Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 36

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 34
would negatively affect their ability to ‘work together to get
the job done’”, compared to 48 percent in Army combat
Members of the military are not more moral, they’re just
required to exercise what I call technical or professional
virtue. In tight quarters with a mission that takes precedence
over all else, each sailor (or soldier, or Marine) has to know
where his/her gear is: thus stealing is moved close to the top
of the list of military sins. Lying is probably at the very top:
for mission effectiveness the Commanding Officer has to
be dealing with correct information. A machine made out
of human beings only works with correct information, to
the extent that it works, this is a necessary but not sufficient
condition for mission effectiveness. But the military should
have no pretense to an overall moral caste or stance: the
military is a separable tool of the civilian world. Morality in
general is irrelevant to its definition, and the attempt to create
such a definition out of morality shows just how inefficient
and insecure Western militaries, especially that of the U.S.,
have become since WorldWar II and the traumas of Vietnam,
and now Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aside from these technical needs of the tool, the same
morality works for both the civilian and the military worlds.
And decisions have to be reached in the military the same
way they are in the civilian world: by considering evidence
and weighing input, not through individuals exercising their
gut instinct and passing this off as “leadership.” It need not
in fact be “held to a higher standard”—and indeed, it’s the
military that set this notion abroad to begin with, not the
civilian world. If the military ceased to create problems like
this for itself, it could get back to its real mission: fighting the
country’s battles, as
The Marine Corps Hymn
has it.As it is, the
military sets up unrealistic expectations. It then has to deal
with the consequences when these expectations are shown
to be disappointed.
If the military gives up its pretense to greater overall morality
and leadership through the personal gut instincts of
individuals, it has some hope of reducing the strategic flaws
that beset it to manageable levels. If the machinery is not
intrinsically ill constructed and maintained, we can put it into
play with some confidence it will, or at least may if the fog of
war permits, achieve its tactical goals. But it is part of strategy
too—a fundamental part—to make sure the machinery can
actually function in whatever circumstances we put it in.
[i] An exception to this conceptual blindness is offered by the US Marine Corps manual Warfighting (MCDP1; PCN 000006 00) which starts Chapter IV,“The Conduct
of War” (pp. 70 ff.) by reiterating the importance of having a “concept of warfighting that will help us function effectively” (p. 71). Self-conception grounds action,
and the lack of a coherent self-conception renders action ineffective and chaotic. (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, 1997).
[ii] Kristin Henderson, “Their War,” Washington Post Magazine, July 22, 2007,
[iii] Bruce Fleming,“Does the US military have a clear purpose?”, Christian Science Monitor Magazine, June 2011, p. 34.
[iv] Earl Kelly,“’Best and Brightest’? Academy’s admission of minorities, recruited athletes comes under scrutiny”,Annapolis Capital, January 30, 2011.
Also covered by The Washington Post:
. On women: Earl Kelly,
Annapolis Capital, “Academy Justice was tilted toward women,” May 17, 2009,
[v] For example:
[vii] Greg Jaffe, “Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks,” The Washington Post, June 25, 2011.
[viii] Craig Whitlock, “Navy has spike in commanding-officer firings,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2011,
[ix] Bruce Fleming, Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide (Dulles,VA: Potomac Books, 2010).
[x] J.Carl Ficarrotta,“Are Military Professionals Bound by a‘Higher’Moral Standard?”,Air and Space Power Journal/Chronicles Online Journal,http://www.airpower. .
[xi] I have developed this idea in Why Liberals and Conservatives Clash (New York: Routledge, 2007).
[xii] Fleming, Bridging, especially Chap I.
[xiii] Craig Whitlock, “Marine General suggests repeal of ‘don’t ask’ could result in casualties,”The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2010,
Military Self-Definition as Strategy
Bruce E. Fleming
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