The Times said:<STORY REMOVED>
IN MARCH 2013 THE ARMY UNRESERVEDLY APOLOGISED FOR ITS TREATMENT OF THE OFFICER AT THE CENTRE OF THIS STORY, AND ACCEPTED THAT HE WAS COMPLETELY INNOCENT. DIRECTOR GENERAL PERSONNEL, ARMY HQ, DIRECTED THAT THE OFFICER BE GRANTED A THREE YEAR EXTENSION OF HIS COMMISSION, AND A SUITABLE POSTING, TO ATTEMPT TO MITIGATE THE DAMAGE INFLICTED BY THE ARMY'S INCOMPETENCE. SENIOR OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE, INCLUDING A LIEUTENANT COLONEL, A BRIGADIER, AND A GENERAL, ARE NOW THE SUBJECTS OF AN INVESTIGATION.
PLEASE NOTE THAT LEGAL PROCEEDINGS ARE CURRENTLY IN PROSPECT, AND THEREFORE COMMENTING ON THIS SPECIFIC CASE IS NOT RECOMMENDED - INTERNET IDENTITIES ARE NOT ANONYMOUS, AND IP ADDRESSES CAN BE TRACED BACK TO USERS.
Flashbacks to the Blackadder Court Martial scene (removed from Youtube by the BBC, but carefully preserved in perpetuity here: http://j.mp/generalmelchett.
BLACKADDER COURT MARTIAL SCENE (Script, and History)
My other favourite example of senior Army officer's mentality is Colonel Jessup, from A Few Good Men...
YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH - Colonel Jessup's rant to cover up his murder of a marine.
When an Army refuses to answer questions, and covers-up the means because outsiders may not understand or appreciate the Army's methods or motives, it is a pretty sure warning sign things might be going wrong...
Sir Basil Liddell Hart said:The fear of truth (1972)
We learn from history that in every age and every clime the majority of people have resented what seems in retrospect to have been purely matter-of-fact comment on their institutions. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too sacred to think about. I can conceive of no finer ideal of a man's life than to face life with clear eyes instead of stumbling through it like a blind man, an imbecile, or a drunkardwhich, in a thinking sense, is the common preference. How rarely does one meet anyone whose first reaction to anything is to ask Is it true? Yet unless that is a man's natural reaction it shows that truth is not uppermost in his mind, and, unless it is, true progress is unlikely. p17
As a young officer I had cherished a deep respect for the Higher Command, but I was sadly disillusioned about many of them when I came to see them more closely from the angle of a military correspondent. It was saddening to discover how many apparently honourable men would stoop to almost to anything to help their own advancement. p19
A different habit, with worse effect, was the way that ambitious officers when they came in sight of promotion to the generals' list, would decide that they would bottle up their thoughts and ideas, as a safety precaution, until they reached the top and could put these ideas into practice. Unfortunately the usual result, after years of such self-repression for the sake of their ambition, was that when the bottle was eventually uncorked the contents had evaporated.. p20
B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970), Why don't we learn from history? (London: Allen & Unwin, 1972)
Basil Liddell-Hart also warned that many Army officers are so hyper-sensitive to criticism, and react so aggressively to it that they could be described as neurotic:
Sir Basil Liddell Hart said:In talking of criticism it might seem that we were making a great deal of fuss about nothing. After all, nobody likes criticism, and...it is only natural, indeed laudable, to show loyalty to one's group. There are, however, some special features of the phenomena in some military men which deserve attention. In the first place, their sensitivity seems out of all proportion to that of other public figures. ...one would expect that they might come to accept the possibility of negative publicity as part of the game, a small price to pay for the 'perks' which they otherwise enjoy. This they seem unable to do. In fact, there is a distinctly paranoid element in the way some senior commanders have reacted to even the faintest breath of criticism; to the vaguest and most tactful suspicion of a raised eyebrow or cleared throat... in the second place, their dislike of criticism has, on occasion, been so intense as to lead to behaviour diametrically opposed to the well- being of the organisation which they represent... In the third place, the response to criticism has, upon occasions...been so blatantly self-damaging as to fit the label 'neurotic' (i.e., behaviour which the individual cannot help even though he knows that it will be rebound upon itself). Cooper summed it all up when he described "the soldiers at the top" as "shut off" and "unlike other public men", absurdly sensitive to criticism - so thin-skinned. Instead of realising the value of criticism...they regarded any suggestion, that there had been some muddle, as a personal insult.
Basil Liddell Hard, Memoirs of Captain Liddell Hart: Volume I (Cassell, London, 1965), pp206-207.
The implications of Liddell-Harts analysis for cases in which senior officers, or logically any military superiors, are accused of misconduct are obvious: they may react viscerally badly, to the detriment of the complainant.
Chaplain (Colonel) K D Johnson, US Army, writing Ethical Issues of Military Leadership in 1974, quotes Liddell Harts observations about ambitious officers in sight of promotion bottling up their thoughts and ideas for the sake of their ambition, only for those thoughts to evaporate, and draws a clear link between such officers thoughts and ideas and their ethics. Colonel Johnson warns that:
Chaplain (Colonel) K D Johnson said:What Hart is saying should not be limited to promotion to general. The process starts much earlier. What is devastating to ethical judgments is a subtle and disguised form of ethical relativism practiced frequently in the military setting. It comes out of the tendency to have a functional or pragmatic attitude. I've heard Army officers say impatiently, "Hell, don't give me all that theory. I just want to know what works." This, of course, is a theory "what works is right." Such a hazardous ethical position is made worse by emphasis on getting the job done, no matter what. Performance of the mission is everything; therefore, the question of what is right often gets lost in the shuffle of practicality and necessity, if indeed ethical questions are even raised. A second ethical issue every military leader should face is what I call the loyalty syndrome. This is the practice wherein questions of right or wrong are subordinated to the overriding value of loyalty to the boss [or other commanders]. Loyalty, an admirable and necessary quality within limits, can become all-consuming. It also becomes dangerous when a genuine, wholesome loyalty to the boss degenerates into covering up for him, hiding things from him, or not differing with him when he is wrong. ... the less secure a leader is, the greater his need for pseudo-loyalty, that is, for fewer ideas that threaten his position. The simplest and quickest way he can get this type of loyalty is through fear. There is little doubt in my mind that fear is often a motivational factor in Army leadership, and also a major trouble spot in terms of ethical practice.
Chaplain (Colonel) Kermit D Johnson, US Army, Ethical Issues of Military Leadership, US Army War College, Parameters. Vol. IV, No. 2, 1974. pp. 35-39.
The late Professor (Brigadier) Richard Holmes CBE TD JP, military historian and Territorial Army officer, articulated what he called the Ten Diseases of Military Leadership in the British Army. Three are particularly common place, First: Do not bother me with facts - I've made up my mind, Second (and often experienced by junior ranks and TA personnel): Quality of advice is directly related to the status of the advisor, and last but not least: Lack of moral courage senior Army officers rarely, if ever, concede any mistakes, second thoughts, or inclination towards objective analysis. Indeed, why should they? - there is no independent body to criticise them.
In the current Service Complaints system which relies on investigation of the Army, by the Army, for the Army, safeguards are completely absent. The quintessentially military psychoses articulated above are condoned, and indeed encouraged to flourish. Army - Be the Best?