The Iliad as a guide to the precipitating factors for PTSD: death of your best friend, a sense of betrayal by higher-ups, instability. Alas, not at all out-of-date.
Some reading notes:
Shay’s list of “factors pre-disposing to combat PTSD” (written in 1995, remember) reads like a checklist for the Iraq war. In particular, you’ve got “can’t tell the civilians from the enemy”, “no set battlefield”, “disconnect from REMFs*”, and “unclear or impossible objectives”.
One element that Shay thinks increased PTSD for Vietnam vets was that soldiers were rotated in and out as individuals, not as whole units. I assume this was to reduce the overall casualty rate — in traditional armies, “green” units have shockingly high casualties. But one consequence to radically reduce unit cohesion for Vietnam vets.
Shay also strongly argues for the necessity of grieving ceremonies for active service personnel, ways for the group to acknowledge that someone has died and that it’s important.
He talks about berserker behavior, how it’s a form of traumatic stress response, and how it is dangerously admired and even encouraged by some forces (units, officers).
*Rear-Echelon Mother F*ckers. Shay argues persuasively that the Greek gods of the Iliad correspond to the REMFs, politicians, and star officers of modern warfare: distant, inscrutable, and arbitrary.
actual post date: 11/12/09.