Thursday, August 13, 2009

Army Morality

The Army, like every socialist government, needs a moral consensus for its citizens. In the same way that the American government reflects the morals of its citizens, the Army can only be as moral as its leaders. I have mentioned in earlier posts that we are strictly forbidden from committing adultery and from having any sort of sexual relationship within our own chain of command. For the rest there are various restrictions, but, like the ban on pornography, the main result (for which I am very thankful) is that soldiers who watch porn or have a relationship with another soldier must be discrete about it. (Almost) no one is looking for those who violate the rules, but if it becomes public. . .

Its not like I expect the Army to adopt the moral code of any major religion, but for those of us who know the standards of Christianity and Judaism, the lectures we get seem very strange. We have received the "don't screw fellow soldiers, don't commit adultery lecture" from officers who have talked in the DFAC about fraternity exploits that involve many couples having sex in the same room "But not group sex." Glad he clarified that.

And although there are signs on public computers to remind us that General Order #1 forbids viewing pornography, the some of the No Sex lecturers encouraged soldiers to use the DVD and right (or left) hand method to relieve the frustration of lack of sex.

Those who are charged with enforcing the rules know their task is hopeless and mostly hope they will not be forced to enforce penalties on someone dumb enough to get caught. So the moral restrictions are not morally based. They are practical. Without restrictions on porn and sex among soldiers, those who don't participate will be battered by those who do. We live close together, work close together, and need more civility than many soldiers actually have in order to get along together.

But sometimes the lines of what is permitted get blurred--and really weird. Today I was in a meeting in which someone brought up their perception that the Department of Defense had conflicting standards--saying on the one hand they have zero tolerance for sexual assault and on the other hand selling magazines with nearly naked women in them in the PX.

For this person, the fact that nearly every DVD player is used for things a lot more explicit than Maxim magazine was not the same thing. That was a matter of privacy. The PX doesn't sell porn, so the DOD is not endorsing it, like selling Maxim.

Really? We are in Army barracks. Our computers could all be confiscated if a high-enough ranking officer decided that confiscation was necessary for good order and discipline. That means DOD allows us to have computers.

It can be very strange trying to figure these things out.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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