[lit-ideas] Re: Warrior world.

  • From: John Wager <jwager@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 26 May 2010 12:17:06 -0500

Veronica Caley wrote:
. . . . I have heard soldiers say numerous times, on TV, in magazine articles, that they do what they do because that is their job. Not in context of reprehensible behavior, but in general.

There is probably more "dis-obedience" than most people would expect in the military, some of which comes under the heading of "just doing my job." From the outside, it looks like the Army (with which I was more familiar) is a very strict hierarchy, with superiors issuing orders that enlisted men carried out. From the inside, there is a lot of ambiguity and independent judgment.

Here are some possible examples:

1. A lieutenant orders a patrol to go out at night. The leader of the patrol goes out 50 yards and then just waits there until the morning, comes back in, and reports that they didn't see anything. The leader of the patrol considers it his "job" to keep his men safe, despite what he is ordered to do.

2. A colonel orders a captain to send his company into a position that the captain finds is indefensible. He makes a change of a hundred meters to form a more defensible position, and then calls back into HQ the actual new location. Nobody every says anything to the captain.

3. A brand-new officer orders a sergeant to lead a routine patrol into a particularly violent sector without enough troops to deal with the probable engagement. The sergeant replies that radio static is making the officer's transmission inaudible, and no matter how much the officer tries to get through, the sergeant keeps on saying that he doesn't understand. The patrol never happens, and afterward, the officer is replaced by a more seasoned officer. The sergeant says, when questioned, "I was just doing my job."

4. The President orders the invasion of a neutral country. A sergeant refuses to participate in the invasion, and in a special court-martial receives a six-month suspended sentence as well as reduction in rank from E-6 to E-1 for the last month of the sergeant's enlistment (or, realistically speaking, no real punishment).

5. A divisional commander is ordered to move his division to a new area of operations. The divisional commander knows that this area has extensive enemy prepared positions, and that the current location of the division is successfully protecting local populations against enemy action as well as currently controlling the ground through narrow raids into the new area of operations. Moving the entire division into this area will, in the divisional commander's best judgment, result in a huge number of American casualties, relatively few enemy casualties, and a much less effective job of defending the local population. The divisional commander tells his superior that the division will try its best to fulfill the mission, but that if the order goes through as proposed, the divisional commander would like to be relieved of his command and his commission, serving as an enlisted soldier for such a move. The superior commander re-thinks his position and agrees that the division should not move. The divisional commander is "just doing his job."

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