The defense trade press and even some major media have recently produced reports about ethical problems in the US military officer corps. Bill Hartung writes at Huffington Post that “Military Ethics Reform Should Start at the Top,” advocating a reduction in our astoundingly–even historically–high officer bloat. Lt. Col. Danny Davis writes in Armed Forces Journal that our officers are “Seduced by Success” by winning, but only at the minor tactical level, against literally incompetent, almost unarmed enemies.
These are important articles, and I urge you to read them, but retired Army Major Don Vandergriff (who has written about officer education, how our over-officered military means an ineffective military, and more) brought to my attention an article that puts the disconnected media reports about individual examples of officer ethics problems into a broader and far more important perspective. This article, “A Crisis in Command and the Roots of the Problem” explains-at least to me-the fundamental origin of the problem and its solution. Written by Jorg Muth (who has also written about the differences between German and American officer training before World War Two-a difference that hardly puts us in a good light), the “Crisis in Command” article explains how today’s ethical problems started on the first day that West Point cadets showed up on that campus and how those problems will not go away until American military officers start listening to those they think they outrank–intellectually and morally as well as physically.
Indeed, if you are interested in ending the military sexual harassment now so widely reported in the press and debated in Congress, if you want to eliminate “toxic” and financially corrupt military officers, and if you want to get rid of those who tolerate or just fail to report them all, understand that those behaviors are more likely reinforced, than eliminated, by most of the changes being advocated in the press and Congress. The Jorg Muth article explains why I say this and what can be done to change the course our officer corps is on. Be warned, however, as important as reducing the bloated size of our officer corps is, the solution to our problems is not just to have a smaller number of ethics-crippled officers; it is not to give them a new set of judicially independent ethics enforcers, and it is not to tell them to go to an ethics training course. Muth explains; it is short but informative reading, I believe.