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Military Behavior

June 22, 1993

* In his article, "Sensitivity and Soldiering Are Historic Enemies" (Commentary, June 14), James J. White asserts that we must accept antisocial behavior by soldiers such as that exhibited during the Tailhook scandal because the best fighters are those who are aggressive and antisocial. This is nonsense. The best soldiers are the men and women who have a stake in our society, who cherish its values and customs, and who have a home, a family and a way of life that they believe deserve defending. These are the people who have always risen up to aggressively protect their country when it is threatened.

The kind of soldier that White describes is not the "citizen-soldier" of the American tradition, but rather is the soldier of the imperial army who fights merely to sate his aggressive impulses. It is instructive that White's illustrations to prove his point are all culled from fiction; I think that if we look at real life we will see that the best soldiers in a democratic republic look more like Audie Murphy than "the Great Santini."



* White's column is probably the epitome of insults to the many tens of millions of men and women who have served in the world's armed forces in combat and did not have to act as "macho men" to prove their good soldiering qualities. Acting like an untamed, heavy-drinking stud is not and has never been a prerequisite for heroism, leadership and willingness to take risks in combat or peacetime.

The tradition that an officer is an "officer and a gentleman" goes back at least to the age of chivalry and probably before that. It does not call for being an "officer or a gentleman."

As for using the exaggerated antics of the officers in "Das Boot" as representative of the conduct of submarine officers, I know from experience that U.S. submariners dared not act that way. They would not have lasted in the service. And their bravery in combat and accomplishments in the Pacific in World War II at least matched those of the Germans.

I fear that White has seen too many movies.


Rear Admiral, retired

Los Angeles

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