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Best Defense

OK, what does a military professional profess, in 150 words or less? (Round II)

More answers in our continuing contest.


More answers in our continuing contest.

Skip Barrett, Director of Business Development, GarageTek

“It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that counts.”

A military professional must always be accountable to a higher moral result in the midst of what amounts to the most immoral circumstance: modern, ambiguous combat, where the edge of moral reason is blurred by the reality of the circumstances of the profession itself.

“I am doing this because I am here” is fine as far as that goes, but where the rubber meets the road is “What this is; What am I doing,” and maybe more importantly, “Why?”

In that crucible, doing what is right is secondary to knowing what it is to begin with.

Striving for the hope to find through service something infinitely greater than self, that inner moral strength and conviction, at the critical moment, is what a “Military Professional Should Profess.”

CPT D. Harrison, Infantry Officer, U.S. Army

The desire and ability to impose their apolitical will onto the unwilling to achieve an endstate defined by the chain of command, having weighed and assumed appropriate levels of risk, while doing their utmost to take care of their subordinates, peers, and superiors in accordance with the Constitution and the UCMJ.

Maj. Wesley Moerbe, IN, U.S. Army

Military professionals are volunteers. They swear oaths and know upon joining the profession of arms, they face their mortality. Military professionals have a will, funeral arrangements, and a next akin. They make these decisions before they know war. After meeting and surviving it, military professionals continue to serve. They do so with stoic grace.

Military professionals are humans who lead during inhuman circumstances. They make decisions where normal human experience does not apply and face judgement when called to account. They train their bodies and minds as well as those under their charge with silent hopes that such preparation will prove unnecessary. Usually, the sky is dark when they leave for work and the grass damp by the time they return home. A duffle bag bulges in the closet, the straps drawn tight and markings fresh, because duty calls without warning, and military professionals are volunteers.

Yashar Parsie

A military professional should profess obedience. Objective civilian control is the feature sine qua non of military professionalism in American democracy. Indeed, suits and ties must stand above uniforms. Norms of civilian supremacy over an apolitical military have significantly eroded. The imposition of military preferences onto civilian decision-making violates civilian control. In the president’s unique — and problematic — national security team, the opportunity for military insistence — rather than advising — of civilian leadership increases. Specifically, the confirmation of General James Mattis to a civilian post intensifies this concern. Therefore, obedience to civilian control could be the difference between war and restraint.  It is incumbent upon civilian and responsible military leadership to restore healthy civil-military relations based on civilian control of an obedient, apolitical military.

Thomas Sarsfield

A military professional ought to profess intellectual humility. Hubris has been the undoing of many armies throughout history — look no further than Napoleon’s ill fated invasion of Russia. Officers must minimize bias when evaluating the efficacy of their plans because war has a nasty habit of bringing to the fore snags and missteps that can result in a long, painful grind or even defeat.

Intellectual humility must also take place at an institutional level. It’s all well and fine if the best and brightest of America’s officer corps actively practice it, but leaders must also hold their peers and subordinates to the same standard. The U.S. military in particular seems to conspire to protect incompetent officers and then pin blame on the feckless policy making of politicians. Hopefully junior officers who cut their teeth in Iraq and Afghanistan buck this attitude.

Richard White

Military professionalism is a commitment to being the toughest, fittest, quickest, best educated, most creative, most proficient, and deadliest person in existence.

You must ensure the enemy the nation you protect will never measure up to you, and thus perhaps just your existence will prevent the tragedy of war. But should they meet you, it will be their mistake.

You shall deny all personal glory and profit while maintaining an unbreakable integrity and insurmountable ethical standard. This standard must be relentlessly enforced on those with whom you serve — knowing that despite your superlative excellence, you are but one small instrument.

The military will be able to go on without you, just as it always had before you and as it always will after you.

Maj. L Burton Brender, U.S. Army

You, the military professional, should profess to the world that you are the studied, trained, and experienced practitioner of war. You are no amateur, neither carrying a rifle for pageantry nor for personal gain.

You are an expert qualified to win in the heat of combat. You speak about fighting from personal knowledge. You know war’s subtleties and gross truths, its technicalities, its arts. You understand its uses and its limitations alike. You state to all of us that just nations war only for righteous purposes: to protect the innocent and destroy the aggressor. You remind us of those facts when we forget.

You know the unspeakable hell of war.

You know that even the enemy is human.

You remind us to be strong all the time, to sacrifice, to love honor, to care, to defend. You tell us emphatically to win our peace — and keep it.

Photo credit: 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

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