So I have all this research gathered and read, notes taken, and my dissertation committee setup, and now I've got to finish the actual dissertation so I can finally graduate and fling myself out onto the job market with all the other people whose life choices have led them to a point that we have to scrabble for a shrinking number of tenure track jobs.
The problem is figuring out exactly what it is I'm doing here because at this point, the evidence I've collected is really not what I had expected to have at this point based on my initial work looking at war crimes in Vietnam. I suspect that part of the reason I'm facing this issue is that my sources have changed. In my earlier work, I focused on memoirs, published collections of letters, and interviews, which provided some very personal, emotional opinions about atrocities that soldiers had witnessed. If I had stuck with that approach, I likely would have continued to get that type of evidence. Instead, I've been focusing on official investigations, unit records, and courts-martial, along with oral history interviews as my sources, which produces a whole different type of evidence. That presents a bit of a conundrum - what do I do with all of this stuff?
What I don't have is easily categorizable responses that my earlier materials presented - objections by some soldiers that war crimes weren't "American", that they were morally wrong, or that they were counter-productive. Instead, the evidence is a hot mess. The most obvious way to categorize things at this point seems to be to sort the events into categories based on how they were reported, and then analyze how the witnesses reacted to the allegations of war crimes in the incident, and how they viewed soldiers that made the allegations. That's a really different type of dissertation than I set out to write, but it presents a way forward that gets it done (the key thing) in a time frame that lets me defend next spring and graduate. I'm out of time to do any additional research at this point, so there's no going back to the letters, memoirs, and interviews. This potential approach does let me clearly tie My Lai into my analysis, something I've been trying to avoid, but when I comes to the issue of atrocities, it seems that you just can't avoid that particular elephant in the room.