Table of Contents
The example of sleep
In this panel we offer the example of sleep as an emblem for the personal needs of the commander. Caring for these needs is significantly within the realm of the commander's choice when pressures are on him or her to choose to do other things. The commander is an ethical actor in these situations. Because commanders can never delegate someone to sleep for them, choosing to fulfill this personal need is self-care.
Colonels Belenky's paper on sleep, sleep deprivation, and performance offers a rich territory of—dare we say it—fact. No act of will or ethical passion, no degree of training will preserve the ability to discriminate friend from foe, armed enemy from non-combatant, militarily useful target from distraction, after 96 hours of sleep deprivation. I hope that as you read their paper, you experienced a bit of pleasurable excitement to see well-conceived, well-executed scientific research on subjects of urgent importance to commanders. My paper and this panel focus on sleep, both because it is a vitally important territory of self-care in itself, and because everyone can relate to it, regardless of service, function, rank, or geography. If you, who will significantly shape military culture, revise your sense of what is "normal and natural" with regard to sleep during operations, you will probably open the way for commanders to receive other kinds of social and professional support, of spiritual and bodily replenishment between deployments.
The emphasis we give in this panel to changing the military culture on sleep and self-care is justified by the observation that for a very long time we have understood the basic facts on the deleterious impact of sleep deprivation on the leader's performance, social judgment, and indeed sanity1. Disciplined scientific study may be relatively new, but thoughtful and observant leaders have in some sense always known the facts. So why has it not been incorporated into the officer corps' common sense, habit, and standard practice? I hope to provide a piece of the answer here.
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Introduction on conflicting goods
What is the ethical standing of a commander's own legitimate physiological and emotional needs when they collide with claims by the commander's subordinates, peers, or superiors?
In itself, no one condemns the need for sleep. But consider the situation of the mechanized infantry battalion commander, now 36 hours without sleep, deep inside Iraq. He has decided to rest his unit, and is about to sack out himself. The artillery liaison officer now asks this commander to approve the next 24 hours' fire plan. The commander's operations officer, whose acuity of judgment and discrimination is only slightly less critical than his own, is asleep, because he's supposed to be asleep.
Here we are in a circumstance of conflicting goods, which to an outsider like myself looks like what ethical philosophers call conflicting incommensurable goods: the commander's sleep (one good), and the operational claims made by others, in this instance the artillery officer's very legitimate claim (another good), cannot be measured with any common yardstick, reduced to any common coinage. They're both good; they're both needed; they cannot both be simultaneously fulfilled.
In theory, a timeless god, who can survey it all from a vantage at the edge of the universe and who can see all possible futures, could make the measurement. Such a being with all the time in the world (and especially with retrospective knowledge of what actually happened) could reduce into the common measure of military effectiveness the pre-planned targets and the commander's sleep-deprived ability to perform complex cognitive and social tasks during an enemy counter-attack—that may come any time. Seen from a timeless, god's-eye perspective, the goods are commensurable. But that battalion commander, a mortal, is unable to carry out this utilitarian calculation of the greater good in this conflict of goods—not when in the situation, in real time and in a state of exhaustion, hunger, and anxiety.
We are forced to admit that our philosophical tradition is extraordinarily weak in its ability to deal with the problem of competing, incommensurable goods.2 Utilitarian ethics, institutionalized in modern America as cost/benefit analysis, is genuinely useful when we can meaningfully measure competing goods with a common yardstick of outcomes, and have the time and resources to make the measurement. But it leaves us at sea when no common measure can be found, or not found in time. In the moral world of American military culture right now, the good of the commander's sleep usually loses out in collision with any other good.3
I trust it will be clear that I do not believe the answer is officer privilege and self-indulgence, but rather to achieve a positive and dignified vision of the ethical standing of the self of the commander. My overall agenda is prevention of injury to the men and women in the commander's charge. While my own work has primarily been with psychological injury, the correlation between rates of psychological injury and of physical injury is strong. Catastrophic operational failure due to insufficient self-care, such as due to sleep deprivation, translates into deaths and wounds, sometimes in the thousands. Psychological injury also afflicts ballistic, blast, and burn casualties, and the service members who luckily survive catastrophe without a physical scratch are often gravely injured psychologically.
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A short history of sleep as self-indulgence
The needs of the self of the commander have very little standing in our military ethical tradition. I want to show how that came to be. Sill using the example of sleep, I'll recall some stories to you. These are very important stories about philosophically significant figures to be sure, Socrates and Jesus, but stories, rather than abstract philosophic maxims or syllogisms. By the time you are finished reading these stories, you will be certain that there is something indelibly heroic about going without sleep. My goal is to invite your awareness of this.
In the following story Plato has a brilliant commander, Alcibiades recall a scene from Socrates' military service. Unfortunately Alcibiades was as fatally flawed as our own Benedict Arnold; and it is not a stretch to say that he was the Benedict Arnold of Athens. But as you listen to his account, please try to hold in mind that this is a witness competent to talk about military things:
... we were both sent on active service to Potidaea, where we took mess together. Well, to begin with, [Socrates] stood the hardships of the campaign far better than I did…. And if … we were cut off from our supplies, there was no one who put such a good face on it as he…. Socrates … made less fuss about walking on the ice in his bare feet than we did in our shoes.....
And now I must tell you about another thing ... in the course of the same campaign. He started ... about sunrise one morning, … and by about midday the troops noticed what was happening, … and began telling each other how Socrates had been standing there ... ever since daybreak. And at last toward nightfall, some of the Ionians brought out their bedding after supper (this was in the summer, of course) ... to see whether he was going to stay there all night. Well, there he stood till morning, and then at sunrise he said his prayers to the sun [and went about his duties] .4
Alcibiades, a cavalry officer, continues with an account of how Socrates, a ground-pounder, saved his life, refusing to leave him behind, wounded, when they were overrun.
What Alcibiades admires are Socrates' immediately recognizable military virtues of fortitude in the face of physical adversity, steady self-control, mental clarity, mind-over matter, self-sacrifice, and courage. His apparent immunity to fatigue and sleepiness are made an emblem of this larger constellation in Socrates' character. What is displayed as admirable in Socrates is his ability to go without.5
When it comes to role-models, few are more prestigious than Socrates, hardly less so in the modern world than in the ancient. He is one of Nietzsche's heroes, an Übermensch, a man who "overcomes himself" in a manner we have come to call Stoic. While Socrates was an ancient Greek pagan, the similar equation that Jesus makes in the Garden of Gethsemane between sleep and self-indulgence comes, by implication, to have cosmic significance for a Christian audience, even greater than Socrates' had for a Greek audience:
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [Matthew 26:38-45, KJV]
In this particular version, there is the hint that it is the Disciples' self-indulgent sleep is somehow the cause of Jesus' betrayal.6 In the above part of Plato's story, we hear nothing but praise for Socrates, with no monitory examples of people who lacked his fortitude. The Biblical account is more balanced between praise and blame, showing us the Disciples' shortcomings in this situation, as well as Jesus' merit. And need it be said that one overall goal of the Passion narrative is to display and valorize Jesus' self-sacrifice?7
So with Jesus and Socrates lined up against self-care, can my persuasive position get any worse? Well, in fact it does get worse through the introduction of the Stoic doctrines, which then merged very powerfully with the stream of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots from the Hebrew Bible. Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish Bible commentator and Aristotle scholar who strongly influenced St. Thomas Aquinas, scarcely mentions self-care among the 248 positive and 365 negative commandments adduced from the Five Books of Moses.8 These commandments are almost all duties toward God or toward other humans. Very few, such as commandments to rest on the Sabbath and Festivals, to rejoice in the Festivals, to prohibit self-mutilation and tattooing, explicitly have the self as both moral agent and object. While the whole civilizing code of justice, compassion, and civic responsibility carries enormous benefit, the benefit is mediated by others fulfilling their duties.
In modern times Immanuel Kant set the question, What is my Duty? at the top of everyone's agenda, reviving the Stoic and Rabbinical emphasis on duties.9 We lack confidence in our capacities for practical ethical deliberation in situations of conflicting goods (we feel much more comfortable with a conflict of good and evil), particularly when one of the conflicting goods is self-care.
Professional philosophers would not, I believe, hold their noses at this account. To quote briefly from a recently published symposium of ethical philosophers: ". . . [O]ver a large range of cases our ordinary thinking about morality assigns no positive value to the well-being or happiness of the moral agent of the sort it clearly assigns to the well-being or happiness of everyone other than the agent "10. . . [I]f I am faced with someone who has a valid claim of need, I cannot appeal to facts of self-interest in deliberating whether I should offer help, because self-interest per se cannot rebut a moral presumption."11 Self-sacrifice is idealized; sometimes it is our duty. The motto of West Point—Duty, Honor, Country—leaves no standing for the preservation of a leader's own physiological or psychological capacity to lead.12
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Perverse outcomes of overvaluing self-denial
What is notably absent today is the calm, assured, affirmative respect for the self of the commander that the same commander routinely accords to others. At this point, you must be wondering why I am raising the issue of self-care, especially when I find Socrates, Jesus, the Stoics, the Medieval Churchmen, Rabbis, Immanuel Kant, and military culture arrayed against it? Am I trying to bring back "Rank hath its privileges?" Am I a spokesman for the culture of narcissism? Those of you who know me and my work, know that nothing could be further from my intent. Here's why I raise the issue:
My personal agenda is to contribute to prevention of psychological injury in war.13 The lack of decent respect for the commander's needs in our ethical systems can lead to some very ugly outcomes, all of which contribute to greater or lesser degrees to psychological injury. Here are some of the perverse outcomes from overvaluing self-denial that I draw to your attention:
I invite you here to notice that these perverse outcomes are strongly promoted by the ethical vacuum around the self of the commander. We cannot successfully reduce these perverse outcomes simply by redoubling rules and admonitions against them.
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Examples of catastrophic operational failure
It is far beyond the scope of this paper to give specific examples of each of the above perverse outcomes, but I shall give two examples of catastrophic operational failure from sleep deprivation, our concrete emblem of self-care:
On August 9, 1942, Japanese warships off Guadalcanal attacked and sank the cruisers USS Vincennes, Quincy, Astoria, and HMAS Canberra with the death of over 1,000 and almost 700 wounded. Few American weapons of any kind were fired at the enemy during the engagement, resulting in negligible damage to Japanese ships and personnel. This episode, known as the Battle of Savo Island, has been subject to extensive study, and I do not presume to second-guess these analyses.
Colonel Faris Kirkland (one of the presenters in this panel) has pointed out to me that the enemy had substantial land-based air assets in the vicinity, which according to the Navy Department Combat Narrative confidentially published 8 January 1943, caused the aircraft carriers Wasp, Saratoga, and Enterprise to be withdrawn from the area, and had kept crews of all vessels in the area in a state of continuous alert for air attack. The possibility of a surface threat had been fully recognized in the overall operational plans and ship deployments, but had received little command attention during those three days of ship-aircraft engagements. Colonel Kirkland has suggested the following painfully simple overall explanation of the tragic outcome of this battle: severe sleep deprivation.15
I offer the following assortment of quotations from The Shame of Savo by Bruce Loxton (Naval Institute Press, 1994) and from the 1943 Combat Narrative (Naval Historical Center, 1994) that look to me like the footprints of sleep deprivation:
"…[N]o one on watch in Blue [one of the destroyer screen, about 30 minutes before the Canberra was attacked] saw, at a range of about a mile, a column of eight ships, five of which were about 10 000 tons, moving across the line of sight at high speed, and this on a night when Chokai's [the lead Japanese Cruiser] lookouts could see a single destroyer, proceeding at 12 knots, at eight miles…. Blue's failure to see the Japanese is inexplicable and inexcusable." Loxton, P. 175
"What is difficult to understand is why no signs of the battle to the south [attack on the Canberra and Chicago, star shells fired by the Patterson] were seen or heard by lookouts [of the Astoria], but the analysis suggests that they were distracted from their surface searches by looking for aircraft…"Loxton P.221
No one has ever suggested that the lookouts on either the Blue or the Astoria were asleep; I suggest that they were doing what the Army Ranger School Candidates call "droning" in which the candidates can put one foot in front of another and respond if challenged but have difficulty shifting from one cognitive framework to another or acting on their own initiative. The sailors and officers of the ships patrolling around Savo Island had been continually on anti-aircraft watch for three days and nights, and could no longer make the cognitive shift to surface search.
The account of the destroyer Patterson's captain getting it right, but to a heartbreaking lack of effect, similarly seems to me to reflect the footprints of sleep deprivation among his officers. Patterson officers did send an enemy report to the other ships by blinker and by voice radio around 0143 (and the message was received in the Vincennes and Quincy which were not attacked until 0155—as a complete surprise!), the Patterson's captain did turn to position his ship in perfect angle for a torpedo attack on the column of Japanese cruisers, but his order to launch the spread of eight torpedoes "was apparently not heard by the Torpedo Control Officer," supposedly because of the masking noise of distant gunfire. (Loxton, pp 206f) More likely, the Torpedo Control Officer was "droning," and the order to launch the torpedoes arrived during a random period of "micro-sleep" that someone standing upright and eyes open may flip into while droning.
The following narrative pertains to the Astoria:
"The general alarm was still ringing and Capt. William G. Greenman, who had just been called, was astonished to hear the main battery as he awoke. …
"Capt. Greenman's first impression on seeing the flares and searchlights inside the bay was that our ships had sighted a submarine on the surface and that we were firing on our own ships. Lt. Commr. Topper, who was on the bridge, reports him as asking 'Who sounded the general alarm? Who gave the order to commence firing? Topper, I think we are firing on our own ships. Let's not get excited and act too hasty. Cease firing.'
"Upon this order, firing ceased. Someone on the port wing of the bridge reported searchlights illuminating our ships, while the word came from the main battery control that the ships had been identified as Japanese cruisers. … Then the JA talker reported, 'Mr. Truesdell said for God's sake give the word to commence firing.' The Captain then ordered, 'Sound general quarters,'—it was in fact sounded this second time,--and almost immediately, 'Commence firing,' with the remark, 'Whether our ships or not we will have to stop them'" P. 21, The Battle of Savo Island by Winston Lewis, Naval Historical Center, 1994 [reprint of 1943 Combat Narrative].
Signs of the corrosive effects of sleep deprivation on Captain Greenman in this are [a] impairment of the captain's capacity for trust in his subordinates to have done the right thing, [b] impairment of his ability, once he had arrived at an (incorrect) assessment of the situation, to take in new data and revise his assessment in the light of the new data. Note perseveration of the initial assessment, having once formed an impression that he was in a friendly fire incident. He had great difficulty rearranging the data at hand into a new configuration, i.e., the enemy is here and firing on us.
I am not disparaging the conclusions reached at the time or subsequently about communications, training for night actions, the need for a Flag Officer on the Vincennes so that its captain was not overloaded, undue reliance on radar, Adm. Turner's refusal of a Japanese language commint team, etc. A New Zealand cruiser captain who served a year later in the Solomons wrote,
"The reader who feels strongly about the unreadiness of the ships, the failure of communications and the poor lookout maintained, should himself experience the strain of trying to remain alert for several consecutive nights …" Quoted in Loxton, p 171
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I have offered the tragic, one-sided battle in the waters around Savo Island to typify catastrophic operational failure, primarily because it is so well studied and well known. But please understand that I am not in any sense pointing a finger at the Navy. A retired Army officer with considerable operational experience has provided me with an example that is almost equally horrifying. I say "almost," because this operational failure occurred in a training context. Thankfully, no lives were lost.
The example comes from a two week division-level force-on-force exercise in 1986, where my informant was an observer from the Department of the Army. The exercise was not held at the NTC and was scored in the traditional fashion by umpires. My informant was not an umpire, and knew the division, battalion, and artillery battery where he stood this day extremely well.
The battalion commander was an outstanding leader by anyone's measure, not only in his technical skills but in his ability to create a "band of brothers" among his officers. His development of subordinate leaders was so successful that many of these were taken from his battalion to be put in places where they were thought to be critically needed. At the time of the exercise, he had not yet had the chance to thoroughly imbue the new captain in command of his batteies with his spirit and philosophy. The battalion CO was a perpetual spring of enthusiasm and never spared himself. Following his model, his subordinate commanders drove themselves unmercifully, as did his staff officers also.
It was about 10 days into the exercise and everyone was very tired. The battalion commander, being security minded, wanted to be sure that despite their fatigue, all his batteries and his command post were attentively guarding their perimeters against infiltration. Because of one of the ideals that this commander held himself to—take care of your people!—he did not want to cut into anyone else's sleep to test his units' alertness. He himself spent five hours that night trying to sneak into his own batteries and other positions.
The battery in question here had been the most distant from the CO's command post and the first one he had tested. The battery commander, CPT X, had just gone to sleep when the CO, having infiltrated the position unchallenged, entered his tent and whispered "BOOM!" in his ear.
CPT X remained awake the rest of the night. By morning he had resolved to "make an example" of the lieutenant who was his second in command for failing to keep the perimeter secure, by humiliating him in front of the whole battery.
A couple hours after this public humiliation, at about 0800, a platoon of five opforce tanks was spotted on a rise some 4 km from this battery where my informant was making his observations. The tanks were moving at patrol speed, not firing on the battery with cannon. The tankers apparently did not know that the battery was there, but were trying to find and destroy the division's artillery.
Certain things need to be mentioned here: the battalion had tank-killing air assets available; the battery had HEAT rounds; the gun crews had drilled in anti-tank direct fire; the section chiefs, sergeants, all knew how to do this.
As soon as the tanks were spotted, an enemy report was telephoned to the battalion CP. However, the battery commander did nothing more, apparently awaiting orders. Neither did the section chiefs. gave no orders, made no organization to engage these tanks at the non-very-quickly closing range of 3 - 4 km. At about 500 meters the tankers saw through the battery's camouflage and charged, making repeated passes with their .50cal machine guns (firing blanks) at a range of about 50 meters.
This case example illustrates the probable occurrence of "droning," both in the battery and the battalion CP personnel up to and including the CO. The battalion commander, and apparently everyone else in the CP, had simply ceased to function. Had it minimally functioned to simply say "Shoot!" to the battery captain, he would probably have said "Shoot!" to his section chiefs, who would probably have used their training to good effect. Whatever the battery commander's overall quality as a leader, he might well have taken the initiative to say "Shoot!" on his own, when the CP did not respond, but for sleep-deprivation. The passivity of the section chiefs is a more complex matter. The section chiefs and gunners were not particularly sleep-deprived. But their initiative has been destroyed by the battery commander's lack of self-restraint and social judgment. His public mistreatment of his lieutenant destroyed initiative at all ranks under his command. Had this not happened, my informant conjectures that the section chiefs might have taken the initiative, at least to say "Sir! That's the enemy! For God's sake, give the order to fire them up," (like Mr. Truesdell on the Astoria). The higher level of command was paralyzed by sleep deprivation, the lower ranks were paralyzed by the predictable moral damage inflicted by the leader's lost balance—probably promoted by sleep deprivation.
I hope that in the light of these examples you will reexamine the second and third figures (National Training Center) of Colonel Belenky's paper for this panel and their conclusion from them in the paragraph that precedes the figures; "Whereas the personnel at the squad and crew level averaged between 7-8 hours of sleep each night [during the force-on-force exercise that was studied], those at battalion and brigade level averaged little more than 4 hours of sleep each night. Thus, from the perspective of sleep and its effects on performance, we would expect personnel at lower echelons to be more effective than personnel at higher echelons. This is what we observed. We saw the more junior personnel improving their performance over the course of the exercise and the more senior, higher echelon personnel 'droning' (to use the Ranger School term)."
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One of the institutional legacies of World War II, embodied in the deceptively insipid 1946 Doolittle report on officer-enlisted men relations,16 was a much-needed reaction against abuse of their positions that characterized the behavior of a distressing number of newly commissioned or rapidly promoted officers during World War II: "Rank hath its privileges." Reforms following the Doolittle report were mainly cosmetic, and many were abandoned. But since Vietnam, leaders in the Army and Marine Corps have made a vigorous effort to rebuild a sense of duty, obligation and responsibility, and to restore a balance between the privileges and responsibilities of rank, with the emphasis on responsibilities.17 In this highly desirable climate of reform, commander self-care is unfortunately likely to be equated with self-indulgence.
I am a civilian psychiatrist, so you might imagine that I am trying to smuggle civilian practices and values into the Armed Forces. On the contrary, I believe that the civilian sector is in great need of its own Doolittle Report. The civilian sector has not yet begun the self-reforms that the Armed Forces have gone a good distance in implementing. "Rank hath its privileges" has gone wild in corporate executive suites! Need I mention insanely inflated and demoralizing executive compensation, and the wasteful corporate-headquarters luxuries of present day America? Need I mention that there are economic theorists who tell executives that it is not only legal but virtuous to jump from company to company in search of a few percent more compensation, virtuous to destroy thriving and profitable communities of work in quest of abstractions such as "market share?" Corporate America is largely stuck in 1946, while the Armed Forces have significantly reformed themselves. The burden of my sermon is that the Armed Forces may have swung too far in the other direction, in the direction of a perfectionism bordering on moral hypochondria, an airless perfectionism that sometimes has tragic consequences. Overall, the phase difference between the moral cycles in the civilian and military sectors is distinctly to the credit of the latter at the present moment.
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A decent respect
Prevention of physical injury, to the maximum degree possible without compromising other legitimate goals, is not controversial. It is part of the common sense of military officers to take care of their people in this way. My personal goal, having worked to repair the psychological wreckage of war,18 is to nudge prevention of psychological injury into the common sense of the officer corps as well. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, I believe that an Archimedean point of leverage for prevention of both physical and psychological injury is commander self-care: for an officer to take care of his or her people, this officer must start with the self and work outward. Building this into our formal leadership doctrine, no less into our military folk culture, requires fresh philosophical work.
You also may wonder at this point if I have a realistic appreciation of the role that the enemy plays in all this. Staying with our example of sleep deprivation, the enemy attacks both the commander's and the troops' capacity for cognitive discrimination and judgment, by harassing fire and probes, by Psyops, such as blaring loudspeakers, by feints, by surprise and deception. The enemy attacks sleep; the enemy aims at creating sleep deprivation. Our response historically has been both rational and irrational: it is rational through tough realistic training to prepare both troops and commanders for the deprivations that the enemy will attempt to impose on them. If the more extreme forms of this training get across the message, "There are no supermen!"—all to the good; if earning the coveted emblems of having completed such training leaves the illusion that the officer is a superman, it sows seeds of future catastrophic operational failure. It is not rational to valorize resistance to these deprivations to the degree that we create these dangerous illusions: that "real men" can go without sleep, that the commander's crushing personal fatigue somehow translates into safety for the troops. Officers able to resist the blandishments of "machismo" sometimes fall prey to the altruistic illusion. What I have tried to get across to you here is the cultural and religious background that valorizes self-denial and makes these illusions attractive, so hard to resist.
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The ethical standing of the self is an unresolved issue in our philosophy, an invisible gap, if you wish. I make no claim to fill it here today, but merely to point it out, to try to make the invisible visible. I want to close by affirming the obvious fact that commander self-care most readily acquires a positive ethical standing if it is strongly valued and supported by a community, in particular, the community of the commander's peers and superiors. Here is a usable maxim, a simple one liner, what senior commanders would say to their subordinate leaders, and peers to say to their fellow officers: "In order for me to do my job, I need to know you are taking care of yourself." I have intentionally imagined this voice as a paradox. It's the voice of a superior saying, "It's your duty to take care of yourself, including getting sleep when I myself may be awake and aware that you are asleep. If you fail to do so, I will feel you are letting me down and will think less of you as an officer." This paradox is very Zen.19
Admiral Boorda's tragic suicide prompts us to ask, "Who can say this to the most senior officers?" My goal is to make decent self-care so much a part of the military culture that even the most senior officers will feel that they are letting others down if they neglect themselves.
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The leadership practices called Auftragstaktik accomplishes many of these things to a significant degree, something that Colonel Kirkland will address.20 The only place that decent and legitimate self-care can reliably be taught is within the officer corps itself, by the commander's own commanders over the course of his or her career.
There are no supermen, and pretending to be one is potentially very dangerous. In a well-led military, the self-care of the commander, the interests of his or her country and the good of the troops are incommensurable only when the enemy succeeds in making them so. It is time to critically reexamine our love affair with Stoic self-denial, starting with the Service Academies.21 If the enemy manages to turn our commanders into sleep-walking Zombies, the enemy has done nothing fundamentally different from a moral point of view than destroying supplies of food, water, and ammunition. Sometimes this may happen, but we must stop doing it to ourselves and handing the enemy dangerous and unearned advantages in war.
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The author gratefully acknowledges encouragement, critical comment, and suggestions from the panel members, Colonel Gregory Belenky, USAMC, Colonel Thomas Jones, USMC, and Lieutenant Colonel Faris Kirkland, USA, ret., and from many others, including (in alphabetical order) Lieutenant General John H. Cushman, USA, ret., Lieutenant Commander Rabbi Robert Feinberg, USN, Dr. Davida Kellogg, Professor Jennifer Radden, Professor Amélie Rorty, Captain Tony Pfaff, USA, Joseph M. Rudolph, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, USMC, Dr. Ernie Wallwork, Professor Charles Young.
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1. I am grateful to Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, USMC, for copies of his file of papers on the deleterious impact of sleep deprivation on the performance, social judgment, and sanity of both troops and leaders. The earliest paper in his collection was published in June, 1964!
2. This is one of the major themes of Martha Nussbaum's The Fragility of Goodness, Cambridge University Press, 1986, particularly Chapters 2, 3, and 10. Eugene Garver, in Aristotle's Rhetoric: An Art of Character, University of Chicago, makes the fascinating and highly leadership-relevant claim that Aristotle was addressing the question not of how to manipulate people in general, but how to lead fellow citizens through arousal of common civic emotions and a shared ethos in situations of conflicting goods. Chapters 4-7 are of particular interest to leaders.
3. See Colonel Belenky's paper for empirical evidence of this. There is, with increasing rank, a consistent decline in the amount of sleep that officers take during operations.
4. Specifically what Socrates was doing during this vigil is neither significant to Alcibiades, nor to us--the point is Socrates' self-denial and self-control. Plato, Symposium, 219e-220d. Translated by Michael Joyce. In Plato: The Collected Dialogues, edited by E. Hamilton and H. Cairns. Princeton University Press, l961. Pp.570f. Alcibiades sets the context for this story with another anecdote of Socrates' self-control and self-denial.
5. Then, as if to say, "Did you get it the first time? In case you missed it, I'll show you again," Plato's informant confirms Alcibiades' account of Socrates' merit by replaying this theme closer to the narrative present: [Plato's informant]... noticed that all the others had either gone home or fallen asleep, except Agathon and Aristophanes and Socrates....
But as [Socrates] clinched the argument, which the other two were scarcely in a state to follow, they began to nod, and first Aristophanes fell off to sleep and then Agathon, as day was breaking. Whereupon Socrates tucked them up comfortably and went away.... And after calling at the Lyceum for a bath, he spent the rest of the day as usual, and then, toward evening, made his way home to rest. Ibid. 223c-d pp573f)
For a further example of how Plato treats sleeping as self-indulgence and indicative of character "unworthy of a free man" see Laws 807e808c pp. Ibid. 1378f: "In fact, that any citizen whatsoever should spend the whole of any night in unbroken sleep, and not let all his servants see him always awake and astir before anyone else in the house, must be unanimously pronounced a disgrace and an act unworthy of a free man.... In fact, a man asleep is of no more account than a corpse.... And public officials who are awake betimes by night are no less a source of fear to evildoers, whether enemies or citizens, and of awe and reverence in the righteous and virtuous than of benefit to themselves and their whole community."
Please understand that I am denying neither of the following:  that the capacity to do without (e.g., sleep, food, social support) are useful and desirable traits in a commander;  that any present or future officer's native capacity to do without, whether this is large or small, can probably be somewhat increased by appropriate training. But, how much that capacity varies from person to person, how much it can be increased by training, and at what cost to other military requirements, are empirical questions that should be settled empirically and not theoretically or by preaching. My impression (which I trust Colonel Belenky will correct me if I'm wrong) is that some people can remain effective a little longer than others, but everyone succumbs within a fairly short time interval of each other.
6. I am grateful to Captain Tony Pfaff for pointing out to me that several aspects of commander self-care have traditionally been not only permitted, but encouraged, under the rubric of prayer. Not only have solitude and meditation been available through this route, but if the commander was lucky in the chemistry with the chaplain, he or she could get considerable social support from the chaplain that might not have been available through any other relationship. Mutual support, respect, education, and adherence to Woody Allen's Law ["Showing up is 90%."] is critical between mental health troops and the chaplaincy if psychological injury and damage to good character are maximally to be prevented.
7. Cf. Psalm 121:4 "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Aristotle's ground of virtue (cf. Nichomachean Ethics Book X 1178b, derived ultimately from Homer, in my view) was human finite mortality, non-god-ness. (For further clarification of the Aristotelian dependence of virtue on mortality, see Martha C. Nussbaum, "Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach" in The Quality of Life, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp 242-269.) Gods by their nature were just as incapable of virtue as animals were, by their nature. To some of the Athenian tragic poets, imitatio dei equaled hzbris, insolent, religiously-suspect presumption, although Aristotle, following Homer, allowed that there are some who are of such excellence that they are called "godlike," but dismisses this as "rarely found among men." [NE VII:1, 1145a17ff]. The Biblical ground of virtue is in God as the source and exemplar of all virtue. Imitatio dei is a positive injunction in Christianity. Cf. 1 Peter 1:16, the author of which is possibly citing Leviticus 11:45.
8. Maimonides [Moses ben Maimon], The Commandments, translated by CB Chavel. London: Soncino Press, 1967.
9. Kant himself wrote, "there is no question in moral philosophy which has received more defective treatment than that of the individual's duty towards himself. *No one has framed a proper concept of self-regarding duty*." [Emphasis mine--still true!] Immanuel Kant "Duties to Oneself," and "Proper Self-respect" from his Lectures or Ethics, excerpted as "Dignity and Self-respect" Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, edited by CH Sommers. Harcourt, Brace, Janovich, 1985. Pp.390f. As suggested in the quote below by a professional Kantian, Barbara Herman, Kant did not succeed where others had failed. In "Proper Self-respect" he makes an heroic, but unsuccessful attempt to harmonize the Gospels with Aristotle's account of megalopsukhia in Nichomachean Ethics IV:3, 1123a-1125b, apparently. Kant does not footnote the sources he is alluding to.
10. Michael Slote, "Some Advantages of Virtue Ethics." In Identity, Character, and Morality: Essays in Moral Psychology, ed. by Owen Flanagan and Amilie O. Rorty. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993. Page 441. Emphasis added.
11. In the same volume, Barbara Herman, "Obligation and Performance: A Kantian Account of Moral Conflict," Page 319.
12. In the civilian professional world, it is only when we perceive some threat to health or safety in a claim made upon us by another, that the self rises above the ethical horizon for the first time. Here at last Kant offers us some license for self-care in ''5 and 19 - 20, The Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by Mary Gregor. Cambridge University Press, 1991. Pages 218 and 239f. Even this limited ethical standing for the self is dubious for the military professional. A civilian who knowingly places himself in immediate danger to his life could be subjected to involuntary psychiatric hospitalization in most of the United States. A commander who fails to place himself in danger may be stigmatized as a coward, and relieved of duty.
13. The best brief survey of the factors contributing to and protecting against psychological injury in war is "Psychiatric Lessons of War," by Colonel Franklin D. Jones (USAMC, Ret.), Chapter 1 of the Army Surgeon General's new War Psychiatry volume. Textbook of Military Medicine, Part I. Office of the Surgeon General, Borden Institute, WRAIR, 1995. I strongly recommend this chapter to JSCOPE participants. More detailed single-topic chapters that offer insights for commanders and for those who may be called upon to consult to and support commanders are chapters 1-6, 10, 11, and 19 of War Psychiatry. Its companion volume in the same series, Military Psychiatry: Preparing in Peace for War, also contains highly illuminating and informative material, particularly chapters 1 - 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, and 19.
14. See the paper in this session by Colonel Belenky.
15. Credit for this insight belongs entirely to Faris Kirkland; all errors of historical fact or analysis belong entirely to me.
16. United States War Department Board on officer-enlisted men relationships. Report of the Secretary of War's Board or officer-enlisted man relationships to Hon. R.P. Patterson. Washington, D.C., 1946.
17. See James Kittfield, Prodigal Soldiers, Simon & Schuster, 1995
18. My own awareness of the cultural and philosophical obstacles to self-care comes out of work with the Ethics Task Force of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, published as "No Escape from Philosophy" in Secondary Traumatic Stress edited by B. Hudnall Stamm, Sidran Foundation, 1995.
19. For an illuminating look at an even larger paradox--a pacifistic religion becoming the primary spiritual world of a warrior class--see Winston L. King, Zen and the Way of the Sword: Arming the Samurai Warrior, Oxford University Press, 1993.
20. The positive value of support by superiors is further increased when there is actual community among the enlisted men and women, and if that community values and supports commander self-care. Senior NCOs, who frequently are older and have more combat experience than the commander, have traditionally embodied the voice of the enlisted community in support of commander self-care. A recent book provides a fine exemplar in the relationship between 1st Cav Sergeant Major Plumley and then Colonel Harold G. Moore during the Battle of Ia Drang. Moore, Harold G. and Galloway, Joseph L., We Were Soldiers Once... And Young. Random House, 1992. The index entries under Plumley's name conveniently assemble this portrait.
21. I have recently become aware that chronic sleep deprivation, lack of social support, and defeat of self-care are frequently the experience of Drill Sergeants, Drill Instructors, and Recruit Division Commanders in our various recruit training settings. I believe that the most important single thing we can do to eliminate abuse of recruits, and to improve prevention of suicides and assaults by recruits is to change staffing so their trainers *can* get enough sleep, and change the folk culture so they *do* get enough sleep.
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