The armed forces should be imbued with the military culture of obeying orders and killing the enemy. No one questions that strict rules of engagement and honorable standards of behavior are necessary. However, the military is not a laboratory for social experiments. Compassion or empathy should not be the qualities for which promotions are earned. Diversity of height, race, disabilities, weight or sexual preference should not be the aim of recruitment campaigns. Instead, recruits should be chosen who excel in honor, discipline, diligence, moral clarity, bravery and intelligence. The following extract from the London’s Times illustrates the problem:

Concerns are voiced, however, that the army sometimes seems determined to turn itself into one big, happy, diverse family. Last month a meeting of sergeants-major was addressed by Lieutenant-General Claudia Kennedy, army deputy chief of staff for intelligence. She lectured them on the army’s new politeness policy, dubbed ‘COO.’ This stands for Consideration of Others and she made clear that those who did not join in COO sessions were ‘resistant and insensitive to others.’ Such behavior would not be tolerated, she said. Many in the audience, some with four combat tours behind them, were squirming and rolling their eyes. (Sunday Times, April 2, 1999.)

No one doubts that the conduct of soldiers should be open for review and that the media should be allowed to report on courts martial. However, a soldier doing a soldier’s business ought to be tried by none other than his peers, meaning a court martial jury comprising members of the military. Where the charge relates to actions taken while in combat, the jury should be made up from other combat units in the same war zone.

A young soldier on active duty who makes a bad judgment call with his machine gun while defending his country should not be held to the same standard as a hoodlum in civilian life who makes a bad judgment call with his machine gun in the course of a criminal undertaking. There was a much reported incident in the second Battle of Fallujah (Aired on NBC News on November 16, 2004.) during the Iraq war, when an insurgent, who was playing dead, was discovered by U.S. forces. The nearest Marine promptly shot him in the head and the press promptly feigned outrage. However, during a battle such behavior cannot be questioned, nor can shooting the enemy in battle generally, whether they are playing dead, firing a weapon, fleeing with their back turned or even attempting to surrender. The decision of whether or not to accept surrender lies with the actual soldiers on the ground whose lives are in peril. Only when a surrender is accepted do different rules apply. The ancient principle volenti non fit injuria, “To a willing victim no injury is done,” applies. Those who do not wish to die violent deaths should not take up arms against the United States Marine Corps.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove