Editor's Note: Juliette Kayyem is a former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government and a foreign policy columnist for the Boston Globe. She tweets @JulietteKayyem.
By Juliette Kayyem – Special to CNN
This last week, policymakers and presidential candidates debated the wisdom of President Obama's decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of this year. By this weekend, the Pentagon's buildup of resources in the Gulf - a "just in case" strategy - suggested that abandonment (the term used by Obama's critics) was not the right way to describe our efforts.
Whatever the contours of the continuing wars, the real battles still loom in the military. And it isn't just about the budget and what the debt ceiling commission will do in the next few days. The real battle is over military and veteran suicides. To put this in perspective: Based on the years between 2005 and 2010, service members take their lives at a rate of one every 36 hours; the Veterans Administration now estimates that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.
What to do about it is essential, and the Center for a New American Security is at the forefront of providing recommendations about two distinct issues: servicemember suicide and veteran suicide. Understanding the difference is essential, because the solutions will differ according to the needs. In their report by Dr. Megan Harrell and Nancy Berglass entitled "Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide", address the increasing suicide problem and provide very manageable recommendations, including keeping units together after deployment to limit feelings of isolation.
The report will be issued tomorrow at an event I will be moderating I had an opportunity to read it and here's my take: Fixing the suicide problem isn't just about the wars today, but about the wars
tomorrow. Heartstrings aside, if service in an all-volunteer army comes to be associated with depression and misery, then solving the problem is as crucial for the next war as the ones now winding down.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation,’’ George Washington said. We can debate how these wars are ending, but the battles are simply not over. Our security can not afford to turn the page just yet.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Juliette Kayyem.