For an excellent brief essay on “How We Learned to Kill”, I invite you to read the article here. The author is Timothy Kudo, a Marine and graduate student at New York University. He writes about being a young lieutenant who gave orders to kill from afar while in Iraq and Afghanistan to young soldiers who were in the field. A soldier’s “ability to kill” is tempered in part, by “the distance from the victim and the target”, he writes. I have often thought that was the case; the farther you are away from the actual killing process, the easier it is to morally justify your actions. He also mentions that it is always easy to say that you are just following orders; snipers, who sometimes shoot innocent targets, including children and women, must be able to somehow cope with these disturbing mental stressors by maintaining a “them or us” thought process. Kudo analogizes the first kill to teenagers gauging the right time and moment to lose their virginity- once the act is done, the “mystique” is gone and killing (and presumably sex) becomes easier. He says there will be a day of moral reckoning when the war ends and the soldiers “emerge from the slumber of automated killing”. He is right, and I wonder if the generals and politicians could personally handle up close killings, or maybe they can only order the acts from a great distance.