Academic journal article Military Review

Owning Our Army Ethic

Academic journal article Military Review

Owning Our Army Ethic

Article excerpt


OPERATIONAL ADAPTABILITY REQUIRES every professional Soldier to understand his or her situation in depth and context. In the midst of complexity and uncertainty, the character of warfare may change, yet the fundamental duty of the Army and its Soldiers to employ force with competence and character in defense of the Nation and its interests does not change. The duty of the Army endures across all contexts along the spectrum of conflict.

For this reason, anything that separates the actions of the professional Soldier from his duty leads to professional failure. This potential separation between actions and duty is why the Army articulates its own codes and culture. However, this self-regulation does not mean that the codes and culture of the profession are self-justifying. (1) Rather, we must justify these codes and culture by ensuring they satisfy our duty as an Army. Doing this requires that we understand the framework of the Army Ethic. We do not seek in this short paper to describe the content (i.e., an exhaustive list of principles or codes) of the Army Ethic in total. Instead, our purpose is to provide a general organizing framework and boundaries for the Ethic in order to guide future dialogue that will deepen our profession's understanding of the components of the Army Ethic.

To fulfill its many duties, the Army has created and adapted unique professional expertise over the last 235 years in four major areas. (2) Military-technical expertise tells the Army how to conduct offensive, defensive, stability and support, and other operations at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Political-cultural expertise tells the Army how to operate in its own and other cultures as well as how it conducts civil-military relations and media-military relations. Human development expertise tells the Army how to socialize, train, educate and develop civilians to become Soldiers and then to develop into leaders and stewards of the profession. The final area of expertise and the focus of this paper is moral-ethical expertise. Our moral-ethical expertise tells the Army how to employ the rest of our expert knowledge to fulfill the fundamental duty of the profession to fight wars and conduct operations morally, as the American people expect, and as domestic and international laws require. Our moral-ethical expertise is the domain of the Army Ethic. We draw from a previous working definition which states:

   The Army Ethic is the collection of values,
   beliefs, ideals, principles, and other moral-ethical
   knowledge held by the Army Profession
   and embedded in its culture that
   inspires and regulates ethical individual and
   organizational behavior in the application of
   land combat power in defense of and service
   to the Nation. (3)

The goal of this paper is to inform the profession's dialogue about its "values, beliefs, ideals, and principles" according to the moral good they serve.

In simplest terms, the Army is a profession because the society that it serves trusts the institution to use the four areas of expertise outlined above to protect their rights and interests. The Army does so by conducting military operations in a manner that accords with American values and that respects human rights. (4) Providing this protection is the primary duty of the Army to the American people, and understanding this duty thus brings the framework of the Army Ethic into clear view.

Soldiers must satisfy this duty as citizens and as representatives of the United States. We do what a private security firm cannot: employ force as representatives of a legitimate and sovereign Nation. We are thereby duty-bound to uphold the values that ground that sovereignty. Conflict and war are human problems. They cannot be overcome solely by technical leverage or wholesale slaughter. In short, conflict defies simplistic solutions and the framework of the Army Ethic must acknowledge a Soldier's complex and uncertain environment and still give clear, principled guidance. …

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