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The establishment of moral cohesion among all ranks of the American mil*' tary force is the fundamental need 01 our contemporary military leadership-1*1 recent years military leadership has experienced an erosion of authority, and military service itself has suffered a diminution in prestige and its ability t0 attract, inspire, and retain talented young men. Military leaders today *re struggling with many and varied disciplinary problems. Vietnam, civilianiza- tion of military control, permissiveness, and civil rights movements are most commonly mentioned as the causes o* our leadership problems. The adverse consequences of these events have had a negative effect on the military. But, in this writer’s view, these consequences are merely symptoms of a fundamental deficiency: moral cohesion. The establishment of that cohesion is the burden of those who have overlooked its principles: military leaders themselves.
Military leadership has attempted to combat its problems through such innovative techniques as open-door policies, hotlines, round-table discussions, and human affairs seminars. But the influence of moral cohesion has been absent from the implementation of these techniques. Consequently, a highly dedicated, technically competent, and cost-effective military force continues to elude both our civilian and military leaders. We have taken great care t° provide for the material well-being of our men and women. But we have failed to provide for their psychological wellbeing, the ingredient which will determine whether the military service will succeed or fail in overcoming its present problems. Moral cohesion is a concept which attempts to provide for the psy chological well-being of the military forces.
Social theorists agree that man is by nature gregarious, and that it is through his social contacts that man establishes his identity and his place in the world. It is through his association with his fellows that a man establishes his attitudes and his loyalities. These loyalties are formed selectively and are closely related to human needs. To the extent that a particular group satisfies the biological and psychological needs of the individual, his loyalty to that group wifi grow. The loyalty felt by an individual
. , ■ ■ ■ which overshadows
n lviduality and animates every with collectivistic or group pas-
on h" 3 grouP 'mposes an obligation is th 6 md‘v'dual toward that group. It to r°U^\ t^'s loyalty that man learns of (jlei?t ^’S toward the achievement ;nCa Projects, thereby adding mean- an significance to his efforts.
Am S 3 reSU^ l1'5 study of individual •ty eflcan combat performance in World shah 1 ’ Brigadier General S. L. A. Mar- asso ' reCOgn*2ed this human need of (N C1;"'°n *n his hook Men Against Fire 2nJWjY°r^: W‘lliam Morrow and Co., nd ed., 1964):
. B should not be expected that n e in a uniform or belief in a ational cause are of themselves suffi- da^f t0 ma^e a soldier steadfast in ger and to persuade him to give j good Personal account of himself attle even though he has lost his n-t*ty with other men and there are ,ne t0 tnake note of who he is or ether he serves well or badly.”
°f t. r<^ing t0 Marshall, the performance the e.'nd*vMual is directly related to his r;rudes tBat de has formed toward they 1 °W men and che attitudes that ave formed toward him.
turv°p°ne^ ^rdant ‘In Picq, a 19th cen- rench officer, offered another in- Into fhe association of soldiers:
hnccess in modern war depends ^P°n the individual valor of the sol- tj7 and °f small fighting units, and m turn depends on mutual moral Ure and mutual supervision of ^e.n wh° know each other well. . . . uai*S n<>t tBe fnahhes of the individ- Ps i°^d'er hut the resolution and tl/C °'°g*Ca^ integration—that is, ip6 C°dect've will of the whole fightS unit—which is decisive.”
at‘on°H t'nUCS hf stating that the associ- the es'red must be developed beyond He st3^e mutual acquaintanceship, a kiti(f^eStS 3n association that "radiates j ^ °h passionate unity, comradeship.
SlOn.” -pi , . . O---- r r —
si0rine formation of this group pas- f0rm°r Royalty is a major step in the jtatl0n of moral cohesion.
appear from the foregoing suffic. l0n tHat loyalty to the group is tary f?* ^or cohesion within the mili- e term "moral cohesion” suggests something more than loyalty to one’s comrades. The group purpose must have a moral element, and the loyalty that the individual feels toward the group must include loyalty to both its members and its purpose.
The purpose of the American military force is the defense of American society. In executing this duty the military should be guided by a standard of conduct or a system of morals, a military ethic. The military purpose is served to the degree that the armed forces abide by the military ethic. In his book The Soldier and the State (New York: Random House, 1964), Samuel P. Huntington addresses the military ethic:
"The responsibility of the profession is to enhance the military security of the state. The discharge of this responsibility requires cooperation, organization, discipline. Both because it is his duty to serve society as a whole and because of the nature of the means which he employs to carry out this duty, the military man emphasizes the importance of the group as against the individual. Success in any activity requires the subordination of the will of the individual to the will of the group. Tradition, esprit, unity, community—these rate high in the military value system. . . . Man is preeminently a social animal. He exists only in groups. He defends himself only in groups. Most importantly he realizes himself only in groups. . . . The military ethic is basically corporative in spirit.”
While Huntington emphasizes in this statement the corporative nature of the military ethic, it also has a functional nature. Having defined moral cohesion in abstract terms it is necessary to view it from an operational standpoint in order to gain an understanding of all that it implies.
It has been the practice to differentiate between the military commitment of officers and that of enlisted men. The military commitment of an officer is considered to be on a much higher level than that of an enlisted man. Let us turn again to Huntington’s The Soldier and the State:
"The enlisted men subordinate to the officer corps are a part of the organization bureaucracy but not of
the professional bureaucracy. The enlisted personnel have neither the intellectual skills nor the professional responsibility of the officer. They are specialists in the application of violence not the management of violence. Their vocation is a trade not a profession.”
This point of view may have enjoyed considerable validity in the past, but its validity has diminished with the technological changes that have occurred in the conduct of modern warfare. A higher military commitment on the part of enlisted men is required if American forces are to develop a "weapon morale” (which Rear Admiral Henry E. Eccles once defined as including discipline, training, ability, and confidence in one’s weapons and leaders) in the present military environment. This applies to the infantryman, the aircraft mechanic, and all other specialties because the complexities of modern warfare have increased the demands on their sense of responsibility, their ability to think, and their personal initiative.
The greater destructive capability of tactical weapons has enabled and required increased dispersion of ground forces for both offensive and defensive operations. This has had the effect of placing more responsibility for local decision-making in the hands of more junior officers and enlisted leaders. This situation was common during operations in Vietnam with the frequent use of small patrols that operated independently for several days.
Such situations require a certain psychological integration of wills between the local and the geographically removed commanders. Incidents such as the My Lai massacre demonstrate rather forcibly that such an integration of wills was not always present. Dispersed operations require a high level of discipline on the part of the leader and the riflemen subordinate to him. The demands placed upon the discipline of a military force in a highly publicized and politically charged—not to mention tactically frustrating—war such as Vietnam clearly demonstrate the need for a better integration of wills among the military force and a more self-generating discipline among all members of the armed force than that which presently exists. This implies a much higher level of motiva-
tion on the part of the individual and a higher level of understanding of and loyalty to the military ethic.
The need of such motivation is required equally of the technical specialists in the military. The technological improvements in weapon systems have demanded more highly qualified people as operators and maintenance men. The high costs of procuring these weapon systems severely tax the military budget and ultimately divert muah treasure from other, equally important programs. The fiscal impact of uninspired use and maintenance of such weapon systems is a national tragedy, if not a crime. The responsibility for maintaining a weapon which is valued in millions of dollars should not be in the hands of a man whose commitment to his job is not higher than that of a tradesman. His commitment to his job in particular and the military in general should approach that of the officer referred to by Huntington. But, so long as he is considered to be outside the pale of professional significance, as Huntington suggests, his commitment will remain considerably less than ideal. He will fail to find meaning to his work because we have appealed to him on terms that lack inspiration. His only importance to the military is his skill with a particular machine or technique to which he is made to feel subordinate. Obviously, the enlisted man’s understanding of and loyalty to the military ethic must be raised. But his loyalty will increase only to the extent that the military satisfies his need of association and self-fulfillment. According to S. L. A. Marshall: "Loyalty in the masses of men waxes strong in the degree that they are made to believe that real importance is attached to their work and to their ability to think about their work. . . . What he thinks about his work will depend in large measure
upon the attitude of his superiors. The fundamental cause of the breakdown of morale and discipline . . . usually comes of this, that a commander or his subordinates transgresses by treating men as if they were children or serfs instead of showing respect for their adulthood.”
Thus far the discussion has emphasized the need for improving the commitment of the enlisted man to the military ethic. This does not imply that the level of commitment of contemporary officers should be the standard of measurement. According to definition, all ranks are included in the concept of moral cohesion. The establishment of such cohesion within the American military requires a great deal more than instituting another technique for motivating the enlisted man. The establishment of moral cohesion will initially require fundamental changes involving the officer corps. This situation is not improved by the necessity that the changes within the officer corps be selfgenerating. The difficulty involved in this process is our tendency to avoid admitting our own shortcomings as truly dedicated military officers. The situation is further aggravated because in many cases officers will be required to reverse the direction of contemporary social change.
Colonel G. M. C. Sprung of Canada complains that society as a whole has "lost community” and that by doing so we have gained "not emancipation” from the restraints of tradition, but "the masses” in which the "people share at most prosperity or depression.” Professor Jacques Ellul agrees with this observation and assigns the cause of this situation to the impersonal nature of technological society. At the time of his writing (I960), Colonel Sprung believed the military to be one of the few remaining social organizations that had retained its spirit of community. Today this belief must be questioned. Captain Tom B. Thamm, writing in the August 1971 issue of the Proceedings, observed-
"The cohesiveness of the submarine wardroom has deteriorated, because it no longer has the forces of attraction and retention it once had. Its attraction and retention have declined, because this group satisfies fewer human needs than before. The group satisfies fewer needs today, because its properties have changed as the result of impersonal technological change. Lastly, because it satisfies fewer human needs, first-tour officers are seeking other groups that can better satisfy these needs.”
The observation by Captain Thamiu concerning the submarine wardroom lS just as applicable to the social organization of other branches of the mill' tary service. The individualistic nature of modern society has insinuated itself into the military service to the extent that the corporate and functional aspects of the military ethic have become lost in the pursuit of individual, divergent purposes. Colonel Sprung identifies the problem as a difficulty in feeling a11 obligatory responsibility toward other people. Contemporary feelings toward human associations tend to focus on what the individual can extract from the association rather than what he can contribute to it. Clearly, such an association of eccentric rather than concentric motivations will lack cohesiveness and attraction. Kurt Lang in his 1964 article "Technology and Career Management in the Military Establishment” writes that:
"No longer are officers, by virtue of officer status, merely military professionals. The new nature of military service drastically alters the signifi' cance of being an officer. For many it is less a commitment than a phase in a longer occupational career. The entire military establishment in many respects ceases to be the world of ;l profession but becomes instead geared to the mobility needs of the individual.”
To many officers the military service is little more than preparation for, of an obstacle to, a career outside the
tarlt3r^ ot^ers a career in the mili- rtle tneans little more than the attain-
of "u ran^ ant^ prestige. The result jIji. ese att'tudes is all too often an t 'Catlon °f responsibility to the mili-
tar, Se^vice and a disregard of the military ethic.
Pu v terms "careerism” and "ticket- tnil'C ~wh'ch are well-known to jtary nfficers—have application here. Scr;i ^ e argned that the techniques dene * C. ^ these terms evolved from the “7. giving officers a broad back- fcj0 *n Preparation for future high- ntentCOrnman<^ ’n a rnilitary environ- tttod °Vercome bY the complexities of jn r 7° wariare. It may also be argued onl utt^ t^>at tbesc techniques serve [jec^ 1 e advancement of the individual tnentSC n°C ^oster the develop-
res1 . a feeling of attachment and 0ronsibility to a particular unit or oft ni2at*on- As a result, units are too j-jjp Vlewed as mere "way stations” on Casjj01^ t0 individual success. In such eriii an °fficer’s responsibility to the exe C mCn w'rbin that unit is often Clsed only superficially, such as emphasizing merely haircuts or uniforms. Too many officers believe that their responsibility for the welfare of their men ceases at the end of each day, yet we are puzzled at the number of men who are AWOL, defy our authority, and lack motivation at work. We must ask ourselves the question posed by Colonel Sprung: "whether the greater lack is the inability to accept authority, which implies trust in others, or whether it is the inability to exercise authority, which implies responsibility for others?”
In the pursuit of individual success we have failed to promote a corporative spirit in our military units. We have allowed statistics to become the measure of our collective quality and success, and we have lost as a consequence the true meaning of our endeavors. In our pursuit of statistics-oriented goals we have shown only superficial interest in the human needs of our subordinates and have given only perfunctory support to the innovative leadership techniques mentioned at the beginning of this essay. We have become so goal oriented that we have overlooked the idea that the establishment of sound means which adhere to the military ethic is in itself a goal. We have failed to realize that by overlooking human needs and sound means which respect those needs, we have done much to harm our operational readiness and, hence, to obstruct the accomplishment of true military purposes. We must question whether our efforts and goals, both personal and military, truly serve society, or whether they serve only ourselves. Finally, we have failed to demonstrate that the military way of life has a moral significance, and we have failed to instill that moral significance in our subordinates.
We will succeed in improving the current situation only when unselfish motivation and dedication to the military ethic are considered to be the fundamental ingredients of officer professionalism. That they are not so now is the basic obstacle to the establishment of moral cohesion within the armed forces. That the removal of this obstacle entails a breach with our social experience is the problem facing American military leadership.
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