Our Soldiers and Us

Eliot Cohen has a superb op-ed in today’s WaPo looking at the Abu Ghraib scandal and what it says about soldiers and society’s relation to them.

Military service, or a life spent with soldiers, brings one to the realization that soldiers, like the rest of us, fall on a continuum, a normal distribution of most human virtues and vices. At the right end of the curve lie men and women of extraordinary physical, mental and indeed spiritual distinction; people of exceptional character, whose fortitude, largeness of spirit and greatness of soul leave one humbled. The armed forces also have the others — the liars, petty tyrants, place-hunters, opportunists, even, yes, the cowards and the brutes. By and large military service excludes or winnows out most of the latter, attracting and retaining far more of the former; it has a higher concentration of the finer types than any other walk of life that I know. But despite its best efforts, it has its share of moral weaklings and scoundrels.

Quite right. The whole piece is well worth a read.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.