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Document created: 1 March 2007
Air & Space Power Journal - Spring 2007
More than most or all other professions, the military demands serious moral thought from its practitioners. Doctors deal with life-and-death issues but generally with only one life at a time; you, the warrior-leader, may be concerned with decisions that could cost hundreds or thousands of lives at a single stroke. Lawyers are sometimes concerned with the protection of important economic assets; you, the warrior, must consider the conservation of America’s most precious assets—the lives of her sons and daughters. No other professionals must kill people in service of the state and at the same time risk their own lives. Individuals endlessly quote Gen Sir John Hackett as having said that bad people can be good doctors or lawyers, but “what the bad man cannot be is a good sailor, or soldier or airman.”1
How do you know how to be such a good person? If you have never met a bad one in the service, then you have not been in very long. They come in all ranks and jobs. Some of the sources of moral knowledge are obvious: you can learn it at your mother’s knee, in school, in church, or even from pals on the street. For openers, good warriors should have all the ethical virtues expected of their fellow citizens. They should not lie, cheat, steal, break promises, or fail to respect the lives of all other souls. But we demand more of these warriors than the common decency expected of all good citizens. From boot-camp days forward, they receive training in developing physical and moral courage, taking care of the people they lead, and knowing and following the laws of war in combat. Many people, including Sam Sarkesian, assert that the professional officer must also be a “gentleman.”2 It may sound quaint these days, but kindness, consideration for the weak, good manners and dress, and social graces cannot hurt.3
Ethics: A system of moral
A warrior can learn much of that from the various codes declaring a service’s core values, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the US Constitution, and all the associated laws and regulations flowing from it. We expect Airmen to obey all orders—lawful ones, that is—and they must know the difference between the lawful and the unlawful. Laws and codes, however, cannot predict every moral dilemma faced by warriors. The good ones will undoubtedly face dilemmas that require a decision between the lesser of two evils—and never more painfully than when choosing to disobey an illegal order.4 How can they be sure that the order-giver does not have facts unknown to the rest of the force or be sure that the leader does not have a better grasp of the law than the followers? No one is morally perfect; no one can know everything all the time. How can individuals work to make themselves as close to truly good people as possible?
They will never do it by reading alone. Education and training may have some effect. Philosophers vary in thinking that good instincts can have a genetic origin. Too, some are “absolutists,” condoning no compromise and believing that a set of universal principles or truths applies to all societies and cultures. Others are “relativists,” arguing that moral choices vary with the circumstances, that no universal truths exist, and that choices must vary with the situation one faces.5 Many are somewhere in between those extremes. Experience may assist you, but reading may also do a bit to help you anticipate some of the dilemmas you may face as an air leader as you progress in your career—and to think about problems in advance. In combat, time and emotions may prevent you from deliberating your actions in detail. Hopefully, a good person’s ethical baseline, previously formed with time to fully consider the options and consequences, will improve the odds of making urgent choices that are morally sound.
As with previous “Fodder” articles, I wish to help you build a professional reading program by reviewing a few important books related to professional ethics. I then propose a 12-book sampler that may help you select works to examine as a part of your own effort. The books reviewed include James H. Toner’s Morals under the Gun, Thomas E. Ricks’s Making the Corps, Vice Adm James Bond Stockdale’s Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot, Malham M. Wakin’s Integrity First, and Martin L. Cook’s The Moral Warrior.
Morals under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military Ethics, and American Society by James H. Toner. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000.
James Toner was brought up in a New England family of Irish descent. His ancestors migrated to the United States during Ireland’s famous potato famine in the middle of the nineteenth century and, like most immigrants, had a rough time during the first years. Dr. Toner, however, came along later, graduating from high school in the 1960s and proceeding all the way through graduate school, earning a doctorate. An Air War College professor for about a decade and a half, he recognizes that dilemmas exist and that no one is really free from sin, but he leans toward the absolutist side of the philosophical house. He describes another category slightly removed from that side as “universalists,” who do believe in a set of universal principles but who also recognize that sometimes the dilemmas require even a good person to choose the lesser of two evils. Sinners are not generally beyond redemption so long as they try to do good and improve. A Catholic, Toner does not hesitate to cite religious sources in his work, declaring that even for nonreligious moralists, many of their moral beliefs have their origins in religion. He makes clear, however, that military people must not proselytize among their colleagues and juniors, regardless of their own beliefs.
Toner thinks that the Air Force’s core values—integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do—are too general and, thus, of limited help.6 He offers up the four cardinal virtues—prudence, justice, courage, and temperance—as a better organizing theme for his book and our thought, devoting a chapter to each of them and keeping them prominent throughout the book. Toner begins by seeming to advocate the extreme relativist view as the way for military officers to go—an effective, attention-getting literary device. Full of crass self-service ideas and devoid of moral principles, it is sure to raise the hackles of most people.
After explaining himself at the beginning of chapter 2, he then goes on to explore a preference for universalist thinking, close to the absolutist end of things. Not as hard over on the idea as some thinkers, he does believe that a leader who is corrupt in his private life will sooner or later fail in his official life as well. I agree with him that all officers must be teachers and that, to remain effective, professors should also be moral people. However, he believes that advancement in the academic world does not demand good character as a prime requirement—and regrets that very much. In his mind, as in my own, the example set by both officer and professor is crucial to leading and teaching. Although he recognizes that the value systems of the military and the parent culture have grown further apart, that fact does not disturb him. He sees no threat to democracy there, feeling that the military can set a good example for the rest of us without usurping the role as society’s moral arbiter by pressing its values onto the general public.
Sarkesian and many others long ago recognized, though, that one cannot divorce the military value set from that of the society from which it springs. All militaries are necessarily the products of their societies, and since ours springs from an egalitarian and a democratic one, the military must acknowledge that in its core values and leadership practices.7 Prior to 1976, the military value system opposed the admission of women to service academies or combat jobs—undoubtedly by a wide margin. Painful as it was to some, the values of the parent society called for their admission. In fact, as with racial integration, the military also led society into the practice of gender equality—a fact worth pondering both within the service and without.
To some warrior-scholars, Morals under the Gun may seem more prolix than necessary, and some may grow weary of the degree to which the author builds his case with citations from a host of philosophical and religious authorities. Toner yields no ground to those who think that temperance might prove more difficult for some than for others because they have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and gluttony. Likewise, some may feel that bone structure alone can limit athleticism, making it harder for some to stay in shape than it is for Dr. Toner and others. Still, you might want to put this worthy book on your reading list—and save enough time to ponder its arguments.
Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks. New York: Scribner, 1997.
Thomas Ricks, a young reporter for the Wall Street Journal who deployed with the US Marine Corps to Somalia in 1992, is a splendid writer whose style you might want to emulate.8 He does not pull any punches, and he admires the Marine Corps and marines. Yet he knows that bad marines exist and has concerns that the culture of the Corps has moved further from the values of the parent society than have the cultures of the other services. Marines, he says, have a moral system that they consider much superior to that of America, and they are driven more than members of the other services by the need to serve. Their declared code—commitment, honor, courage, and expert knowledge—resembles that of the other services. Ricks believes that because of its small size and expeditionary nature, the Marine Corps has had to make fewer adjustments than the other services to deal with problems of the post–Cold War world.
I share his admiration of the Corps. However, he seems to fear that among the services the Marines are the most likely to forget about subordination of the military to civilians. I don’t agree. Also, he may have missed the point that the Marines, alone among the services, have a great part of their research and development as well as their logistical work done for them by the Navy and other services. Ricks knows that those very functions are the most civilian-like in the military; thus, the Corps may find it easier to approach warrior purity than the rest of us. I strongly recommend Making the Corps—a fine book and a good read—but Ricks leans toward the relativist side of things, worrying that the military value system has become too far removed from the parent culture’s liberal values. He agrees with Richard Kohn, among others, that this may become a threat to our democracy.9 I do not agree—and neither does Dr. Toner.
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot by James Bond Stockdale. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1995.
As a former AC-130 pilot in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, I already knew that the title Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot is not necessarily a contradiction in terms. It may make others wince, but some authors have noted that there is no such thing as a “military culture.” Rather many such cultures exist, each having much variety. Like Ricks, our brethren in the media have a tendency to stereotype the military in a way altogether inappropriate for practically all other groups. I knew of one impressive philosopher in the 388th’s F-4 Phantom squadron, and there probably were others. I did not know James Bond Stockdale, but I wish I had. By all reports, he came as close to being an officer and a gentleman—as well as an air warrior/scholar—as one could wish. Graduating from the Naval Academy with Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1946, he spent his professional life as a carrier fighter pilot, test pilot, and, finally, president of the Naval War College.10 He had a graduate degree from Stanford and won the Medal of Honor as a result of his leadership in the Hanoi Hilton prisoner of war (POW) camp in Vietnam. When Stockdale died in 2005, his funeral at the Naval Academy Chapel—a gripping ceremony indeed—was broadcast on C-SPAN.
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot anthologizes Admiral Stockdale’s speeches, articles, and interviews. Many of his thoughts have to do with life and state of mind in the prison camp—worthy reading for all Airmen. An honorable man and a great leader, he clearly believed in his profession, recognizing loyalty to his fellow prisoners and theirs to him as the paramount motivation necessary to survival. That insight resonates with literature on the theory of combat motivation—people fight because they do not want to let down their buddies, the other members of their own unit.11 Obviously, he also knew that resistance to their torturers was not a black-and-white situation—that circumstances at the Hanoi Hilton placed the Eisenhower years’ old code of giving only name, rank, and serial number beyond human capability. Furthermore, he believed in resisting until one suffered “significant pain” and believed in lying to the enemy. In a couple of places, he at least implies that the leadership of some of the most senior Air Force officers in the prison camp did not rise to the level of those from the Navy. Certainly, those of us who have not had the experience cannot make judgments on that point, but it does give some food for thought. However, his script for the video about Lance Sijan’s ordeal and the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor could not have been more reverent.
During Admiral Stockdale’s tenure at the Naval War College, his last tour on active duty, he created a stir by bringing in philosophical studies, including detailed reading on the ancients—apparently with good results. Although engaging, his book does involve a good bit of redundancy—fairly typical of anthologies. You might want to read another of his works instead: In Love and War: The Story of a Family’s Ordeal and Sacrifice during the Vietnam Years (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), coauthored with his wife, Sybil. In the end, perhaps you will agree that he was a highly principled man but not a hard-over absolutist.
Integrity First: Reflections of a Military Philosopher by Malham M. Wakin. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000.
Malham Wakin was already teaching at the Air Force Academy when I joined its faculty in 1963. A standout even then, he has speaking and writing skills worthy of emulation. As a collection of his speeches and articles, his book Integrity First, like Admiral Stockdale’s, suffers from some redundancies. Wakin undoubtedly considers his own discipline—philosophy—one of the primary elements that distinguishes a military-academy education from all other college programs. He probably leans more toward the absolutist side of things than does Ricks and even Stockdale. Initially trained as a navigator, he arrived at the academy as a first lieutenant and has spent most of the rest of his professional life there, aside from a short tour in Vietnam. He earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Notre Dame and his PhD from the University of Southern California.
In his survey of world philosophies, Wakin seems persuaded that the Western tradition arising from both the ancients and the Judeo-Christian religions is more progressive than most others. He argues that this tradition, though probably conducive to material progress and scientific advance, does not seem to yield the same tranquility of soul as do Eastern religions. Too, he does fear that some of the most extreme extensions of Western philosophies can lead to totalitarianism and injustice. Wakin remarks that his early efforts (and those of his colleagues) made the subject of philosophy too esoteric to have much meaning for undergraduates, many of whom were mainly interested in technology and flying.
Like many other authors, Wakin regrets the migration of the parent culture toward the relativist side of things. Unlike many of them, though, he does not think that the military culture should follow in that direction. As we noted above, Kohn and Ricks, among others, argue that the widening gap between the two is dangerous for American democracy in that it may portend the military’s departure from the ancient tradition of civilian control. Wakin does not seem to agree that such a danger really exists, persuaded that the military cannot do its job if its values only reflect those of the marketplace.12 He knows well that since ancient times people have often been motivated by self-service; however, he remains convinced that motivation involves more than that. Without one of the Air Force’s core values—service before self—at least in times of mortal danger, we would have ceased to exist long ago. We have too much real evidence on the point to think otherwise.
Finally, Wakin explicitly comments on one issue that evokes varying views from military moralists. Some hold that official morality and private morality are two different spheres—that one can be trustworthy in the former but otherwise in the latter. Wakin contradicts that notion by declaring that a leader should set the example in both areas. If your family cannot trust you, why should your copilot do so?13 Although I consider Integrity First a worthy read, you might find another of Wakin’s prominent works, War, Morality and the Military Profession, 2d ed., rev. and updated (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986), more useful since it offers a sense not only of his thinking but also that of several other authorities in the field.
The Moral Warrior: Ethics and Service in the U.S. Military by Martin L. Cook. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.
A civilian professor of philosophy at the Air Force Academy, Martin L. Cook apparently wrote most of The Moral Warrior while teaching at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, deriving the greater part of its contents from many of his papers and book chapters published elsewhere. Like a great deal of the literature on morality and war, his book focuses not on the undergraduate (micro or tactical) level but principally on the war-college (macro or strategic) level, that is, what constitutes a just declaration of war and how one can fight it in a moral or just manner—the concerns of higher leadership. The other part of the literature seems to concentrate more on the micro or tactical level—the characteristics and methods of junior leadership. Both are important to relativists and absolutists and all those in between.
Like many others immersed in the discipline of philosophy, Cook seems to have a fondness for the classics—for example, his introduction is about the Peloponnesian War as described by Thucydides in a book so massive that one can find in its pages justification for practically anything. Notwithstanding his half decade of service at the Army War College, he does not seem to have shaken off his “ivory tower” coloration. The entire chapter is a sermon on the dangers of the United States becoming the second Athens—a sole superpower that ruins itself on overexpansion. By attempting to impose its morals and culture, Athens came to grief on the rocks of Sicily. The analogy he draws with the present US expeditions to the Middle East has some appeal, but we all know that such a device can be deceiving. Whatever Ho Chi Minh was, he was not another Hitler, and Vietnam was not a replay of the Korean War.
Even in the preface, Cook reveals his tendency toward relativism. As do Kohn and Ricks, he laments that the military seems disproportionately Republican and shares their worry that officers (as well as enlisted members) now vote Republican in large numbers. He is seemingly oblivious of the fact that university faculties, especially those on the social sciences and humanities side of the house, vote disproportionately for the Democratic Party—far more so than the general public. According to Cook, the military vote should “raise concern, if not alarm,” but I am puzzled by the fact that the same phenomenon in academia does not trouble him. Like Kohn, he seems to think that although soldiers are almost always citizens long before they are military people, their voting smacks of something illegitimate—another puzzle for me. He further laments that the military has increasingly become a family affair. But what else would one expect in the absence of a draft and a serious national emergency? Academia had as much to do with ending the draft as did any other element of our society, and for its members to complain now that the military is becoming “too military” simply lacks legitimacy. Is it not also true that having a father (especially a rich one) who graduated from Harvard helps immensely in gaining admission to that institution? At many universities, professors’ offspring can attend tuition free, creating an incentive for many of them to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
Cook also reveals his partisanship and ideology in his criticism of the United States in its abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and its refusal to make US soldiers subject to an international criminal court. He seems to think that we are gradually moving toward a universal republic to replace the Westphalian state system, but that has been a long time coming. The European Union has tried to bring unity and equality to the Continent for many decades, but nationalism is far from dead there—in general all European states share a common Western culture. The idea that cultural divergences, well described by Mal Wakin, will not forever prohibit such a world state seems outlandish to me. Finally, Cook bemoans the fact that the United States has insufficiently funded the United Nations without recognizing the other side of that argument.
In the first chapter of The Moral Warrior, he deals with just-war theory—both the decision for war and decisions in war. Though not of immediate concern to cadets and midshipmen as well as majors and lieutenant colonels—and those who teach them—undergraduate and professional military education generally covers the rudiments of the theory. A just war must be one of last resort, motivated by self-defense or defense of legitimate rights, conducted with a reasonable chance of success, and waged by means proportionate to the expected outcomes. In olden days, even in the United Nations Charter, what went on inside a state’s borders was its own business—state sovereignty remained sacred. Since the Holocaust, however, sustaining humanitarian rights has increasingly become a just cause for violating state sovereignty—as in Kosovo.14 To qualify as justly conducted, combat operations must recognize the immunity of noncombatants, proceed with means proportionate to the expected military ends, afford POWs humane treatment, and prohibit the use of noncombatants as hostages or shields. Collateral damage to noncombatants and property is permissible only when such damage is unintentional and incidental to attacks on legitimate targets in the vicinity; furthermore, the means must be proportional to the ends sought.
Without a doubt, armed forces have often violated those rules in war, and in any case one finds many gray areas subject to interpretation. American submarine commanders conducted the same kind of warfare against Japan as did the Germans against the Allies, but only Nazi admiral Karl Doenitz got locked up for the violation. We now find ourselves in a limited-war era where the rules count for more. Consequently we assign lawyers to air and space operations centers to help commanders decide the justness and legality of attacking a specific target or undertaking a given operation. Still, Cook declares that the increasing humanitarian interventions offer evidence of the Westphalian state system’s gradually becoming obsolete in favor of a more globalist procedure and structure. Most of that, however, resides above the pay grade of all of us, save perhaps a dozen or so officers serving either on the Joint Chiefs of Staff or as regional commanders. Even they can only advise on such things, not decide.
At a lower level, Cook makes some observations that concern a greater number of military professionals. One has to do with avoiding obedience of illegal orders by questioning the ordering authority, obeying the order if the leader persists, or resigning instead of obeying the command. Part of the problem for him concerns the fact that the Army is not retaining junior officers at former levels, allegedly because the trust between juniors and seniors has diminished. That is a matter of degree, of course, but one must acknowledge the danger of idealizing a past that never really existed. We have always had obtuse colonels, but Cook thinks that the division has become more pronounced—even more so than in the days of the draft. I wonder about his explanation for this phenomenon—that the old system of mentoring has diminished—because in 30 years’ service ending in 1979, I truly do not recollect ever having been mentored by any of my seniors.15 The days of Gen Fox Conner taking a personal interest in the education of the young Dwight Eisenhower seemed gone forever in the parts of the Navy and Air Force in which I served.16 That may have implications for both the cohesiveness and professional expertise that Samuel Huntington describes as essential to military professionalism.17
Cook deals with the “last resort” element of just-war theory by suggesting that new technologies may have a detrimental effect. Promising political effects with much less risk to Americans than heretofore makes the initiation of war much more thinkable. He frankly admits, though, that history suggests that the military does not consider such a situation a problem because soldiers have been much more loath to go to war than has the civilian leadership.
It seems to me that Cook is a little shaky when it comes to the history of airpower. He asserts that Linebacker II resulted in extensive civilian damage, but about the same number of civilians died in 11 days during that operation as lost their lives in a couple of hours during the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (approximately 3,000). Compared to the tens of thousands of civilians who died in the Rape of Nanking, the bombing of Hamburg, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that does not amount to extensive damage. Too, he asserts that the coalition largely followed John Warden’s plan in a strategic attack on Iraq in 1991, which did not exercise sufficient care regarding the killing of civilians. However, only about 10 percent of the bombs really went against “strategic” targets; by far, coalition aircraft dropped the greatest number on tactical objectives. Further, Warden makes very clear in his book and several articles that the deliberate targeting of population, one of his “five rings,” remains out of bounds for a democracy. When the enemy deliberately places his citizens at risk at an obvious military target, the just-war tradition asserts that he must accept the blame for civilian losses that occur.18 Cook cites Air Force Manual 1-1, Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force, 1992, as evidence of insufficient discrimination, noting its declaration that “early airpower theorists” aimed to undermine the capability and will of the enemy to continue resisting. Those theorists are all dead now. That objective held true into World War II in some cases, but no longer applied in Operation Desert Storm or in the cited manual.19
On page 146 of his superficial chapter on the morality of strategic bombing, he observes that “the B-2’s far greater ordinance capacity” (emphasis added) enhances its capabilities. (If the “ordinance” dropped by B-2s on the enemy is written by my county commission, that must really strike fear into the enemy’s heart!) Despite Cook’s good writing style, he was poorly served by his editors in the final preparation of the manuscript since this example is but one of too many careless mistakes that readers encounter in his book.20 The chapter in question, evidently written to emphasize the limits of strategic airpower, seems out of place and implies an assumption that the Air Force consists of a band of strategic-bombing fanatics—a notion far from the truth. We have thousands of tactical fighters and air-mobility aircraft—but fewer than 200 long-range bombers and no new ones in sight.
In the end, readers of Air and Space Power Journal will find Cook’s work useful, especially its expression of some views contrary to the Air Force’s usual beliefs. It will not help much in the day-to-day concerns of those of you who are cadets or lieutenants, but it could become part of your longer-range education by clarifying your thinking—perhaps through accepting some of his ideas and rejecting others. Finally, I close this article with a sampler for your professional reading on the subject at hand.21
A 12-Book Sampler for Your Reading on Professional Ethics
Two for the Overview
The Soldier and the State: The Theory and the
Politics of Civil-Military Relations by Samuel P. Huntington. Cambridge,
MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957.
The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political
Portrait by Morris Janowitz. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1960.
Ten for Depth and Mastery
Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of
Vietnam Revolutionized the American Style of War by James Kitfield.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Morals under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military
Ethics, and American Society by James H. Toner. Lexington: University
Press of Kentucky, 2000.
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot by James
Bond Stockdale. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1995.
Beyond the Battlefield: The New Military
Professionalism by Sam C. Sarkesian. New York: Pergamon Press,
Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the
Ethics of Command by Lewis Sorley. Lawrence: University Press of
Neither Athens nor Sparta? The American Service Academies
in Transition by John P. Lovell. Bloomington: Indiana University
First Class: Women Join the Ranks at the Naval
Academy by Sharon Hanley Disher. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press,
Proud to Be: My Life, the Air Force, the Controversy
by Kelly Flinn. New York: Random House, 1997.
Moral Issues in Military Decision Making, 2d ed.,
rev., by Anthony E. Hartle. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas,
The Moral Warrior: Ethics and Service in the U.S.
Military by Martin L. Cook. Albany: State University Press of New
The 13th in a Baker’s Dozen
The Challenge of Command: Reading for Military
Excellence by Roger H. Nye. Wayne, NJ: Avery Publishing Group,
*I have been greatly assisted in the preparation of this article by Col Larry Carter, USAF, retired, and Col Barbara Faulkenberry, whose comments have substantially improved the review; the remaining faults are all my own responsibility.
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1. Gen Sir John Winthrop Hackett, “The Military in Service of the State,” in The Harmon Memorial Lectures in Military History, 1959–1987, ed. Harry R. Borowski (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1988), 523; and James H. Toner, Morals under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military Ethics, and American Society (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 20, quoting the same original source.
2. Sam C. Sarkesian, Beyond the Battlefield: The New Military Professionalism (New York: Pergamon Press, 1981), 203; and Malham M. Wakin, “The Ethics of Leadership,” American Behavioral Scientist 19 (June 1976): 571, among others.
3. A subject practiced at the Air Corps Tactical School in the 1920s, equitation was taught at West Point until after World War II. When I entered the Naval Academy in 1949, I took dancing as part of the training in gentlemanship. Such endeavors are no longer required to fit the definition.
4. For a good discussion of the dilemmas involved, see Dr. Philip M. Flammer, “Conflicting Loyalties and the American Military Ethic,” American Behavioral Scientist 19 (June 1976): 589–604; or Malham Wakin, “Ethics of Leadership,” 576, in the same issue of that publication.
5. Sarkesian, Beyond the Battlefield, 11, credits Morris Janowitz with that construct and explores it a bit. See also Anthony E. Hartle, Moral Issues in Military Decision Making, 2d ed., rev. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 6.
6. United States Air Force Core Values (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, 1 January 1997), http://www.usafa.af.mil/core-value/cv-mastr.html.
7. Sarkesian, Beyond the Battlefield, 207; and Hartle, Moral Issues, 28.
8. Ricks, who won a Pulitzer prize, is now a journalist for the Washington Post.
9. Thomas E. Ricks, Making the Corps (New York: Scribner, 1997), 286. See Richard Kohn, “Out of Control,” National Interest 35 (Spring 1994): 3–17, which contains his original argument. A former historian of the Air Force and now a professor at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, he visited the School of Advanced Airpower Studies shortly after the article was published to conduct a seminar for 25 field-grade students, many of them Air Force Academy graduates. It resulted in one of the more spirited seminar debates that year, and shortly afterwards he delivered his message as keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Society for Military History. James Schlesinger, the former secretary of defense, who introduced the speaker, did not agree that the military threatened civilian supremacy.
10. His class standing was not quite as high as President Carter’s, but he was in the upper quartile. United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, Register of Alumni, Graduates, and Former Naval Cadets and Midshipmen (Annapolis: Association Publishers, 1991), 281–82.
11. John P. Lovell, “Professionalism at the Service Academies,” American Behavioral Scientist 19 (June 1976): 613.
12. Back in the 1970s, Charles Moskos, a sociologist at Northwestern University, developed a model from his surveys of Army people that divided the force into “occupationalists” and “institutionalists,” the former driven by marketplace values (wages and working conditions) and the latter by institutional factors such as duty, honor, country. The idea had some appeal, even to the Air Force, but I consider it an oversimplification—a false dilemma to some degree. It seemed (and seems) to me that there is no reason why warrior-scholars of institutionalist commitments could not also wish to leave their families well provided for in case they lay down their lives for their country. Here some similarity exists between occupationalist and relativist on the one hand and institutionalist and absolutist on the other. See Charles C. Moskos Jr., The American Enlisted Man: The Rank and File in Today’s Military (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1970).
13. He also makes this point in “Ethics of Leadership,” 575.
14. Hartle, Moral Issues, 51.
15. The one exception that comes to mind occurred during my plebe year at Annapolis in 1949. An ensign came into my room and asked me what I was going to do when I graduated. I declared that I would become a carrier pilot. He proceeded to lecture me (at just about the time the USSR detonated its first nuke) on this foolish notion of mine, for the real leaders would do all they could to serve with cutting-edge battleships!
16. I performed my enlisted service in an aircraft-maintenance unit; as a commissioned officer, I worked in tactical airlift, strategic airlift, gunship operations, Strategic Air Command air refueling, and academia. Evidence in the literature indicates that it may have been different elsewhere. To cite a couple of examples, Gen Wilbur Creech is said to have made considerable deliberate efforts at mentoring future commanders, and it is quite clear that Gen Jerome O’Malley received a good bit of mentoring or sponsorship as he moved on up until he met his tragic end in an aircraft accident.
17. Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and the Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), 8–10.
18. One can point to the incident involving the al Firdos bunker during the Persian Gulf War as an example, yet few have blamed the Iraqi commanders for having put their own civilians inside a military fortified bunker. In his book The Air Campaign: Planning for Combat and elsewhere, Warden claims that the elements of all adversaries can be depicted in five concentric rings: leadership, industry, infrastructure, population, and fielded forces. In general, he claims that one can achieve the most decisive results against the leadership and, oftentimes, the earliest ones from attacks on the outermost ring—the fielded forces.
19. True, executing NATO’s doctrine concerning the first use of nuclear weapons would have killed millions of civilians. So the idea of deliberately targeting large numbers of civilian lives lingered long after World War II—but for deterrent purposes, not coercion. Similarly, Saddam Hussein may have been deterred from using available chemical weapons during the Gulf War by threats that the coalition would use weapons of mass destruction in response—again, a measure to deter, not to compel.
20. More examples: in chap. 2, footnote seven is supposed to refer to something written by Admiral Stockdale but cites a letter written by Saint Augustine; the book includes no bibliography; and the two-page index is less than worthless.
21. I make no claim that this list is authoritative. The literature on military ethics and professionalism is so ancient and vast that none of us will live long enough to do more than scratch the surface. I offer it as a starter sampler of general, available books that may help with your reading program.
|Dr. David R. Mets (USNA; MA, Columbia University; PhD, University of Denver) is professor emeritus at Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and military defense analyst at the College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education. He studied naval history at the US Naval Academy and taught the history of airpower at both the Air Force Academy and West Point. During his 30-year career in the Navy and Air Force, he served as a tanker pilot, an instructor navigator in strategic airlift, and a commander of an AC-130 squadron in Southeast Asia. On another tour there, he was an aircraft commander for more than 900 tactical-airlift sorties. A former editor of Air University Review, Dr. Mets is the author of Master of Airpower: General Carl A. Spaatz (Presidio, 1988) and four other books.|
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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