What are military personnel entitled to?

As well as things Russian, I also study military ethics. Last week, I gave a talk at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, on the subject ‘What are military personnel entitled to?’ You can now watch the talk on YouTube, or by clicking on the screen below.


5 thoughts on “What are military personnel entitled to?”

  1. This was a really interesting presentation. I used to be a reservist when I was studying at university, and the often excessive “recognition” that military members got tended to make me somewhat uncomfortable. I also saw a lot of the sense of entitlement you mention, which struck me as especially ridiculous coming from reservists, most of whom had never been deployed outside of Canada, or faced any sort of danger or even serious hardship. This was during the height of the Afghan deployment, so a significant number of reservists had seen overseas service and faced a fairly significant amount of danger, but this was still a minority of reservists.
    What also struck me was the almost irrepressible urge of the general public to stereotype military members. Although I was too young to be in the military in the 1990’s, I heard a lot of stories from the older members about being shouted at and even spat on in the aftermath of the Somalia debacle, even though that scandal involved only one unit of the military, which had already had a bad reputation even before it was deployed. It seems that, in the space of about 10 years, members of the military went from being a gang of “baby-killers” to a legion of angels in uniform. Somehow the idea that the military is a diverse group, containing just as many different kinds of people as the public at large doesn’t seem to be one of the open options.


  2. I was a reservist in Toronto in the mid-1990s, and remember well all the negative headlines about the military – Somalia, rape, etc, etc. As you say, it all changed 100% very suddenly . And yet, as you also rightly say, military institutions are very diverse – there are good people, bad people, people in between. It would be better if we recognized that.


  3. “there are good people, bad people, people in between”

    Obviously. However, wouldn’t it be logical to suppose that western armies, most, these days, made of ‘volunteers’ (contractors, really), would have a higher percentage of individuals prone to violence, bullying, and so on?

    I had to wear Soviet soldier’s uniform for a couple of months. I remember we would be given a half-day furlough and go to the city’s farmers’ market, where old ladies would give us food – all the best pieces – for free. Yeah, those were the days.


    1. Just speaking from personal experience, I don’t think you’re wrong that the military does (for obvious reasons) have a bit of a tendency to attract at least a certain number of violent/anti-social individuals. However, there are forces pushing in the other direction as well. The military in Canada (at least now, this certainly hasn’t always been the case) does a reasonably good job of screening candidates, and rejecting the more sociopathic among them. Also, really “thuggish” types often find military discipline very hard to stomach. I knew a couple of guys when I was in the military reserves that I would have described as “thugs”, and they didn’t last very long. Also, the military tends to attract people for all sorts of different reasons (desire to travel, outdoorsmanship, better career advancement opportunities for some people than they would have in the private sector, a sense of comradery, etc.) A lot of people join out of a sense of idealism which, even if it might be a little naive sometimes, seems to be genuinely felt. On the whole, I’m not sure whether there is a higher percentage of people “prone to violence” in the military than in the general population, but I do feel comfortable saying that that kind of person is a relatively small minority among military personnel.


  4. “A lot of people join out of a sense of idealism which, even if it might be a little naive sometimes, seems to be genuinely felt.”

    Of course. But I imagine idealism is more prone to violence than realism or even cynicism. I imagine idealism is what’s driving suicide bombers, for example.


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