Monday, March 07, 2005

U.S. Military: Pagan Ethos or Christian Ethic?

Robert D. Kaplan, author of numerous books and articles on topics military, political, and economic, has an interesting observation in his recent New York Times article, "A Force for Good":

"I have spent many months embedded with marines in Iraq, the Horn of Africa and West Africa, watching them fight, rebuild schools, operate medical clinics and mentor soldiers of fledgling democracies. I've learned that marines swear all the time out of habit, and love to be in on a fight, or otherwise they would not have joined the Marine Corps.

Yet those same swearing marines are capable of a self-discipline and humanitarian compassion -- drawn, often, from an absolute belief in the Almighty -- that would stun the average civilian. In Iraq, there was nothing more natural for marines (and soldiers, too) than to go from close-quarters urban combat to providing food and medicine, and back again."

I'm interested in the role of this "absolute belief in the Almighty" that Kaplan alludes to. I wish that he had explained how faith enables these marines to switch between the role of warrior and the role of humanitarian. Is Kaplan implying that their religious belief motivates them both as warriors and as humanitarians -- or that it motivates only their humanitarianism?

I ask this because elsewhere, in his book Warrior Politics, Kaplan apparently argues for the necessity of a pagan ethos rather than a Judeo-Christian one for leadership in war (and other realms).


At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of Robert Kaplan. His " Coming Anarchy..." though somewhat dated, is a must read.


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