Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig's August 2001 Proceedings review of Tom Ricks's A Soldier's Duty (New York: Random House, 2001) adroitly captured the major plot elements and accurately critiqued the overly dramatic finale of his fictional portrayal of the current crisis in U.S. civil-military relations. It also pointed out that the plot was abetted by the absence of civilian leaders to serve as connective tissue between civilian society and the military subculture. Secretary Danzig took the author to task for this, but it may have been the one aspect of the novel that was not fiction.
Had the service secretaries in A Soldier's Duty proved to be credible leaders by restraining unprofessional behavior in the officer corps, Mr. Ricks indeed would be open to charges about realism—because, with the exception of a precious few (Mr. Danzig, for example), there is a growing lack of interest in public service among civilian elites. Further, the officials who do emerge are disinclined to tackle sticky intangibles, such as the professional ethic that undergirds the armed forces and their role in serving the nation.