In my relatively short Army career, I have seen more toxic leaders than in all my other jobs put together. The problem has now reached a catastrophic level, with a new report, conducted by the US Army, stating that as many as 20% of all leaders in the Army could be considered toxic. It is tearing the Army apart. This report goes on to state that the majority of soldier suicide involve a toxic leader which made life, a possibly already troubled life, virtually intolerable for the soldier. A former Army officer who now works for the New York Times says he thinks 20% is a low number, and I very much agree. Enlisted military jobs were listed as the most stressful jobs of 2013. Part of the stress is the leadership, not just the Taliban.
I never knew what a toxic leader was before I joined the Army. I had some bad bosses, but I don’t think I would have classified any of them, but perhaps one, as toxic. But in the Army, it has been the rare occasion that I have not worked in fairly close proximity to someone that possesses one or several of the Army’s listed traits of toxic leaders. I’ve scoured by brain to think of why it could be so bad compared to everywhere else.
First, let me say that I was skeptical that things were any different in the Army than they were decades ago before the Army’s suicide problem and before Toxic Leader became such a popular term. But several things have led me to believe that something has changed, and for the worse (following my thoughts on our nation in general I suppose). First, the suicide numbers are striking. It is more than statistically significant when the rate of people killing themselves doubles within a ten year period and shows little sign of dropping to the levels of seen before the problem arose. Army suicide rates are comparable to the suicide rates among males in prison. I am my Battalion’s suicide prevention officer, so I have a professional interest in this. I also have an interest because I have felt the burden of toxic leaders in the Army, and I can say that it effected me in ways that I did not think possible. The military used to have lower rates of suicide than the civilian world. One would expect this in a tight-knit organization in which everyone has a well-paying job, educational incentives, and health care. Also consider that the average soldier has fewer mental illnesses, more education and is less likely to be a criminal than the average US civilian. The Army’s response to suicide has been predictably clumsy and bureaucratic. It added several more blocks of training on how to identify soldiers who may be at risk for suicide and this of course entailed more paperwork, online training and seminars. Almost all of which only addressed the symptoms and not the cause of a very serious problem. It could be argued that this type of action adds to the despondency problem in the Army, by adding dehumanizing bureaucracy in the mix, something which Max Weber termed, The Iron Cage. What soldiers really need is very tight units which serve similar roles to families. People join gangs not so they can rob stores and shoot people, but to have connection with humans. I know this sounds stupidly romantic, but it’s easy to see and feel the effects of the disintegration of social connections.
Another thing that convinced me things changed is talking to people that used to be in the military before our modern wars. When they read about current issues and how things are done, or hear my stories, they shake their heads. They tell me it was never like this. I real forums online, too, in which high ranking retired NCOs (E8 or E9) say they got out because of the changes they say, an oppressive environment that slowly drained their desire to participate. Many of them state that this trend began 5-10 years ago, which seems to be in line with the suicide trend.
Thirdly, is my own experience. In my entire life as a professional, I have never met a higher rate of narcissistic personalities than in the US Army’s officer and NCO Corp. It’s now come to light that the narcissistic personality trait is at the core of toxic leadership. This is perfectly in line with my observations in the Army and also my assessment of where our society is headed. The Army is a great microcosm for almost any society, as the values held most dear and the traits most endemic reveal themselves explicitly in the military. Studies show and my own personal experience indicates that people in college and those that are not far removed from college have very elitist attitudes and think they’re better than others around them and in past generations. These are the folks that make up the officer corps. And as officers, they are taught by the Army itself that they are better than non-officers. I see this attitude every day. The article I link to shows the definition of narcissism:
“an inﬂated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves
All negative and positive traits are magnified in the military, especially during war. Transpose our world of selfies, metrosexual manicures, hourly Twitter updates on the current state of one’s hair, breakfast, pants or fecal matter, add the current focus on efficiency, bureaucracy and hyper-rationality and then throw in a college degree and rank, and we get the witch’s brew we call a toxic leader.
There are so many toxic leaders in the Army, I would dare call it a culture. I’m not sure what percentage would need to be toxic to be defined as a culture, but if we analyze what a culture is, we find that it’s really peer pressure in action. Peer pressure gets a bad rep. It’s the way people learn their boundaries within a society. In the Army, toxic leaders with higher rank will have a grievous effect far beyond their own immediate actions, because not only do they make many of their subordinated miserable, but some subordinated will copy their leadership style. The toxic leader is leading by example and everyone should fully expect that his toxicity will be seen by juniors as the way the Army works.
One defense against this could be philosophy. There should be schools for NCOs and officers that teaches the basic foundation of Western ethics and morality. Why not begin with Aristotle? Another issue that is probably contributing to the military’s problems, in the ever-growing bureaucracy. The Army is a huge bureaucracy. One of the biggest in the world. According to Max Weber, bureaucracy is the defining edifice of modern Western civilization. Bureaucracy is what maximizes productivity, it focuses on efficiency and makes perfection its aim. Bureaucracy is inherently dehumanizing. In the modern Western military, combine uber-bureaucracy with the inherent utilitarian aspects of fighting wars, and it seems we may have a system that drains humans at emotional levels. I think this is why many officers do not have the emotional intelligence required to properly lead people. In the current environment, emotional intelligence is simply not exercised, so it never develops. I believe that my time as a police officer developed my emotional intelligence to a higher degree than would have been possible if I started out in the Army. While there was significant bureaucracy as a city cop, much of the job required me to deal with a wide range of human emotions and situations. It made me realize that no matter how much we prize efficiency, human beings are not robots. When humans are placed in systems that ignore their humanity, they become despondent. This is essentially what Dilbert shows us.
I myself have felt the sting of bureaucracy and how it perpetuates the negative aspects of narcissistic leaders. The drive for perfection in order to look good in front of the boss trumps all else. One word on a PowerPoint slide that is not agreeable to these types of leaders results in the assessment that the product is a disaster. Font size and type become incredibly important, to the point where people are berated for Calibri instead of Arial. The content of the slide is secondary.
Steve Denning of Forbes magazine, writes:
Are the people who lead these 20th Century bureaucracies incompetent? When it comes to C-suite teams who don’t perceive that the world has changed and who try to cope with the new demands of the marketplace by pressing the bureaucracy to run harder, the answer is yes. They are incompetent leaders for the 21st Century. They don’t understand what it takes to succeed in their jobs. Comprehensive studies, such as Deloitte’s Shift Indexshow that they are running their organizations faster and faster into the ground.
And through their incompetence, pursuing bureaucratic management instead of radical management, these leaders are causing massive damage to the economy on a daily basis and to the lives of people who depend on them: Why Amazon Can’t Make A Kindle In The USA.
Denning goes on to write:
What’s striking about the list is that these relatively high level people are imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies. They see little point in what they are doing. The organizations they work for don’t know where they are going, and as a result, neither do these people.
The even sadder part of the story is that the organizations they work for are going down the tubes. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge studies show that the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years and is heading towards 5 years. The pointlessness that these people see in their jobs is an accurate reflection of the deteriorating condition of the firms they work for. When those doing the work are dispirited, it is inevitable that customers too will be frustrated and that the firm will not prosper.
So, even at a purely utilitarian level, these organizations are failing? Why? Because they are made up of people and the people are not satisfied.
This is what is happening in the Army. And I see no evidence at all that the Army will fix it. The focus on efficiency instead of creativity, and the enraging habit of adding processes instead of taking them away is ruining the military. Most of our enemies have no bureaucratic systems, or they are much, much smaller than our own, yet they have basically defeated us, achieving their strategic aims while we founder and fib that we are winning.
I am a creative person. Since a boy, I have enjoyed stories and the fantastic. Instead of maximizing this, the Army usually crushes this instinct. I could write multiple blog posts about the bureaucratic problems in the Army, and how they drain people’s souls. Moreover, many of these processes are downright dumb.
The Army must radically change at multiple levels if the deleterious trends so evident are to reverse. But it won’t. As usual, I take the line: “We are doomed”. The feedback loops that keep civilizations more or less on an upward trend, are not present in the Army. When a leader is toxic, he is the Emperor with no clothes. No one will say anything and soldiers can’t quit to find another job, not for years, when their contract expires. Even when the problems of bureaucracy are identified, the reaction of government is to add more bureaucracy, when the first question ought to be: Why do we need to do any of this? How much do we really gain vs the time put into the process?
In the end, we’ll all pay the price. We’ve already paid a large one.
“He wants his home and security, he wants to live like a sailor at sea. Beautiful loser, where you gonna fall, when you realize–you just can’t have it all…he’ll never make any enemies.” ~Beautiful Loser, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band.
Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.~General John Stark
In the world of video games, there is a term that denotes making something decidedly less potent or dangerous: The term is Nerf.
My Army and indeed my country is trying to Nerf my entire world. It does this under the pretext of caring so much for my safety. Our obsession with safety is in fact making us weaker and thus less safe.
I cannot say that I expect nothing from my government. I expect it to smash the hell out of any enemy that tries to destroy our way of life. I expect it to maintain internal security so that people can enjoy their families and the things they have worked for. Thus I expect the government to toss people in jail whom have committed crimes which harm me or my family–or any other American family. I expect my government to defend its sovereign borders so that my country does not become what others without an American ideal want it to be.
What I do not expect of my government is that it protect me from myself. I do not expect the government to worry about the minutia of dangers that confront man everyday. The government cannot protect me from myself as well as I can. The United States Army has become one of the most risk-averse entities in our risk-averse nation. Soldiers must watch hours of safety videos every few months, many many more hours than they fire their rifles on a practice range, and are expected to wear a reflective belt at times, even when off duty in broad daylight, and must wear knee and elbow pads when in a war zone on patrol. Packing lists for Soldiers readying to deploy easily bring to mind a 5 year Soviet planning cycle. Make sure you bring your sewing kit. Who the hell is Sun Tzu? Because of the (most times) well-meaning cry for troop safety, our troops are weighed down with heavy body armor while trouncing over 8000 ft high mountains, exhausting them. Our enemies dance around in man-dresses and sneakers. In my unit, Soldiers pulling CQ duty (a 24 hour duty in which two Soldiers sit at a desk and communicate any problems to the chain of command), have been ordered to stop any Soldiers whom leave the barracks in shorts, because it’s too cold to be outdoors in shorts. Yes, that’s right, a military that helped annihilate the Nazis and nuked Hiroshima is worried about people wearing shorts in the cold during their off-duty hours. Every Friday, Soldiers must endure long speeches from the chain of command about what not to do during the weekend. They must be reminded that slapping their wives is illegal and driving drunk can result in car crashes. If we have Soldiers that are so stupid they require to be told these things every week, well then, I say let them make their mistake and get them out of the Army. Because that guy will probably blow the back of my head off with an accidental discharge from his M4 carbine. Our gown men used to be able to drink beer while deployed to war. No more. In the Vietnam War, US grunts could bye a 24-pack of beer for $2.40. We did better in Vietnam than in Afghanistan, according to authoritative writer, Bing West… We couldn’t have that now, could we? Surely American Soldiers would go on mad rampages across the Hindu Kush, slaying everything in sight. Somehow we beat the British with many of our troops half in the bag. As far as I’m concerned, denying a man a beer while he endures war is not just cruel, it’s downright un-American. The Puritans–those great foes of the Libertine Left– fed kids the stuff for breakfast, but then MADD busted up the party.
Here’s a quote from the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Glenn Beck’s book, Arguing With Idiots:
Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver, but she ended up leaving her own organization. Why? Mission creep. Here’s what she said….
“[MAAD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned…I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol, I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”
In the same chapter, Beck goes on to explain how legislation has been proposed to install devices on all cars that prevent people from driving drunk. As of now, only people whom have been convicted of DUI can have such devices installed by the government. He goes on to make the point that if we focus on the person offending, and not the tool of the offense, we do a better job in dealing with the problem, and we don’t needlessly bother those whom don’t drink and drive, since the majority of the DUI problems come from repeat offenders. And it’s the same thing when it comes to gun control. Taking away guns from the 99% is a tyranny. Many want to do it because the modern Left simply has a difficult time calling anyone whom is not named Dick Cheney or George Bush, evil.
The true shame of this, is that in the Army, NCOs are told that they are not leading unless they are micromanaging the private and professional lives of the Soldiers that work for them. I simply refuse to live like this or lead other men like this. As a kid, I did all kinds of dangerous things, and I’m proud of it. I never wore a bike helmet, yet rode my bike everywhere. Most of my bikes didn’t even have brakes; I had to use my foot on the rotting (dangerously so) tires, to slow myself. I proudly displayed the scabs and scars on my hands from the times I went over the handlebars on the pavement. Myself and groups of other kids engaged in rock fights and BB gun wars. We threw ice-encrusted snowballs at each others face, hoping to give each other black eyes. I carried a rifle around in the woods, unsupervised, at the age of twelve, shooting cute, furry squirrels until I could hear the weeping of bleeding-heart liberals for miles around. And I felt nothing for it except proud of my outstanding marksmanship….I endured 5 knee operations before the age of 25, all from playing that rough, dangerous sport: Backyard football. I boxed and had my brain concussed.
And every one of us boys is better off for having beat the hell out of ourselves.
And why did I do all of it? Because I don’t want to feel completely safe. I never have. I most certainly don’t want someone else making me safe from everything. I mostly want to be left alone to make my own decisions. I want to learn on my own. I don’t want to go to jail, get a fine, or get demoted in rank for failing to make my Soldiers wear knee pads. I want to live in a country that demotes me because my troops didn’t kill enough Taliban fighters, because my troops didn’t make the enemy quit. I know, I know, that makes me a brute. Yet, our addiction to safety helped us lose the war in Afghanistan. Make no mistake, COIN “warfare” is the child of an addiction to safety. It is a system designed to win wars without fighting the enemy. We hope to build the enemy stuff until he quits, we hope that he becomes as sedated with free stuff from the government as this American generation has become. COIN hopes to keep our Soldiers out of danger, but in reality it makes him so at-risk for lack of ridding the battlefield of armed insurgents, that the American fighter spends most of his time running back and forth between villages and friendly bases, instead of rooting the enemy from his enclaves. March to a village, shake some hands and smile at people lying to you and helping safeguard the people whom will kill you, then hurry the hell back to the base before you get shot.
I enjoy danger in my life. Yeah, there are always things the government could do to make us all safer. But at what cost? Should we make a law mandating all cars be coated in 12 inches of nerf material? I’m sure the guy who gets bumped into at a crosswalk would appreciate it. I measure my danger with what it can provide me. I understand there are some dangers we want to control. For instance, I argued quite vehemently for increased screening at Airports, but I’m against gun-free zones around schools. Why? Because I believe one does what it’s supposed to and the other doesn’t. If there were two airlines to choose from, one offering increased screening and pat-downs before boarding a plane, and one that did not, I would choose to use the one that offered increased screening. If there were two schools to choose from, one with a gun free zone and one without, I would choose the one without, hoping the well-vetted principal with 20 years experience in education is well armed and trained. Get it? I lift Russian kettlebells. There is an element of danger in using these, which makes me enjoy them all the more. Throwing around 70 lb iron balls cannot be made purely safe. My hands get torn up, and I’m damn proud of it. They make me a better person, even if I break a wrist.
I don’t want to be told how to pack my rucksack, how many bars of soap to bring with me to Afghanistan, and I sure don’t want to shave my chest, wear pop-collared polo shirts or gloves while weight lifting. I want to be allowed to not wear knee pads. I want to be allowed to fight when I go to war. In short, I want to be a man and not a giant baby. Let me be a big boy so we can focus on the important stuff, and not the things that end up costing us more in the creation of rules and their enforcement than in any protection we gain. We are a country of laws–too many of them–not of men. Why not think like Bruce Lee, and begin to take away before we add. Less is always more efficient, and maybe we can toughen up a bit and remember what a great feeling it is to be able to do things on our own without having to hope the government will protect us from all evil, and maybe fix our toilet if we whine and play the victim well enough.
Maybe we can teach our kids, again, the value of hard work, self-reliance, responsibility and toughness. A nation of individuals that values those things does not require a government that has to keep them in line.
Although not a pleasant topic so near to Christmas, I feel it necessary to touch on the issue of guns, violence, and the limits of what the law can do to protect us.
First, I will hit upon utility of the law. When I was a police officer, it was common for me to deal with “violations of protection orders”. A protection order is simply a legal piece of paper that ordered one person to stay away from another. It does nearly nothing to stop a person from actually having contact with another; the hope is that the possibility of getting in trouble will deter most people from violating the law. But as I would counsel some of the people who believed in the extraordinary power of the protection order, it is not a force field. It will not make bullets bounce off you. Moreover, people can violate a protection order without the rest of the world knowing they did so. They can stalk their victims, they can make anonymous phone calls, and they can murder their victims and get away with it, just as did O.J. Simpson.
Recently after the shooting at Sandy Hook, I began watching a documentary on the Beslan school shooting in Russia. In the first part of the documentary, a small boy, who was at the school during the massacre, makes a stunningly insightful comment at the 3:06 minute mark:
There is no God, only force. Military force.
I’m not sure whether to be more dismayed by the child’s nihilism, or the fact that he is more philosophically insightful than 99% of the adult liberals whom propose additional laws to control those breaking already existing laws. The laws against homicide did not prevent the children of Sandy Hook from being murdered. Now of course I am not for the removal of laws against murder. They certainly make some people think twice, and they provide us a legal path to imprison those who refuse to play by society’s rule, but they do not guarantee anyone’s safety. Nothing does.
Let’s talk about the usefulness of restricting gun rights. Later, I’ll touch on justice and what our Founding Fathers believed. I’ve already talked about the limits of written law and Blaise Pascal agreed:
Without force, the law is impotent.
Does anyone believe that by restricting access to AR-15s, violent crime will drop? If so, can you support your belief in fact? I can provide support to show the opposite is true.
Two countries, very close to America in cultural climate (and culture is important when considering crime and individual rights), Australia and Britain, experienced astounding increases in violent crime aftter implementing increasingly restrictive gun laws. In 1997, Australia enacted its gun ban. Some believe that Australia has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Five years after the ban, violent crime increased by 42.2%. Rapes jumped by nearly 30%. Shockingly enough, criminals didn’t obey the law.
We love the English accent. It summons thoughts of a refined and stoic people, steadfastly enduring Nazi air raids and fighting evil to the bloody end. Too bad England’s violent crime is even worse than America’s, despite heavy-handed restrictions on guns. In one decade, gun crimes in Britain nearly doubled. And while England has relatively low gun-crime, it is still the violent crime capital of Europe. One of my fundamental problems with modern liberals is not that they want a more peaceful and safe world, but that the laws they propose in order to make such a world rarely do what liberals say they will do. From the Kyoto Protocol to guns laws, the liberal argument is that of Piers Morgan: “We have to do something!” Consider this: Australia and Great Britain are both big islands, making the importation of illegal firearms more difficult than in countries like America. Yet this fact and the strict laws are not nearly enough.
How about trying something that works, doesn’t infringe on the Bill of Rights, and isn’t the child of a dreamy, politically correct world?
Then there’s our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico. Here’s what the US Consulate in Tijuana web page has to say to Americans travelling to Mexico:
Don’t bring firearms or ammunition across the border into Mexico.
Don’t carry a knife, even a small pocketknife, on your person in Mexico.
You may become one of dozens of U.S. Citizens who are arrested each month for unintentionally violating Mexico’s strict weapons laws.
If you are caught with firearms or ammunition in Mexico…
- You will go to jail and your vehicle will be seized;
- You will be separated from your family, friends, and your job, and likely suffer substantial financial hardship;
- You will pay court costs and other fees ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars defending yourself;
- You may get up to a 30-year sentence in a Mexican prison if found guilty.
If you carry a knife on your person in Mexico, even a pocketknife . . .
- You may be arrested and charged with possession of a deadly weapon;
- You may spend weeks in jail waiting for trial, and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, court costs, and fines;
- If convicted, you may be sentenced to up to five years in a Mexican prison.
Claiming not to know about the law will not get you leniency from a police officer or the judicial system. Leave your firearms, ammunition, and knives at home. Don’t bring them into Mexico.
Yet the drug cartels, not the Mexican government have the monopoly on violence in Mexico. Draconian gun laws do not prevent drug lords from fielding their own militias. I’ll find somewhere else to vacation, thanks.
I posted the following on my Facebook page earlier today:
Question to Liberals: If you were at Sandy Hook on the day of the shooting, and you had a gun, would you have shot the killer, Adam Lanza? If so, how do you square that with the prevalent argument from the Left that there should be gun-free zones and no armed teachers or guards? If you would not have shot him, how would you live with yourself?
If a person answers that they would shoot the murderer, they admit that having a gun at that time is preferable to not having one. And yet many liberals argue against gun rights. Of course, their argument is only that of Rosie O’Donnell. Guns are for me, not for you. Only me and my bodyguards can be trusted with them. I agree that some people prove they cannot be trusted with guns, but the average American can and should be trusted.
The police cannot protect you. Take it from a former cop. The police protect you only in so far as the criminal fears being caught, after the fact, or to the extant that you can slow the criminal down until the police arrive. If someone breaks into a person’s house, intent on injuring another person, the police will not stop him if the victim has not taken proper precautions in protecting themselves. That’s why I’m for both passive and active defenses in schools. If we make our banks difficult to attack, why not our schools? The disingenuous argument that our school houses would become free-fire zones doesn’t ring true when we consider the less important institutions in America that have far more security than schools, yet don’t resemble the Wild West.
Of all the myths of the Left, none is more beloved than, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Our most advanced writers–the Leftist intellectuals ensconced in the cocoon of academia, could only hope so. Thus their over-reliance on such entities as the State Department and United Nations. Talking and making rules doesn’t mean jack to the people we’re worried about. Force does.
Finally, there is the philosophical and historical argument for gun rights in America.
Thomas Hobbes said it best:
A man cannot lay down the right of resisting them that assault him by force, to take away his life.
If the government takes away the right of a man to defend his life, it essentially takes away his life. Any effort by the government to take away the right to self-protection assumes the ability of the government to adequately protect the individual, which it cannot do. Were all citizens afforded a Secret Service protection detail, such regulation may be justifiable. But that’s an impossibility.
Sometimes justice outpaces utility. For instance, in my mind, just as Edmund Burke argued, free trade is not so much about utility (how much in taxes the government can harvest) as it is about what’s right: It is right that people should keep what they work for. In the case of guns, it is right that I be able to protect my child and myself. It is not right that a man be able to break into my house and rape my wife without me being able to shoot him in the face…
The statements of America’s Founding Fathers and other respected historical figures are replete with support for individual gun ownership. While I’ll try to avoid appeal-to-authority fallacies, I submit that these figures deserve to be heard, and sufficient evidence is required to overturn the wisdom of these men. The proposed gun control laws have proven insufficient in the past in this country and in others. And they violate my inalienable right to protect myself. A law that both doesn’t work and harms individual liberty is a bad law, something this country surely doesn’t need any more of.
I’ll leave you with a few gems from the brilliant men that left it in our hands to maintain that great thing we take for granted: Our own liberty.
Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defence be the *real* object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?
— Patrick Henry, speech of June 9 1788
“The great object is, that every man be armed. […] Every one who is able may have a gun.”
— Patrick Henry, speech of June 14 1788
“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”
— George Washington
“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Some in the American Defense Intelligence community and Apparatchiks at the State Department have reduced themselves and their trade to a criminal activity. Not by upholding their oaths and performing the expected duties of true US Intelligence Professionals, but by ignoring the oaths they swore, the creeds they were forced to memorize, with little to fear from the system that granted them the right to see secrets that protect people’s lives.
The Military Intelligence Corp’s Creed states, in portion, the following:
To find, know, and never lose the enemy.
With a sense of urgency and of tenacity, professional and physical fitness,
and above all, INTEGRITY, for in truth lies victory.
The last few years have seen a deluge of intelligence leaks, many from senior sources. The Bradley Mannings of the world sit in solitary confinement for breaching America’s trust and breaking the law. And so it should be. But as the saying goes, Privates get into more trouble for losing their rifles than Generals do for losing wars. A series of leaks from the Pentagon and State Department regarding the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities likely has purely political motivations: The current administration does not want to be drawn into another war before the next US election.
Whatever the motivation for the leaks, Americans should be concerned. Not about black helicopters, CIA assassins, and 9-11 conspiracies, but because many in the intelligence community don’t care about their oaths or the lives of Americans or their allies. For votes and political sway, secrets are sold–and no one goes to jail but the Army Private with a lot of personal and psychological problems. I want to see the GS-15 analyst from the Pentagon, or Colonel, hauled off in chains for giving away secrets. I’m not even sure there’s an investigation to try to weed out these creeps. But if they were E3s who inserted a thumb drive into a government computer–to the gallows!
If these people will give secrets to the media, either just to get a thrill of seeing their deeds in the news or to ensure the success of their man in the upcoming elections, imagine what they’d do for a large chunk of change offered by a foreign spy.
My friend, Dr. Mike LaBossiere, recently wrote an article exploring America’s Christian heritage and ethos. He asks the question: Is America a Christian nation?
Those who believe America is a Christian nation usually point to the writings of our founding fathers as proof that America is Christian. Those who state that America is not Christian argue that America is a democracy (it’s a Republic, but that’s another article) and that for the country to be considered Christian, it would essentially have to be a theocracy.
Those who point to the accepted virtue of separating church from the state in America say this tenet prevents America from being a Christian or any other type of religious nation. They are wrong.
Consider: Most modern Christians would agree that it is the individuals choice that allows for true conversion to Christianity. Were it state law that all citizens must be Christians, it’s safe to say that a higher percentage of people than we see in present-day America would be false or “shallow” Christians. Many of Jesus’ teachings communicate the importance of inner change and he hammers those who pretend to be pious by praying in front of people or letting everyone know how generous they are. So separating the church from the state is not only desirable for the state, it is desirable for the individual and the church.
Remember one of the fundamental questions posed in the movie, A Clockwork Orange? Can man truly be considered “good” if he has no other option but to do what is considered good? We must ask the same question about Christianity here on Earth. Is a man a Christian or a Muslim if his government lets him be nothing else? The answer sits in the innermost thoughts of that man, not in the codices of state law.
And yet, despite no laws requiring a man label himself a Christian, we have laws that are firmly rooted in historic Christian ethic. Those who bemoan the posting of the Ten Commandments in American courtrooms should ask themselves: Which one of the Commandments do you disagree with? Even most Atheists in America are led by Christian culture.
Another example is the American Army. It is a volunteer Army. It no longer drafts people for compulsory service. An army composed of people who want to be there is a much more effective army than one made up of people dragged from their living rooms kicking and screaming. It is the same with America’s religion. You are not drafted into Christianity, and yet the nation is composed of a majority of people who call themselves Christians and for the most part obey Christian ethics. This makes for a more effective Christianity and nation overall. Those who would question my statement that Americans obeys Christian ethics and thus offer the opposite as proof that we are not a Christian nation should visit “Muslim” nations. I’ve visited several. I can assure you the nations of Islam do a far worse job in following their own rules than Americans do following Christian rules. But don’t take my word for it; take a vacation to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, or just about any other you choose.
Our nation’s success and attitudes is so bound up in historic Christian values, so intertwined in our minds, that we barely recognize the fact. Max Weber, perhaps the West’s most revered sociologist, stated in, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that American and European capitalism are not so much a construct of a “system” but of an attitude created by Calvinism. The Protestant Work Ethic is the power that drove the West at warp speed past its Eastern competitors, who prefer lounging on pillows, drinking tea, and watching the world go by. That same Calvinism found the mind of a man whom some consider to be America’s greatest intellectual (or maybe a close second to Ben Franklin), Jonathan Edwards–writer of The End For Which God Created the World, and the preacher famous for the sermon: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Far from a mystic, Edwards studied with great interest the works of Isaac Newton and even wrote his own scientific books that would probably leave todays 25 year old “rationalist” baffled.
A problem with the question of our nation’s Christianity is a confusion in the use of the words “nation” and “state”. One of the definitions of nation in Merriam-Webster is:
a territorial division containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterized by relatively large size and independent status
A state is defined as:
one of the constituent units of a nation having a federal government
So a state is part of a nation, but not its whole. Indeed, I believe our state is not Christian, but our nation is. The fact that we choose to separate the church from the state merely means that anyone is free not to be a Christian. And that’s just how this Christian nation wants it.