Lewis S. Sorley III
In this paper, Lewis Sorley provides a brief preliminary analysis of the concepts of "duty, honor, country" and proceeds to answer the question of their continuing usefulness as ethical standards for the military profession. He argues forcefully that ethical precepts are crucial to successful military leadership. After specific discussion of the ethical strains generated by certain institutional practices (reliance on quantitative measures in evaluating leadership, use of the body count and Hamlet Evaluation System in Vietnam, "zero defects"), Sorley concludes that "duty, honor, country" remain at an appropriate psychical distance to constitute continuing useful ideals, and the reforms needed are in institutional practices, not in the ideal standards.
Periodic examination of the ethical imperatives of the motto "duty, honor, country" and of the relationship of the military profession's precepts and its practices in light of these imperatives, is a necessary and rewarding experience. Such an examination has particular interest and relevance as part of an analysis and evaluation of the Vietnam era.
This paper will focus upon the officer corps of the United States Army. It will seek to define the meaning of "duty, honor, country" as it is taught and understood within the profession, to assess contemporary practice in ethical matters and how this relates to the standards espoused, to suggest some of the recent influences upon
Reprinted from American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 5( May/June 1976):627-646 by permission of the publisher, Sage Publications, Inc.