#METC: Responding to the Command Climate

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the importance of setting an ethical command climate. This week we’re looking at the other side of the equation: What is the military professional’s responsibility within a particular command setting?

The reading by Carl Ficarrotta on Manuel Davenport sets the stage for this discussion. Davenport identified two key loyalties required of the military professional – loyalty to the client state (to prevent fissure in the civil-military relationship) and loyalty to humanity at large (to prevent human rights violations in the conduct of war). We’ll explore both of these commitments over the next few nights.

To explore the first loyalty, we will draw from Don Snider’s work on dissent and strategic leadership. While many of us following #METC are not advising strategic leaders, the professional responsibility to provide your best military judgment to senior leaders is an important skill to master. Understanding the relationship between military judgment and dissent is equally essential. Snider lays out the following analytical tool to evaluate questions of dissent:

We’ll draw from that fateful Rolling Stone article about GEN McChrystal to highlight another key distinction – the difference between dissent and dissension. Dissent is the action taken to try to correct what is – in the professional’s best military judgment – poor judgment on the part of the decision maker. We’ll discuss the appropriate limits on dissent in this section of the course. Dissension is an effort to undermine the implementation of a decision once it has been made. Appropriate dissent – when necessary – is a professional obligation. Dissension is professional dereliction and is a cancer on units.

For the second loyalty, we will extend conversations we have already begun concerning different stages of moral development and subordinates’ responsibility to ‘lead up’ and shape the command climate set by their seniors. It’s our bosses’ responsibility to set us up for success; likewise, it is our responsibility to help our bosses succeed. Interpreting their guidance to subordinates faithfully and accurately capturing their intent goes a long way to extending ethical command climates during periods of prolonged stress. Working with our bosses to shape climates that reinforce both sets of loyalties can go a long way to strengthening units and the ethical behavior of its members.

Quick scheduling note: my availability will be spotty through the wee hours of Friday morning, so we might need to flex a little with our schedule this week. As I learn more about when I’ll have internet access, I’ll update. Thanks for your patience!

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