U.S. Army Ethics: The Difficulties with Ethics in Certain Types of Organizations
Current Situation and Issues Addressed
Ethics matter in any kind of business or organization, but they are especially significant when it comes to the U.S. Army (Blackburn, 2001). The reason behind this involves the chain of command and the risk to life and limb that are such large parts of military life. When a soldier in the Army has no ethics, he or she can cause trust and respect problems with other members of his or her unit. The U.S. military is a stressful organization for most people involved with it, and people’s lives are on the line frequently. Issues like PTSD and other medical problems are commonplace for those who leave the military and must adjust to civilian life, so it is very important that those who are in the Army work with their colleagues and higher-ups to get the help and support they need during and after their service. There is more to ethics in the Army than the problems that military individuals can face, though.
Other concerns include the way individuals are treated based on race, gender, and other factors (Singer, 2000; Solomon, 1984). With more women in the Army today, there are concerns about rape and sexual harassment. There are also concerns regarding trust, because some types of soldiers do not feel comfortable trusting their lives to other types of soldiers. While this should not be the case, it often is – and it can be a serious problem because trust is vital for soldiers who are working together. Additionally, the leadership of those soldiers is very important (Fagothey, 2000; Mondy & Mondy, 2012). Leaders need to provide loyalty and strength to those who they are leading (Mondy & Mondy, 2012). If they cannot do this correctly, or if they do something that causes the soldiers under their command to lose trust in them, there are serious problems that will develop within that unit. The military has been a tight-knit unit for years, but recently there have been some scandals high up in the ranks that have caused problems. That, coupled with rising suicide and mental health treatment rates, is an indicator that there are problems – and that these problems may be larger than was first anticipated when they began to come to light (Blackburn, 2001).
Statement of the Problem
The problem with ethics in the U.S. Army today is that leadership is struggling to address its own issues, and scandal and discord seem to be running rampant. While that might appear to sound overly dramatic, there are many issues that are wrapped up in the main concern: that soldiers are not getting what they need from their military leaders, both when they are in the Army and after they leave the service (Mondy & Mondy, 2012). Naturally, this is a serious consideration because soldiers must be at their best in order to handle the demands of their jobs. These demands may be part of the problem for the leaders, because they have so much with which they must cope that they find themselves struggling as much as those who are putting their trust in them (Mondy & Mondy, 2012). When this occurs, both the soldiers and the leaders of those soldiers are dealing with and working with ethics that are broken.
Additionally, they are working within a broken system that is causing them to struggle to fix issues that they are not actually able to fully address. That is not a helpful or comfortable place for anyone (Blackburn, 2001). The issue is magnified when it is involving the military, because soldiers and leaders have a perception to uphold. They are seen as being “more than” in a lot of ways. Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter – those are all things that many people think about soldiers. The toughness and the dedication and the willingness to lay down one’s life for one’s country are significant, and they are attributes that are not shared by everyone (Fagothey, 2000). When ethics are not part of the equation, however, it is clear that the soldiers and their leaders can find problems developing that could have been avoided otherwise. Fixing the problems will not happen overnight, but it cannot happen at all if there is no effort made and if there is no level of understanding as to the nature and severity of the problems.
Current Situation and Issues Addressed
The current situation is dire, because the military is struggling with a core value of St. Leo’s: that of respect. St. Leo’s value of respect says “animated in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we value all individuals’ unique talents, respect their dignity, and strive to foster their commitment to excellence in our work. Our community’s strength depends on the unity and diversity of our people, on the free exchange of ideas, and on learning, living, and working harmoniously.” The harmoniousness of the military is being threatened right now, as are other values of respect and commitment to excellence. In seeing that this is taking place, it is clear that changes can and should be made. The deterioration of the military and the ethics that are expected to be seen there is an issue that will not change without work and effort. Those who would have things remain at the current status quo are mostly in charge at this point, but it is still possible to change the way things are for the Army today.
When soldiers and leaders have trouble with ethical behaviors, one also has to question where those troubles originate. In other words, are these behaviors part of the personality of these individuals, have they been learned and mimicked by others, or have they become accepted and expected in the Army to the point that it is odd or unusual not to behave in this manner? If ethics are becoming a thing of the past that is, naturally, something that should be addressed. Removing ethical behavior from the military could cause more serious issues with trust and loyalty than are already being seen, making current problems more significant for the future of the armed forces.
Analysis of the Issues
There are several issues that have to be analyzed. These include the most significant factors regarding the soldiers in the Army, but also the most significant based on the leadership these soldiers currently have. In order to draw any conclusions about these issues, they have to be considered carefully. The issues include:
1. The ethical responsibilities of the leaders of soldiers
2. The ethical responsibilities of the soldiers, themselves
3. A consideration as to whether both leaders and soldiers are moving away from ethical behaviors
4. A consideration as to where the movement away from ethics has originated
5. A willingness to focus on how to address issues with both soldiers and leaders, so that changes can be undertaken.
Overall, an analysis of the issues shows that both soldiers and their leaders are struggling with a lack of ethical behaviors. This is not to say that all soldiers and leaders have trouble with ethics, but only that there are ethical problems in both sections of the military. It is not just a leadership problem or just a soldiering problem (Blackburn, 2001). Instead, it is an all-encompassing, military problem that is plaguing the Army and other branches to the point that something can and should be done. Whether something will be done, however, remains to be seen. There are several ways the problem could be addressed, but it would be necessary for those who are concerned about the problem to make their voices heard more so than they have in the past (Fagothey, 2000; Mondy & Mondy, 2012). If they do not accomplish this, the fate of the military may change in the sense that a lack of ethics could become more pervasive and more “normal” than it currently is.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Naturally, the most significant recommendation is that ethics must be returned to the military. This is easier said than done, of course, because there are many factors that will have to be addressed and overhauled in order to ensure that the U.S. Army does not tolerate any unethical behavior from its soldiers or its leadership. That goes all the way up the chain of command, of course, and does not address only the soldiers in the field. When there are scandals at low levels, a dishonorable discharge may be sufficient. When there are scandals very high up within the military, though, they make the nightly news and the entire country knows about them. These are the kinds of scandals that shame the military and what it stands for, but if those scandals are not enough to make changes, than what will? What will be enough to make the Army and other military branches say that they have reached the point of serious reform? That is not a question that can be easily answered.
There is speculation that the Army has more scandals than those that are made public, and that is likely the case. Of course, that is also true of the other military branches and of corporations and companies throughout the country, as well. The issue is not to catch and expose the scandals, but to stop the scandals from taking place. There will always be some people who will attempt to take advantage and cause problems, but most people only do things that are against the rules if they see an easy opportunity to do so. Removing these opportunities and instilling ethical values in the men and women of the U.S. Army should be of utmost concern going forward.
Blackburn, S. (2001). Being good: A short introduction to ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Fagothey, A. (2000). Right and Reason, IL: Tan Books & Publishers.
Mondy, R.W., & Mondy, J.B. (2012). Human resource management (12th ed.). NY: Pearson College Division.
Singer, P. (2000). Writings on an ethical life. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
Solomon, R.C. (1984). Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics Through Classical Sources, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
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