Open Letter to Our Readers
Combat Arms Survey
On 08 April 1995, The RESISTER conducted a telephone interview with LCDR Earnest Guy Cunningham, USN, regarding his Combat Arms Survey given to 300 U.S. Marine Corps combat trained marines at Twenty-Nine Palms California on 10 May 1994.
The survey was given in support of his Naval Postgraduate School master's thesis; Peacekeeping and U.N. Operational Control: A Study of Their Effect on Unit Cohesion. (Before joining the Navy, LCDR Cunningham was a Special Forces medic. After the usual exchange of bona fides, and waltzing the Name Dropping Dance, sufficient trust was established for a frank discussion.)
For the record, we are convinced of LCDR Cunningham's sincerity in his claim that the sole purpose of his thesis was to explore what effect Operations Other Than War would have on small unit cohesion. We discussed several constitutional issues with him, as well as the results of his survey. Although there are those who still vilify LCDR Cunningham, we found him to be strongly opposed to many of the non-traditional missions contained in his survey, and a staunch defender of the Constitution.
One of the first questions we asked LCDR Cunningham pertained to the timing of his questionnaire. There had been rumors of a questionnaire of similar content being administered to U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six in the fall of 1993, and the February 1994 issue of MODERN GUN magazine publicized the existence of such a questionnaire.
LCDR Cunningham denied that was his questionnaire and maintained that the first, and only, time his questionnaire was given at Twenty-Nine Palms of 10 May 1994. When asked if he had made test versions, and conducted test runs of his questionnaire to refine his product, he replied that he had not.
When asked if he was aware of any other person, or organization, conducting similar research, he replied that he was aware of no such questionnaire or research. (This raises the question; "Who, or what agency, was surveying special operations personnel to determine if they would participate in firearms confiscation?")
Our conversation then ranged over the construction and content of the Combat Arms Survey. LCDR Cunningham stated that the Combat Arms Survey was specifically designed to elicit responses indicative to the effect the described non-traditional missions, under either U.S or U.N. control, would have on cohesion of small units engaged in such operations.
With specific regard to the infamous question #46, we agreed that unit cohesion would evaporate. Officers who gave the order would make their widows rich, and the most serious threat to the public would be the ensuing firefight between those refused to confiscate firearms, and the bullet-bait who would.
An important distinction discussed regarding the results of the Combat Arms Survey was the age of the respondents and their acceptance of foreign control of U.S. forces. The younger the respondent (in other words; the lesser the pay grade of the respondent), the more amenable he was to Operations Other Than War and non-traditional missions, including U.N. operational control over U.S. forces. this was true of both officers and enlisted men.
During the interview we commented that an individual marking an opinion space in a questionnaire merely indicated the opinion of that individual, but was not indicative of whether that individual would, or would not, follow illegal or immoral orders, or perform a mission he had strong personal misgivings about, and that, for the most part, despite personal misgivings, soldiers would follow orders regardless of the legality , morality, or constitutionality of those orders.
LCDR Cunningham conceded that such distinctions were outside the scope of the Combat Arms Survey, but that the margin responses to certain questions indicated that the long term result of compliance with questionable orders would eventually result in intra-unit factionalism and destroy unit cohesion.
LCDR Cunningham further related that the most frightening statistic of the Combat Arms Survey was the number of "No Opinion" responses to a number of questions, most significantly to question #46.
Twelve percent of respondents answered "No Opinion" when asked if they would fire on American citizens who refused to surrender their firearms. Including the total who responded that they WOULD fire on Americans (26.34 percent), and given the fact that those with no opinion on moral issues will mindlessly do what they are told, over 38 percent of those ordered to fire Americans refusing to surrender their firearms would do so.
We objected that even those who had a moral aversion to following illegal orders would do so, either out of a sense of duty, or for no more substantial reason than the preservation of their military careers, and that the percentage of those who would fire on Americans, even if they disagreed with the order to do so, was probably significantly higher than 50 percent.
We further objected that the personal opinions of officers who would give the orders relied less on their willingness to issue, or ensure the successful execution of, immoral orders, than their desire to achieve a one or two block on their OER. LCDR Cunningham agreed in principle that "careerism' had the logical consequence of diluting moral responsibility, but could offer no substantive evidence to the extent of impact of careerism on unit cohesion based solely on his thesis or research.
Although we do not agree with some of LCDR Cunningham's premises regarding the constitutionality, or desirability, of even benign Operations Other Than War, particularly the bifurcation of the U.S. military into national defense and peacekeeping forces--as a result of our interview, and review of his thesis--we find no justification for anybody questioning his patriotism.
LCDR Cunningham's thesis was purely a research effort to determine the long term effects of Operations Other Than War and non- traditional missions on both horizontal cohesion (how the unit coalesces, supports itself, and performs as an integrated whole), and vertical cohesion (trust and confidence in the unit's leadership).
Anybody who doubts this need only talk to the man.