A year ago, in "Rival Traditions of Character Development: Classical Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Empirical Science," I defended the thesis that we should understand the character development of military leaders in terms of virtue ethics. The tradition of the virtues has its roots in the ancient-Greek philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, was rejected by the mainstreams of philosophy during what is called the "Enlightenment," and is now showing signs of a possible comeback.
Virtue ethics is distinguished from most modern traditions in considering ethics to be concerned with how best to live an entire human life. Most modern ethical theories attempt to tell us what to do when encounter an "ethical dilemma," and have little to say to us the rest of the time. Their role is like that of the ten-yard chains in a football game. Most of the time they are on the sideline and far removed from the thoughts of the coaches and players. They are waved onto the field only when the officials need them to make a certain type of decision. Virtue ethics, in contrast, is concerned with every aspect of the entire game.
Within roughly the past century, the social and behavioral sciences have claimed for themselves much territory that properly belongs to philosophy. Consequently, much military leadership literature is now based upon the empirical research of psychologists and sociologists. The problem with this approach is that the research cannot begin without a host of philosophical assumptions. It is relatively easy to show that many of these philosophical assumptions are false, and therefore that the research is worthless.
Consequently, I wrote the following paragraph a year ago: "If virtue ethics (either Western or Eastern) provides the proper philosophical foundation for military character development, the appropriate way to teach officers and future officers is not to focus on arguments for and against Kant's categorical imperative, Mill's greatest happiness principle, and Rawls' principles of justice, nor is it to focus on moral dilemmas and case studies. It is to focus on the lives of great and not-so-great leaders, and on the character traits, both virtuous and vicious, that enabled them to be or prevented them from becoming excellent leaders."
In this paper I will attempt to follow that advice by focusing on the life of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. We can learn much from his biography. And it is relevant to this year's JSCOPE theme, because he was the first officer to command a United Nations army.
The connotations of "virtue" and "vice" have changed somewhat over the years. But in their original senses, a "virtue" is a positive character trait and a "vice" is a negative character trait. The opening lines of William Manchester's biography of General MacArthur suggest that a study of his character traits might be interesting: "He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform. Flamboyant, imperious, and apocalyptic, he carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks. Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect. Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at-arms this nation has produced. . . . His belief in an Episcopal, merciful God was genuine, yet he seemed to worship only at the altar of himself. He never went to church, but he read the Bible every day and regarded himself as one of the world's two great defenders of Christendom. (The other was the pope.) For every MacArthur strength there was a corresponding weakness" (p. 3).
The strategy of learning what it means to be ethical by studying biographies is far from a new one. Plutarch wrote several dozen biographies, The Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, for this purpose: "It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies; but I find myself proceeding and attaching myself to it for my own; the virtues of these great men serving me as a sort of looking-glass, in which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life. Indeed, it can be compared to nothing but daily living and associating together; we receive, as it were, in our inquiry, and entertain each successive guest, view-'Their stature and their qualities,' and select from their actions all that is noblest and worthiest to know 'Ah, and what greater pleasure can one have?' or what more effective means to one's moral improvement?" (p. 293)
There is evidence that General MacArthur agreed with Plutarch at this point. In Tokyo, after the end of the Second World War, he told a journalist: "My major advisers now have boiled down almost to two men-George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. One founded the United States, the other saved it. If you go back into their lives, you can find almost all the answers" (Perret, pp. 516-17).
But while one can learn much about living well by reading the biographies of those who have already done so, another central component of virtue ethics is the importance of real-life, flesh-and-blood role models and mentors, who show us what it means to live virtuously. Within this tradition it is understood that while moral rules can guide us in making routine decisions, some decisions will be so extraordinary and difficult that no set of rules can anticipate them. What we need in such circumstances is not an ethical theory, but examples of how virtuous men and women made difficult decisions.
General Douglas MacArthur's primary example and mentor was his father, General Arthur MacArthur. Douglas MacArthur's grandfather, Arthur McArthur, Sr., immigrated from Scotland, studied law, served briefly as Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, and then became a federal judge. His son, Arthur MacArthur, Jr. (the spelling of the family name changed) was commissioned and appointed as the Adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862, at the age of seventeen. When he was eighteen, he led his regiment up Missionary Ridge, a deed for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and was promoted to the rank of major (skipping that of captain). At nineteen, he was a full colonel and commander of his regiment. After the end of the Civil War he began to study law, but gave that up after a few months, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Regular Army at the age of twenty. He was promoted to first lieutenant the next day, and to captain the next year. But promotion was slow in the late-nineteenth century and he remained a captain for twenty-three years.
In 1875 he married Mary Pinkney Hardy ("Pinky") of Norfolk, Virginia. Their first child, Arthur III, was born in 1876, graduated from the Naval Academy, and rose to the rank of captain and commanded a battleship before dying of appendicitis in 1923. Their second child, Malcolm, died young of measles. Douglas MacArthur was born in 1880.
Arthur MacArthur, Jr. wondered how long it would take to reach his Civil War rank of colonel again. He never did; but instead was promoted from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, and was sent to the Philippines. He went on to become a lieutenant general, and was the Army's highest ranking officer at the time, but was passed over for the position of Army Chief of Staff. He resigned his commission in 1909 and died in 1912-at the annual reunion of his Civil War regiment.
Douglas MacArthur had tremendous respect for his father, and talked about him frequently for the rest of his life. Manchester writes: "Douglas, of course, was destined to outshine everyone in the family, though there is reason to believe that he was never reconciled to his father's death. To the end of his days he would be susceptible to flattery of every other sort, but any suggestion that his achievements surpassed those of the first General MacArthur-as they plainly did-would only anger him. Of his father's collapse at that reunion he would say: 'My whole world changed that night. Never have I been able to heal the wound in my heart'" (p. 38).
A number of authors have written that the two Generals shared various negative character traits. One of the most common criticisms of Douglas MacArthur is that he was vain, arrogant, egoistic, or all of the above. Thus Manchester reports that Colonel Enoch H. Crowder, the first General MacArthur's aide in the Philippines, remarked later, "Arthur MacArthur was the most flamboyantly egotistical man I had ever seen, until I met his son" (p. 30). But from the perspective of the tradition of the virtues, extreme self-love is not a vice. According to Aristotle, the courageous soldier, who stands his ground on the battlefield and consequently is killed, is more properly-called a lover-of-self than the cowardly soldier who flees and lives many years, because the former soldier assigns higher-order goods to himself (Nicomachean Ethics, IX, 8).
I remain unpersuaded that Douglas MacArthur's egoism was extraordinarily vicious, at least in relation to that of others who have achieved the degree of excellence in their professions that he achieved in his. Geoffrey Perret writes that President Roosevelt and General MacArthur "clashed," because "here were two gigantic, overly inflated egos" (p. 172). And yet we here that MacArthur was an egoist far more often than that Roosevelt was. One journalist who visited MacArthur during the First World War reported that "his staff adored him, his men worshipped him, and he seemed to be entirely without vanity" (Perret, p. 113). Distinguishing appropriate self-confidence from inappropriate arrogance is not always easy. And accusations of egoism often say more about the accuser than about the accused.
In 1900 Major General Arthur MacArthur was appointed Military Governor of the Philippines. Shortly afterwards, while remaining the senior military officer in the Philippines, he was subordinated to a civilian: future President and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft. In 1901 Secretary of War Elihu Root relieved General MacArthur for insubordination to Taft. Manchester cites Root's comment at the time: "An officer who has exercised both civil and military power, and who is called upon to surrender a portion of his power to another cannot, unless he is free from the ordinary characteristics of human nature, altogether divorce himself from the habit of exercising civil power and the tendency to look with disfavor upon what seems to be a curtailing of his power" (p. 35). The suggestion is that Douglas MacArthur learned to be insubordinate and to confuse the distinction between civil and military power from his father.
If Douglas MacArthur acquired vices by following his father's example, he also certainly acquired intellectual virtues. During the long years between the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, most of which the MacArthur family spent in the American West, Arthur MacArthur read voraciously. Upon his father's death, Douglas MacArthur inherited a library of four thousand books. He was graduated from the Military Academy first in his class, and Manchester reports that during the occupation of Japan, "Those who were with him in Tokyo recall that he often quoted Plato's Republic. Certainly his philosophy of government belonged to an earlier time. In an age of pragmatic politicians, the General sought footholds on the bedrock of principles" (p. 479). It is safe to say that few military officers within the American tradition, at least in this century, have read Plato closely enough that they could quote him years later and based their decisions upon his principles.
If any individual played a greater role than his father in shaping Douglas MacArthur's character, it was his mother. According to Manchester, "At bedtime her last words to Doug would be: 'You must grow up to be a great man,' and she would add either 'like your father' or 'like Robert E. Lee'" (p. 41). She also "saw to it that her sons never lacked books about martial heroes" (p. 42). And according to Perret: "He told acquaintances that he owed everything he had ever achieved to his parents, but especially to Pinky. 'My mother raised my father from a lieutenant's bar to a lieutenant general's three stars. She had a much earlier start with me than with him, and she had so improved with practice that she made me a general, with four stars'" (p. 146).
Perret emphasizes the point that "with his father gone [General Leonard] Wood offered a role model who was in many ways an extension of his father's pronounced virtues and weakness" (p. 67). Perret also makes the point, within this context, that belief in "great men" was once more common than it has been in this century: "The personal legend that [MacArthur] was creating out of a romantic nature, his attraction to the nineteenth-century great man style as he had seen it practiced first by his father, later by Leonard Wood, his Victorian vision of himself as the fearless man of action thrust into the scene of great events, had produced a creation that already set him apart from other Army officers" (p. 72). And just as Manchester cites evidence that Douglas MacArthur's primary mentor was insubordinate to Taft, Perret draws attention to a statement that the new mentor was insubordinate to President Woodrow Wilson: "A month after [World War I] was declared, Leonard Wood asked for a command in the force going overseas, even if it was only a division. His outspoken criticisms of Wilson, however-including a speech in which he had thundered, 'We have no leadership in Washington!'-ruined any chance of that. Wilson did not trust him, and [Secretary of War] Baker considered Wood 'the most insubordinate general in the Army'" (p. 79).
One of the four cardinal virtues of Plato's Republic is courage. Some have expressed doubt that MacArthur possessed this virtue. During the early months of the War in the Pacific, some American soldiers on Bataan sang, to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic":
Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashakin' on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.
Dugout Doug, come out from hiding
Dugout Doug, come out from hiding
Send to Franklin the glad tidings
That his troops go starving on! (Manchester, pp. 237-38)
And President Truman "privately called the General 'a common coward' for leaving Corregidor in 1942" (Manchester, p. 672). But nothing said about Douglas MacArthur could possibly be further from the truth. During the First World War he won the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross, and Seven Silver Stars. Perret reports the following meeting of Brigadier General MacArthur and Colonel George S. Patton, Jr. in France on 12 September 1918: "'I walked right along the line of one brigade,' Patton wrote to his wife some hours later: 'They were all in shell holes except the general, Douglas MacArthur, who was standing on a little hill. . . . I joined him and the creeping barrage came along toward us. . . . I think each one wanted to leave but each hated to say so, so we let it come over us.' When a shell exploded nearby, throwing dirt on them, Patton remained erect but flinched. 'Don't worry, Colonel,' said MacArthur wryly. 'You never hear the one that gets you.' MacArthur's combat performance this day brought him his fifth Silver Star and Patton's enduring respect. He told his family MacArthur was 'the bravest man I ever met'" (p. 102).
As far as "Dugout Doug" is concerned, it is true that the General visited his troops on Bataan only once during his three-and-one-half months on Corregidor. But the reason is clearly that when he did so that one time, he told them help was on the way, because he had been told by Washington and believed that help was on the way. He could not bear to tell them later that it wasn't true. And he left Corregidor (with his wife and son) only because President Roosevelt ordered him to do so.
During his reconquest of the Western Pacific, General MacArthur repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire. In February 1944, on the Island of Los Negros: "The fighting was heavy. GIs of the 1st Cavalry Division wearing steel helmets and camouflaged battle dress were lying prone, but the General, conspicuous in his trench coat and cap, awarded a Distinguished Service Cross to the man who had led the first wave and then, to the amazement of his party, strolled casually inland. Anguished aides tried to persuade him not to expose himself. One senior officer warned him that he was in 'very intimate danger.' MacArthur . . . explained that he wanted to get 'a sense of the situation.' A lieutenant touched him on the sleeve, pointed at a path, and said, 'Excuse me, sir, but we killed a Jap sniper in there just a few minutes ago.' The General nodded approvingly. 'Fine,' he said. 'That's the best thing to do with them.' Then he walked in that direction" (Manchester, p, 341).
General Robert Eichelberger, who served with MacArthur in the Pacific, wrote in a letter to his wife: "One of the favorite knocks that one hears is that [MacArthur] is not brave. Of course that is pure tommyrot because I think he is as brave as any man in the army, if not more so" (Manchester, p. 398). Manchester praises MacArthur's reconquest of the Philippines, and then writes: "Those were the achievements of a great strategist. What makes them all the more remarkable is that the General was not moving overlays on situation maps at his headquarters . . . but leaving his staff every morning to race around in his five-star jeep like a man forty years younger. 'The Chief wanted to be in personal command,' Eichelberger wrote, 'and apparently he has done so.' [Colonel Charles] Willoughby wrote afterward: 'Constantly on the front line-at times well ahead of it-his sheer physical endurance and his reckless exposure of himself excited the native population and even his own forces to a pitch of effort that became the dismay of the enemy'" (pp. 411-12).
At the Brunei Bay landing in June 1945: "Sir Leslie Morhead, the [Australian] corps commander, hurried up and said they had reached the front line. MacArthur protested: 'But I see some Australian soldiers fully a hundred yards ahead.' Sir Leslie said, 'General, that is only a forward patrol, and even now it is under heavy fire. You cannot go beyond this point without extreme hazard. The enemy is right in front of it.' MacArthur said, 'Let's go forward.' Sir Leslie stepped aside and told one of the American aides, 'This is the first time I've ever heard of a commander-in-chief acting as the point'" (Manchester, p. 433).
When once asked why he took such needless risks, MacArthur replied, "If I do it, the colonels will do it. If the colonels do it, the captains will do it, and so on" (Manchester, p. 398). But another part of the answer, entirely consistent with the first part, is that in addition to setting an example for others to follow, he was also following his father's example. Manchester writes, within the context of the reconquest of the Philippines: "As usual, [Douglas MacArthur] wanted to create a picture of himself as a knight leading charges in glittering armor-or, perhaps closer to the truth, as eighteen-year-old Arthur MacArthur, Jr., scrambling up the slope of Missionary Ridge" (p. 409).
One possible objection to the claim that becoming an excellent military commander involves becoming virtuous is that some successful commanders are clearly vicious. Within the tradition of the virtues there is disagreement concerning whether it is possible to possess some of the virtues without possessing all of them. This is a complex problem, and I will not attempt to solve it in this paper. Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the more prominent contemporary defenders of virtue ethics, holds that it is possible for a Nazi to be genuinely courageous, and therefore to possess at least one virtue while also possessing many vices (p. 180). And there certainly appear to be many examples of genuine courage in unjust wars, even though courage is a virtue and injustice is a vice. Either the doctrine of the unity of the virtues is false or an explanation of it more adequate than any developed thus far is required.
Richard Fiddes observed in the eighteenth century that some soldiers are courageous on the battlefield, but less than virtuous elsewhere: "It is often found, that, even, those very Men, who are brave and valiant by Profession, and who discover all the Effects of a gallant and intrepid Courage, whenever they are called upon to exert it, are not yet, always, of the most strict and regular Conduct, in every Respect. So that the Camp and the Army, wherein we should naturally expect to see this Virtue in all its Lustre and Dignity, yet would not, I suppose, be the first Places, where we should go to seek for a pure and scrupulous Morality" (p. 300). And General MacArthur's life was not consistently one of pure and scrupulous morality.
In the Philippines in 1930, after his first marriage had ended in divorce, the General established a relationship with a beautiful, sixteen-year-old, Eurasian girl, Isabel Rosario Cooper. When he left for Washington a few months later to become Army Chief of Staff, he gave her a ticket to follow him on another ship. After she arrived, he put her in her own apartment, in an attempt to maintain the secrecy of the relationship. If Manchester's account is accurate: "He showered her with presents and bought her many lacy tea gowns, but no raincoat. She didn't need one, he told her; her duty lay in bed" (p. 5). As Chief of Staff, MacArthur traveled frequently and, not surprisingly, Isabel found staying home alone to be boring. As the relationship deteriorated and threatened to embarrass him, and perhaps even ruin his career, MacArthur gave her a ticket to return to the Philippines. She did not return.
In 1934 MacArthur filed a libel suit against a journalist, Drew Pearson, asking $1,750,000 in damages. Pearson was worried, until he discovered and talked with Isabel. When the dust settled, Pearson paid MacArthur one dollar to drop the lawsuit and MacArthur paid Isabel $15,000 to return his letters, to leave Washington, and never again to ask him for money. She eventually moved to California, where she killed herself in 1960 (Perret, pp. 169-70). While I do not mean to suggest that MacArthur was responsible for her suicide, the affair sufficiently demonstrates that he did not consistently meet the standards of Christian morality that he so eloquently extolled on other occasions.
One of the most important of the traditional virtues is "prudence" or "practical wisdom." Although our word "prudence" is directly descended from this virtue's Latin name, "prudentia," the meaning of "prudence" has changed over the centuries. Prudence today is often understood to be a principle opposed to morality.
Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, defined "prudence" as "right reason applied to action" (IIa IIæ, 47, 2). Aquinas identified several species of the virtue of prudence, one of which is military prudence. The reason he gives for recognizing military prudence as a sub-virtue is that, unlike some activities that only benefit individuals, "the business of soldiering is directed to the protection of the entire common good" (IIa IIæ, 50, 4). Because the meaning of "prudence" is ambiguous, the best English name for Aquinas's prudentia militaris is probably "military judgment."
One of many differences between classical and modern ethics is that in the former there is less stress on rules than in the latter. Specific rules are sufficiently helpful for many of the decisions of ordinary life, but are not always able to provide guidance when a difficult decision must be made in a complex situation. Aquinas offers an example of a situation in which a common ethical rule should not be followed: "It happens sometimes that something has to be done which is not covered by the common rules of actions, for instance in the case of the enemy of one's country, when it would be wrong to give him back his deposit" (IIa IIæ, 51, 4). "Deposit" as he uses it in this example refers to an enemy's weapons, and the example is a variation of one Plato's: "If one took over weapons from a friend who was in his right mind and then the lender should go mad and demand them back . . . we ought not to return them in that case" (331C). The point of both examples is that in some situations it would be unethical to follow the rule-"Return borrowed objects to their owners"-even though we should follow it most of the time. Knowing when to follow the rules and when not to, Aquinas tells us, requires "a higher virtue of judgment" (IIa IIæ, 51, 4.)
MacArthur frequently broke military rules, and defended doing so in terms of "judgment." He writes that during the First World War: "Criticism of the fact that I failed to follow certain regulations prescribed for our troops, that I wore no helmet, that I carried no gas mask, that I went unarmed, that I always had a riding crop in my hand, that I declined to command from the rear, were reported to G.H.Q. All of this was entirely specious, as senior officers were permitted to use their own judgment about such matters of personal detail" (p. 70). Perret writes concerning the St.-Mihiel attack on 12 September 1918 that "Pershing's plan called for a minimal artillery preparation, hoping yet again to catch the enemy by surprise. This news horrified the troops, and the 42d's artillery officers agreed with them that it was a bad idea. The chances of catching the Germans by surprise were nil. MacArthur drew up his own plan, which included ample artillery support for his brigade, and did not inform Chaumont of what he had done. 'It's sometimes the order that you don't obey that makes you famous,' he told an admiring artillery colonel" (p. 101).
Major William Ganoe, MacArthur's adjutant while he was Superintendent of the Military Academy after the Great War, reports that he once said concerning military regulations: "Fudge the regulations; they're sometimes made to be broken for the good of the whole" (p. 116). It is of the greatest significance that MacArthur's end justifying the breaking of regulations-"the good of the whole"-is the same as the one leading Aquinas to classify military judgment as a virtue- "the entire common good." Despite living in different centuries, the two men lived within a common tradition. It must, however, be emphasized that a commander is not justified in breaking military regulations for any reason whatsoever, only "for the good of the whole." And not every commander is capable of knowing when a regulation should be broken for the good of the whole, only one who has acquired "a higher virtue of judgment."
Not only does the purpose of protecting the common good make military judgment a virtue, it also makes military service a profession. Some writers disagree. Eliot Freidson, in a book about the medical profession, argues that "the most strategic distinction [between the professions and non-professional occupations] lies in legitimate, organized autonomy-that a profession is distinct from other occupations in that it has been given the right to control its own work" (p. 71). As a consequence of this mistake, Freidson writes concerning the profession of arms: "The military, we are told by [Morris] Janowitz [author of The Professional Soldier] is a profession. But we can only thank the stars for the fact that, by my usage, it is not. If the military were a profession by my usage, it would be free to set its own ends and do to us what it felt was appropriate from its point of view. Our political tradition is that the people control the military, not vice versa. The example of the military, however, might seem unfair, for its aims are surely of a different character than those of medicine, law, teaching, and the ministry. Concerned as they are with Health, Justice, Truth, and Virtue, are not the ends of the established professions so beneficent that they may be given the autonomy to be able to lead us to them?" (p. 351)
It is significant that Freidson uses "Virtue" in the singular. MacIntyre, in a chapter entitled "From the Virtues to Virtue and after Virtue," writes that one feature of David Hume's eighteenth-century "treatment of the virtues which becomes even more salient later is the shift from a conception of the virtues as plural to one of virtue as primarily singular. As a linguistic phenomenon, this is a part of a general process whereby the moral vocabulary gradually came to be simplified and homogenized. . . . Where once the common language of morality, even in everyday speech, had embodied a set of precise distinctions which presupposed a complex moral scheme, there comes into being a kind of linguistic mélange which enables very little to be said" (p. 233).
Part of the explanation of Freidson's mistakes is that he understands the professions not in terms of virtues, but in terms of values: "Within medicine itself, which encompasses a variety of individuals and forms of work, values connected with the regulation of performance will vary by the kind of work performed and by the lay values of its performers" (p. 184). This is another aspect of the linguistic phenomenon to which Hume and others contributed. And it is not a mere quibble about words. Unlike virtues, "values" are distinguished from "facts." Consequently, to say that one person's values are better than someone else's values is not to make a factual statement, but merely to express one's feelings.
Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, also recognizes that seemingly-insignificant changes in our language are in fact signs of enormous changes in our understanding of ethics: "There is now an entirely new language of good and evil, originating in an attempt to get 'beyond good and evil' and preventing us from talking with any conviction about good and evil anymore. Even those who deplore our current moral condition do so in the very language that exemplifies that condition. The new language is that of value relativism, and it constitutes a change in our view of things moral and political as great as the one that took place when Christianity replaced Greek and Roman paganism. A new language always reflects a new point of view, and the gradual, unconscious popularization of new words, or of old words used in new ways, is a sure sign of a profound change in people's articulation of the world" (p. 141).
Freidson is concerned that some persons might attempt to impose their values on other persons: "I do not believe that it is anyone's prerogative, professional or whatever, to impose his own notion of good on another; I believe that the greatest good is each man's freedom to choose his own good even if in so doing the result is one that others may regard as harmful to him; and I believe that in imposing one's own notion of good on others one always does the harm of reducing their humanity" (p. 376-77). Thus he is concerned about controlling the military, so that it is not free to set its own ends and do to us what it feels (his word, significantly) is appropriate from its point of view.
Enlightened value relativists usually end up contradicting themselves; and, though he appears not to realize it, Freidson is no exception. To control the military, in order to prevent it from doing what certain people don't want it to do, is to impose their notion of good on the military. And Freidson doesn't really want even the profession of medicine to do anything it feels is appropriate from its point of view. Its autonomy should not be inconsistent with the public interest: "If the profession organizes itself in such a way as to assure good work in the public interest irrespective of personal or occupational self-interest, we may conclude that it has justified its claims to autonomy over the terms of its work" (p. 361). The reason he refuses to consider the military a profession is not that it lacks autonomy, but that one of his values is that it should lack autonomy.
Is it true that the aims of the military differ from medicine, law, teaching, and the ministry in being less beneficent? Certainly military force can be used in ways inconsistent with the public interest. But physicians can help people commit suicide, judges can render unjust verdicts, teachers can transmit false beliefs, and ministers can promote vices. The question is not whether military power can be abused, but what its proper end is.
Throughout his long career, General MacArthur maintained that in war, "there is no substitute for victory." But that was not a novel idea; he was only agreeing with Aristotle. For both Aristotle and MacArthur, however, victory is not an ultimate end. Aristotle explains: "Since there are many actions, crafts and sciences, the ends turn out to be many as well; for health is the end of medicine, a boat of boatbuilding, victory of generalship, and wealth of household management. But whenever any of these sciences are subordinate to some one capacity-as e.g. bridlemaking and every other science producing equipment for horses are subordinate to horsemanship, while this and every action in warfare are in turn subordinate to generalship, and in the same way other sciences are subordinate to further ones-in each of these the end of the ruling science is more choiceworthy than all the ends subordinate to it, since it is the end for which those ends are also pursued" (I, 1). And Aristotle goes on to explain that the ultimate "ruling science," to which all other "sciences," including generalship, are subordinate is political and ethical science (which for him is a single science, not two).
We have already seen that Aquinas, who was both a Christian and an Aristotelian, understood the end of soldiering to be the protection of the entire common good. In explaining why he believed General Tomoyuki Yamashita should be punished as a war criminal, General MacArthur wrote: "Rarely has so cruel and wanton a record been spread to public gaze. Revolting as this may be in itself, it pales before the sinister and far reaching implication thereby attached to the profession of arms. The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being" (p. 295).
When we reconcile these statements, we find that the ultimate end of the military profession is to protect innocent persons, and that it attains this end by defeating those who threaten them. The size of the group of persons to be protected depends upon who is threatening whom. In the event of a civil war, one group of citizens are to be protected from another group of citizens of their own nation. In the simplest case, a war between two nations, one will use military force to protect its citizens from the other. Since "there can never be a Right to Force on both Sides, or a War on both Sides just at the same time" (Hutcheson, 7, 4), at most one nation will be justified in using military force. In cases of wars involving more than two nations, things become more complicated. Two or more nations adjacent to one another may become allies, in order to defend themselves. But another possibility is that a nation not itself threatened may fight to defend another nation on the other side of the world, either because it believes that the defeat of that nation would indirectly threaten itself, or simply because it recognizes that the other nation is being unjustly attacked.
Some Americans believe that American service members should not serve under United Nations command. But it would be difficult to argue that it is always wrong for soldiers of one nation to be commanded by officers of another nation, because it would follow that it was wrong for American soldiers to serve under commanders of our allies in the First World War. It would also be hard to defend the position that it is always wrong for soldiers to serve under United Nations command, because solders of seventeen nations served under the command of General MacArthur during the Korean War.
It would also be difficult to make the case that it is wrong for American soldiers to serve under foreign commanders, but not wrong for soldiers of other nations to serve under American commanders. The Golden Rule is not restricted by national boundaries. Just as proper self-love does not involve regarding others as inferior to oneself, proper patriotism does not require believing that one's own country should be exempt from rules that apply to other nations. Therefore, if it is wrong for Americans to serve under United Nations command today, the reasons must involve the features of the particular situations in which Americans are now serving under non-American commanders.
As General MacArthur reminds us: "The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable. They are based upon the noblest of human traits-sacrifice" (p. 295). But it is not ethical to ask soldiers to sacrifice their lives for any reason whatsoever. The only purpose for which it is ethical to require soldiers to die is the purpose of the profession of arms and the virtue of military judgment: protection of the common good. Heinrich Rommen explains that "legal justice [one species of the virtue of justice] requires from the individual, as member, loyalty and allegiance, even the sacrifice of life when the sacrifice of one's life is necessary under given circumstances and on account of one's specific function in the whole" (p. 149). He explains why this is true in terms of the "common good," an important concept within the tradition of the virtues: "To sacrifice even life is a clear duty of legal justice, because the life of the community in the order of the common good is a higher form of life than is the bodily life of an individual" (p. 325). The size of the "community" may be small, such as a Greek city-state of Aristotle's day, or large, such as a community of nations.
This, I believe, leaves open the possibility that in certain circumstances it could be ethical to ask soldiers to sacrifice their lives in order to attain an objective other than victory. But if that is true, it must also be true that this lesser end is clearly defined, and that attaining it is sufficient to attain also the ultimate end of protecting the life of the community. In some cases, the question of whether the end of a war is victory will depend upon how one defines "victory." For example, the United States achieved victory in the Revolutionary War by defeating the British forces within its boundaries, without invading and conquering the British Isles themselves. But if the ultimate end of the use of military force is not the protection of the common good, it is unethical to ask soldiers to sacrifice their lives, whether under the command of officers of a foreign nation or of their own.
Although President Truman's dismissal of General MacArthur in April 1951 is frequently cited as a victory for the principle of civilian control of the military, it was not that simple. For one thing, we can show by method of counter-example that this principle is not an absolute one. Suppose that in 1944 President Roosevelt had ordered General Eisenhower to invade Normandy with infantry only, and with only fixed bayonets, no ammunition, in order to reduce the risk of accidentally killing French civilians. If that order had been given, Eisenhower (or any other officer possessing the virtue of military judgment to even the slightest degree) would have an ethical obligation to disobey it, because obeying it would have meant requiring soldiers to sacrifice their lives without in doing so contributing to the protection of the common good.
One might respond that such a farfetched example proves nothing, because nothing so absurd could happen in real life. But even if the example is unrealistic, it still shows that the principle is not an absolute one. And I submit that the example is not that much less plausible than some real-world aspects of the Vietnam War, one which was micro-managed by civilians in Washington and in which men were asked to sacrifice their lives, without there being any clarity about the ultimate end for which they were to die.
General Westmoreland has written about the bombing of North Vietnam: "Interference from Washington seriously hampered the campaign. Washington had to approve all targets in North Vietnam, and even though the Joint Chiefs submitted long-range programs, the State Department constantly interfered with individual missions. This or that target was not to be hit for this or that nebulous nonmilitary reason. Missions for which planning and rehearsal had long proceeded might be canceled at the last minute. President Johnson allegedly boasted on one occasion that 'they can't even bomb an outhouse without my approval'" (pp. 143-44). One thing is certain: President Johnson never acquired the virtue of military judgment.
Westmoreland addresses the philosophical principle in question here: "However desirable the American system of civilian control of the military, it was a mistake to permit appointive civilian officials lacking military experience and knowledge of military history and oblivious to the lessons of Communist diplomatic machinations to wield undue influence in the decision-making process. Over-all control of the military is one thing; shackling professional military men with restrictions in professional matters imposed by civilians who lack [the virtue of] military understanding is another" (p. 145). More than 58,000 Americans sacrificed their lives in Vietnam. They did not die to attain victory- primarily because the nation's civilian leadership decided that was not their objective. And it is far from clear that they died for some end other than victory that nevertheless was included in protecting the common good.
Manchester suggests that General MacArthur was indeed insubordinate to President Truman, but that his insubordination is defensible: "He himself stoutly maintained that he had violated no directives-that 'no more subordinate soldier ever wore the uniform.' That was absurd. It would have been wiser to acknowledge his mutinous conduct and set forth his reasons for it. If Nuremberg taught the world any lesson, it is that the principle of 'superior orders'-the proposition that a subordinate must comply with all commands, however outrageous-is discreditable" (p. 632).
Throughout his career, General MacArthur demonstrated concern to minimize the sacrifice of life of the soldiers he commanded. Concerning his achievements in World War II, Manchester writes: "For every Allied serviceman killed, the General killed ten Japanese. Never in history, John Gunther wrote, had there been a commander so economical in the expenditure of his men's blood. In this respect certain comparisons with ETO campaigns are staggering. During the single Battle of Anzio, 72,306 GIs fell. In the Battle of Normandy, Eisenhower lost 28,366. Between MacArthur's arrival in Australia and his return to Philippine waters over two years later, his troops suffered just 27,684 casualties" (p. 339). And Manchester writes of the reconquest of the Philippine Island of Leyte: "Unlike commanders of marines and Australians, the two other infantry forces in the Pacific, the General preferred to pause at enemy strongpoints, waiting until his artillery had leveled the enemy's defenses. When American newspapers fretted over this, [Carlos] Romulo asked him: 'What shall I tell the press by way of explanation?' MacArthur shook a finger in the Filipino's face and said, 'Tell them that if I like I can finish Leyte in two weeks, but I won't! I have too great a responsibility to the mothers and wives in America to do that to their men. I will not take by sacrifice what I can achieve by strategy'" (p. 395).
From the principle that civilians should control the military, it does not follow that those civilians are not responsible for decisions they make that lead to the deaths of men and women in uniform. General MacArthur was frustrated in Korea, because his troops were dying without a clear objective. His mistakes in that war were less serious than those of our civilian leadership in Washington.
He wrote afterwards that the decision not to provide the South Koreans with military equipment sufficient to defend their border with North Korea was made by the State Department: "The decision was made in Washington by men who understood little about the Pacific and practically nothing about Korea. While they idealistically attempted to prevent the South Koreans from unifying the country by force, they inevitably encouraged the North Koreans along opposite lines. Such a fundamental error is inescapable when the diplomat attempts to exercise [the virtue of] military judgment" (p. 330).
In January 1950, five months before the North Korean attack, Secretary of State Dean Acheson "went to the National Press Club in Washington, and for the benefit of a lunchtime audience of reporters . . . traced the line of American defenses in the Pacific. It ran, he said, from the Aleutians to Japan, down to Okinawa and continued south to take in the Philippines. The United States had no intention to defend South Korea" (Perret, p. 537). American troops had been withdrawn the previous year. But after the attack of 25 June 1950, President Truman slowly decided to defend South Korea after all. MacArthur comments: "Thus, step by hesitant step, the United States went to war against Communism in Asia. I could not help being amazed at the manner in which this great decision was being made. With no submission to Congress, whose duty it is to declare war, and without even consulting the field commander involved, the members of the executive branch of the government agreed to enter the Korean War. All the risks inherent in this decision- including the possibility of Chinese and Russian involvement-applied then just as much as they applied later" (p. 331).
According to Manchester, at the outbreak of the Korean War, few Americans felt allegiance to the United Nations. And "many who did had doubts about the choice of a commander. James Reston wrote in the New York Times that 'General Douglas MacArthur, at 70,' was being 'asked to be not only a great soldier but a great statesman; not only to direct the battle, but to satisfy the Pentagon, the State Department, and the United Nations in the process.' Reston noted that unlike Eisenhower, with his 'genius for international teamwork,' MacArthur 'is a sovereign power in his own right, with stubborn confidence in his own judgment. Diplomacy and a vast concern for the opinions and sensitivities of others are the political qualities essential to this new assignment, and these are precisely the qualities General MacArthur has been accused of lacking in the past'" (pp. 551-52).
One point to make regarding this passage is that these "qualities" of the two five-star generals are either virtues of vices-though determining which are the former and which are the latter is not trivial. The value of stubborn confidence in one's own judgment depends largely on how sound one's judgment is. A second point is that the distinction between military and political qualities is not a sharp one. General MacArthur's record in Japan between 1945 and 1951 suggests that he was indeed a great statesman. But more to the point, the fact that there is a large area of overlap between the political and the military means that understanding the principle of civilian control of the military is also not trivial.
Since the subsequent course of the Korean War is well-known, I will not recount it in this paper. As far as General MacArthur's role is concerned, it included both displays of excellent military judgment and mistakes. As far as the leadership in Washington is concerned, it included ambiguous instructions and a lack of clarity of purpose. It is worth noting that the decision to invade North Korea, after the brilliant victory at Inchon, was not one made by the General on his own authority: "Although MacArthur enjoyed his considerable autonomy in the Far East and Korea, he was not alone in making the decision to carry the war north beyond the thirty-eighth parallel. The Joint Chiefs, the National Security Council, and the President all contributed to the decision, on the ground that final destruction of the North Korean army was a military necessity" (Weigley, p. 515). Concerning the Chinese counter-counterattack, one soldier who was there wrote afterwards, whether justly or not: "It was one of the worst defeats in our history, and it was the result of paper planners and politicians-including MacArthur" (Herbert, p. 53).
But throughout the ebb and flow of the war, General MacArthur was concerned that the soldiers under his command, non-Americans as well as Americans, were sacrificing their lives without purpose, or for an objective not worth the sacrifice of human life. Manchester writes that General MacArthur "saw his men dying for nothing. If their sacrifice was to have any meaning, the UN's political purpose needed reexamination. MacArthur's critics pointed out that defining it wasn't his job, and they were right. But someone had to do it. He didn't try until his civilian superiors, despite his goading, had failed" (p. 623). In one of the statements that lead to his recall by President Truman, he said: "United Nations forces were circumscribed by a web of artificial conditions . . . in a war without a definite objective. . . . It was not the soldier who had encroached upon the realm of the political [but vice versa]. . . . The true object of a commander in war was to destroy the forces opposed to him. But this was not the case in Korea. The situation would be ludicrous if men's lives were not involved" (Manchester, p. 638).
His address to the joint session of Congress on 19 April 1951, after he had been relieved of his command, included the following paragraph: "I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there and I can report to you without reservation they are splendid in every way. It was my constant effort to preserve them and end this savage conflict honorably and with the least loss of time and a minimum sacrifice of life. Its growing bloodshed has caused me the deepest anguish and anxiety. Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always" (p. 405). Truman was not present, but read the speech later and said he thought it was "a bunch of damn bullshit" (McCullough, p. 852).
There is disagreement concerning how much was accomplished by the sacrifice of life in Korea. According to Manchester: "Before the guns fell silent in Korea, an estimated 5,000,000 people, including 54,246 GIs, would have died, pointlessly. MacArthur had not found a way out of the impasse, but at least he had defined the problem. Wars, he argued, are waged to be won; 'an indecisive stalemate' makes not sense. He was ridiculed for that . . . ." (pp. 627-28). Others, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Omar Bradley argued that these lives had not been sacrificed in vain, because the United Nations soldiers in Korea had "checked the Communist advance and turned it into a retreat" (Manchester, p. 676).
But however that debate is resolved, something of profound ethical significance for the profession of arms took place during the Korean War. And it is easier to see that that is true after the experiences of Vietnam and other "limited wars" with unclear objectives. Jeffrey P. Whitman reminds us: "As the Vietnam war so graphically illustrated, the military cannot absolutely surrender its moral judgment and autonomy concerning war's ends to the political leadership without jeopardizing its standing as a morally legitimate profession. The end to which the military is employed can affect the moral legitimacy of the means that are militarily necessary for victory. While obedience to duly constituted civilian authority still remains the hallmark of the military profession in the United States, military professionals (particularly those at the highest levels of leadership) have a duty to consider the morality of the decision to go to war" (pp. 10-11).
For most of its long history, the profession of arms has understood its purpose, protecting the common good, within the ethical tradition of the virtues. Among the most important virtues of the military profession have traditionally been justice, courage, and military judgment. General MacArthur himself said that the most important qualities of a soldier are "loyalty, courage, and intelligence" (Manchester, p. 210). And within this tradition a central role has always been played by excellent commanders, who possessed the martial virtues and set an example for those serving under them. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, though human and less than perfectly virtuous, was one such excellent commander.
But times are changing. We even find disagreement regarding "great men" between Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur: "Eisenhower, only ten years younger than MacArthur but a whole generation away in grasping the spirit of the age, decided on reflection: 'There are no "great men" as we understood that expression when we were shavers. The man whose brain is so all-embracing in its grasp of events, so infallible in its logic, and so swift in formulation of perfect decisions, is only a figment of the imagination'" (Perret, pp. 212-13; Miller p. 253). Concerning MacArthur's recall from Korea, Manchester writes, "His time, and that of the values he represented, had irretrievably passed" (p. 655). But that sentence says much more about Manchester and the rest of us than about General MacArthur. He did not represent any values at all; he represented virtues. This seemingly insignificant linguistic shift is in fact indicative of an earthquake in the moral foundation of the profession of arms.
Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, London, 1911; Rev. Ed. 1920.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Terence Irwin, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1985.
Bloom, Allan, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1987.
Fiddes, Richard, A General Treatise of Morality, London, S. Billingsley, 1724; 1726.
Freidson, Eliot, Profession of Medicine: A Study of the Sociology of Applied Knowledge, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1970; 1988.
Herbert, Anthony B., with James T. Wooten, Soldier, New York, Dell, 1973.
Hutcheson, Francis, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, London, 1725.
MacArthur, Douglas, Reminiscences, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1964.
MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Notre Dame, Ind., University of Notre Dame Press, 1981; 2nd Ed., 1984.
Manchester, William, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur: 1880-1964, Boston, Little, Brown, and Co., 1978.
McCullough, David, Truman, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Miller, Merle, Ike the Soldier: As They Knew Him, New York, Putnam, 1987.
Perret, Geoffrey, Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur, New York, Random House, 1996.
Plato, Republic; in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, New York, Pantheon Books, 1961.
Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden, rev. Arthur Hugh Clough, New York, Random House, 1932.
Rommen, Heinrich, The State in Catholic Thought: A Treatise in Political Philosophy, St. Louis and London, B. Herder, 1945.
Weigley, Russell F., History of the United States Army, New York, Macmillan, 1967.
Westmoreland, William C., A Soldier Reports, Garden City, N. Y., Doubleday, 1976.
Whitman, Jeffrey P., "Reclaiming the Medical Profession: The Military Profession as a Model," Professional Ethics, 4 (1995), 3-22.