Skip to comments.Ethics and the Senior Officer: Institutional Tensions
Posted on 01/16/2004 8:48:35 AM PST by Voice in your head
Army officers are devoting a lot of thoughtful consideration to the subject of ethics. The purpose of this article is to present a firsthand appreciation of various ethical tensions that confront senior Army officers. To accomplish this I will briefly explore the foundations of our ethical system, offer some thoughts about how this ethical system should apply specifically to the military profession, and finally take an empirical look at the tensions in the military society that provide fertile grounds for ethical abuses.
The term ethics is used to mean the study of human actions in respect to their being right or wrong. Whether we like it or not, ethical reflection has seldom been carried out in isolation from theology. Ethical values' generally reflect our view of human life as it is embodied in the teachings of the prevailing religion, because all human conduct, essentially, takes place in relationship to other human beings. Therefore, if I believe that human life, that is, all of human life, without exception, has equal and infinite value, then my concept of right and wrong conduct will reflect this conviction. If I believe that human life has limited value, let's say limited by what it can contribute to the common good, then my concept of right or wrong conduct will reflect this conviction. If I believe that some forms of human life have more worth than others-that, say, males are more valuable than females, or whites are more valuable than blacks, or Americans are more valuable than Cambodians, or the rich are more valuable than the poor, or Jews are more valuable than Arabs-then my concept of right and wrong conduct will reflect whichever of these convictions I hold.
Our Western value system of right and wrong is based primarily on what Jesus taught concerning the origin and value of human life, augmented by the Old Testament lawgivers and prophets. This is what we commonly call the Judeo-Christian tradition. Although these teachings have been eroded and in some cases prostituted radically through the centuries, they still strongly influence the attitudes of Americans and other Westerners and form the core of our ethical concepts. In the Judeo-Christian view, man was created by God in His image; that is, with awareness, with purpose, with personality, and with inherent worth. All forms of human life are equally endowed by God with worth and dignity. There is no distinction between male and female, between black or white, rich or poor, aristocrat or peasant, Americans or Cambodians, Jews or Arabs, old or young, born or unborn, smart or dumb, with regard to inherent worth and dignity. All are created with equal worth, with equal dignity, with equal status, and with equal rights within the human race.
From this basic belief has come the thesis that whatever protects or enhances human life is good, and whatever destroys or degrades human life is evil. Thus, our whole moral and ethical concept of right and wrong stems from this thesis-antithesis of good and evil, and I believe that we cannot consider right and wrong within the military profession outside of this framework; that whatever protects and enhances life is good, and whatever destroys and degrades life is evil. The great concepts of justice, mercy, compassion, service, and freedom are immediate derivatives of this central distinction between good and evil as received from our Judeo-Christian heritage.
(Excerpt) Read more at carlisle-www.army.mil ...
You have to take high-sounding essays like this in context; the people who wrote them were almost always seen by their juniors as careerist bureaucrats indulging in a little self-flattery.
Wesley Clark was not and is not all that much of an exception.