that floundered in the polls. In 2006, the Democratic Party put forward 55 veteran candidates to challenge incumbents. Only four won and only one is still in Congress. If you thought war was ugly, remember that it’s just an extension of politics by other means.