Best Defense

A Best Defense commenter who is a former Marine JAG explicates ‘Turn’

Warning: Plot Spoilers Ahead.



By Lance Gallardo
Best Defense commenter promoted to guest columnist

Warning Plot Spoilers Ahead — for those who are minimally acquainted with the American Revolutionary War’s major figures and plot twists. Silly me, I thought I was the only one TiVoing this guilty pleasure.

Unfortunately we all know from our history books that the dashing but complex Major Andre comes to a bad end at the end of a rope. But it is deliciously fun seeing his complex schemes in spying and loving “Come Undone” (good Duran Duran song, one of my favorites, best listened to with a good set of over-the-ears stereo headphones).

You also get to taste the pure ambition of the cocaine personality that is Benedict Arnold (and its equally bad after taste and hangover). Last week’s episode was a cliffhanger that finally revealed Benedict for the traitor he was. He was no weakling or coward in the literal sense of the word, having been seriously wounded in the attack on Quebec earlier in the war while leading his troops from the front. He later suffered a series of misfortunes, mostly self-inflicted wounds, and a court-martial, which left him a bitter and angry man, and which the series portrays very well. While Arnold had physical courage, in the end he lacked the moral courage to resolve and reconcile his misfortunes, and also lacked the self awareness, humility, and introspection to balance the good and bad sides of his personality. He remains a character study of how bitterness and brooding over perceived slights and misfortunes can corrupt a good man and make his name a byword for betrayal and “traitor.”

I think all men and women have and will face such a “turning point” in their lives, where they have to choose to do the right thing (or not) even at great personal cost. We all hope that our lives and experiences (and maybe our love of God and country as well) have prepared us for just such a moment when it comes. These choices also come daily when we choose to improve ourselves, and our relationships with our spouses, children, and co-workers, or not.

The court-martial of Benedict Arnold, for me as a former Marine Corps JAG, is fascinating, as it appears that that experience and the LOR (letter of reprimand) he received from his commanding officer, George Washington, seems to have been the trigger or spark that set off the time bomb of Arnold’s betrayal of his sacred oath of office and of his country.

The details of why Arnold was court-martialed are fascinating reading, especially in light of the current wave of misconduct that seems to sweeping through the flag level officers of today’s U.S. military, especially over financial impropriety..

I wonder why the SecDef does not mandate a mandatory training for all flag level officers to attend a special ethics training course — in light of the current incidences of flag level misconduct, financial and otherwise — that might very well start with Arnold’s court martial for self enrichment and graft, and work its way forwards to cover the current issues, which, like graft and financial impropriety by flag level officers, are as old as the country.

Yes, the human frailties and strengths of Benedict, Washington, and the other characters portrayed (even the over the top evilness of Simcoe) make the series a character study. As Tom points out, the civil war nature of the Revolutionary War is often missed in TV and movies portrayals — though I thought that Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot,” while otherwise forgettable, did show that aspect of the war in the Carolinas very well.

Lance Gallardo, a former Marine JAG, is a lawyer in Santa Clarita, California.

Image credit: U.S. National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola