[Image: Ft. McHenry, stylized, 2014, JA Van Devender]
Matthew 5:37 (NKJV)
37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
From Today's NYT
General Sinclair has already pleaded guilty to a set of lesser charges, including possession of pornography and adultery. (Story here)
The words "special trust and confidence" find their particular significance in the commissioning document given to newly minted officers in the Armed Services (mostly, though not exclusively). They originated in a day when command and control was a very limited capability. In the days of "iron men and wooden ships" (early 18th century) it would not be uncommon for a ship to go in harm's way and be at sea for months and even years without very effective communication with the homeland or with the higher chains of command. The captain had the authority and responsibility for independent action to a very high degree and he was expected to carry through with actions that were in the best interests of the nation and the service, in that order, as he saw fit. The rules were very simple. If it turns out well, you are a hero. If it doesn't, stand by for heavy weather and perhaps a court-martial. But it was not only the Captain that played by those rules. On a ship where the captain and the "mates" stood on the open quarterdeck as grape shot, musket fire and cannon balls were whizzing by left and right, it was not uncommon for a relatively junior officer to suddenly find himself "senior officer in command." In such a case, everything that was expected of the captain, prior to his decease, was now expected of this more junior officer.
"Special trust and confidence" meant just that. An officer was expected to model integrity, courage and honor. What he did privately was generally ignored until it became public or until it posed a threat to his trustworthiness, and therefore, there was some degree of hypocrisy associated with the status. But the rules were clear and they demanded a two way street to observe them. The officer was treated with a certain deferential respect and he was expected to keep himself worthy of it.
Recently it seems that the officer corps of the US Military has been exposed as virtually rotten to the core. That perception may or may not reflect the actual fact. There is a horrid case of outright corruption, involving an asian business man, that revealed tentacles of self-interest and greed extending deep into the command structure of deployed forces. There has been numerous, more than I have ever seen, senior officers sacked for sexual misconduct of some sort. It could be that there is just more press given these occasions than previously, and I am certain there is more than a little politics in it as those political factions who essentially despise the military establishment, gleefully smear it as much as they can.
But the raw facts remain. The officers generally admit to the wrong doing. They have violated the "special trust and confidence" that they had, nominally, now, been given.
I think there is, unfortunately, some synergistic effects that have to be reckoned here. It goes back to the "two way street" business.
Expecting men and women to warrant "special trust and confidence" requires that they be accorded the respect of being "special".
Way back in 1956 the military and the society began to change the way officers were treated and viewed. [see article from the archives of the US Naval Institute HERE] Starting from the grounds outlined by (then) Lt. Col. Heinl, the social status of officers has fundamentally altered. The culture of the United States, across the board, consciously sought to undermine the idea of any form of elitism. Egalitarianism was extended to the relations of officers and the troops they lead. The officer was to become more "accessible" and, using common terms, "buddy buddy" with his troops. The lines between them diminished such that more and more the military relations were understood as being virtually identical to the ordinary work force relations. "Professionalism" in the military lost its peculiar military sense and took on an almost strictly technical connotation. The military became viewed as "just another job."
Unfortunately the officer corps, though inherently conservative, drifted into this thinking also. When officers stopped being treated as "special", they stopped thinking of themselves as "special", and there was one less structure in place that served to keep them from acting in a manner that would bring dishonor on themselves and their service.
That being said, the general hypocrisy of these situations is self-evident. When a sitting president was discovered to be a liar and an adulterer, he was not court-martialed and there was no cry of outrage in the news (most of them). This is not to excuse the general currently being tried but it is to point out that "special trust and confidence" is something we, as a culture, ought to reintegrate into the full social fabric of our culture.
When we put a man or a woman into a position where their actions and judgment can have far reaching effects on the lives and prospects of the entire nation, then they should be accorded special respect and held accountable to a far higher standard than others. There is, or should be, such a thing as "positional elites" where a man is chosen to be placed in a position, or office, that warrants special respect and trust even as it demands higher levels of commitment and integrity.
This General should be dealt with very severely, far more so than a far junior officer or enlisted man. Not because his deeds are somehow more morally wrong than those beneath him in rank. There is only one standard of moral right and wrong when it comes to individual actions. He should be dealt with more severely for those things that he admits doing because he has violated a sacred trust. And the social order which once accorded him the special respect of his office should now, from top to bottom, treat him as one who has brought shame on himself. He has abrogated his privilige of special respect and now should be held in special "disrespect".
What goes for him should go for Presidents, Senators, Legislators at all levels, Judges, and etc., throughout the social order.
The Military should not be made a whipping boy in this situation. What's happening there is only emblematic of a social decay that has swept the entire culture.