Thoughts of a Soldier-Ethicist

I am a Soldier who believes in the moral standing of my profession, yet knows that we could improve and is committed to serving that cause. I have served as an enlisted infantryman, as an infantry officer in the 1st AD and 82nd ABN, and as a philosophy instructor at West Point. Please engage with me in an online conversation about morality and the profession of arms. Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the position of USMA, DA, or DOD.

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Location: West Point, New York, United States

Army officer; two short deployments to Iraq (03, 07), three to Afghanistan (09, 10, 11); Ph.D in Education (Penn State); M.A. in Philosophy (Virginia Tech); B.S. in Political Science (West Point); married, father of four sons.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

BBC article and my upcoming deployment

Life is funny.  On the day that I leave my regular work (at a desk) and begin the process of deploying to Afghanistan, the BBC runs an article that quotes me, resulting in a deluge of emails and comments at a time when I have little opportunity to engage online.

I spoke with the BBC correspondent, Stephen Evans, more than four years ago when he visited West Point.

So, I ask that those who write me to have patience; my internet connectivity will be limited for the next couple months at least.  I will reply to each of you as I am able.  In fact, next year (summer 12-spring 13) I plan on taking a sabbatical to write a book on ethics in war, so I will (finally) have time to focus, think and write, and I will re-read all the good ideas I've received over the years on this blog.

Here at the replacement center at Ft Benning, GA, I've already enjoyed great conversations with an Army lawyer and an Army doctor about moral decisionmaking.  (The doc even shares my interest in exploring complexity theory and ethics.) Within 10 days, I'll be privileged to hear the stories, experiences, and perspectives of our soldiers who are engaged in the fight.  I am blessed to have such opportunities, and I will do my best to use tleverage my experiences to contribute to the wider conversation on war and morality.

Yours in the search for Truth,



Blogger Satwant khangura said...

Hello. This is my first blog comment. When I grow up I want to join the marines and have read so much about them to be proud of. I am also amazed at their endurance and friendship that keeps them alive in the field. However I would like to know one thing. How do soldiers deal with the fear of death? Everyone fears death because the body wants to survive and this is a natural fear but how do soldiers overcome it to achieve their objective or save a stranger or friend? Please comment back soon.

June 26, 2011 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Justin said...

Loved the BBC article, and your remarks in it. Even though you gave them a while ago, they remain current and relevant.

I reviewed the article, and linked back to you at my blog (

Thanks for continuing the work! As I've said before, I greatly admire you for it.

June 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM  
OpenID R. Mowat said...

Good luck!

June 29, 2011 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Cendorphins said...

I just saw that 32 suicides were reported to have occurred in July by Army soldiers. I believe that your material on the morality of killing needs to get to all 500K Army personnel... that it might help reduce this number.

How widespread is your information getting to the men and women that serve so that they can deal with this? Or are suicides the result of other stresses such as the stress of being killed or seeing others killed, or being at great risk in war (as opposed to doing the killing)?

August 15, 2011 at 11:33 PM  
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November 3, 2011 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Pete said...


I agree that an understanding of the moral justification for killing in war would help those soldiers who suffer from guilt over killing, or who interpret the sadness of killing another human being and dreaming about those they killed as signs of guilt, which isn't necessarily the case.

But killing-related guilt of shame is only part of the problem. Other big stressors among combat veterans are: excessive use of alchol and prescription drugs; personnel policies (ARFORGEN) that separate vegts from their battle buddies; inability to make sense of the evil they encountered; not-wartime life seems boring and meaningless compared to deployed.

I'm not an expert, but these are some of the things I come across in my interviews.

Thanks for caring.

November 13, 2011 at 4:15 PM  
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January 27, 2012 at 5:12 AM  
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April 7, 2012 at 12:10 AM  
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We should always honor these military people for the sacrifices and heroic deeds.

October 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM  
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