Marylanders Ponder the War's Effects, Lessons WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991

In an article that appeared Sunday in a special section on the Persian Gulf war, the authors of a book titled "The Trauma of War: Stress and Recovery in Vietnam Veterans" were inadvertently left out of a credit line. The authors are Stephen M. Sonnenberg, Arthur S. Blank Jr. and John A. Talbott.

The war was short, but its effects will be lasting. What have we become? How has the war changed our perceptions of ourselves? The Sun sought answers from a variety of Marylanders. Here are some of their views:


Chairman and professor of psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine. He served as a psychiatrist in Vietnam and is author of "The Trauma of War: Stress and Recovery in Vietnam Veterans":


"We've really made a statement that, once again, we "can do." That seemingly difficult things . . . are doable. Things such as the Middle East situation and naked aggression and the world's fourth largest army do not necessarily mean we have to sit and let events take their course, that we can positively affect them.

"And the other statement is that we can be successful. . . . We've corrected the Vietnam experience. I don't think it's just Vietnam. I think it's the whole sense of losing our economic power, losing our first position diplomatically, losing the sort of leadership role, and that's reflected in everything from car sales to language dominance. It's been a tremendous shot in the arm and not just corrected the Vietnam experience, but corrected a lot of these things that people have been feeling for a while, that sort of we're on our way to becoming a second rate nation syndrome.

". . . There is a plus and a minus, an up and a down side to what's happened. . . . On the one hand I think it has the ability to challenge, but also the ability to also perhaps question how we are using our resources, and whether we are applying ourselves the way we should be applying ourselves. I think that can play out with either increased optimism or some degree of pessimism."


Doctor of psychology and rabbi

of the Congregation Shomrei

Emunah, Greenspring Avenue

"What this particular war has done is, it has brought into focus that there is such a thing as evil. Evil is no longer this complex, subtle, ambiguous, paradoxical kind of thing. Evil is just pure evil. And with the eradication of evil is a new appreciation of opportunities for good. It gives you a chance to rededicate yourself to good.

". . . What I sense is people looking for direction: OK. What do we do with this now? Where do we go from here? You know, just to celebrate and wave flags, that's not spiritually satisfying. But what kind of programs can we begin to initiate now that evil is out of the way to get on with some things that are really good.

". . . A spiritual leader can't let this opportunity go by. If the end is a really solid peace, it could lead us to a renegotiation of interpersonal relationships, a reappreciation of real values, a modeling after the fact that this coalition brought together a lot of very different, very strange bedfellows who were able to work together cooperatively. There's such a powerful lesson there. . . .

"I don't think there are many people who are going to come away from this war with the kind of guilt that characterized almost all of us during and after the Vietnam War -- because this war can be seen in moral terms. And it's not just self-righteousness. It's a sense that we did what was right, and that's empowering. That's enabling."


Author and part-time resident

of St. Michael's

I think that America winds up in the position that Great Britain was in 150 years ago. In those days, when there was trouble Great Britain would send a fleet, a small fleet, into the troubled area and lay offshore and bombard the local settlement if it did not come to order. We've inherited that position now. And we run into a lot of potential danger just the way Britain did.

". . . I foresee a great danger in that we will feel we can do anything we want to do. We've had three easy victories: Grenada, Panama and now Kuwait. . . . I think it has been a tonic, but tonics have the aftereffect of being very heady and tempting one into stupid behavior. . . . It feeds euphoria. That is a very dangerous tonic. People like me ought to be sounding the warning tocsins, whether it's popular to do so or not. . . .

"The trouble with euphoria is that it leads to hubris. You thin you're cock of the walk. You think you're powerful. You think you're home safe. And that's the very moment that you start your decline. . . . Now we have to turn our attention to the internal agenda. I do think that the internal agenda is much more difficult, much less charismatic. But that's where the strength of the nation lies."

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