The path to becoming an 'Ethical Warrior'

Our military personnel are at risk not just from physical harm, but psychological and spiritual harm as well

"Wherever I walk, everyone is a little bit safer because I am there. Wherever I am, anyone in need has a friend. Whenever I return home, everyone is happy I am there. It's a better life!" - Dr. Robert L. Humphrey

Over the past decade, America and its allies have faced an enemy with a violent and perverse code of warfare. The authors are privileged to be involved in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), which is designed to prepare Marines to defeat the enemy while remaining true to the core values of honor, courage and commitment.

MCMAP is a combatives program consisting of three main elements:

1. Character

2. Mental (military skills and mindset training)

3. Physical (martial arts and combat conditioning).

Notably, a concept we refer to as the “Ethical Warrior” is considered to be the core of the program — thus the name of our column, and we are honored to have been invited to come aboard Military1 and share our perspective.

Using the methodology and lessons learned from MCMAP, we believe a new kind of moral, mental and physical training regimen can be developed to fortify our young men and women who go in harm's way.

Our military personnel are at risk not just from physical harm, but psychological and spiritual harm as well. We look forward to sharing what we have learned (and continue to learn) as we carry on exploring and developing the concept of an Ethical Warrior.

This series will discuss many topics including training, tactics, philosophy, developing a combat mindset, building resiliency, and more. But it all starts with values.

A question of values
Our focus on developing Ethical Warriors has led to a need for further clarification of the intangibles that make up the Warrior Ethic.

Even the USMC Core Values of honor, courage, and commitment require a hard look. After all, don't our enemies display courage? Aren't they also committed, and radically so? Aren't they also constantly talking about honor? The answer to all three questions is yes; so what makes us different?

Our journey to answer that question took us back to our 1776 values for clues. The foundation of Ethical Warriorship is found in these important five words: "All men are created equal." This often quoted but largely unexamined term pertains to the objective value of life, not to any relative value such as culture, ethnicity, religion or behavior.

One of our mentors at MCMAP, the late Robert Humphrey, called this concept the Life Value.

Insurgents operate as if all men are not created equal. They don't respect the lives of those they consider non-observant of their fanatic cultural, political, religious and/or criminal values. They will kill anyone — even innocent women and children — to reach their goals.

Warrior Ethics have respect for the inalienable right to life as the premise — just as it is stated in our philosophically enabling document, the Declaration of Independence. Warrior Ethics charge us to act differently than insurgents — more respectful of all life — killing only to protect lives and when absolutely justified.

Let's not be naïve. American forces must, and will, close with and kill insurgent combatants. Yet, the role of the Ethical Warrior is not only to kill, but also to protect and defend life. Whose life? Self and others'. Which others? All others, even our enemies (as the U.S. forces are often called upon to do), if we can.

Ethical Warriors are "protector/defenders." This approach actually makes for more skillful warriors on many levels — able to accurately assess different kinds of situations and utilize the level of violence appropriate and necessary for each.

In other words, Ethical Warriors are patient when that works, more aggressive when that works — with the ability to make better judgments along the entire continuum of force.

People ask: With all this emphasis on ethics, won't that tend to make our soldiers and Marines "too nice" or "soft?" There is only one thing more dangerous than a U.S. Marine, and that is a fired up U.S. Marine in the act of defending his fellow Marines and the innocent people under his or her protection.

This applies to our brothers and sisters in the other services as well.

Risks and rewards
But this approach is more dangerous for the Ethical Warrior who must get out of the compounds, dismount the armored Humvees, walk the streets and connect with the local people.

Ultimate success in counterinsurgency (COIN) is gained by Ethical Warriors risking their lives to protect the populace. This buys the time necessary for the countries who struggle with insurgencies to supply the security necessary and the freedoms possible to make it on their own and in their own way as viable, peaceful members of the world community.

So, there it is. If some of this sounds counter-intuitive at first, good! We look forward to sharing our ideas and hearing yours. Let's do it!