Elizabeth D. Samet teaches English at West Point, where future Army officers learn how not to lose. There, as in any U.S. military setting, everything can be won—and should be won—unequivocally, whether it’s a sports match, an exam, or a war. But what happens when, as Samet writes in our Winter 2022 cover story, “The ambiguities of life are confused with the clarity of sport?” What are the stakes when the ambiguities of war are disguised by the very institutions sending young people to fight, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, on time scales that can be measured in decades? Samet, the author of the recently published book Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness, joins us to discuss the hazards of never owning loss.
The opinions expressed here are Samet’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.
Go beyond the episode:
- Elizabeth D. Samet’s Winter 2022 cover story, “The Art of Losing”
- Read her new book, Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness
- Her past writing for The American Scholar expands on the meaning of Civil War monuments, the scourge of military sexual assault and the masculine code, and the long history behind the Army’s Jim Crow forts
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