After 2 weeks of this I believe that I can draw a few conclusions:
1. The soldiers, doctors and staff are extremely loyal, brave and hardworking. They seem to have incredibly high level of morale despite the sometimes dysfunctional military medical system and the endless procession of badly injured young men and women.
2. These military professionals will do whatever their commanders tell them to do. They might not agree or like it, but they will do it wholeheartedly.
3. The Commander in Chief, President Obama, has the ultimate responsibility for the decisions which place these soldiers in harm's way. The officers whom I have spoken with (admittedly a small sample) generally like his approach to our current international problems, and understand the complexities of the situations. They are capable of having an informed, rational, and unemotional conversation about controversial issues without resorting to name calling or hysterics.
4. We have an all-volunteer military. For many of us, it is easy to tell somebody else to take risks when we are shielded from the immediate consequences of our decisions.
5. If military personnel are disciplined enough to rationally discuss issues that directly bear on their risk of death or serious permanent injury, why can't the rest of America do the same?
6. By all accounts (including Chris's and my direct observation during our work in Pakistan in 1988), Afghanistan is a hellhole. I believe that sending more troops will only increase the work in medical facilities downrange and at Landstuhl, without fundamentally changing the situation in the region.
Since I got that off my chest, the autobahn becons and I'll lighten up by driving to Munich this evening with a group of medical residents from here. The weather is supposed to be perfect, but it probably doesn't matter. Pics to follow...