Presented at the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics XX,

National Defense University, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., 29-30 January 1998

Unit Cohesion and Organizational Change

David W. Lutz

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

We are living, to use the phrase of management guru Peter Drucker, in "turbulent times."1 Contemporary military commanders are confronted by rapid and accelerating changes, both within the organizations they command and in the environments where they must accomplish their missions. As the military "downsizes," the world is becoming more dangerous and the threats more complex than they were during the "Cold War." To complicate matters further, many commanders must now prepare their units to engage in "operations other than war."

The changes attracting the most attention today are technological developments. A host of new terms has been added to discussions of present and future military operations: "smart weapons," "brilliant weapons," "digitized battlefield," "virtual theater of war," "cybermaneuver," "dominant battlespace awareness," "psychotechnology," "narcotechnology," "nanotechnology," etc. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt envision "Cyberwar¾ a comprehensive information-oriented approach to battle that may be to the information age what Blitzkrieg was to the industrial age."2 And Robert J. Bunker tells us, "The goal of the Army in future war, beyond that of securing assigned politico-military objectives, will be that of total cyberspace dominance¾ not just digital battlespace dominance."3 But while technological changes may excite the most enthusiasm, philosophical changes and immutable truths within the military tradition remain of fundamental importance. Generals Paul K. Van Riper (USMC) and Robert H. Scales, Jr. (USA) remind us that "recurring proposals to substitute advanced technology for conventional military capabilities reflect a peculiarly American faith in science’s ability to engineer simple solutions to complex human problems."4

The general term in vogue for the rapid changes currently taking place within the profession of arms is "revolution in military affairs" or "RMA." James R. FitzSimonds and Jan M. van Tol identify "three common preconditions to the full realization of an RMA": "technological development," "doctrinal (or operational) innovation," and "organizational adaption." They then explain, "It is the increasing recognition of the importance of the doctrinal and organizational elements that has led to the term revolution in military affairs gaining currency over expressions such as military-technical revolution which implied that technology was the predominant factor."5 As but one of many examples of the relationship between that which can be and that which cannot be digitized, consider Marine Corps Commandant General Charles C. Krulak’s comments on the "virtual staff":

The Marine Corps has tapped into the expertise of Nobel Laureate, Dr. Josh Lederberg and others to assist in the event of a [Chemical/Biological] attack. As the head of our Chem/Bio "reach back" staff, Dr. Lederberg and his team join us on the scene of response via telecommunications and provide valuable diagnostic and treatment information.6

The use of technology to create "virtual staffs" has the potential to multiply the amount of information available to digital commanders in the battlespace. It also raises new and difficult questions: If civilian members of such "staffs" are called upon to exercise judgment while providing information in complex combat situations, what kind of responsibilities will they have, the traditional responsibilities of military staff officers or "virtual responsibilities"?

Steven Metz and James Kievit have called attention to the need for a theory of military change: "Strategists who seek to understand and use the revolution in military affairs do not have a mature theory to work from, but need one."7 It is important to understand at this point that the term "military-technical revolution," from which the more holistic "revolution in military affairs" emerged, is itself grounded in Marxist philosophy. The primary MTR theorist was Soviet Marshal Nikolai V. Ogarkov, whom one American officer has called "the most influential uniformed thinker of our generation."8 In a 1984 interview, "Ogarkov noted that the emergence of automated search-and-destroy complexes; long-range, high-precision, terminally guided combat systems; remotely piloted vehicles; and qualitatively new electronic control systems will inevitably alter the nature of modern operations."9 To the extent that American writers have looked elsewhere for a theory of military revolution, it has usually been either to Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) or to Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s War and Anti-War (1993).

We can begin a search for a different theory of military change by considering the role of "management" in the profession of arms. Some military writers have harshly criticized "management." Earl H. Tilford, Jr., for example, stresses the tendency of managers toward quantification: "Management depends upon bureaucracies to insure efficiency, and bureaucracies abhor the unpredictable and the uncontrollable. Therefore, managers and bureaucrats will promote the objectivity of the quantifiable at the expense of the subjectivity of the creative but unpredictable."10 Tilford goes on to relate our defeat in Vietnam to the manager’s way of thinking:

The Vietnam War solidified the managerial ethos making it fundamentally a part of the value systems of all the services . . . . In the Air Force the managerial approach to warfare evidenced itself in the way success was measured in Operation Commando Hunt, the aerial interdiction campaign along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from November 1968 to April 1972. The truck count, a running compilation of trucks damaged or destroyed by air power, was an effort to assess victory in terms of statistical success. The Army equivalent was the infamous body count, whereby any ground operation in Vietnam might be evaluated in terms of the number of enemy supposedly killed or wounded. In both cases, however, statistics proved to be no substitute for strategy and what the Air Force and the Army succeeded best at was fooling themselves into thinking that they were winning the war.11

Tilford then warns us that the Total Quality Management (TQM) may be no better than its predecessors:

If TQM is to the Information Age what PRIDE [Professional Results in Daily Efforts] and MBO [Management by Objectives] were to the Industrial Age, there is reason to be cautious as the Army and the other services transform their structures. The Department of Defense has adopted total quality management concepts with an enthusiasm that perhaps exceeds that accorded to earlier systems. Throughout the services, officers and non-commissioned officers have accepted the contentions made by W. Edwards Deming that TQM is largely responsible for the post-war Japanese economic recovery.12

Tilford continues to state, correctly, that many factors contributed to the Japanese post-war "economic miracle." The Japanese could not have fought against as well as they did in the Second World War if they had not had a strong, industrialized, pre-war economy. And the success of Deming’s ideas cannot be understood apart from their relation to the Confucian philosophical tradition. Though Confucianism originated in China, it is now an important part of the culture of many other Asian nations, including Japan:

Behind the wholehearted Japanese acceptance of modern science, modern concepts of progress and growth, universalistic principles of ethics, and democratic ideals and values, strong Confucian traits persist, such as the belief in the moral basis of government, the emphasis on interpersonal relations and loyalties, and faith in education and hard work. Almost no one considers himself a Confucianist today, but in a sense almost all Japanese are.13

To think of "Total Quality Management"¾ or as it is often called in the American military context, "Total Quality Leadership" (TQL)¾ primarily as a quantitative, statistical theory (as in "zero defects") is to focus on only one of its many aspects. In an attempt to arrive at a "theory of quality management," one team of researchers has identified seven "concepts underlying the Deming management method": visionary leadership, internal and external cooperation, learning, process management, continuous improvement, employee fulfillment, and customer satisfaction.14 I submit that the most theoretically significant of these seven concepts is the fifth: continuous improvement. The Confucian tradition is also one of continuous improvement, from an immature to a mature state of character. A glimpse of this can be seen in the following contrast between two ways of attempting to attain maturity:

The Master [K’ung Fu-tzu, or Confucius] said, ‘Never flagging when I set forth anything to him;¾ ah! that is Hui.’ The Master said of Yen Yuan, ‘Alas! I saw his constant advance. I never saw him stop in his progress.’15

Some one asked about [a youth of the village of Ch’üeh], saying, ‘I suppose he has made great progress.’ The Master said, ‘I observe that he is fond of occupying the seat of a full-grown man; I observe that he walks shoulder to shoulder with his elders. He is not one who is seeking to make progress in learning. He wishes quickly to become a man.’16

This Eastern, Confucian philosophy of continuous improvement stands in contrast to the Western philosophy of "paradigm shifts" or revolutions:

Revolutions (whether political, economic, socio-cultural, scientific, or military), by definition, imply discontinuity and change. In the case of an RMA, it is the discontinuous increase in military capability and effectiveness that sets an RMA apart from the normal evolutionary accretion of military capabilities, whether from technology insertion or operational innovation (emphasis added).17

The United States does not have a mature management theory, but rather a succession of attempts to reinvent (or "reengineer") the wheel. Old ideas are inferior to new ideas, and therefore must be discarded. Instead of progressing continuously, we must repeatedly reinvent our management practices. Michael Hammer and James Champy write in Reengineering the Corporation:

The book you are holding describes a conceptually new business model and an associated set of techniques that American executives and managers will have to use to reinvent their companies for competition in a new world.

To reinvent their companies, American managers must throw out their old notions about how businesses should be organized and run. They must abandon the organizational and operational principles and procedures they are now using and create entirely new ones.

. . . . .

In this book we demonstrate how existing corporations can reinvent themselves. We call the techniques they can use to accomplish this business reengineering, and it is to the next revolution of business what the specialization of labor was to the last.

. . . . .

Business reengineering means starting all over, starting from scratch.

Business reengineering means putting aside much of the received wisdom of two hundred years of industrial management.

. . . . .

At the heart of business reengineering lies the notion of discontinuous thinking¾ identifying and abandoning the outdated rules and fundamental assumptions that underlie current business operations (emphasis in the original).18

The contrast between the American and traditional-Asian philosophies of change could hardly be more striking. And when we attempted to learn from the Japanese, "TQM" became merely one more in a succession of management fads. To understand the changes presently taking place within the profession of arms as a "revolution" is to understand them in terms of a philosophy of reinvention, rather than in terms of a philosophy of continuous improvement.

Within Western philosophy we also have a rich tradition of continuous improvement, one sharing significant features with the Confucian tradition. This Western tradition has historical roots both in the great pagan philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome¾ especially Plato and Aristotle¾ and in Jewish and Christian Scripture. The Greeks and Romans, like Confucius and his followers, understood leadership and ethics in terms of virtues and vices.19 Virtues are excellent qualities of human character; vices are their opposites. One acquires the virtues by performing the kind of actions that a virtuous person would perform until doing so becomes a habit, a part of one’s character. To simplify greatly, Augustine achieved a synthesis of Platonic philosophy and the biblical tradition in the late-fourth and early-fifth centuries, and then Thomas Aquinas synthesized Aristotelian philosophy and the Augustinian synthesis in the thirteenth century. Many other thinkers added to this tradition; but during the Enlightenment the most influential European philosophers decided to reinvent philosophy.

Alasdair MacIntyre, whom James Toner has called "perhaps our foremost moral philosopher,"20 describes our situation after the rejection of the tradition of the virtues:

What we possess . . . are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts which now lack those contexts from which their significance derived. We possess indeed simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the key expressions. But we have¾ very largely, if not entirely¾ lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality.21

To view these fragments of the abandoned tradition, one need only look at the syllabus of a typical¾ "If it’s Tuesday, this must be Bentham"¾ course in military ethics. A day or two is spent on each of the major fragments (including "virtue ethics," as if it were merely another fragment), and then we assume that the cadets or midshipmen have learned something about what it means to be ethical. Such an eclectic course is counterproductive for most students, because it merely adds academic rigor to the vague moral relativism that they bring to the course. Some philosophers are "deontological" and some are "teleological," some value "rights" and some value "utility." Since everyone has a different opinion and none is more "true" or "correct" than any other, just choose the fragment, or collection of fragments, that is most appealing to you.

The tradition of the virtues is both deontological and teleological. It is about persons performing actions to attain objectives. Modern deontological theories are based upon the actions-fragment, modern consequentialist theories upon the objectives-fragment. The virtues tradition, in contrast, takes persons as primary, but is also a unified theory of actions and objectives. It is a unified theory, because persons can acquire the virtues only by performing certain kinds of actions, and those actions necessarily aim at good objectives.

This tradition can be contrasted to utilitarian theories of ethics, according to which ends justify means. The simplest species of utilitarianism, "act utilitarianism," tells us that for a person in a particular situation with an array of possible actions, the ethical action is the one that would result in the greatest increase or smallest decrease of utility. (One point of deep disagreement among utilitarianism is the definition of "utility.") But act utilitarianism seems to many persons to be problematic. Although I do not know whether it is true, I have heard that American interrogators in Vietnam sometimes persuaded prisoners of war to answer questions by taking a group of them for a helicopter ride. One prisoner was told that he could either talk or be shoved out the door (without a parachute). If he refused to answer the questions, he was sent to his death. The other prisoners then became more talkative. Depending upon how one chooses to define and measure "utility," this practice may turn out to be ethical on act-utilitarian grounds. Although it looks like a bear market from the perspective of the prisoner who winds up dead, the information obtained from the others might lead to the saving of many lives and a net increase in the total quantity of utility in the world. But many persons initially attracted to the idea of increasing the amount of utility in the world would have a problem with condoning this method of interrogation.

In an attempt to salvage the utilitarian approach, some theorists have formulated "rule utilitarianism." Rather than performing the action that would result in more utility than would any alternative, one should follow the rule of action that, if followed consistently, would result in more utility than consistently following any other rule. To return to the case at hand, a rule utilitarian might argue that prisoners of war should not be interrogated in this manner, even if doing so sometimes maximizes utility, because in the long run there will be more utility in the world if we obey a rule forbidding this practice than if we do not.

Unfortunately for the utilitarian, however, this defense does not succeed. Rule utilitarianism can be shown to collapse back into act utilitarianism simply by formulating a more specific rule: "Do not kill prisoners of war who refuse to answer questions, except in situations where doing so will save many lives." The consistent utilitarian cannot avoid the position that the end of maximizing utility justifies any means whatsoever that lead to that end.

Within the tradition of the virtues, means and ends cannot be separated from one another, as they can be for other ethical theories, because neither can be considered independently of the person who performs an action to attain an objective. Not only do the actions we perform have consequences for other persons, they also shape our own character. We cannot become virtuous by performing evil actions, nor vicious by performing good actions. And an evil act that brings about more utility in the world than a good act is still an evil act.

The fact that our actions shape our character is related to two of the U.S. military’s "core values": the Air Force’s "service before self" and the Army’s "selfless service." Within the tradition of the virtues, we are never forced to choose between doing the right thing and doing what is good for ourselves. That this is true even of the soldier who sacrifices his life in combat can be seen in Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:

Although those who die for virtue may live more briefly, nevertheless by endangering themselves for a friend they do a greater good in this one action than in many other actions. Thus, in acting virtuously by exposing their lives for a friend they choose a great good for themselves. From this it is clear that they love themselves very much.22

Within his systematic treatment of the Christian virtue of charity, Aquinas argues: "Man’s love for himself is the model of his love for another. But the model exceeds the copy. Therefore, out of charity, a man ought to love himself more than his neighbor."23 Within the tradition of the virtues (of which the just-war tradition is a component) the soldier is never asked to act contrary to his own good, but rather to understand that it is good for himself to risk his own death in the defense of his friends and country. Military service, therefore, is neither "before self" nor "selfless."

It may appear at this point that I have wandered far afield. We needed a theory of military change, but now the discussion is of ethics. But the two fields appear to be unrelated only because the fragmentation about which MacIntyre writes involves more than ethical theory. For most ancient, medieval, and early-modern thinkers, all areas of academic study were related¾ they were branches of a single tree. We, in contrast, live in an age of knowledge-compartmentalization. Part of the reason is that there is simply so much more to know today that no one can be a "Renaissance man." Another part of the explanation is to be found in the way universities are managed, with relatively-autonomous departments (and many of the really important questions "falling between the cracks"). But yet another part of the explanation is that several former branches of the philosophical tree have declared themselves to be independent trees.

Again to simplify greatly, in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries the "behavioral and social sciences" declared themselves independent of philosophy and theology and attempted to pattern themselves after the "natural sciences," which appeared to be doing a better job of going somewhere. Thus, psychology and sociology became "value-free" sciences. Also during this period a number of philosophers developed the idea that "facts" must either be empirically verifiable (or falsifiable) or be truths of logic or mathematics. Everything else¾ including ethics, aesthetics, and religion¾ lies within the range of "values." According to these logical-positivists and emotivists, to say, for example, that torturing prisoners of war is immoral is to state neither a truth nor a falsehood, but rather to express one’s emotions.

When Army Chief of Staff General Dennis J. Reimer says that the U.S. Army is a "values-based organization," he presumably intends to deny that it is a "value-free" organization and to assert that ethics plays an important role in the Army. But by using the word "values," he begins the fight on the enemy’s home battlefield. "Values" are whatever people happen to value¾ and different people value different things. If the Army is based on values, upon what are those values based? What is their origin? Why these seven values (duty, integrity, loyalty, selfless service, honor, courage, and respect) and not some other set of values?

Within the tradition of the virtues, the human virtues have a "factual" basis: human nature. For the theist, the ultimate basis of the virtues is the character of God, because human persons are created in the image of God. (To be sure, some contemporary virtue theorists are relativists, grounding the virtues in the characteristics of particular communities; but the most important thinkers in the history of the tradition were not relativists.) For Augustine, Aquinas, and many other Christians in the tradition, seven virtues were most important: prudence, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and charity. All other virtues are understood in terms of one of these seven.

Gertrude Himmelfarb comments at some length on the significance of the recent shift from "virtues" to "values" in The De-Moralization of Society:

It was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized and subjectified that virtues ceased to be "virtues" and became "values." This transmutation is the great philosophical revolution of modernity, no less momentous than the earlier revolt of the "Moderns" against the "Ancients"¾ modern science and learning against classical philosophy. Yet unlike the earlier rebels, who were fully conscious of the import of their rebellion, the later ones (with the notable exception of Nietzsche) seemed almost unaware of what they were doing. There was no "Battle of the Books" to sound the alarm and rally the troops. Even the new vocabulary, which was so radical a departure from the old and which in itself constituted a revolution in thought, passed without notice.

This is all the more curious because the inspirer of the revolution and the creator of the new language was acutely aware of the significance of it all. It was in the 1880s that Friedrich Nietzsche began to speak of "values" in its present sense . . . . Moreover, he used the word consciously, repeatedly, indeed insistently, to signify what he took to be the most profound event in human history. His "transvalueation of values" was to be the final, ultimate revolution, a revolution against both the classical virtues and the Judaic-Christian ones. The "death of God" would mean the death of morality and the death of truth¾ above all, the truth of any morality. There would be no good and evil, no virtue and vice. There would be only "values."

. . . . .

Values, as we now understand that word, do not have to be virtues; they can be beliefs, opinions, attitudes, feelings, habits, conventions, preferences, prejudices, even idiosyncrasies¾ whatever any individual, group, or society happens to value, at any time, for any reason. One cannot say of virtues, as one can of values, that anyone’s virtues are as good as anyone else’s, or that everyone has a right to his own virtues. Only values can lay that claim to moral equality and neutrality.24

It might seem that quibbling about the difference between "values" and "virtues" is of interest only within the "ivory tower" and irrelevant to the "real world." But one piece of evidence that "ideas have consequences" is the separation of "leadership" and "ethics" in contemporary professional military education. At the U.S. Military Academy, for example, classroom education in military leadership takes place primarily in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership ("facts"), while ethics is taught as a subdiscipline of philosophy in the Department of English ("values"). The fact that the theme of this conference is "Ethics and Leadership during Organizational Change" shows that the compartmentalization is less than airtight. But if ethics is the study of how best to live a human life, as it was for Plato’s teacher Socrates and many centuries of his followers, not merely the study of how best to extricate oneself from an "ethical dilemma," as it often is today, then leadership and ethics are not two separate fields of study for the military leader.

It is important to point out that within the tradition of the virtues, not only persons, but also organizations, can be either virtuous or vicious. The classic comparison of personal and organizational virtues is found in Book IV of Plato’s Republic. While his identification of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice in the ideal Greek city-state may not be immediately helpful to the twentieth-century military commander, the truth that there can be no organizational virtues without personal virtues is directly relevant. For that reason I submit that the Marine Corps’ slogan "Making Marines [persons] and Winning Battles [an organizational endeavor]" is based upon a more solid foundation than is the Air Force’s statement: "Our first task is to fix organizations; individual character development is possible, but it is not a goal."25

While the whole of a cohesive military unit is greater than the sum of its parts, there can be no virtuous organizations without virtuous persons. This is true because we are naturally-political beings; to be a mature human person is to be rightly-related to other mature persons. The idea that we can solve society’s problems by fixing society, rather than by fixing the individual members of society, is more closely related to British utilitarianism than to any other school of ethics. But Stanley Hauerwas, a Protestant moral theologian writing within the tradition of the virtues, locates this idea in contemporary anti-utilitarian, social-contract theory:

It has been the project of liberal political and ethical theory to create societies that could be just without people that constitute those societies being just. Thus the attempt to create social institutions and/or discover moral principles that would insure cooperation between people who share no common goods or virtues. The examples of this project are legion, but perhaps it is nowhere better exemplified than in John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice.26

While the revolution against the classical and Christian virtues began several centuries ago for intellectuals and approximately one century ago for the general population, it began more recently within the military profession (and the other traditional professions). It is difficult to imagine Admiral Chester Nimitz saying that among the Americans who fought on Iwo Jima, "uncommon valor was a common value." But the reengineering of military professional ethics is now rapidly picking up steam.

In a recent journal article entitled "A Revolution in Military Ethics?" Ralph Peters identifies what he considers an irrational feature of contemporary military ethical thinking: It was ethically-permissible in 1991 to kill thousands of Iraqi soldiers who fought against us only because they were ordered to do so, but impermissible to assassinate Saddam Hussein, the man who gave the orders. Although Peters could recommend development in our thinking about such matters, he instead calls for a rather reactionary revolution, one that would lead us to something resembling "antique ages," during which "the aim of war between states or proto-state organizations was to kill the enemy chief or to capture him and display him in a cage." He writes, "Current and impending technologies could permit us to reinvent warfare, once again to attack the instigators of violence and atrocity, not the representational populations who themselves have often been victimized by their leadership" (emphasis added).27

Peters’ thesis could be interesting, if he were to defend it with an impressive argument. He instead commits a series of fallacies. His article opens with the following sentences: "There is a popular disposition to regard ethics as absolute and enduring, yet they are neither. That which is considered ethical alters with time and varies between civilizations and even families." But extremely few, if any, ethical absolutists believe that what is considered ethical remains constant always and everywhere. The absolutist maintains, instead, that wherever and whenever there is disagreement about what is ethical, at least one of the parties to the disagreement is mistaken.

Peters is interested in the relationship between military technology and military ethics:

It appears that technology is the greatest of temptations in this sphere of human activity; what is unacceptable from the man is welcome from the machine. If the soldier shoots a family, he is a war criminal. If a pilot misses his target and wipes out a family, he has simply had an unsuccessful mission. The focus is not on the result, but on the distance between the actor and the object of his actions, on the alienation between subject and object. Since the pilot "could not have known" and assumedly did not will the result of his actions, he bears no guilt. The machine failed, and the machine is guilty (although the machine’s designers bear no blame, so long as they have designed machines that are linear extrapolations of previous war machines and they do not explore weaponry that violates contemporary¾ or atavistic¾ taboos, such as chemical or biological weapons).

It is true that many of us regard My Lai as a greater atrocity than Dresden, and that this is partially explained by the proximity of the killers and victims in the former case. But a far more ethically-significant difference between a soldier who shoots a family at close range and a pilot who kills a family as a result of missing his target is that the former intends to kill the family and the latter does not. If the pilot misses his target because of negligence, either on his part or on that of the aircraft’s designer, the negligent party does bear guilt, though less than if the pilot wipes out the family intentionally. In no situation is the machine guilty, because it is an inanimate object.

Within an argument that we should kill drug lords in other countries, rather than focusing on "those at the bottom of the narcotics business," Peters writes: "The purpose of a military is to kill, and if you cannot stomach that, you should not have a military. The only operative question is whom the military should kill." But this is indeed a revolutionary understanding of the purpose of the military. According to Aquinas, "those who wage war justly aim at peace."28 Killing is sometimes a means to this end, but never the purpose of the military.

Peters’ article raises some interesting questions about the relationship between military technology and military ethics. He fails, however, to defend the thesis that we need to reinvent warfare, because he provides no evidence that we cannot answer his questions by the development of existing military doctrine¾ or, indeed, that we cannot answer them with our military doctrine as it now stands.

Trends in military technology other than those considered by Peters may pose greater challenges for existing military doctrine. Steven H. Kenney writes about the possible "civilianization" of future warfare: "To what extent might war be fought from stateside computer consoles by individuals who have never donned a uniform?"29 It seems to me that such persons should be considered combatants, despite their civilian clothing. But someone may be able to present a strong argument to the contrary.

Dan Kuehl asks: "Since by our own admission over 90% of DOD’s daily communications travel over civilian owned and operated communication systems, doesn’t this condition make our national information infrastructure a viable, legal and ethical target in case of conflict?"30 A quick answer is that if our cause is just, then our enemy’s is not (since a war cannot be just on both sides), and therefore that attacking our civilian information infrastructure would be unjust. But that leaves unanswered the question whether we would be justified in attacking the enemy’s civilian information infrastructure if it carried military communication and our cause were just. Kuehl goes on to raise even more difficult questions concerning the distinction between espionage and war in the information age, between military espionage and economic espionage, etc. There is clearly work to be done, either in developing military doctrine or in reinventing it. But I see no reason to believe that we must choose the latter alternative.

Yet another category of questions is raised when civilians with little or no understanding of military traditions employ the principle of "civilian control of the military" to carry out programs of social reengineering. The Clinton Administration came to Washington in 1993 with the mission of "Reinventing Government"¾ beginning with the Department of Defense. Duke University law professor Madeline Morris has argued that full gender-integration of the military, including infantry, armor, and field artillery units, could effect a reduction in the incidence of rape by military personnel. After the rapes at Aberdeen Proving Ground were revealed in late-1996, Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr. asked Morris to serve as his special consultant and as a consultant to the Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment. I probably was not alone in being shocked and saddened last year by the news that female soldiers of the United States Army had been raped by their drill sergeant. There clearly existed serious problems in those soldiers’ entire chain-of-command, from the unit commander to the Commander-in-Chief. The Department of Defense’s previously- and publicly-stated policy of "zero tolerance for sexual harassment" must have been small consolation for the victims of those crimes and their families. But we should not accept Morris’s conclusion before considering her argument.

I will attempt to capture accurately the most important steps in the argument of Morris’s "By Force of Arms: Rape, War and Military Culture" (a 130-page journal article with more than 400 footnotes). In citing directly passages in her article, I will delete her notes. I encourage the interested reader to examine her article itself in its entirely.

Morris identifies what she calls a "rape differential."31 She presents empirical evidence that while military rape rates are lower than civilian rape rates during peacetime, the ratio of military rape rates to civilian rape rates is larger than the ratio of military rates to civilian rates of other violent crimes during peacetime. Furthermore, while the rates of rape by American soldiers during combat (in the European Theater of Operations from June 1944 to May 1945) were much higher than civilian rape rates, military rates of other violent crimes during this period were on a par with civilian rates. Thus, during both peace and war, "the ratio of military rape rates to civilian rape rates is substantially larger than the ratio of military rates to civilian rates of other violent crime."32 Morris seeks an explanation of this "rape differential" by exploring the hypothesis that "there are conditions of military life and lifestyle that inhibit and diminish rates of violent crime including rape, but there are other conditions in military life that tend to re-elevate rape rates."33

Among conditions possibly reducing violent crime in general, including rape, Morris identifies

a structured and controlled lifestyle, often with greater surveillance of one’s activities than in civilian life; fewer opportunities for many kinds of crime (especially for personnel living on base); a population that excludes past felons; a reduced incidence of drug abuse; and a close knit social organization that generally imparts and enforces anti-crime norms.34

Her first step in discussing conditions that might re-elevate rape rates is to argue that a military unit, especially during combat, is a "primary group," as that concept is understood by sociologists. She makes this point in terms of "unit cohesion":

As in other primary groups, cohesion in military units is fostered by the cementing of affective ties within the group, by separation of members from outside emotional ties, by the presence of membership requirements and initiation rites, and by the presence of an ideology or cause to which the group is committed.35

Morris next cites studies indicating that "heightened rape incidence is associated with certain primary groups," and then suggests that the explanation of this phenomenon "appears to lie, at least partly, in the groups’ norms."36 She then identifies a set of norms or "attitudes¾ including attitudes of hypermasculinity, adversarial sexual beliefs, sexual promiscuity, rape myth acceptance, acceptance of violence against women, hostility toward women, and sex-role stereotyping¾ that is correlated with rape and rape proclivity."37 She goes on to present evidence (much of it anecdotal, but nevertheless persuasive) that some of these attitudes can be found rather extensively among male military personnel.

Morris identifies three "normative elements of hyper masculinity": a focus on toughness, on self-sufficiency, and on dominance.38 She also cites military psychiatrist David Marlowe to confirm the existence of hypermasculine attitudes among soldiers:

The soldier’s world is characterized by a stereotypical masculinity. His language is profane, his professed sexuality crude and direct; his maleness is his armor, the measure of his competence, capability, and confidence in himself.

. . . . .

In the world of the combat soldier . . . masculinity is an essential measure of capability. In an interaction between male bonding and widespread cultural norms, the maleness of an act is the measure of its worth and thus a measure of one’s ability. While many may disapprove of these norms, they have been and are, as a matter of ethnographic fact, the operative ones in much of military society and particularly in the combat group.39

After discussing each of the other attitudes correlated with rape and rape proclivity, she concludes this stage of her argument:

There is substantial evidence¾ though as yet, no systematically collected data comparing military and civilian populations¾ of themes of hyper masculinity, adversarial sexual beliefs, promiscuity, hostility toward women, and possibly acceptance of violence against women, within current military culture. The norms and normative attitudes toward gender and sexuality that are prevalent in military culture thus appear to partake largely of the set of attitudes that have been found to be associated with heightened rape propensity. These norms and attitudes are imparted to new members as they are socialized into their primary groups within the military. Even while the military services institute policies of "zero tolerance" of sexual harassment and assault, and provide formal training pursuant to those policies, informal socialization continues to perpetuate group norms that are inconsistent with those formal policies and goals. The result is that, even while the U.S. military is in some ways in transition regarding gender, military units’ normative attitudes toward gender and sexuality continue in part to be those associated with heightened levels of rape propensity.40

Morris considers the possibility that a military culture featuring rape-conducive group norms might tend to attract disproportionately individuals with higher-than-average proclivities to rape, who might in turn increase the rape-conducive norms of the group¾ if it exists, truly a vicious circle. She then describes another factor that might tend to increase the incidence of rape: "the presence in military organizations of norms favoring deindividuation." She explains:

"Deindividuation" is a function of the submergence of individual identity within the larger group. This eclipsing of individual identity by group identification has been found under certain conditions to reduce individuals’ internal constraints on behavior.

The situation of a cohesive military unit in a combat situation is, like certain religious experiences, highly conducive to deindividuation.

Once military unit members are in a deindividuated state, and if the group’s proclivities . . . have already been developed in a rape-conducive direction, then rape becomes a plausible outcome.41

At this point the process of social reengineering begins in earnest:

We have considered the possibility that the military rape differential may be attributable in part to the norms and attitudes¾ toward gender and sexuality, and toward deindividuation¾ extant within military organizations. If that causal analysis is at all accurate, then it suggests that we may be able to reduce military rape rates, in peace and also in war, by altering the norms that are conveyed within the military.42

Morris recognizes that she should not attack either "primary-group-bonding" or "deindividuation," because their contributions to combat-success are too well documented. She focuses instead on the "normative gender and sexual attitudes within military culture":

We might expect that a truly thoroughgoing integration of women throughout the military services would do much to undermine group norms featuring the constellation of attitudes comprised of hyper masculinity, hostility toward women, adversarial sexual beliefs, and the like, discussed earlier. The presence of women as full members of the fighting forces would be inconsistent with a military culture in which women are viewed as the "other," primarily as sexual targets, and in which aggression is viewed as a sign of masculinity. The very presence of women as military equals would call into question such views.43

Morris then turns to the obvious question: "Can military gender and sexual culture be changed more thoroughly than has occurred to date without eroding military effectiveness?" She maintains that while "no definitive explanation for the pervasiveness of the masculinist military construct is possible, five elements are likely contributing factors":

1. Historically, success in combat depended heavily upon the physical strength of the combatants.

2. Young males, unlike young females, utilize institutions like the traditional military as means through which to affirm their gender identities.

3. Idealization of [dominance, aggressiveness, and toughness] is highly functional in an organization whose raison d’être is combat.

4. Masculinist group identity may provide a basis for group cohesion between group members who otherwise share little in common.

5. An exclusively male, heterosexual group identity may serve to minimize sexual tensions between group members.44

She comments: "The first two [elements] may be waning in their causal vitality at this moment in history. The latter three continue to be causally efficacious, but may not represent an insurmountable barrier to change because of the availability of suitable alternatives."45

Morris replies succinctly to the first point, "Now, of course, with the advent of increasingly lighter and more effective firepower, this basis for linking combat and maleness has become much more tenuous."46 She neither explains why she believes firepower is becoming lighter nor cites evidence that future wars will require less physical strength than did those of the past.

To save time, I will skip the second point. On the third, Morris comments:

There is no reason that the high valuation of those attributes cannot be retained while simultaneously dissociating them from masculine gender; they may be valued instead as important attributes in a good soldier regardless of gender. Nor need the celebration of a certain steeliness exclude the approval also of compassion and understanding (as it does in the hypermasculinity component of the masculinist construct). Indeed, it is that very combination of aggressivity with compassion that is required for compliance with the laws of war that require humane treatment of prisoners, civilians, and the wounded. Therefore, there is much to be gained and little to be lost by changing this aspect of military culture from a masculinist vision of unalloyed aggressivity to an ungendered vision combining aggressivity with compassion.47

The temptation is to move quickly onward, in order to avoid offending anyone. But if we are interested in truth, something along the following lines should be said: In the event of a future war fought from computer consoles (like the one Kenney envisions above) female fighters may prove to be at least as dominant, aggressive, and tough as male fighters. Moreover, in hand-to-hand or bayonet-to-bayonet combat, some women are more dominant, more aggressive, and tougher than most men and most women more so than some men. But considering women and men in the aggregate, and considering war as it is now fought and will be fought in the near future (and Demi Moore’s performance in "G.I. Jane" notwithstanding), it is simply the case that men are more dominant, more aggressive, and tougher than women. (That is why all of the linemen in the National Football League are men.) This may not be a politically correct opinion, but at least it qualifies for the consolation prize of truth. Someone must point out that the Empress¾ well, never mind, this is a deadly serious matter.

I will not comment on the fourth and fifth points. While they are not insignificant, the first and third points are decisive. Certainly there are examples of women who have served heroically in combat, some at the sacrifice of their lives. Certainly women have made significant contributions in every war in American history. Certainly rape-prevention demands the attention of every military commander. And Morris is to be commended for seeking a way to reduce the incidence of rape by men in uniform. But to attempt to accomplish this by placing women in ground-combat units is not to develop military doctrine; it is to reinvent the American military tradition.

While we are on the topic of social reengineering, it is worth responding to former Assistant Secretary of the Army Sara Lister’s unfortunate remark that Marines are "extremists." Aristotle explains that the virtues are means in one sense, but extremes in another:

Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i. e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate. Hence in respect of its substance and the definition which states its essence virtue is a mean, with regard to what is best and right an extreme.48

To translate this passage into words that every Marine can understand: It’s good to be an extremist, as long as you’re an extremist in the right way.

Now, to recapitulate the main points I have attempted to make in this paper: We are living in a time of rapid changes in the profession of arms. The most exciting changes are technological innovations. We must think clearly about developments in military technology, so that we never wake up to find ourselves on the information highway of death. But it is even more important that we have a theory of military change that can deal with more than technological change. In selecting such a theory we have two major options. One includes concepts such as "revolution," "paradigm shift," "reinventing," and "reengineering." The other includes concepts such as "tradition," "development of doctrine," and "continuous improvement." I maintain that there is much wisdom and much truth in our existing military traditions, and therefore that we should not attempt to start from scratch.

What is required, however, is that we exercise mature military judgment in distinguishing essential components of the tradition, which must be retained, from non-essential components, which may be replaced. I believe this is close to the position defended by former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Walter E. Boomer when he was asked four years ago what he would say to those who contend that Marine Corps leadership has been perfected over two hundred years and therefore does not need to change:

I’d tell them that with that attitude, like the dinosaur, the Corps will eventually disappear. While it’s true that some things have been perfected over 200 years that are still working very well, everything isn’t. What we need to do is hang on to those things that we know are good. Hang on to them, build on them, and work changes from that foundation. But unless we change, my friends, we’re dead.49

And I also believe it is the position that Air Force Colonel Robert M. Chapman, Jr. defended in a 1988 journal article:

Each individual and service component has cherished beliefs and traditions about the best way to conduct military operations. To outsiders these beliefs and their associated doctrines often appear to be sacred cows, and some of them probably are. But there is no sure way to know without testing them in combat. Tradition and heritage are vital in developing unit cohesion and morale. Without cohesion men and women will not make the personal sacrifices necessary for combat success. But tradition and heritage can become irrelevant or even destructive influences if they result in a stultifying institutional mind-set.50

A second important point is that a theory of military change is a theory of military leadership is a theory of military ethics. In other words, we should avoid following the modern university in compartmentalizing wisdom and knowledge. Empirical theories of leadership and philosophical theories of ethics should not be divorced from one another. I submit that the best way to study both military leadership and military ethics is to study the biographies of both virtuous and vicious military commanders and the histories of both virtuous and vicious military units.

A third and final point is that within the philosophical tradition of the virtues, there is agreement, not conflict, between the true good of the individual and the good of the organization. The bullet that this position must bite is that it is better to die courageously than to live cowardly. But every true military professional should be willing to bite that bullet. To use different terminology, unit cohesion does not require "deindividuation."

I hope these comments are of some value to those interested in thinking about how ethical leadership, unit cohesion, and organizational change are related to one another.




1. Peter F. Drucker, Managing in Turbulent Times, London, William Heinemann, 1980.

2. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, "A New Epoch¾ and Spectrum¾ of Conflict," In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age, ed. Arquilla and Ronfeldt, RAND, publications/MR/MR880/MR880.ch1.pdf.

3. Robert J. Bunker, "Advanced Battlespace and Cybermaneuver Concepts: Implications for Force XXI," Parameters, 26 (1996), p. 112,

4. Paul Van Riper and Robert H. Scales, Jr., "Preparing for War in the 21st Century," Parameters, 27 (1997), p. 4;; originally published in Strategic Review, Summer 1997.

5. James R. FitzSimonds and Jan M. van Tol, "Revolutions in Military Affairs," Joint Force Quarterly, No. 4 (Spring 1994), pp. 25-26.

6. Gen. Charles C. Krulak, "Draft Remarks for The National Press Club," 10 October 1997, http://

7. Steven Metz and James Kievit, "Strategy and the Revolution in Military Affairs: From Theory to Policy," September 21, 1995,

8. G. Murphy Donovan, "Strategic Literacy," Airpower Journal, 2 (1988), apj88/donovan.html.

9. Mary C. FitzGerald, "The Soviet Military and the New Air War in the Persian Gulf," Airpower Journal, 5 (1991),

10. Earl H. Tilford, Jr., "The Revolution in Military Affairs: Prospects and Cautions," June 23, 1995, http://

11. Tilford, op. cit.

12. Tilford, op. cit.

13. Edwin O. Reischauer, The Japanese Today: Change and Continuity, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1977, p. 204.

14. John C. Anderson, Manus Rungtusanatham, and Roger Schroeder, "A Theory of Quality Management Underlying the Deming Management Method," Academy of Management Review, 19 (1994), p. 480.

15. K’ung Fu-tzu, Confucian Analects, in The Chinese Classics, 2nd Ed., Vol. I. trans. James Legge, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1893, IX, 19-20.

16. K’ung Fu-tzu, XIV, 47.

17. Jeffrey R. Cooper, "Another View of the Revolution in Military Affairs," usassi/ssipubs/pubs94/anothr/anothrp3.htm.

18. Michael Hammer and James Champy, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, New York, HarperBusiness, 1993; note the allusion in the subtitle to Marx and Engels.

19. Lee H. Yearley has written a comparison of the Eastern and Western virtue traditions, with a focus on the virtue of courage: Mencius and Aquinas: Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1990.

20. James H. Toner, "Leadership, Community, and Virtue," Joint Force Quarterly, No. 11 (Spring 1996), p. 102.

21. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1981, 1984, p. 2.

22. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, trans. C. I. Litzinger, Notre Dame, Ind., Dumb Ox Books, 1993, p. 569; comment on Ethica Nicomachea, 1169a18-22.

23. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, New York, Benziger Brothers, 1948, II-II, 26, 4.

24. Gertrude Himmelfarb, The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, pp. 9-12.

25. United States Air Force Core Values ("The Little Blue Book"), 1 January 1997, Section III: "The Corps Values Strategy."

26. Stanley Hauerwas, "The Difference of Virtue and the Difference It Makes: Courage Exemplified," Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence, Character, and Citizenship in American Society, ed. Mary Ann Glendon and David Blankenhorn, Lanham, Md., Madison Books, 1995, pp. 201-2.

27. Ralph Peters, "A Revolution in Military Ethics?" Parameters, 26 (1996), usawc/Parameters/96summer/peters.htm.

28. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 40, 1.

29. Steven H. Kenney, "Professional Military Education and the Emerging Revolution in Military Affairs," Airpower Journal, 10 (1996), pp. 50-64,

30. Dan Kuehl, "The Ethics of Information Warfare and Statecraft," mil_c4ij.html-ssi/mil_c4i.html-ssi.

31. Madeline Morris, "By Force of Arms: Rape, War and Military Culture," Duke Law Journal, 45 (1996), p. 653,

32. Morris, p. 653.

33. Morris, p. 690.

34. Morris, p. 690.

35. Morris, p. 693.

36. Morris, p. 698.

37. Morris, p. 704.

38. Morris, p. 710.

39. Morris cites: David H. Marlowe, "The Manning of the Force and the Structure of Battle: Part 2: Men and Women," Conscripts and Volunteers, ed. Robert K. Fullinwider, 1983, pp. 192, 194.

40. Morris, p. 720.

41. Morris, pp. 725, 730, 730.

42. Morris, p. 731.

43. Morris, p. 733.

44. Morris, pp. 748, 749, 751, 752, 756.

45. Morris, p. 750.

46. Morris, p. 748.

47. Morris, p. 751.

48. Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, trans. W. D. Ross, 1106b36-1107a8.

49. TQLeader: The Department of the Navy’s Total Quality Leadership Newsletter, Vol. 1, Issue 8, November 1993,

50. Robert M. Chapman, Jr., "Technology, Air Power, and the Modern Theater Battlefield," Airpower Journal, 2 (1988),