#49 Integrity

"Do what's right - legally and morally." FM 6-22

"No nation can safely trust its martial honor to leaders who do not maintain the universal code which distinguishes between those things that are right and those things that are wrong." - General Douglas MacArthur

Given the events of the past few weeks, this post may be one of the more difficult I have written. Since much of my recent writing is colored by the events outlined in "Black Hearts", and there has been a lot of back and forth on the BH Facebook group site regarding responsibility and accountability, it is still difficult for me to put things in a generic, or universal perspective. Forgive me if I am not completely able to maintain complete neutrality.

Values are malleable. Whether we like it or not, each of us has added or subtracted from our personal value system throughout our lives. Most personal value interpretations change over time and circumstance. Generally, this happens slowly as societal value norms shift. Those things that were 'sacred' beliefs for previous generations may not be so 'sacred' anymore. Either they have been overcome by events, or they did not stand the test of human decency in the first place. Ideas like racism and sexism come to mind. A current example may be the idea of openly allowing homosexuals to serve in the military. This is a critical recognition that I have mentioned before in the blog. There are periods when society begins to shift it's perception of the national value system. While the generation that comprises the senior leadership may find the idea of open homosexuality in the ranks difficult to understand, it may be that the younger generation of Soldiers and leaders find this to be a non-issue. The value system - not to be confused with individual moral beliefs - is constantly evolving.

FM 6-22 "Leadership" begins the section on Integrity like this:

"Leaders of integrity consistently act according to clear principle, not just what works now."

It is always easy to take the 'right now' road and make our lives easier. Having integrity requires that we consider whether or not that 'right now' road is legally or morally correct and then discarding it as an option if it is not. In light of the "Black Hearts" saga, it should be recognized that many of the other Army values can and did exist in 1st platoon. The platoon was intensely loyal to certain people. They believed that because they were in that place and that time facing those circumstances that they had an absolute right to conduct business in the manner that they saw fit. Importantly, when things went wrong or did not have the intended outcome, then reinterpretations and shadings began to take place. They created an internal value code that superseded the national and Army value system. This happened out of a misplaced sense of loyalty. It is difficult to completely blame junior soldiers for believing that their friends and platoon-mates were they only ones who they learned to trust and believe in. The same can be said for duty. They believed that killing Iraqis was the method of reducing the threat and eradicating the insurgent threat in our area of operations. Their duty was to kill or capture insurgents. That is what they had trained for and was the modus operandi for most operations. That created a behavioral dynamic that placed a premium on threat reduction and violence. Obviously, at a critical moment, the small-unit values subsumed the Army value system with catastrophic results.

The value of integrity in many ways supersedes all of the other values because it is integrity that overcomes small unit loyalty and equals the 'higher' duty to the national and Army values over a small unit's demand for loyalty. It is integrity that allows individuals to stand alone and do what is correct within the recognized American value system. This was done by many people throughout that time as well.

At the end of the day, individuals who wish to lead people, in either business or the military, need to spend time looking at their integrity. When all else fails, at the human being level, it may be all we have.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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