Officers and Gentlemen

The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle

by J. Glenn Gray
Harper Torchbook, 242 pp., $1.95 (paper)

Military Men

by Ward Just
Knopf, 252 pp., $6.95

The Years of MacArthur Volume I: 1880-1941

by D. Clayton James
Houghton Mifflin, 768 pp., $12.50

Dear General: Eisenhower's Wartime Letters to Marshall

edited by Joseph Patrick Hobbs
Johns Hopkins, 255 pp., $10.00

The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower

by Stephen E. Ambrose
Doubleday, 732 pp., $10.00

At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends

by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Doubleday, 400 pp., $7.95

Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War

by Seymour Melman
McGraw-Hill, 288 pp., $8.50

The Military-Industrial Complex

by Sidney Lens
The Pilgrim Press and The National Catholic Reporter, 183 pp., $2.95 (paper)

General Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur; drawing by David Levine

You can work through these books (or any others on the military) as many times as you choose, but there remains only one place to begin any discussion—with the two challenges posed by J. Glenn Gray at the end of The Warriors.

First the one concerning war itself:

Nietzsche rightly sees that war-making must be overcome through strength and voluntary decision of a strong nation or group of nations; peace will never occur as a consequence of weaknesses, exhaustion, or fear…. Prepared for by a gradual change in the disposition of dominant groups, the final stroke will come in consequence of a daring, voluntary, and decisive act of breaking the sword.1

If you are ready for that bold move, then your problem is to build a social movement that can effect the required “change in the disposition of dominant groups.” Even so, what follows may be of some help to you. For, as Gray points out, “The vast majority of our people want our ‘armed peace’ no less than their representatives, or, more correctly, they see no alternative to a peace of armed might”; 2 and a careful look at the military may help generate among civilians a greater willingness to change their own outlook. That is necessary because the closer one looks at the military the more it becomes apparent that they have truly put their backs into giving us what we said we wanted. First the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and then victory in the Holy Cold War against Communism. If the second objective now appears implausible or quixotic, even a classic aberration, it is nevertheless our responsibility to change the policy if we want the military to behave differently.

I agree with Gray about the nature of the final blow against war, but I do not think it is very effective to concentrate on that last daring act before we have given new orders to the military. Indeed, we must gather ourselves for that effort as part of changing the outlook of dominant groups. Hence I think it is useful to review our traditions and history so that we can give ourselves over to a confrontation with the immediate issues: (1) how to define and control the force we consider necessary during an interim period, and (2) how to decide when we are justified in using that force.3

Those questions immediately involve us with Gray’s second challenge: the guilt incurred in doing one’s duty when the duty involves inhumane actions, and the more general (or social) guilt one shares as a “participant in a system and an enterprise whose very essence is violence and whose spirit is to win at whatever cost.” “If guilt is not experienced deeply enough to cut into us, our future may well be lost.”4

In view of My Lai, Cambodia, and Laos,…

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