Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A question repeated: why so many military lies?

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Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter has a column beginning:

Henry Waxman looks like your accountant, but he acts more like a dog with a bone—the hard bone of truth. This short, bald, mustached California congressman is digging up what really happened inside the U.S. government during the early years of the new century. Last week, for instance, Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard startling testimony about how the Army lied repeatedly to protect its image, covered up those lies, then lied again. Instead of depressing me, the hearings left me strangely exhilarated. Historians will likely see the 2006 midterm election returns as indispensable to their work. Without a change in party control, we would never have a chance to get to the bottom of what has happened to this country.

That made me think again about the US Military Academy (West Point) and its highly vaunted honor code which places such emphasis on telling the truth. What happens to make the graduates later so quick to lie—and lie and lie and lie? I would love to see some serious research on this, though I doubt the USMA itself will look into the question.

Does having such an honor code paradoxically encourage later lying? Is there some sort of two-track implicit teaching going on, “tell the truth here, lie later”? What happens to promote such a total turnabout? I would be very interested to know—and I would think the military should share that interest, but I doubt that they do. Perhaps some social scientists can take up the question sometime.

BTW, I suspect that, at the Military Academy, this is one of those things that cannot be mentioned nor can you discuss the fact that you’re not mentioning it. I hope I’m wrong.

UPDATE: The Wife points out that, alongside the Honor Code, cadets are also taught to cover up problems. They constitute the opposite of a “let it all hang out” attitude. The need to circle the wagons and cover up problems necessarily conflicts with telling the truth, and clearly “hide the problem” is a higher imperative than “tell the truth.” The problem is that an organization that systematically hides problems is the very opposite of a learning organization, and that certainly seems to be the case with the Army, which is busy now repeating all the mistakes of Vietnam, as a Lt. Col. recently pointed out. Cf. preceding post.

Written by Leisureguy

6 May 2007 at 9:08 am

Posted in Army, Education, Military

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