Malham M. Wakin
Colonel Wakin here reviews some well-known positions on the military ethic and comes to grips with the task of discerning the specific role that certain ethical values (integrity, loyalty, subordination of the individual to the group) play in the military function. He advises caution concerning the use of specific ethical codes, pointing up the natural tendency to treat such codes as exhaustive when they can only serve to highlight a limited number of moral precept. He argues that integrity is the fundamental root trait of leadership. He points out that institutional demands for perfection often generate false reports from those who are afraid to appear inadequate and fail to appreciate the crucial need for functional integrity. In an attempt to clarify confused characterizations of the "absolutist" military leader, the "pragmatist," and the "relativist," Colonel Wakin analyzes briefly the status of moral principles, suggesting that the alternatives are not restricted to merely the absolute or the relative.
Western world literature is replete with references to the normal qualities supposedly inherent in or at least inextricably associated with the profession of arms. From Thucydides and Plato to writings associated with Nuremberg and the My Lai and Lavelle affairs, emphasis has been placed on discerning the moral responsibilities of individuals within the constraints of bureaucratic disciplinary structures. Fixing responsibility in these circumstances is not simple because the relationship between human values and the military function is so intricate and complex. It will be my purpose in this paper to
Reprinted from the American Behavioral Scientist 19, no. 5 ( May/June 1976). Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Sage Publications, Inc.