Friday, July 14, 2017

Military Ethics – Then and Now

MILITARY ETHICS - THEN AND NOW

Here is an article I had written 7 years ago  in the year 2010.

I am posting it once more. 

Dear Reader: Please tell me – is it relevant today...?

MILITARY ETHOS AND VALUE SYSTEM  THEN AND NOW
Ramblings of a Veteran
By
VIKRAM KARVE

MILITARY CODES OF CONDUCT  OUTDATED versus MODERN

Change in inevitable. 

Everything changes with time. 

Even Ethics and Moral Values change with time.

Let us have a look at the changes in Military Ethics and Codes of Conduct. 

Long back – the Military (Army Navy Air Force) had rather Utopian and Idealistic Codes of Conduct  like  for example  a Cadet’s Code of Conduct:

OUTDATED CODE OF CONDUCT (Utopian and Idealistic)

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do 

MODERN CODE OF CONDUCT (Practical and Materialistic) 

A cadet may lie, cheat, steal 
– but he will not get caught doing so

If a cadet sees others lying, cheating or stealing – he will turn a blind eye since it is none of his business

It is this Modern Cadet’s Code of Conduct that produces “smart” officers.

THE NEW AGE “SMART” MILITARY OFFICER

In todays world  a simple person who is sincere, honest and hardworking and obeys rules is dubbed as a stupid nincompoop.

On the other hand  a person who achieves “success” – even if he does unethical things  takes short-cuts – or breaks rules/regulations  but  he does not get caught – he is called “SMART”

The essence of modern ethics is: 

DO NOT GET CAUGHT...

Yes 
 it is the “in thing” to do doing immoral, illegal and unethical things to achieve “success” at any cost – as long as you are smart enough not to get caught.

On the other hand  being honest, straightforward and upright is considered foolish and old-fashioned. 

Unfortunately – this seems true in the military as well.

These “modern” flexible moral values – and new age military ethos – they seem to have been imbibed by many new age “smart” officers  during training as a cadet – as a junior officer  and later as a senior officer – as is evident from the increasing number of scams and scandals in the defence services being reported by the media.

ETHICS IN UNIFORM – TRADITIONAL MILITARY CODES OF CONDUCT 

A few years ago  while clearing my bookcase  I came across a booklet about various aspects of Naval Life  which we were probably given when I joined the Naval Academy way back in the 1970’s. 

In this booklet there was a quote by John Paul Jones  CODE OF A NAVAL OFFICER

These words made a lasting impression on me – and I tried to imbibe and follow the spirit of the code in my career and personal life.

John Paul Jones  often called the Father of the American Navy  helped establish the traditions of courage and professionalism.

He is remembered for his indomitable will  his unwillingness to consider surrender when the slightest hope of victory still burned  and for promoting professional standards and training throughout his naval career.

Let us have a look at his Code of Naval Ethics:

CODE OF A NAVAL OFFICER

Written by John Paul Jones

It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. 

He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. 

He should be, as well, a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.

He should not only be able to express himself clearly and with force in his own language both with tongue and pen  but he should be versed in French and Spanish as well.

(Own language obviously means English, which is relevant even today as English is the universal language of officers and the reference to French and Spanish probably pertains to languages of the crew of those days and in today’s context may refer to the languages or mother tongues of ship crew).

He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity.

No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward  even if the reward is only a word of approval.

Conversely  he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate  though at the same time  he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetence, and well-meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder.

As he should be universal and impartial in his rewards and approval of merit  so he should be judicial and unbending in his punishment or reproof of misconduct.

In one word  every commander should keep constantly before him this great truth  that to be well obeyed  he must be perfectly esteemed.

United States Military Codes of Conduct

Compare the Code of a Naval Officer with the United States Military Academy West Point Cadet Honor Code which simply states:

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do

Both the United States Military Academy and the United States Air Force Academy have adopted this Cadet Honor Code as a formalized statement of the minimum standard of ethics expected of cadets.

In contrast 
 the United States Naval Academy Annapolis has a related standard  known as the Honor Concept

Unlike the honor codes in other service academies  the Honor Concept allows a midshipman to confront someone committing an honor violation without formally reporting it. 

At the other military academies  failure to formally report an honor violation is construed as tolerating it  which is itself a violation of the code. 

At the US Naval Academy – the penalties for violating the Honor Concept can be severe  including expulsion from the Academy. 

United States Naval Academy Honor Concept

Midshipmen are persons of integrity: We stand for that which is right.
We tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. We do not lie.
We embrace fairness in all actions. We ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. We do not cheat.
We respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. We do not steal.


CODES OF CONDUCT IN INDIAN ARMED FORCES

SERVICE BEFORE SELF – or – SELF BEFORE SERVICE...?

In India we have the Motto of the National Defence Academy (NDA) Pune:

Service Before Self

and the Chetwode Credo of the the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun:

The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.

If you are a fauji – do tell us whether military officers do indeed follow these codes of conduct.

Or – has Military Ethics turned topsy-turvy – and the modern mottos/credos in vogue  in the military officer of today are:

Self Before Service 

and 

My own ease, comfort and safety come first, always and every time


DO WE NEED AN ETHICAL AND MORAL MILITARY ETHOS AND VALUE SYSTEM...?

I feel that every organisation and institution, civilian and military, needs a code of ethics or a code of conduct

The code of ethics must be stated briefly in simple language – the code of conduct easily understood, realistic, practical and implementable.

Do you agree...?

Or – do feel that concepts like Ethics, Morals, Values and Codes of Conduct are outdated and irrelevant in today’s liberalised environment – where it is prudent to be “ethical chameleon” – and moral flexibility is the key to career success...?

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. These are my personal views based on my observations. The reality may be different. This is just food for thought and should be taken in the right positive spirit with a view to improvement. 
2. This post is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
3. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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