Finding "The Right Way": Toward an Army Institutional Ethic

  • September 01, 2012
  • LTC Clark C Barrett

The ethical lapses exemplified by Abu Ghraib, Mahmudiyah (Blackhearts), and Maywand (5/2 Stryker) are distressing symptoms of an even bigger, and a potentially devastating cultural shortcoming. The U.S. Army profession lacks an institutional ethical framework and a means of peer-to-peer self-governance. The frameworks the Army has may imply, but do not explicitly dictate, an Army ethic. Other English-speaking nations' ethical constructs can inform the development of an Army Ethic which serves to protect our organizational and individual honor from moral and ethical lapses which do great harm to the institution, undermine the American public trust, and hinder mission accomplishment. This Paper describes the problem, provides a review of the literature, including current Army artifacts, partner nation military ethics, and necessary philosophical underpinnings. It also addresses the importance of promulgation, nontoleration, and the necessity for the Army to act as a learning organization. Finally, the Paper supplies and justifies a proposed institutional and individual Army Ethic and a means of promulgation, ethical decisionmaking and governance. The proposed Ethic replaces and integrates a number of disjointed and disconnected Army artifacts.