All posts by Chris Nelson

On Obedience and Ethics – A Conversation with Professor Pauline Shanks Kaurin

By Commander Christopher Nelson, USN

Professor Pauline Shanks Kaurin, a professor in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College and the Admiral James B. Stockdale Chair in Professional Military Ethics, joined me to discuss her new book, On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for the Military, Citizenry, and Community. It’s a great read and an incredibly timely book. We discuss Captain Crozier’s firing, if we should have an ethicist on the Navy staff, and just which philosophers she would bring back from the past to star on a podcast about ethics and philosophy. 

I’d like to start with a personal question if you don’t mind. You’re a parent and a professor. Indeed, you mention your sons early in the book when framing the word “obedience” for readers. How does your training as an ethicist shape your decisions as a parent?

First, I tend to have perhaps a shorter trigger on certain things (especially lying or deception) because I think, teach, and write about ethics. My kids will tell you I take ethics way too seriously. Second, I also spend a ton of time with my kids talking about their decisions and why they are making the decisions they are. They know they have to make an argument if they want certain things (and they are quite good at it!) and that I will expect them to justify and have reasons for their actions. Third, because I focus on a communal and care approach to ethics, they know that I expect them to think about how what they do impacts other people. As teenagers, this is a tough one, but both my boys are quite empathetic and considerate (when they choose to be). Lastly, I value independence, especially of thought, which leads to some interesting discussions and negotiations about rules and standards.

So, any advice on raising ethical children? And where, if ever, does that advice have practical overlap with leading a platoon of soldiers or a division of Sailors? Or another way to ask it: Does the familial and the martial share ethical elements? Where do they diverge?            

I think there are some similarities in that you want to develop capacities for moral deliberation, judgment and action, as well as practices like care, empathy, and moral imagination. For my children the stakes are different than for the military officers I engage with and they have more leeway to learn from their mistakes. This means that for the military there has to be more emphasis on practicing these things before one gets into a situation where they are necessary. Members of the military are also members of a profession which my kids are not, so that brings lots of specific norms, values, and obligations in addition to those which are part of their personal morality. And of course, my children are not yet fully morally and legally responsible in the way that members of the military (as adults) are.

You make an important distinction in your book between loyalty and obedience. What are they and how do they differ?

These are both largely social virtues that are rooted in relationships; in the case of obedience within specific communities of practice. Obedience is also largely a virtue about a specific action or series of actions that one is being asked to carry out. Loyalty is more about a long-term relationship or connection (which may involve some actions) where there is a shared commitment to certain ideas, projects, values, or ways of thinking. This is not necessary for obedience. I can obey the POTUS whether or not I agree with his political perspectives. As such while there is some overlap, it is not necessary. One can be loyal and be disobedient, as well as obedient and disloyal.

Let’s dig into the relief of Captain Brett Crozier a bit. Plenty of folks have already spilled ink with their opinions and choosing sides and voicing frustrations. But I want to step back for a second. So here’s the question: You get a phone call from the Chief of Naval Operations and it’s the day after the captain’s letter hits the press. The CNO asks you if you don’t mind coming to his office since he has…questions. So, he asks you: “Pauline, what ethical questions should I consider when thinking through this event?” What advice do you give him?

I would probably have him read my article on the subject before we talk!

For the CNO, the issues of the profession are important. What are his moral obligations to the Navy? To the Secretary of the Navy? To POTUS? To Crozier? To the sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt? What is the basis of these obligations? Is it about rules and policies? Is it about care? Is it about what is best for the most people? Is it about what it means to be a good CNO? What are the specific obligations that come with that office that others might not have? In particular, I would ask him to seriously think about whether preserving the reputation of the Navy is a moral obligation here and especially given the leadership challenges of the last few years, whether there are other moral obligations that are more important.

In addition, senior leaders also have to think about second, third, fourth, and fifth order implications of their decisions and actions for a variety of stakeholders. All of these effects will have ethical dimensions that need thinking through. I would hope we could talk through all of these things together, since being an ethical leader is not just about one’s own morality, but about the larger community of practice and its context (in this case, the military profession).

Should we have an ethicist on the Navy staff? On the Joint Staff? Frankly, I don’t know if we do. But don’t hospitals have ethicists? These are people – and the question of who gets a ventilator during the pandemic is pertinent – that help administrators and physicians make important policy decisions for their patients and their organization. Why not have the same?

In the military this question is complicated. We do not necessarily have persons trained in ethics as an academic discipline on senior leader staffs. We do have JAGs who weigh in on legal matters and chaplains who might provide moral advice on a personal and command level, but their training (as is appropriate) is generally more religious in nature.

The Navy does have academic experts like myself, my counterpart at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), and others trained in ethics as a discipline at the U.S. Naval Academy and other places like the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center (NLEC) and Senior Enlisted Academy here in Newport. Some have pointed out that there might be a need for a dedicated ethicist position. That said, my door is always open, as is that of my NPS colleague. We regularly write and speak on these issues and are always happy to engage.

I’d like to call this next question the “Hollywood Hypothetical.” Pauline gets stuck in a telephone booth with Bill (Keanu Reeves) and Ted (Alex Winter). Keanu says you have to go back in time and find three philosophers and bring them back to 1) start a military ethics podcast and 2) debate the firing of Captain Crozier for the first episode. Language barriers aside, who do you shove into that phonebooth? Why? And what’s the name of your kick-ass podcast?

Kaurin: Divas and Warriors: Let’s talk about military ethics!

I would definitely have Aristotle, David Hume, and Annette Baier (a contemporary philosopher who focuses on trust and care, but is also a Hume expert). That said, it would be fun to have Bill and Ted stay on to be the peanut gallery and offer comic relief.

Is disobedience often adjudicated and vindicated? What I don’t have a good feel for is all of the disobedient acts in U.S. military history, some investigated or written about, and then vindicated. Many may never reach the threshold for publication or they fade away in paper stacks or computer drives. Simply, and you use General Milley’s quote in your book, can we capture and should we talk about and publicize accounts where servicemembers practice “Professional Disobedience”?

I think in general disobedience is tacitly (through military practice and culture) and explicitly (in UCMJ, ideas like good order and discipline and the chain of command) discouraged for largely good reasons. In practice, particularly in combat situations, we find a much greater tolerance for something like Milley’s disciplined disobedience or the negotiation that I talk about in my book. These instances might not be what we think of as full, explicit disobedience (although occasionally that happens), but something less than obedience to the orders as given. I talk about some of these in the book, but military history is filled with people exercising professional judgment and discretion to do what they think is indicated in a given situation – often for specific reasons.

I do think we should talk more about some of these cases, if only to open the discussion and help people develop the capacity to make these kinds of moral judgments as members of a profession and as citizens. It’s complicated.

What can we learn from other militaries – past and present – on how they thought through building an obedient military culture? Are there any particular nations that for you, personally, make for a fascinating case study?

In the book I discuss how the Brits handle this through the idea of a “Reasonable Challenge” which provides a framework and process for making these kinds of judgments without undermining a general culture of obedience. Many historical warrior cultures also seem to have ways in which they might think about obedience in ways that are less bureaucratic than our contemporary militaries. Clearly a reasonable level of obedience is necessary, but exactly how much and how it manifests can vary quite a bit. Looking at history, art, literature, film, and culture can give us a view on other ways of doing things that are worth interrogating and considering.

You refer to the professor and writer Elizabeth Samet later in your book. You cite her book Willing Obedience as a book that does a good job of capturing how Americans – through the 18-19th century – discussed obedience versus autonomy. They explored this tension in fiction, memoirs, and other texts. Do you believe this is the best way to explore ethical tensions? How else can we explore these tensions?

I think that drawing on lots of different resources is important. My book and my work generally are inter-disciplinary and span historical time periods and cultures (including the future) for a reason. While philosophical texts and arguments are important to doing ethics, questions of ethics are ultimately questions about how to live, and how to think about and talk about how we live. It makes sense then, to pull from all the varieties of human experience to explore these questions. This approach also helps build empathy, critical and strategic thinking, as well as moral imagination; all of these are essential to being an ethical person.

To wrap up, what other books, films, podcasts, or poetry should people look into when they want to think about ethics in the military?

There are lots of great movies (and not just ‘war movies’) and elements of popular culture that are a good way to get into topics that then one might read about in a more intentional fashion. Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars is a classic in military ethics for a reason, but Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Nancy Sherman’s work on moral injury, Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers, and Shakespeare’s Henry also explore important issues in very different ways. Those who have served have reflected on their experiences, but it’s also important to read and engage the experiences of all impacted by violence and conflict for a variety of questions, concerns, and experiences. For me, it is less about the material you engage (I have my favorites), and more about the questions and mindset you bring to the material and how you reflect on it.

Pauline Shanks Kaurin holds a PhD in Philosophy from Temple University, specializing in military ethics, just war theory, and applied ethics. She is also Stockdale Chair and Professor of Professional Military Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College in the College of Leadership and Ethics. Recent publications include: “When Less is not More: Expanding the Combatant/Non-Combatant Distinction”; “With Fear and Trembling: A Qualified Defense of Non-Lethal Weapons” and Achilles Goes Asymmetrical: The Warrior, Military Ethics and Contemporary Warfare (Routledge 2014.) She was Featured Contributor for The Strategy Bridge and published in RealClearDefense, The Wavell Room, Newsweek, and Just Security. She lives in Newport, Rhode Island. The views here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Commander Christopher Nelson is the Deputy Senior Naval Intelligence Manager for East Asia in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland. He is a naval intelligence officer and graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, Rhode Island. The views here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Featured Image: Soldiers, with the U.S. Army Drill Team, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conduct a performance during the Meet Your Army event at Point State Park, Pittsburgh, Pa., May 4, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Crafting the U.S. Marine Corps Mystique: A Conversation with Heather Venable

By CDR Christopher Nelson, USN 

Professor Heather Venable joined me to discuss her new book, How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918. It is a fascinating look at how the U.S. Marine Corps, struggling to define its role as a small fighting force in the earlier days of the republic, crafted a reputation and truly a mystique to ensure the service’s survival. 

Heather, if we could, I’d like to begin with the title of your new book, How the Few Became the Proud. I certainly recall the Marine Corps recruiting commercials from the 1980s. Some were on the TV, and some were run in movie theaters. And of course, the commercials ended with the same tagline: “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” Who came up with that phrase?

Venable: “The Few, the Proud” slogan actually came out in the 1970s, coined by J. Walter Thompson, the Marine Corps’ ad agency. One slogan that a Marine coined during the span of my research, though, is “once a Marine, always a Marine.” The first reference I’ve found to this slogan occurred in about 1907, the invention of a creative recruiting officer. Recruiting officers had practical reasons for coining such a phrase—they really wanted former Marines to continue to identify with the Corps in order to encourage future Marines in their local communities to enlist. But it also marks a broader and intensifying effort to get all Marines to identify more actively and positively with their institution that really increased prior to World War I. 

What surprised me a bit was not that the Marine Corps was good at advertising, but how early and aggressively they advertised the Corps. And this was in the age before the big New York City advertisers, correct? 

Venable: A fundamental transformation occurred in American society between the Civil War and World War I in terms of what society deemed acceptable in regard to marketing. Before, if you wanted to sell oranges, for example, it was not polite to say something like, “We have the biggest, juiciest oranges of all the competitors.” Rather, you said something like, “A new shipment of oranges have arrived. Come get a dozen for 5 cents.” So some nineteenth-century Marines wanted to brag about their Corps, but they believed it to be impolite. When these sentiments began shifting in society as a whole, Marines seized the initiative and began actively promoting the Corps, largely without any interaction with the professional advertisers. 

Of all the commercials — the one where the Marine slays the dragon is the most memorable to me — but I also remember the commercial with the knight turning into the Marine. Apparently there’s even a ranking of all Marine commercials. Do you have a particular favorite? Is there a consistent theme in this advertising that goes back to the 19th century? 

Venable: I love the knight commercial as well. I don’t see a consistent theme going back to the nineteenth century. But I do see links between the idealism of Marines—especially recruiters—that really began solidifying prior to World War I. And there is a chivalry celebrated and a love for a brotherhood (and it was, at this point, a brotherhood solely) that echoes in the Corps’ most compelling commercials. Whereas the Army has tried many different approaches, the Corps has stuck more consistently with the idea of serving for the sake of serving. It could be argued that those knight commercials of the 1980s were even more idealistic than their predecessors, the early twentieth-century recruiting posters. (An interesting outlier to this general trend is this commercial from the 1970s.) 

In your book, you say that the Marines, early in their history, referred to themselves as soldiers. It’s how they described themselves to others. But that changes over time. How and when did that change take place? 

Venable: It still had not taken place fully by the end of World War I, which I was surprised to find. In World War I memoirs written by Marines, for example, I noticed how it was more natural for most Marines to refer to themselves as soldiers more frequently than Marines. Thus individual Marines who enlisted during the war did not buy as fully into the rhetoric as longer-serving Marines. But in terms of representing themselves to the public, Marines had solved the essential problem of making it mean something to be a Marine where they did not necessarily have to explain what a Marine was, which had been a problem for decades. 

You end the story, as your subtitle notes, around 1918. If you had more time and space, what is the biggest addition to this story? Does the mystique build through Korea? 

Venable: I would want to talk about the idea of every Marine being a rifleman, because I think that is a key addition to the Corps’ identity that I did not see in the time period I researched. I assume that as the Corps increasingly professionalized and evolved after World War I, it differentiated its roles and specialties, thus necessitating some adjustment to seek to keep the overall institutional culture cohesive. 

And how was the mystique challenged in Vietnam? Obviously, it survived that war. Any thoughts on how it did so? 

Venable: Amidst the recent social distancing and a lot of seniors in high school having to miss proms and graduations and other celebrations, I saw someone post on social media something like, “Imagine graduating from high school and knowing you were going to Vietnam.” My dad went to college for a few years before he enlisted in the Corps, so he didn’t have that exact experience, but I can still appreciate the intense feelings provoked by knowing what they would soon be doing overseas. And, like my dad, many of them chose to serve in the Corps rather than get drafted into the Army. You see the same kind of sentiments within the World War I timeframe. You want to serve alongside and with those people you perceive to be the best for a whole host of reasons. And, as long as the institution has leaders at all levels who uphold the institution’s most positive traits of identity and leadership, you’re going to do better no matter the state of social upheaval. In World War I, many Marines were disappointed by some of their leaders. I would assume that this same reaction factored into the experiences of Vietnam Marines. 

I want to move on to a chapter you wrote titled “Hypermasculinization.” What are you tackling in that chapter? And was the USMC (and is it still) disposed to hypermasculinization over the other U.S. military services? 

Venable: I really wanted to understand some of the rhetoric produced by the first female Marines that did not make sense to me initially. They really undercut their own service. Everything fell into place for me when I realized that the first female Marines had not actually freed male Marines to fight. Indeed, those male Marines had already been declared unfit for overseas service. So the Corps’ reaction to this, I think, was similar to the impetus behind “every Marine a rifleman.” The greatest contribution of the first female Marines was ironically strengthening the Corps’ masculine identity by promoting the idea that all male Marines were fighters and female Marines were there to support them with clerical and other types of work.

I am absolutely convinced that the Corps is still the most hypermasculine of all the services. In talking to Army officers as long as a decade ago, I have been surprised how much more open they were to incorporating women into combat than men.

And the current Commandant seemed to fall into that tradition based on some comments he made last summer. Since then, though, he has taken some steps in the right direction that, frankly, have surprised me positively in regard to integrating training, because I agree with the argument that if you don’t integrate Marines from the very beginning, you can’t ever really integrate them if women aren’t visibly present during foundational experiences like the Crucible. I’m also excited to see major improvements on the Marine Corps’ website that was pretty disheartening about six months ago in the marked absence of females on the site. 

Would you discuss the artist Chandler Christy’s famous recruiting poster — and how does it tie into that chapter?

Venable: I find it interesting that depictions of women in Marine uniforms tend to be more complex than women in Navy uniforms, at least around the World War I timeframe. The Chandler Christy poster features a woman dressed in a naval uniform as a simpering, flirtatious creature, intended to convey to a man that she is clearly not capable of military service, but he is. Thus images of women wearing Navy uniforms tended to avoid depictions of combat, like most of the Navy’s recruiting imagery at the time. But the Corps’ imagery is more complex and, indeed, conflicted. So a poster like “If You Want to Fight, Join the Marines” has some edgy elements to include a woman with her hand on a weapon, unlike the competing Chandler Christy poster for the Navy. But the Corps poses a more forthright challenge to potential recruits, asking them not just to “join” like the Navy but to “fight” and to consider why a woman is wearing a uniform and holding a bayonet but they aren’t. 

Howard Chandler Christy’s 1915 poster, “If you want to fight! Join the Marines.”

Heather, last question, is Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men overrated or underrated? Regardless, I think Aaron Sorkin nailed that script. 

Venable: Great question. I think that Jack Nicholson appeared to be even more extreme than the characters in something like The Great Santini. I’ve been privileged to meet many Marines in my life, and none of them has been that extreme in personality. And so he was too stereotypical. Marines are normal people, not caricatures. Sorkin stressed the “warrior” aspect of the Corps’ legacy, not its highly idealistic vein captured so well in those 1980s commercials. So Nicholson’s character is overrated because he’s not subtle enough and certainly not human enough. And that’s consistent with the perceived warrior culture in the U.S. military as a whole that has really taken hold over the last few decades. It’s too simplistic and neglects the whole person.

Heather Venable is an associate professor of military and security studies in the Department of Airpower at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. As a visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, she taught naval and Marine Corps history. She received her Ph.D. in military history from Duke University. The views here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Air Force, the Command and Staff College, or the U.S. Department of Defense. You can follow her on Twitter @Heather_at_ACTS and Linkedin

Commander Christopher Nelson is the Deputy Senior Naval Intelligence Manager for East Asia in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland. He is a naval intelligence officer and graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, Rhode Island. The views here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Featured Image: Three noncommissioned officers from Marine Barracks, Washington at 8th & I, perform during a Tuesday Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., July 30, 2013. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dan Hosack/Released)

An Artist at War – The Life of George Plante

By Christopher Nelson

I recently had the chance to correspond with Dr. Kathleen Williams about her new book, Painting War: George Plante’s Combat Art in World War II. I am personally fascinated with the intersection of art and war, and works that explore the lives of artists that were not behind a gun but who observed and captured war with their art are certainly worthwhile.

Nelson: Kathy, thanks for joining me to discuss your new book. To begin, who was George Plante? Give us a brief biographical sketch of this man, the center of your book.

Williams: George Plante, a Scot, was born in Edinburgh in 1914. He trained as an artist at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Contempora School of Applied Arts in Berlin. On the outbreak of WWII he was working for an advertising agency in London when he took radio officer’s training and spent the next several years in the British Merchant Navy traversing the North Atlantic on oil tankers. On his many stops in New York, he cultivated American advertising contacts and developed a profound affinity for the country and its people.

He also secured the support of the War Artist’s Advisory Committee and was assigned to spend much of his time at sea painting the Battle of the Atlantic. His paintings were widely exhibited in the U.S. and became a part of the British campaign to encourage American support for the war against the Nazis. On shore leave in London after his tanker was torpedoed under him in March 1943, Plante was recruited to work for the clandestine Political Warfare Executive. He was sent to Cairo and spent the rest of the war there and in Italy producing illustrations for propaganda leaflets that were dropped over Nazi-occupied southern and eastern Europe. This propaganda effort was a joint Allied endeavor and once again Plante worked closely with American colleagues.

Photo of George Plante as radio officer

After the end of the war Plante spent the rest of his working life carving out a very successful career in advertising, for many years with the London branch of an American agency and finally with a British company. He also continued to paint for his own pleasure and had numbers of well-received shows. In the 1950s he married an American and on his retirement they moved to the States were he lived until his death in 1995, not long after becoming a U.S. citizen

Nelson: As you mentioned, he spent a deployment on a merchant vessel, operating in waters off the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the United States. As you write in your book, U-boats were a concern for all in those waters during the early war years. Yet he was drawing and making art while working as a radio operator. How did he do this? That is, the sea changes every minute, every hour, how does an artist capture that scene – and doing so during the war?

Williams: Plante had a lifelong habit of making quick sketches of whatever he saw. He also developed his own detailed vocabulary for rapidly recording color, tone and fleeting impressions, so that when he had a chance to paint he had prompts to remind him exactly how the action had looked. Of course, it also took a fierce concentration to be able to paint on a pitching, tossing deck with the constant threat of U-boat attacks. He was greatly helped in his artistic endeavors by being relieved of many of his radio watch duties because his work in support of the British war effort was seen as extremely important.

Gouache painting of a destroyer dropping depth charges (Courtesy Ms. Williams)

Nelson: In your acknowledgments, you thank George Plante’s son, Derek, for providing you with many of George’s letters and copies of his sketches. How important were these for you when writing the book?

Williams: Plante’s letters to his Scottish wife provide the backbone of the first part of the book. Without those letters the official account of his tours at sea, his correspondence with the War Artist’s Advisory Committee, and several newspaper articles based on interviews with him would have made for a much less interesting and informative account of his work as an artist in wartime. His letters from Cairo were equally important in providing insight into the activities of an artist engaged in an Anglo-American propaganda effort against the Axis. Plante was an evocative and entertaining writer and continued to write amusing articles and letters for the rest of his life. His sketches provide the visual evidence of his immediate connection to the war and vividly illustrate what he saw and experienced.

Nelson: Was there a particular letter you found touching or that moved you more than others?

Williams: Yes, many, especially the ones from spring/summer 1943 to his wife, Evelyn, when he knew she was pregnant and he wrote “My dearest Evelyn, and Oscar or Judy.” He also wrote a charming letter from Cairo in September 1943 when his son turned one year old. He bought Derek a pair of shoes in the Mousky (the open air market) writing that “they probably won’t fit and might make him have turned-up- toes if they did. But they amused me and I think they’ll make you laugh too.” He also referred to his son as “Little Chief One-Year-Old.”

Nelson: Did he sketch in his letters?

Williams: No, none of his letters have sketches – perhaps they would not have passed the censors?

Nelson: I recall in your introduction that George Plante didn’t enjoy his wartime painting style. Why didn’t he?

Williams: In later years he disliked his wartime painting style, which he found heavy and dark and he often noted that he was glad so many of his paintings had disappeared into the Soviet Union when sent there with an exhibition after the war. Of course the dark realism of his wartime art reflected not only the style of the time but the dark subject matter.

Nelson: If not his war painting style, what style was his favorite?

Williams: He much preferred the soft colors and bright play of light in his later paintings. He particularly enjoyed painting scenery, often including old buildings, and any people were usually small and more or less incidental to the composition as a whole.

Nelson: Some of his sketches, particularly the one of a survivor on the New Zealand ship Takoa, are done with confidence – few strokes, clean lines, and the talent of a graphic illustrator. The sketch of the sailor on the Takoa reminds me of Ronald Searle’s work. Here I’m thinking about Searle’s work during his captivity in Singapore. To that point, did he work with other artists for his propaganda pieces? And did he ever comment about other contemporary artists that were working during the war that he admired?

Williams: Well, he was quite picky about the work of other artists and fairly critical. He did go to as many art shows as he could, especially in Edinburgh and London, and he did admire the work of Erik Ravilious, John Nash, and Edward Ardizzone. In Cairo he worked closely with American artist John Pike whose illustrations he found “certainly very good, sound stuff” although when he arrived in Egypt he pronounced that the work being done was generally of a “dreadfully low” standard. He also thought the work of most Americans was not nearly as efficient as that produced by the British.

Nelson: Tell us about some of the propaganda art operations he did during the war. Here I’m thinking about the one you describe focused on the Allied operations during the Italian campaign.

Williams: On his arrival in Cairo in the summer of 1943 Plante immediately began work on the propaganda campaign designed to break down Italian opposition to the Allies. Among other endeavors he illustrated a small booklet designed to emphasize the deep cultural differences between the Germans and the Italians. He was also deeply involved in illustrating pamphlets, leaflets, and news sheets aimed at the campaigns in Greece, Crete, and the Italian-controlled Dodecanese, in Yugoslavia and in Albania. Nearing the end of the war he also worked on propaganda leaflets aimed at Norway and finally, also at Allied occupied Germany.

Illustration of a German Solider attacked by two-headed eagles (Plante papers)

Nelson: He also drew maps. This is something I think many of us take for granted in the days of Google and other online mapping services and easy-to-find vector art of geographic features. What were some of the maps he drew and why did he draw them?

Williams: Late in the war Plante produced some rough sketch maps for leaflets demonstrating to occupied populations (and to German occupation troops) the steady Allied advances, both in the Battle of the Atlantic and on the European mainland.

Nelson: As an artist, what was his preferred medium? I see a large mix in the pictures in the book – ink, gouache, and oils. Was he comfortable across all mediums?

Williams: Yes, he was comfortable in all mediums. To the end of his life he seldom went anywhere without his sketchbook which he filled with drawings in pencil. He
produced more finished sketches in ink and also painted scenes in watercolor from his travels all over the world. After the war he seldom painted in gouache and most of his later work was either in watercolor or in oils. His more substantial work was almost always in oil although he produced many smaller very evocative pieces in watercolor.

Nelson: To close, what are some of your favorite drawings that he did? Why do you enjoy them?

Williams: From the wartime I love his painting of his tanker, Southern Princess, burning after being torpedoed. Otherwise I find his postwar art much more appealing, especially some of his paintings of old churches in Greece and on the French Riviera, and a wonderful series of watercolors he was commissioned to paint of Bahrain.

Nelson: Kathy, thanks so much for taking the time to discuss your new book. All the best to you.

Dr. Kathleen Broome Williams holds a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from Columbia University and a PhD in military history from the City University of New York. She has taught at Sophia University in Tokyo; at Florida State University in Panama; at Bronx Community College, City University of New York and also served as Deputy Executive Officer, of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in History; at Cogswell Polytechnical College in California; and since retirement she has taught part time at Holy Names University in Oakland. She spent the 2018-19 academic year at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland as the Class of 1957 Distinguished Chair in Naval Heritage. Her published work includes Secret Weapon: U.S. High-frequency Direction Finding in the Battle of the Atlantic (Naval Institute Press, 1996), Improbable Warriors: Women Scientists and the U.S. Navy in World War II, (Naval Institute Press, 2001) John Lyman award for best book in U.S. Naval History, NASOH, 2001; Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea (Naval Institute Press, 2004), John Lyman award for best biography/autobiography in U.S. Naval History, NASOH, 2004; and The Measure of a Man: My Father, the Marine Corps, and Saipan, (Naval Institute Press, 2013) as well as articles and book chapters on naval science and technology. Her new book, Painting War, also published by the Naval Institute Press, was released in May 2019. Formerly executive director of the New York Military Affairs Symposium, trustee of the Societyfor Military History, and regional coordinator for the SMH, she served on the Nominations Committee of NASOH and is now a member of the editorial advisory board of The Journal of Military History, the U.S. Naval Institute’s naval history advisory board, and Marine Corps History magazine’s editorial review board. Although born in the United States, Professor Williams was raised in Italy and England, and later spent many years in Germany, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Panama.

Christopher Nelson is an intelligence officer stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, Rhode Island. He is a regular contributor to the Center for International Maritime Security. The views here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.

Featured Image: Photo of George Plante from cover of Beaufort and South Carolina Low Country Magazine (George Plante papers).

Ethics & The Military Profession – A Conversation with Nate Finney and Ty Mayfield

By Christopher Nelson

This past fall, I had the chance to talk with editors Nate Finney and Ty Mayfield about their book, Redefining the Modern Military: The Intersection of Profession and Ethics.Image result for Redefining modern military

From the publisher’s description: Redefining the Modern Military expands upon and refines the ideas on the role of ethics and the profession in the 21st Century. The authors delve into whether Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz still ring true in the 21st century; whether training and continuing education play a role in defining a profession; and if there is a universal code of ethics required for the military as a profession.”

We talk about their book, social media and the profession, and later we dive into a conversation about Colonel “Ned Stark” (who recently was revealed to be Col. Jason Lamb) and why they think it’s bad for the military profession to write under a pseudonym.

Nelson: Thanks for joining me guys. How did the book idea come about and why this book now?

Mayfield: The book started as a conversation on social media with Dr. Pauline Shanks-Kaurin who was prepping for an ethics class when she was teaching at Pacific Lutheran University. She was just asking questions on Twitter about the profession, what it means, and who might be in the military profession.

That went around on Twitter. I was engaged in that initial conversation. Nate and I talked and the idea for something more came up so we talked with the rest of the editorial team and decided to run a series at The Strategy Bridge, trying to answer those questions. What is the profession? What is our profession and ethics, and the role of both of those things in our institutions?

We published almost 20 articles on the topic and they were all really well-received. Then, we circled back from that and began to have a conversation about if there was enough for a book and whether or not we could take this to the next step. We contacted about a dozen of the authors, ended up with 10 of them, and then picked up two more to write on very focused topics just to round out the book. They went back and expended those initial journal articles to chapter-length pieces.

Then we pitched the book and got picked up by U.S. Naval Institute Press. Here we are three years later looking at the publication of the book. This has been really interesting to see something go from a conversation on social media, to a web-based professional journal, to a hardcopy book. I think that’s the story that is really interesting about this book.

Nelson: That’s great.

Finney: I think it shows a very deliberate attempt by The Strategy Bridge to go through different mediums. We pulled a lot of our articles from social media, conversations we have on Twitter and Facebook, and people that are talking about something that’s interesting. Whether it’s us as individuals or editors at The Strategy Bridge, we’ll hit them up and say, “Hey, that would make a great article. Send it along.” That stuff happens all of the time.

The example of turning it into a series instead of a single article, and then deciding to turn it into a book, is a model that the Strategy Bridge may do from time to time as topics that are of interest to the profession continue to bubble up in conversation.

Nelson: Alright, well let’s get right into it then. An Air Force officer and an Army officer edited a book. What is your take on each of your respective services and what concerns do you have about the profession? What’s good, what’s bad? Particularly, for Ty, I know the Air Force Officer, Colonel “Ned Stark,” writing some pieces for War on the Rocks, grabbed attention with his concerns about the USAF.

Mayfield: I think the Air Force is a unique service as compared to the others. I think a big part of the profession is cultural identity, who you are as an institution. The Air Force, being the newest of those departments, I think we struggle with culture and identity a lot. There are times that you want to be very much different than the other services and focus on our specific domains, but then there is a pullback to a core professional identity that unites all of the services. I think there’s a real cultural identity conflict for the Air Force. How to be different enough to maintain your own identity, yet keep a finger on that touchstone as military professionals.

I’d like to talk about Ned Stark, later on. I think it’s a separate question altogether.

I’ll let Nate speak to the Army. The Army has done a lot of work in developing their own ethic and their professional identity, but what they have done in that process is develop an Army ethic and an Army profession. That, in some ways, I think walls them off from the other services, and it misses the larger professional identity that I think all the services should try and sort out.

The Air Force has followed that lead and it has established its own Profession of Arms Center of Excellence, which is now taking roadshow trips out to different bases and talking about the profession. It’s not theoretical, it’s more applied leadership; which is good and important, but it’s different than what the Army has done with its Center for the Army Profession and Leadership program up to this point. I think that’s a good segue back to Nate.

Nelson: Before we jump to Nate, really quick, what would you recommend to your service chief or other seniors in the Air Force? What needs to change or what would you suggest, as far the identity of your particular service? What would you do to improve the identity of the Air Force?

Mayfield: I think part of the recommendation here would actually be to model the approach off of what the Army has done, which is not, obviously, going to be something that’s particularly well-received; but I think the Army did it well. I think Dr. Don Snider’s book, The Future of the Army Profession, was the groundwork for the Army ethic and for this Army professional identity. It was the theoretical piece. It’s a big book, it’s really dense, it’s hard to approach; but the scholarship is there that laid the groundwork for the Army’s successful development and, for lack of a better word, the doctrinization of their ethic. I think that’s important and that’s probably what needs to be done in the Air Force, at some level.

Nelson: Nate, over to you. Army good and bad?

Finney: First, I’ll say I think the Army’s furthest along when it comes to developing their perspective on the profession and trying to figure out where they fit. The previous works that we use a foundation for Redefining the Modern Military are Janowitz and Huntington, in particular. They were, essentially, writing about soldiers coming out of the Korean War and World War II, but particularly the Korean War. Of course, they’re applicable to all the services, but really it was a focus on the soldiers in the Army coming out of those wars, and what it meant for land power, and its citizen soldiers.

As Ty was mentioning, Don Snider’s work of the 2000s was chartered by General Martin Dempsey (who also was kind enough to write the forward of our book) when he was the Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) commander, and then the Chief of Staff of the Army, and then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs–all in pretty quick succession. As Ty mentioned, his focus was on the Army and he used Don Snider’s work and others to really push the profession, but also the Army ethic. He tried to convert that into a joint profession campaign on the profession and ethic when he became the Chairman. I don’t know how much it took hold. I think General Dempsey’s white paper on the profession, when he was the Chairman, is a good model for trying to have that conversation from a joint force perspective.

When it comes to the Army as a service – and what we can do better – I don’t honestly have a good answer. I think we largely get it right; we’ll never get it perfect. General Caslen, who retired out of West Point as the superintendent, really focused on character as a part of the profession and what types of characteristics our soldiers need to have to be professionals to embody that ethic.

I think from induction in West Point, then PME throughout a career, the Army does it pretty well, if a bit dry. I think General Milley and others have focused on “re-greening” the Army on what it’s like to fight large formations in a conventional conflict. Yes, there’s a tactical/technical piece to that, but I also think there’s a professional piece. Whether it’s trying to balance what we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan with where we need to go in the future and what that means for soldiers as professionals. It’s not perfect, nothing’s perfect, but I think the Army does it pretty well.

Nelson: I didn’t read Huntington until, I don’t know, maybe around the fourteen-year mark in the Navy.  Do you think expectations are too high on the first ten years of your life in the service? You’re just trying to get the basics down and you don’t even know what the profession is or what it means, so do you think our expectations are too high for younger officers to have them really truly understand? They’re maybe not even committed to the profession. They haven’t even decided to say, “I’m in this for the profession.” What are your thoughts on this?

Mayfield: I think that’s a great question and that’s exactly why we wrote this book. When you pick up Huntington at your 14-year mark, that shouldn’t be the first time you’ve thought about the profession. I was at the Army War College last year, and I’m presented with Don Snider’s book, The Future of the Army Profession at the 19th year of my career, and I’m thinking “it’s too late to start this conversation; it’s too late to start thinking about this.” But at the same time, to your point, lieutenants, company grade officers, I don’t think they have enough exposure to the profession yet, and the development to really touch those documents; Don Snider’s work, or Huntington, or Janowitz, or any of that with any meaning or connection.

That’s what we tried to do with this book, with Redefining the Modern Military, is provide something to start with, a starting point that then preps you for that conversation to pick up Huntington, preps you to pick up Don Snider’s book. So that, when you get it in your 19th year, it’s not the first time you’ve thought about your role as a professional.

We used a multi-disciplinary approach in this book, so we have officers from all the branches of the service, we have academics, we have historians, we have people who are in civil service now, we have lawyers, we have former military officers who are now civilians.

I think there’s a focus on it being company-grade officers or senior company-grade officers or junior field-grade officers. I think that’s a really important niche because those are officers who are approaching this 14-year mark we’re talking about. They’re right at this transition and I think that’s where Don Snider would argue you become a professional.

You can be a member of the profession without being a professional. I think that’s the transition you’re trying to get to. This is the point that the question you’re asking, and Don Snider uses a term, “stewards of the profession” to define this. There’s a change in your approach to service and a change in your relationship with your institution.

I think for most of us, that probably happens at the command level. When you take command, be that in the Army, as the company-grade officer, as a captain company command; or in the Air Force, if your first command opportunity as an O-4 or an O-5, that’s a pivotal moment where you have to start looking back into your organization through a command lens that focuses your institution’s requirements and your institution’s desires and future.

The term, “company man,” it’s a bureaucratic term. It refers to a bureaucracy. These two things are in tension, and this is something that Dr. Snider talks a lot about. That tension between the bureaucracy and the profession. One is focused on effects, the other is focused on efficiencies. There’s a whole list of things that are in tension between these two institutions, and I think that’s why he uses the word, “steward”, and not “company man.” He uses the word, “steward” because stewards are people who do the care and feeding of the profession and that’s our role at this level as field grade officers. We have to become stewards of our professions to make sure that we teach our subordinates and those that come after us what’s important, because if we don’t teach them what’s important and why, it will evolve over time and people will lose focus.

It’s a long answer to your question, but I think that’s why we wrote this book; so that we have a stepping stone, so we’re not at the fourteen-year mark and just throwing Huntington at you and saying, “good luck.”

Also, to get to your question about when do you become a professional, it happens differently for all of us. I don’t think we always recognize it in the moment, but then, reflectively, we can see when our outlook changed. My second time in command here, I’m seeing that even more and I’m thinking more about that, about the future of my subordinates and their impact on the service. People want to leave their mark on the unit, but if you want to leave your mark on a service, on an institution, then it’s really through mentorship and development; you have to understand that your subordinates have much more longevity than you do.

Finney: Ty alluded to the fact that a profession is not an institution, it’s the people in the institution. As you get that transition into being a steward of the profession versus focused on the technical/tactical aspects as a junior-grade officer, you should probably not hand out Huntington and say, “hey guys, you need to learn this.” Instead, mid-grade and senior leaders should probably more embody the profession for their subordinates and embody those characteristics you want to see in professionals.

I look back, and sure I didn’t read Huntington as a lieutenant, but I could look back on my battalion commander, my battalion S3, the majors in my battalion, in the interactions they had with me and the way that they treated other people, were daily inculcating that profession in myself and my fellow junior officers.

While, intellectually, you’re not beating them over the head with the foundations of the profession, I think, at least in my experience, we certainly are focused on developing those professionals from the first moment they come in.

In my opinion, unfortunately, the way it’s built into PME, both leadership and the profession piece of it, it is almost like a lobotomy. It’s just, “here read these slides,” or “read the section, we’re not really going to talk about it,” so half the folks read it, half don’t. I think it’s less that we don’t do it, and instead that we do it poorly.

Nelson: I want to jump on social media because we started this conversation with the fact that your book was hatched on Twitter. And you’re both on social media quite frequently. How’s the profession doing on social media in the civ-mil sphere? Do either of you think we have an issue with service members being partisan when it’s clear that they identify themselves as military members in their profile?

Finney: I think the social media tools certainly put us in a place where it could become dangerous if we don’t self-regulate, but the beauty of being apart of a profession are professionals, like you, reaching out to people you know saying, “Hey, Jack that’s not something you should be saying in public. You want to have that conversation one-on-one over coffee or beers, that’s fine, but don’t put it on social media.” I certainly have seen the same thing. Honestly, I saw it more when I was on Facebook than I did on Twitter, and that might be the transitory nature of Twitter.

I think what it comes down to, is that it has to be about self-regulation. It’s peers, or if required superiors, coming in and saying, “Okay, you’re not supposed to be talking like that. Here’s why.” Have a good conversation about the profession. The other piece is, and I’m seeing more and more of this on Twitter these days, are senior leaders using social media in a positive way in order to help bolster the profession and provide an example. 

Nelson: Are you worried if Twitter is trending in a bad way?

Finney: I don’t…at all. I personally think, in particular, I see a lot of great stuff coming from the Army. General Patrick Donahue, Ty knows and interacts with quite frequently, General Mick Ryan from Australia, senior leaders who are using it for more than just a PAO push where they’re just pushing their agenda. They are interacting with other human beings. They are shaping what people are reading or thinking about through what they’re posting, as well as interacting with people across the board from cadets all the way up. In order to have those professional discussions, even if it isn’t “here’s Huntington,” they’re getting to “let’s have a conversation as professionals.” That’s essentially what’s happening and what we need on social media.

Nelson: I guess what I’m alluding to is the retired admirals and generals. For example, retired admirals writing opinion pieces on political topics–like the McRaven op-ed that was published last year. There are two completely different thoughts on this. Some admirals and generals remain quiet, and urge others to do the same–some, obviously, do not. What are your thoughts?

Mayfield: Let me dip back into the social media question, and then I’ll circle and address the McRaven piece. I tend to agree with Nate on the social media piece. I think senior leaders in the military are late to the game on social media, and I think a lot of it is because they don’t understand it.

There’s always been an effort to manage the narrative of our senior leaders. That’s why they impose restrictions on their public affairs officers–who they also don’t understand or trust–and spokesmen, everything. They get talking points, everything is very scripted, and when you put a hand-held, you put a phone in a four star’s hand, and he’s got an hour to burn at the airport that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I think it can be done well, but I think the access, immediacy, and unconstrained environment made our senior leaders uncomfortable to do it.

Social media is social, you can’t just push the thing you want, it won’t get picked up. That’s not how it works, it has to be interaction. Twitter, in particular, I think is a really good tool for those quick interactions that can fall into the realm of mentoring, and you can build relationships that last long term. I think that’s the thing General Mick Ryan out of Australia does really well, General Patrick Donahue does this really well too.

Those short interactions over time, and this falls into what Ray Kimball, one of the chapters in our book, talks about and that’s mentoring. That mentoring does not have to be done within your chain of command. Your rater may not be the right mentor for you. I think social media gives junior officers an opportunity to engage with an officer of their choice, who they want to be a mentor. It has to be a mutually agreed upon relationship.

I count General Ryan and I count General Donahue both as mentors at this point in time. I’ve had enough interactions with them. We haven’t always agreed and that’s okay. That’s the other thing we have to get to in social media, you have to figure out how to do that. How to disagree publicly with each other, with subordinates, with superiors. There’s that fine line in the profession.

To the point about the politics, I’ll just leave it at this, I think the profession must be self-policing. It’s got to be self-correcting, otherwise what you’re going to get is congressionally-mandated reporting requirements or congressionally-mandated direction on what you can and cannot do. Those limitations are an infringement on your autonomy as a professional. If you’re not self-policing, someone else will police you. That’s where we have a role to address our peers when we see this stuff. Some of them are not reconcilable, and I’m a little bit worried about that, frankly, as a professional.

We come into the service with our own ethics, and our own morals, and our own values, and we have to put all those aside. We have to assume the ethics and the morals and the values of our service, and one of those is we are an apolitical institution. There’s tension there. People have deeply-held political beliefs and we can all agree on that, but the service doesn’t. That’s the core the profession.

The McRaven piece, I didn’t read it. I just stay away from the op-ed stuff. I don’t find it of much utility and I say that getting ready to write an article, maybe an op-ed, so I recognize the tension in my own statement. To be fair, I’ve been getting ready to write this op-ed for six months because I just don’t want to do it. I’m trying to find a better way to approach the problem than meeting him on his own terms.

Nelson: What’s the op-ed on?

Mayfield: I want to talk about Ned Stark. I want to talk about why I think Ned Stark is wrong, frankly. He might have good ideas, but I think the idea is not correct. It’s not a good pitch.

I didn’t read the McRaven piece, so I’ll have to defer to Nate to answer on that, but I’m looking forward to talking about Ned Stark because I just wrote it on my white board before we sat down.

Nelson: Excellent, okay.

Finney: Let me re-attack the Admiral McRaven stuff, and then we’ll go straight to Ned Stark. I’ll let you have that one completely, Ty. Other than having read it and then you and I having some conversations over Twitter, I have no bone in that fight, so I’ll leave that to you. The McRaven retired general officer piece…

Nelson: This is not a new phenomenon, right?

Finney: No, absolutely not in any way, shape, or form. The “revolt of the admirals” and all that stuff, even earlier than that. Senior leaders who put out op-eds, for the most part, including, in my opinion, McRaven, very much weighed what they were going to say and whether they were going to say anything or whether it was going to be of a benefit to their profession and to the people that they were standing up for, versus the detriment of a retired officer playing into politics.

Whether you agree with it or not, he didn’t do it in order to harm the profession. He did it to enhance the profession and try and uphold a norm. I think that is generally the case; some obviously being more political than others. There is nothing against those in our profession, particularly those who have retired, standing up for things that they believe in the public press.

The issue is the knock-on effects to the profession and, in particular, the civ-mil relationships going forward from somebody standing up and doing something like that. I think the professionals weighing into these types of conversations weigh that very heavily, and have decided that it makes more sense for them to speak out than not; and that whatever detrimental effects will come from it, will be minor compared to whatever benefits they think that they receive.

Finney: Let’s talk about Ned Stark.

Nelson: So for background, “Ned Stark” is a pseudonym for a senior USAF Colonel (who was revealed to be Col. Jason Lamb). War on the Rocks granted him a (rare) pseudonym out of concern that his writing might endanger his professional career. He has written numerous pieces for War on the Rocks outlining issues with the Air Force. He got the attention of the Chief of the Air Force, who asked “Ned” to come work for him. So, Ty, what’s wrong with Ned Stark and his approach?

Mayfield: I read Stark’s initial piece in the Air Force Times, begrudgingly, after I see everybody talking about it. I read it, and I think what frustrates me with Ned Stark is that he doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know as a profession.

It was the approach and the use of a pseudonym that really frustrates me because even if I agree with Ned Stark, I don’t know who he is and I don’t know how to help him change the service. His focus is on positional leadership, not relational leadership. There’s no way to have a relationship with Ned Stark. I can’t help him achieve what it is that he wants to get done, which, frankly, are things I want to get done, too.

There’s a level of hypocrisy in his use of a pseudonym that really touched a nerve with me. His own self-identification as one of these high performing officers who gets pushed along whether they’re ready or not because they have access to general officers and they have the right things in their records, and whether or not they’re ready for leadership or not, these guys are pulled through the system. He’s railing against this, stating “that’s not the way the Air Force should go,” but he’s one of them.

Frankly, I don’t understand what career risks a colonel in the United States Air Force faces. He’s a colonel, in the Air Force, it’s right at one percent of the total force, so what are we protecting Ned Stark from? What is Ned Stark protecting himself from? He’s asking the same process which built him, which he’s railing against, to continue to protect him, and I, frankly, I can’t get behind that. I was disappointed in him. Disappointed it got published, disappointed that it drew so much attention.

Nelson: What if it’s just, frankly, brilliant that his pseudonym generates this amazing amount of intrigue? In the cacophony of voices, of the many people writing about their concerns and issues with their military service, it’s this unknown colonel who breaks through to touch a nerve?

Mayfield: Here’s the question, and this was something that when I was having this conversation on Twitter, Rich Brennan actually brought up. This is his tweet, “The point isn’t the validity of the argument, but the strength of character. If the problem’s so severe, then, as a senior officer, you should be willing to stand up for what you believe in. Put something at risk to accomplish the change you want to see.”

I have a hard time buying the brilliant intrigue approach. Now, he’s got General Goldfein’s attention, so maybe your argument is that it worked. I read General Goldfein’s piece on War on the Rocks and it’s like, “Ned, I’d love to have you on my team,” and that makes me want to bang my head on a desk because Ned is already on the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s team, he’s in the Air Force. How is he not already on the team? We can’t look Ned up in the global email address book, and start working his orders because Ned Stark is a fabrication and he’s not helping anyone.

There’s the whole piece about him essentially benefiting from the hypocrisy by being offered a job by the Chief. It doesn’t support guys, like you, who write under your own name, other Air Force officers who are focused on bettering the profession slowly but surely, versus moaning on War on the Rocks under a pseudonym. That’s not helping anyone. It’s not responsible, it’s not authentic, and it’s not professional.

Finney: It’s the incentives. You’re going to incentivize your soldiers in an adverse manner. It’s going to take away from their character, not build up their character in the profession.

Nelson: He apparently passed on the opportunity to work for the Chief of the Air Force. But do you think he would have even gotten that offer he hadn’t written the op-ed, or if he didn’t use a pseudonym?

Finney: I think it’s more on the hypocrisy of “senior leaders need to stand up and change their service for the better, but I’m going to use a pseudonym because I don’t want to stand up and do the same thing.”

Then, the arrogance of choosing Ned Stark, like “I’m sacrificing myself for the good of the service.” No, you’re not. You’re using a pseudonym.

Nelson: This is a good discussion. I think it’s a fascinating conversation.

Mayfield: I think there’s a lot of tension here. I don’t think that Ned’s Stark’s peers know who Ned Stark is. Ned Stark is setting himself apart from his peers in a way that’s going to be really hard to reconcile under his true name.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this and I’ll acknowledge that I’m on one side of this issue. I went through the same thing when I started running my own blog. I asked this question, “Do I write under a pseudonym, or do I write in my true name?” and I went to my mentors and my professors, I talked to my peers, and I decided to do it in true name which put a lot of checks on me.

To Nate’s point about the use of pseudonyms. We don’t allow the use of pseudonyms on the Strategy Bridge anymore and that was an editorial decision. We also don’t write op-eds, we don’t publish op-eds, so we get those and we send them to other outlets. We don’t publish op-eds, that’s just our position, because what we want is a fact-based, cited, academically-approached argument that removes emotion and the personal positions.

Nelson: Where were you going to publish your rebuttal to the Ned Stark’s piece? I’m sure there’s some emotion behind it, you’re very passionate about your opinion on Ned Stark.

Mayfield:  What I want to do is address it through the lens of a conversation about our profession, and about the status of it, and about us being self-policing, and it being a goal of lifelong learning and mentorship and leadership; and it’s hard to do those things from behind a curtain. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I just think there’s a better approach to it.

We started this conversation by talking about the status of our profession. I don’t think Ned Stark is advancing our profession.

Nelson: Let’s transition to the personal a little bit. I know Nate’s a father. Ty, I don’t know if you have kids or not. But neither of you shut off when you go home – the profession comes home with you. What are things, Nate, as you’re a father, character things that you instill in your children that the profession’s shaped you; and vice versa? How does your profession affect your personal life? And how does your personal life affect the profession?

Finney: That’s a good question, it’s interesting. I don’t know if the profession has affected my personal approach to life, the way that I live my life, and the way that I raise my kids, but I assume it has.

I think a better way to look at it, maybe, is by my children’s choices. My 15-year-old daughter chose to join the sea cadets program here in Hawaii. She’s always been a great kid, very smart, very respectful. She’s always wanted to be in the military; to be like her dad and be in the military. When she joined sea cadets, I could see that transformation as she started putting on the uniform, as she started understanding what being in sea cadets and being in the Navy was like. Her respect for others increased, her responsibility to get up and get things done and to focus on school work for sea cadets, and even outside of sea cadets, just getting her school work done, everything. All of that increased as she was a part of sea cadets. Part of that is her getting older, but I think part of that is being a part an organization, a team, a group of people who has certain standards, has certain expectations, and having to live up to those.

I think most of those things were there in our household. My dad was in the Navy. Got out right before I was born, but he carried that through his life. My kids have seen me go into work on Saturdays or late at night, and taking the approach that, “Hey, that’s what I do. That’s my job, that’s what I need to go do.” Deployments, same thing. This understanding of what the profession is, what living up to standards and expectations and being a part of a team is – I think all of those things come home from work. I certainly take aspects of my home life into work. Respect for others. All these things I would like to see in my daughters, I try and model those. Whether I’m good at it or not. Ty, you have any thoughts on that?

Mayfield: Yes, I think it’s an interesting question. I don’t have kids, so I have a different outlook on that; but I think what this question raises, for me, is the separation of personally-held values and beliefs from those of the institution.

We are the sum of our experiences. I grew up in a military family. I’m sure that influenced my own decisions, absolutely it did; but that’s the challenge that we face as military professionals is putting aside how we, Nate’s example, how he raises his kids. People that are under your supervision or under your leadership are not your children, they’re members of the same institution that you are.

We all agree that we want our kids to grow up and live long and full lives, but as members of the profession that’s not the outcome that we’re responsible to pursue. Sometimes, personal sacrifice is required to achieve mission accomplishment–and that’s not just us as professionals, but the potential requirement to sacrifice others who we lead as well. This is the concept of unlimited liability–it’s unique to our profession. In the end, effectiveness, mission accomplishment is what we’re charged with and that could very well come at the cost of people’s lives. It’s one of those unique aspects of our institution, and that’s a professional challenge. To acknowledge those things that you hold dear and believe, personally and to be willing to set them aside to advance the cause of your profession.

Think about Nate’s daughter’s change in behavior when putting on a uniform. The uniform is that exterior example. We act differently in civilian clothes than we do in our uniform. It changes how you walk across the parking lot. It changes how you interact with people. You can’t deny that it changes people. I’ve spent a good part of my professional career as a field-grade officer, actually, in civilian clothes, in a suit and tie; and it changes how people approach you, interact with you. Believe me, it changes things. That was a real shock for me.

I should have said our manifestation of our values and our ethic and how we approach people as professionals, so I think that’s a really important point to make. It’s a difficult transition, it’s a difficult thing to do; and the further along you go, the more you have to be very clear about what your personal desires are, what the requirements are because there are larger implications.

Nelson: Lastly, I’ll turn over to you guys for any last thoughts or words you want to say to close out our discussion.

Finney: Just to get back to the book, Ty mentioned we had many different perspectives from the team that wrote Redefining. Authors included lawyers, uniformed practitioners, folks from other countries like Sweden, Australia, the UK. The beauty of the book project was, at least for me, working with that diverse group of people and trying to weave all of those threads throughout the book. It just showed how some of the more important aspects of the profession are not just across the services, but it’s also across the national security realm.

While everybody views the profession differently, maybe it’s manifested differently in the different services in different militaries, those threads are all there. They were captured well by Huntington, Janowitz, and others, and I think as we move into the 21st Century and we’re trying to see if there’s a different character of war, and if the way we conduct conflict in the future is going to be different, does that mean our profession needs to change as well?

Nelson: Ty, closing thoughts?

Mayfield: First of all, I appreciate your time and the opportunity to discuss the profession and to talk a little bit about the book. I think it’s an important time, and this goes back to your very first question about why this book is important and why now. History tells us that the profession goes through cycles. We have a prolonged conflict, we have a peace pause, this period of reflection, introspection, and then we redevelop and redefine ourselves, and then we go forward again. It’s cyclical.

Huntington and Janowitz wrote at the end of the Korean War catastrophe. That set the stage going into Vietnam, and then we have the all-volunteer force that comes out of that. The all-volunteer force has now been at war for two decades without respite, and I think that the time is now for this introspection, this reflection to occur.

Dr. Snider’s book came out early 2000s, the ideas are foundationally sound, but the officers which are now practicing these ideas in the profession and this idea of an ethic have changed. We’ve come to the table with a new generation of officers and a new generation of enlisted personnel, all volunteers, which I think is unprecedented and extremely important; and I think the time is now for us to begin to redefine as we move into the role as stewards and leaders of our profession, to set the groundwork for what we want the profession to be going forward. That’s the answer to your question about why this book and why now.

We hope to see this book out there at ROTC programs, at commissioning programs, at company-grade officer education, and in the civilian community as well because it’s essential to our role as well as our constituents, to all those Americans represented by the Constitution. I am really excited about the book, but really I’m excited about the conversation; and I’m looking forward to the points of agreement, but most importantly, I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation. I think that’s the essential role, that’s the thing we have to do. We have to start the conversation or somebody will start it for us.

Nelson: Thanks guys, great talking with you. All the best.

Nathan K. Finney is an officer in the U.S. Army with a focus on planning and strategy. He is also a founder of three non-profits – The Strategy Bridge, the Military Writers Guild, and the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum – and has been a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Non-Resident Fellow of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point. Nathan is a doctoral student in history at Duke University and holds masters degrees in Public Administration from Harvard University and the University of Kansas, as well as a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. You can find Nathan on Twitter @nkfinney.

Tyrell O. Mayfield is an officer in the U.S. Air Force and a co-founder and board member of the non-profit The Strategy Bridge. Ty has published photography and written work in a number of online forums, magazines, newspapers, and peer-reviewed journals. Ty is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School and the U.S. Army War College and holds masters degrees in International Relations, National Security Studies, and Strategic Art. Ty is currently writing a memoir about his time in Kabul. You can find Ty on twitter @tyrellmayfield.

Christopher Nelson is an intelligence officer stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, MD. He is a graduate of the US Naval War College and the Navy’s Maritime Advanced Warfighting School. He is also a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The views here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Featured Image: Joint-service honor guard members representing all five military services stand in front of the audience before the outdoor portion of the POW/MIA ceremony Sept. 16 at the Air Force Armament Museum. The ceremony paid tribute to those military members who have yet to return home from defending America. The event was hosted by the 46th Test Wing and featured guest speakers, honor guard procedures and a flyover by the 53rd Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)