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OTHER BOOKS BY NANCY SHERMAN
e Untold War:
Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers
e Ancient Philosophy Behind the MilitaryMind
Making a Necessity of Virtue:
Aristotle and Kant onVirtue
e Fabric of Character:
Aristotles eory ofVirtue
Aristotles Ethics:Critical Essays
H M W
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© Nancy Sherman 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, storedin
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sherman, Nancy, 1951
Aerwar : healing the moral wounds of our soldiers / Nancy Sherman.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 9780199325276 (cloth : alk. paper)
VeteransMental health servicesUnited States.
Guilt and cultureUnited
Printed in the United States of America
To Marshall, Kala, and Jonathan
e Loves of My Life
Yes. Aman will talk about how hed like to escape
om living folks. But its the dead folks that
do him the damage. Its the dead ones that lay
quiet in one place and dont try to hold him,
that he cant escapeom.
Foreword by James M.Dubik
R B D
D J T M T\t Y
T M B B
R L G
H A W
Afterwords: Where ey Are Now
Expanding Our Understanding of
the Moral DimensionofWar
America may be tired of war, but from all indications, war is not yet tired
of America. e United States is entering its 15th year of war. ose being
recruited and trained by our armed forces were 4, 5, and 6 years old at the time
of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Yet with Al Qaeda aliates spreading in
North, West, and East Africa; the continued conict in Yemen; the Talibans
intent to control Afghanistan; and ISIS, formerly Al Qaeda in Iraq, eras
ing the border between Syria and Iraq and solidifying its control over a self-
declared Islamic State, more war is on the horizon. A renewed interest in the
moral aspects of war, therefore, is only natural; for war inherently risks, uses,
ends, and changes livesof the innocent, of citizens-who-become-soldiers,
and sometimes of the political community itself.
I want to claim a relatively unique perspective on wars moral dimension.
I was a eld commanderretiring from the Army as a Lieutenant General
in 2008 aer over 37 years of active serviceand I am a moral philosopher.
I am an infantryman, a paratrooper, and a Ranger. I led units as small as a
platoon of about 40 soldiers to a corps of over 46,000. Ive worked and trained
with the Armies of many nations: British, French, German, Polish, Italian,
Korean, Japanese, ai, Iraqi, and Afghan. And Ive commanded U.S. and
multi-national troops during operations in Haiti, 1994; Bosnia, 1999; and
Iraq, 20072008. During the surge in Iraq I was responsible for accelerating
the growth of the Iraqi Security Forces in size, capacity, and condence. As
a moral philosopher, I taught philosophy and just war theory at West Point,
19821985; just war theory at Dickinson College, Penn State Law School, and
the Army War College, 20122013 as the Omar Bradley Chair in Strategic
Leadership; and received a doctorate in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins
University in 2014. I have both studied and lived wars moral dimension.
Traditional just war theory
jus ad bellum
, the justications for going to
jus in bello
, right actions in the conduct of warhas been the way
moral philosophers and others have categorized wars moral dimension. It is
also the way soldiers and commanders learn about the moral aspects of their
profession. Traditional just war theory categories, however, have been found
Jus ad bellum
, for example, assumes that war is primarily between
nation states. Non nation-state entities were treated as sub cases, usually in
the form of a nations internal rebellion or civil war. Now, not only have they
risen from a sub case, but they are also waging war in the space between
crime and war. In the face of the post-9/11 wars, traditional just war theo
rists, whether philosophers or lawyers, are rethinking the principles of
to account for non-nation-state entities like Al Qaeda and the kind
of wars they are waging. One need only google
jus ad bellum
and the war
against terrorism to see the breadth of this rethinking.
e principles governing traditional
jus in bello
are also being challenged.
Previously, the principles of
jus in bello
were focused narrowly on right con
duct during combat. e principle describing a legitimate act of war, the
combatant/noncombatant distinction, the principles of proportionality,
double eect and double intent, and due care/due riskall address the moral
responsibilities of those ghting a war. Traditional
jus in bello
arise from the tension between winning and ghting well. is account has
been the framework, for example, used to discuss the moral and legal use of
drones. is traditional account is necessary but insucient, for it leaves out
the moral responsibilities of those sending citizens-who-become-soldiers to
war in the rstplace.
War-waging responsibilities are the
jus in bello
responsibilities of senior
political and military leaders at the strategic level. ese leaders decide and
act far from the battleeld, yet have a direct eect on how the war is fought,
whether the war is prolonged unnecessarily, and whether the lives used are
used in war are used well or wasted. ese strategic, war-waging responsi
bilities arise from three interlocked and shared responsibilities of the senior
political and military leaders who wage a war: (1) set and achieve war aims
by making strategy, policy, and military campaign decisions that increase
the probability of being right, or at least less wrong than ones enemy; (2)
translate those decisions into action to achieve war aims at the least costin
lives and resourcesand least risk to ones political community, then adapt
decisions and actions as the war unfold; and (3) do all of the foregoing while
observing the war convention and maintaining legitimacy, along with public
support of the war eort.
Waging war justly is connected to the following question: What does
the nation owe its citizens-who-become-soldiers? is question grabs media
attention in that it concerns the availability and quality of post-war treat
ment of soldiers who are woundedphysically, emotionally, or psychologi
cally. is attention is both necessary and welcome, for it reminds all citizens
that institutional and scal support will be required beyond a wars end. e
question, however, begs a deeper answer.
One such answer comes from expanding the traditional focus of
. at is, in recognizing that the conduct of war involves both ghting
a war and waging a war and that war waging responsibilities and principles
must be included to provide a complete account of
Aerwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers
provides a second, deeper answer; one that involves just war theorys still-
jus post bellum
. us far, the
jus post bellum
discussion has been
primarily about how warring parties end war justly. But
much more interesting and innovative approach by looking at wars endur
ing mark on the souls of those who ght. Professor Sherman goes to the very
heart of the question, What does the nation owe its citizens-who-become-
soldiers? She pulls back the curtain of war and exposes us, the political com
munity on whose behalf soldiers ght, to the moral injuries war necessarily
produces. en she reminds us of our communal responsibility to those we
send to ght for us.
She does not diminish the importance of identifying
jus post bellum
ciples that apply to states or other warring entities; rather, she takes on much
more profound tasks: understanding the injuries war inherently causes to a per
sons moral sense, and the implications of those injuries.
gains its sig
nicant credibility from extended and probing discussions Professor Sherman
has had with many veterans and their families. In giving voice to the moral
dimensions of these discussions the book brings to the fore topics previously
le either unsaid, or spoken of only among veterans and a small handful of oth
ers. In doing so, Professor Sherman reminds those of us who sent others to do
our ghting of our responsibilities in their coming home.
War changes lives
. War is the realm of the paradoxical: the morally repug
the morally permissible, and even the morally necessary. Killing, even
enemy combatants; destroying, even legitimate wartime targets; and razing
or properties and lands, even when using proportional forceall involve tak
ing away the most sacred and essential element of a human beinghis or her
life, his or her livelihood. War justiesmore importantly, demandswhat,
in peacetime, would be unjustiable: the destruction of the lives and happi
ness of others. ose who ght live this paradox day in and day out. In a very
real way, war is the abnormal turned normal. Such a life begs important ques
tions, questions that oen dont arise until years aer a war: What kind of
person am I to have done this? How do I square my sense of self with what
I had to do? How can I lead a good life, given what I dideven if what I did
was justied? Reconciling wars paradoxes, without dismissing the human
ity of those whose lives were taken or whose livelihood destroyed, involves
dealing with moral injury.
In war, even when everything goes well, people die or are seriously wounded
Unfortunately, war is the realm of error, mistake, and wrong judgments.
War is, therefore, also the realm of guilt. But sometimes this guilt is mis
placed: Why didnt I do more? Why wasnt I there with them? Why did
I survive? Why did I fail my buddies? Or, Why did I fail those I led?
War oen creates a gap between the ideals of self image and the realities of
wartime behavior, between how things should be and how things are.
e questions above reveal the internal struggle that is associated with the
limits of responsibility, leadership, and vigilance; and the moral angst that
comes with living in the gap between. War guilt oen extends beyond the
limits of reason. War oen causes soldiers and leaders to transform omissions
or commissions for which they are not culpable into transgressions worthy of
blame. is is not just a psychological slight-of-hand. It is an injury to ones
sense of self and of ones sense of obligation to others. It is a sort of moral dis
sonance between what soldiers or leaders expected of themselves and what
they actually did or could do given the realities of combat. Addressing this
dissonance means treating a moral injury.
War sometimes involves sacrices made in vain
. Losing a battle or engage
ment, ghting a battle that is unconnected to a larger purpose, being killed or
maimed in an unjust, or imprudent, or unnecessary battle or warany one
of these can give rise to the sense of betrayal. From any one can emerge a sense
of having ones life used for no good purpose. Any one of these can give birth
to a sense of being suckered into losing or risking the most precious thing
a human being hashis or her lifeor worse:being suckered into ending
someone elses life for no good reason. is kind of smoldering resentment
illuminates a deep moral truth:each of useven our enemiesis a human
being, not an object. As human beings, each of us has moral worth beyond
our instrumental utility to a task or to society. Demanding that a soldier risks
his or her life for no good reason is to treat that soldier as an object, not a
human being. is is, perhaps, the ultimate moral injury, another manifesta
tion of wars hellishness.
All of us are instruments to one degree or another, and when citizens
become soldiers they certainly understand that their lives can be used in ways
that, quite simply, would be wrong in civilian life. But no soldier is a mere
instrument. Even in war, soldiers remain human beings and their lives retain
worth. Coming to grips with being used means healing a moral injury.
War alienates and separates
. Much of what those who ght wars experi
ence or do is simply alien to any sense of normality. ose le behind,
soldiers oen say, have no clue. is feeling is not just an experiential dif
ference, it is a moral dislocation. It is a separation of individuals from the
important and necessary ties with friends, spouses, families, and commu
nities. None of us is the fully autonomous individual that stereotypes like
to project. Each of us is part of multiple important networks of relation
ships and communities. War separates soldiers from these networks, not
only physically because they leave, but morally because of the alien terri
tory war creates. Disengagement upon return from war widens the separa
tion, expands the moral dislocation, and thereby increases the moral injury
ese four examples of moral injury are merely illustrative of
depth. e book contains much more. Fighting a war on behalf of a political
community necessarily involves being in situations where moral injury will
result. Sending people to ght necessarily sends them into situations where
moral injury will result.
Not only does Sherman dive deep to describe the moral heart of war, but
she also resurfaces to discuss ways to heal moral injuries. Sherman could be
called the Jacques Cousteau of
jus post bellum
Injury opens the door to recovery, and Sherman combines her training
in both psychology and philosophy to describe approaches to moral heal
ing. Self empathy, self-forgiveness, re-experiencing, and re-envisioning moral
frameworks are several of the ways she describes the moral reparative work
that has to be done. She examines trust, resentment, betrayal, hope, meaning,
and purpose and their roles in healing the soldiers soul. In each she intro
duces the role the network of relationshipsthe very network that is injured
by alienation and separatenessplays in healing. Signicantly,
highlights the role of the community in moral healing. ank you for your
service simply does not meet the communitys obligation to those it sent
to ght on its behalf. Members of the community and the community as a
whole: both are obliged to learn more of what those who fought have gone
through on their behalf, to understand them, to engage them, and to help
them live well. Its not a matter of gratitude; its a matter of reciprocity.
, Sherman is reminding us all, includes a very personal and very
Flourishing aer war is also connected to how well those who ght on our
behalf are prepared for the moral ambiguity, the havoc on the conscience,
and the torments that come to even the most conscientious soldier. Preparing
soldiers for war is not just a matter of technical and tactical training, not
just a matter of building condence and cohesion in units. Preparing soldiers
for war also includesor should includehelping soldiers gure out what
war will do to them morally, and thereby to the network of relationships and
communities within which each of them lives. is dimension of
jus post bel
isor should beas much a subject of professional military education
and training for combat as any other.
e moral philosopher in me is drawn to
s creative analysis of
this personal and communal aspect of wars moral dimension. e com
mander in me is drawn to Shermans use of this analysis. Whether describ
ing the injury or the treatment, Sherman introduces, and sometimes invents,
concepts and language to guide the reader through the interior aspects of
wars moral dimension. is is something traditional just war theory leaves
gives voice to the remarkable men and women who
have fought on our behalf, who bring home enormous competencies, who
possess unbelievable grit, and whose potential to contribute to America has
no bounds. It also gives voice to what we, the political community who sent
them to war, truly owe them.
James M. Dubik, Ph.D.
U.S. Army, Retired
Senior Fellow, the Institute for the StudyofWar
is book is about homecomings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and
the struggle to nd inner peace aerward. It is an intimate look at a handful
of the 2.6 million women and men who have served in these longest wars in
American history, and what it feels like to return to a country that hasnt
really felt war. ere has been no war tax and little economic pain. As some
soldiers put it to me, Weve been at war while the country has been at the
mall. In the United States, less than half a percent of the population has
served. is has consequences
for all of us, on a personal level. For many
of us dont know how to begin a conversation with a veteran, how to ask
where shes been and what shes been through, and how things are for her
now. Each side feels the distance. is book is not a plea for national service.
I am not prepared to make that case. What I am prepared to argue for is the
moral necessity for each of us to be personally engaged in the largest rein
tegration of American service members into civilian society since Vietnam.
e mil/civ walls have to come down. It is critical for the moral healing of
We have heard much about institutional failures in services for military
families and veterans, from unconscionable waiting lists to get medical
appointments at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals to military hospital
malfeasance, to homelessness, joblessness, and inequities in the adjudications
of military and civilian law. But what we have not heard enough about is our
own inner struggles as civilians with what we mean when we say, ank you
for your service, and why we cant say much beyond that. We have learned
that we are supposed to separate the war from the warrior, but we are stuck
there, not getting beyond that and havent really explored why. e upshot
is that we dont feel comfortable talking substantively with veterans about
their wars, despite the fact that we teach veterans, work with them, sit next
to them on ights, greet them at airports, and so on. War talk still seems
taboo. And this is so even for those of us who are good with words, accus
tomed to meeting new people, whether as lawyers, negotiators, realtors, busi
nessmen and women, high-tech managers and engineers, educators, doctors,
architects, scientists, artists, and more. is is my world, and most of those
Iknow, ranging from age eighteen through ninety-ve, tell me routinely that
they dont know how to talk about war with those who are coming home.
Most worry about broaching subjects that are private, crossing lines, opening
oodgates that will leave each side morally and emotionally vulnerable and
And yet almost all the service members I speak with are eager to talk,
so that they can begin to bring their wars home and normalize, somehow,
in civilian society. ese recent wars are not my dads war, World War II,
for which the distance of a faraway war mixed with etiquette about polite
talk at home and in society meant that war wasnt a t subject of discussion
for those who didnt see it. at was my experience as a child of a WWII
Army medic, the niece of a Marine who fought
mano a mano
and the niece of an Army enlisted man who fought in Italy and the Pacic.
And there were other service members in my childhood life, some who
even came to visit in uniform. But we didnt talk about war then. It wasnt
a t subject for family evenings. But we are not living in the 1950s, and the
current generation of veterans is not my fathers. Even the toughest, stoic
military types I know, among them Special Forces guys I teach, oen want
to share parts of their warsso long as they can feel a sense of safety and
trust. Many other veterans want the same. Let us gure out how to make
is book is my own journey in guring out how to do this. It is not a
how-to book. It is an exploration of the kinds of reactions that underlie what
we say and dont say. It is about the emotions that bind us and that tear us
apart, whether they be guilt, shame, resentment, rage, trust, wariness, hope,
forgiveness, or empathy. ese emotional attitudes are the subtext for our
sense of alienation or connection, whether we to veterans and veterans to us;
or veterans to each other and to their commanders, troops, veteran health
care providers, and civilian leaders; or to each of us, in uniform or not, to
ourselves. Relationships, both interpersonal and intrapersonal, are built
on emotional reactions and attitudes, many of them morally weighted and
reecting our views of whether we can count on each other and be viewed
as worthyrespect-worthy and responsible. And so recovery is a matter of
shared moral engagement. e aerwar belongs to us all.
We have a sacred moral obligation to those who serve, whether or not we
agree with the causes of those wars and whether or not those who serve agree
with them. ose moral obligations are institutional, both governmental
and nongovernmental: veterans are morally owed the best possible resources
across the widest swath of medical, psychiatric, social, legal, and technical
services. But the obligations and expectations are also interpersonal, one-on-
one. We have duties to each other for care and concern: normative expecta
tions and aspirations that we can count on each other, we can trust and hope
in each other, and we can be lied by each others support.
I have embedded, in a manner of speaking, with most of the service mem
bers you will meet in this book. at is, Ihave embedded for a time in their
communities (and mine) stateside, in classrooms with veterans, in seminars
with active service members, at think tanks where military and civilians
work and research together, at service academies and postgraduate military
schools, at military hospitals and rehab gyms where limbless veterans recre
ate themselves with unimaginable resilience, in behavioral health programs
where that same resilience paired with a sense of safety and trust enables a
soldier or Marine or sailor or wingman to keep going for another day, and at
suicide review boards, where the light has goneout.
I share this world from my perch as a philosopher trained in Aristotle
and the Stoics, in Kant, and in moral psychology and the emotions. And
I bring to bear research training in psychoanalysis and a longstanding pro
fessional aliation with the mental health community. I am not a thera
pist and I have never had patients. But I know well the need for empathy
in relationships and how sorely many soldiers and veterans, some barely
eighteen or nineteen years old, long to be understood so that they can
understand themselves. Telling your story is about processing the hard-to-
touch moral wounds of war. For most, the wounds that come with holding
oneself and others to account for the ravages of war will be wounds that
last for a lifetime. Anyone who knows veterans, or has visited the Vietnam
Wall or the beaches of Normandy, knows that the moral psyche does not
easily erase loss that is tinged with the nag of Did I do enough? Was the
cause worth it? Did we ght for each other to ll the moral vacuum of
not having a just cause for war? For among those for whom the band of
brothers and sisters
the cause, stricter rules of engagement (courageous
restraint, as General Stanley McChrystal called his counterinsurgency
directive in Afghanistan) can seem harsh and hard to justify or accept.
And what now of the unraveling of Iraq and the political instability in
Afghanistan? As I write, thousands of soldiers and Marines who fought
in the Sunni Triangle, in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Tikrit, and in outposts
farther north, in Talafar and Mosul, are talking to each other online, in
disbelief as they watch the undoing of their hardest won and bloodiest
battles. Whatever our politics, we are in this together, civilian and soldier,
as we go forward and recover from over a decade of war. ere are broader
lessons here. Constructive moral engagement, its worth remembering, is
not just for aer war and at home. It is for always, as wide as we can expand
our circles, over borders and checkpoints and dierences, supporting each
other in our shared humanity to live good and decent lives.
Josh Mantz (in cammies) with children outside Baghdad
On April 21, 2007, Captain Josh Mantz died in Baghdad and came back to
life aer atlining for een minuteslong past the time doctors routinely
mark as the cuto point for lifesaving measures, given the likely damage to
the brain without vital signs. Not only did Josh survive, but he returned
to his unit ve months later to resume his platoon command. Yet despite
the remarkable revival and media tour as the resilience poster boy for the
Department of Defense, Josh emotionally crashed four years later. Its the
moral injury over time that really kills people, he said. Soldiers lose their
identity. ey dont understand who they are anymore. And he added,
Most people dont appreciate the awful weight of that moral injury.
What specically weighs on him is that he survived, but his Sta Sergeant
Marlon Harper did not. e details are wrenching:Mantz was guiding his
troops near the Shiite rebel stronghold of Sadr City when a sniper red a
round of bullets that penetrated Harpers le arm, severing his aorta. e
hot molten round fused with Harpers armor plate, forming a projectile the
size of a human st that ricocheted into Joshs upper right thigh, severing his
femoral artery. Injured and dazed, Mantz administered rst aid on Harper
as he waited for medical assistance. Ayoung medic arrived and immediately
went to work on Mantz, not Harper, probably because an aortal wound is
less viable than a femoral wound. Having died and returned didnt bring me
closer to God, Mantz says.
Ah, He must have great plans for you, people
say. But what about Sta Sergeant Harper? Iask.
Josh Mantz struggles with survivor guilt, of having luck, miraculous luck
and state-of-the-art medical interventions on his side, and yet experienc
ing that good luck as an awful betrayal of his buddy. It is one type of luck
guilt, as Icall it in
e Untold War.
ere are other kinds, like that of John
Prior whom Iwrite about there and here, who suers from the bad luck on
his watch of a turret gun misring and taking the life of one of his privates;
though Prior was fully exonerated, like guilt a parent feels for the accidental
death of her child, it wouldntabate.
Other service members whom we will meet in the coming pages struggle
to understand their own idiosyncratic experiences of war and the moral inju
ries they endured. e notion of an injury that is moral is at least as old as the
preaching of Bishop Joseph Butler in early eighteenth-century England. e
term has been revived in clinical circles, and though not exclusive to veteran
populations, it is gaining currency in the military behavioral health arena.
Roughly speaking, it refers to experiences of serious inner conict arising
from what one takes to be grievous moral transgressions that can overwhelm
ones sense of goodness and humanity. e sense of transgression can arise
from (real or apparent) transgressive commissions and omissions perpetrated
by oneself or others, or from bearing witness to the intense human suering
and detritus that is a part of the grotesquerie of war and its aermath. In
some cases, the moral injury has less to do with specic (real or apparent)
transgressive acts than with a generalized sense of falling short of moral and
normative standards betting good persons and good soldiers.
No single moral injury ts all. ere is no easy diagnosis and code num
ber. Scientic research models can belie both the variety of suering felt
and the centrality of a sense of responsibility that underlies much of the
suering. For the individual soldier, acknowledging moral injury oen
requires coming to feel the ne grain of the emotions and conceptualizing
the moral implications for honor and dignityand a sense of ones own
accountability and that of others. It is not easy for those committed to lives
of action and combat readiness to explore the interior of the self. It can feel
narcissistic, indulgent, a way of dodging real work, a kind of malingering.
But those Italk to are ready, more than ready, to understand how war has
changed their livesmorally and psychologically, as well as, oen, physically.
So we shall meet T.M. Gibbons-Ne, a Marine now at Georgetown
University, who in the early days, having just returned from Marja fresh
with losses of his buddies, felt waves of resentment surge when students
would banter lightly about military interventions without much thought
about who goes to war and who doesnt come back. For Lalo Panyagua,
another Marine who served in Marja, what wracks him is the constant
thought that he should have done more to save three of his troops. And it is
his spouse, Donna Hernandez, through her remarkable vision and spunky
wit, who has seen him through and found a way to rekindle his hope in
himself in his new civilian life, shorn of both uniform and the sense of
dignied purpose and identity it oered him. In the case of Je Hall, the
overwhelming moral wound he feels pounds through in shame, and a sense
of betrayal, that he was so hamstrung by an incompetent command that he
couldnt properly help the Iraqi family he was charged with assisting in the
burial of their dead. Sally, who served in Iraq in the Air Force, worries
about betraying the cause and mission if she reports that she is being stalked
and sexually harassed to the point of feeling threatened in the mess hall.
For Tom Fiebrandt, an intelligence ocer who severed near Mosul, Iraq,
the overwhelming relief from the hounding guilt of not being there for his
buddy killed by an IED comes in the form of a moral epiphanythat he
cant be there all the time for everyone in his command. is leads to pro
found self-empathy and self-compassion. Alysha Haran, a mid-level naval
ocer brought to captains mast (a disciplinary hearing aboard ship) on
a trumped-up charge, nds a reprieve from crippling self-doubt when her
new senior commander, an admiral with compassion and a willingness
to mentor, recognizes that an important part of her identity, as a former
dancer and actress, is not a detriment to the Navy but a strong asset that
can breathe life into a stodgy organization. In the case of Dan Berschinski,
a West Pointer who lost the bottom half of his body in Afghanistan, the
key to his postwar adaptation hangs on determination tethered to hope,
and a remarkably upbeat disposition.
What emerges in these brief snapshots is the variety of moral injuries suf
fered and the variety of repair. Just as there is no one type of moral injury,
so too there is no one-size-ts-all model of a soldier. Each experiences war
dierently, with a panoply of factors playing a role: individual family and
childhood histories, life experiences before and during war, age, education,
physical and psychological training, moral reectiveness, relationships on the
battleeld and at home, nature and number of deployments, risk levels and
exposure, command climate, mission preparedness, and so on. ere is no
cookie-cutter story to tell. ere is no universal soldier.
Moral wounds demand moral healing. Experts in military and veteran
mental health are now trying to articulate just what that healing would look
like and how treatments overlap or are critically dierent from those rou
tinely used in treating posttraumatic stress. But the general issue of moral
healing from moral combat injury is not just for experts or clinicians. It is
something we all need to understand as part of the reentry of the largest
number of service members into society since Vietnam.
With 2.6 million service members having gone to war in the last thirteen
years to Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of them now home with the draw
down of those wars, moral injuries are a part of that homecoming. Unlike
lost legs and missing eyes, these wounds can oen go unnoticed. And sol
diers may keep them that way. For one year, for two, with stone silence. In
some cases, for forty or y years, buried deep inside, untouchable, until
perhaps another group of vets come home from war and they see themselves,
now at sixty or seventy, in the faces of those twenty-year-olds. ey may
talk, some of them, to therapists who have earned their trust, and sometimes
in healing centers in group therapy with those young vets. Sometimes they
talk at e Wallat the Vietnam Memorialwhere Vietnam vets, like
business executive Paul Baco, y in from across the country, monthly, to
be docents at e Wall, to heal old but festering wounds as they reach out
to those struggling with fresh ones. For some, e Wall is a meeting place
for unocial counseling, a place to bring a mother or sister or brother who
hasnt served, a place where a new vet collapses in the arms of an older vet
and shares an inward war hes never spoken about before and his family has
never heard until now.
But whether they talk or not, many vets replay the horrors of their wars
in traumas, feeling and tasting and touching their dying buddies blood
or seeing a childs exploding head in a collateral killing, and reissuing the
same self-blame. Some, like the Vietnam veteran whose case a psychiatrist
presented at a war trauma conference Iparticipated in, retreat to treasure
boxes in safe places where a trove of memorabilia are part of reenactment
rituals that transport them back to Vietnam and its pain and maybe its open
ings for healing. Some, just home from war, feel too much guilt to visit the
graves of their best buddies and then pile shame on top of the guilt. Some will
self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or recapture a bit of the high of war and
thrill of arms through hunting trips with fellow warriors. Others may just go
numb, and stay numb, until something snaps and stops the numbness from
In Josh Mantzs case, the real psychological recovery began only aer
he realized that he was physically alive but emotionally dead. e emo
tional withdrawal was killing him. Downrange, a version of it made for
survivalit allowed him to operate with fearlessness, with a stoic indif
ference to whether he lived or died. He didnt become reckless, but simply
was freed from unproductive worry about whether he would make it home.
e moment you stop caring about living, there is a great sense of free
dom, he tells me. Its that liberation, operating as above life and death
that allows you to operate in and control chaos. You have two options, he
said, when patrolling streets in East Baghdad lined with cinderblocks of
trash as far as the eye can see, each a potential hiding place for a homemade
bomb. You either stop at every rock and call EOD [Explosive Ordinance
Disposal] and wait for four hours until they go and check it out, which is
infeasible. Or you just say, screw it, and you drive forward and you accom
plish your mission. ats what we all end up doingall the good units,
anyway. But that same indierence to life and death is also indierence
to social connection. at restriction that comes with caring is no longer
upon you anymore, says Mantz. But it is also the point where emotional
contact is severed.
For Mantz, numbness to fear became numbness to life. He lost zest, pas
sion, commitment, connection, hope, and trustthe elements of embrace
necessary for nding meaning in life. Finding meaning in life involves both
ones activities are worthwhile and worthy of
ones esteem. Or, if not condently believing, at least
they are in a way
that anchors and gives the cognitive resolve needed to go forward. But for
some service members, this requires reconciling a messy past and the realiza
tion that their war activities may lead to little lasting goodthat they wasted
lives or engaged in awed and futile eorts. Futility is essentially meaning
lessness, and without some resolution it bleeds into the present and can leave
little taste for living. It drains away hope, hope in the goodness of self and
others and hope for what one can bring about with due eort. And it drains
away trust, that there is a point in turning to others and their turning to you.
It eats away at any kind of self-compassion.
It is tempting to think about moral repair in terms of renewals, fresh starts,
a x for whats broken that looks forward more than backward. Moral repair
should involve positive thinking and feelinghope and trust, empathy and
connection, as Ive been putting it, without getting stuck in the negative. It
should look to the possible and positive, and nudge and coach and persuade.
It should be about bouncingback.
is a buzzword in the current military. Early on in the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, with service members surviving their physical inju
ries at rates unparalleled in the history of warfare, it became all too clear at
the highest echelons of the Pentagon that minds and not just bodies had to
endure. Schooling in mental toughness and the ability to face cumulative
psychological stresses needed to be a formal component of predeployment
training. Alarming peaks in suicide within the military made the issue all the
more urgent. Under the directive of Army Chief of Sta George Casey, the
Army brought on board Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology
at the University of Pennsylvania, to help design a predeployment resiliency
program. Positive psychology, with its starting point not pathology or the
treatment of posttraumatic stress but, rather, the study of strength and
virtue, attracted the Armys leadership. And so a $145million Army-wide
Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program was unrolled in 2009,
with an Army surgeon, Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, (herself a poster
woman for resilience as a former POW shot down during a medical rescue
mission in the rst Gulf War and a survivor of breast cancer), helping on
the Army side to stand the program. Its focus, as Cornum and her deputy
described it to me, is not post-adversity, but preventive, to teach everyone
to better thrive.
Cornum, who was retiring from the Army the week we spoke, had emp
tied her desk and shelves in her Crystal City oce in preparation for its
next occupant. But on the walls still hung the pictures of the Penn monthly
graduating classes from the Master Resilience Training program, the
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness core course. Its a train the trainer course
in which groups of 180 combat vets (typically Army captains and sta ser
geants) gather at Penn (or in mobile units at military facilities) for a ten-
day immersion in active constructive attitudes that are alternatives to the
kinds of passive destructive attitudes Seligman and his colleagues warn
against, such as ruminating misery and catastrophizing. e Master
Resilience Trainers (MRTs) bring the coping skills to their units in infor
mal problem solving thats the stu of conversation and counseling, and
more formally, to troops not yet deployed, in mandatory two-hour teach
ing slots four times a year. All troops take a required, anonymous, online
psychological assessment test annuallythe Global Assessment Tool, or
GATambitiously aimed at testing the psychological tness of the force
as a whole.
e program has been severely criticized from many camps as a quick and
very expensive x, not adequately tested with pilot programs on a combat
troop population. Seligmans resilience work has been primarily with middle
school children and their adjustment to school, not with troops facing day
in and day out the wars detritus, where the exposure to killing in a death-
saturated environment can aect vulnerability to posttraumatic stress and
Others have implied that while the program is oen promoted as
asset-based, focused on tness, wellness, thriving, and ourishing, the real
impetus and urgency for craing such an expensive program had to be from
the start the prevention of negative outcomes, such as posttraumatic stress,
depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide. But if that were the case,
then risk factors should have been more clearly articulated and targeted in
order to empirically assess the ecacy of the interventions. Equally, some
clinicians worry that the program may only worsen the stigma attached to
seeking mental health treatment within the military. For if an individual
goes through the program and returns from war with posttraumatic stress
(PTS), then it may just exacerbate the sense, already prevalent in the military,
that PTS has to do with ones own decits and weaknesses rather than the
wars stressors. Moreover, failure to screen for posttraumatic stress in the pro
gram, on the grounds that it might be suggestive and draw attention to the
symptoms, plays into a deeper view some hold within the military that post
traumatic stress is only a psychological phenomenon with no neurobiological
basis, and so easily fabricated. at view can betray mixed messaging within
the Army about its mental health mission.
Around the same time Comprehensive Soldier Fitness was unrolled, the
Army Vice Chief of Sta General Peter Chiarelli began to convene a monthly
review board at the Pentagon to review fatalities due to suicide. e board was
a part of the massive campaign to stem the suicide epidemic in the Army and
to destigmatize the seeking of mental health treatment. Chiarelli, an infan
try commander who headed coalition forces during the Iraq War, took on a
new battleeld of brain research, biomarkers, and mental health advocacy.
Imet with Chiarellis sta several times and attended some of those two-hour
late-aernoon meetings. e meetings were brutally depressing, lled with
harrowing details. Colonels and generals on whose watch a recent suicide
occurred sat at a massive conference table in high-backed leather chairs or,
in many cases, were video-teleconferenced in on large screens from bases in
Iraq, Afghanistan, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Korea, and beyond. Each com
mander, anked by a team, reviewed the known facts of the case, the risky
behavior, the proximate causesprescription painkillers, family disputes,
troubles with mortgage payments, indelities, a spouses health problems, the
death of an uncle, tensions with command, disappointment in being passed
over for promotion, a parolea ra of real-life issues, some with little to do
with war. At moments it was easy to think that intervention here or there at a
key juncture, or that a well-placed buddy, might have made all the dierence.
As Chiarelli listened to the cases, rst one, and then another, and another,
and anothera litany of details without clear patternshis impatience at
times ashed through as he demanded of his commanders aer each review,
What are the lessons learned? In truth, there were few unifying factors
other than humiliation, hopelessness, or alienation, at home or on base, and
too many weapons or drugs to carry out thedeed.
Resilience techniques are not new. ere are venerable ancient models.
Greek and Roman Stoicism is preeminent. Epictetus and Seneca are radi
cal exhorters and tough moral trainers. ey are persuaders who urge their
tutees to move on by unloosing debilitating, false beliefs about loss and
injury. ey argue that the only real evil is internal vice and the only real
good is virtue. Uprooting false beliefs about external goods and evils is the
path to self-mastery and liberation. And it is the path to emotions that are
positive and upliing. Asage feels only the slightest scar of the old hurts.
ere is no room in his emotional economy for anguish or distress, vengeance
or rage. He moves on and leaves the perturbations of the past behind.
But from the scores of interviews I have had with returning service mem
bers while researching this book, it is clear to me that war does not move on
easily. And the research data suggest the same. Figures from the recent wars
suggest that 20 to 30 percent have come home with some form of traumatic
stress. For some it is very mild; for others, it is paralyzing. In addition, from
2000 to 2013, as reported by the Congressional Research Service, there have
been approximately 300,000 medical diagnoses of traumatic brain injury
(TBI) across the services, and among those classiable, they range from
mild and moderate, to severe or penetrating. Another study suggests a rate
of TBI as high as 23 percent in military personnel assessed aer returning
from deployments. Early on these were called the signature injuries of the
wars, endured from explosive blasts or rocket-fast propulsions of the body
that rattle the brain hard against the cranium, causing contusions, brain
lacerations, hemorrhaging, sheared nerve bers, and more. Unsurprisingly,
recent national attention to concussive injuries in football and other con
tact sports has coincided with the mounting evidence service members bring
home. Some of the symptoms of TBI overlap with those of PTS reactions, in
particular forms of emotional numbing and social withdrawal. Other symp
toms of TBI, and especially severe TBI, involve cognitive impairments that
can look like the signs of premature aging: memory loss, diculty focusing,
decits in hearing and visual acuity, slurring, and aphasia.
Many soldiers, the majority, come home healthy and thrive from the
experience of war. Many whom Iknow, and have worked closely with over
the years, grow from war and go on to ourish in magisterial ways. ey are
high functioners, elite performers, able to take on more than a full plate and
excel at what they do. e challenges of war that require astute leadership,
split-second assessments and decisions, endurance, seless care, and deep
reserves of energy can grow individuals of simply remarkable virtue and wis
dom. In courses Ihave taught on ethics and war, the presence of veterans in
a class who are willing to share their experiences can li a classroom to new
heights. Typically, these are veterans in their mid-twenties, who have been
in the thick of complicated counterinsurgency and intelligence-gathering
operations, piloting and reconnaissance missions in insurgent villages, or
interrogation and detention operations when rage could easily get the better
of calm, strategic judgment. e demands placed on these young people are
staggering and the achievements of character and leadership, in the face of
those demands, oen spellbinding.
But still, there is sometimes a wariness I see in some of the military men
and women I know. ey dont want the occasional startle or nightmare to
trip them up. ey dont want the fact that some have broken to mean that
all will. And so they are on guard and work hard at their own toughness; they
train for Ironman Triathlons days aer they get home, sublimate their sense
of disconnect by retreating from family or friends or immersing themselves
in work. In the case of some women I know, they feel they need to outbro the
bros. Many are on guard
themselves. But they also are on guard
public image. ey dont want to feed the stereotype of a warrior who comes
home broken. And so they walk a careful line, helping their troops and bud
dies get treatment, being on alert for signs of risky and suicidal behavior,
taking seriously the massive campaigns led by the Pentagon and VA this past
decade and more to destigmatize mental health treatment within the mili
tary and its families. And, they stay tough.
But control cant reach all mental recesses. e sight of your friends
skin dangling from a tree, its burning acrid smell, the feel of his torn-o
calf muscle blasted y feet away from his foot, the dead weight of carry
ing his upper torso in your arms until the breath leavesthese imprints
dont get more visceral or the sensed duty to not forget more acute. e
latter, Isuspect, is something of a decision; the former, perhaps not. Still,
some traumatic stressors that make those deep imprints more likely might
be minimized or avoided, such as collecting the body parts of those who
are your closest buddies aer a bomb blast. But to even consider ceding
that task is for many a profound breach in solidarity and honor. Who else
would do it? Who else is there to do it? How could you not? Put your
self into a service members shoes:a second earlier your best buddy was in
the Humvee next to you, cracking some awful joke, and now he is blown
up; you both were on a rooop taking re from the same sniper and he
stood up the second you decided to crouch down. From full throttle to
full decimation doesnt take long. Youre not even sure you are alive at
this moment. Or if alive, intact:
Where is my foot? Is it still in my boot? Is
the boot on my leg attached to me? Do Istill have my member?
remarks all the time.
If Iam not sure Im alive, well, maybe my buddy is in
the same boat.
How could you not hope against hope? Or, if there is no
hope, then risk your own life to preserve his remains.
e work of control and passivity always collaborates and colludes in life.
In taking in war and the aerwar, it is the same. Unproductive patterns of
thought and feeling intrude, some from exposures that might have been
avoided, but only at the cost of ones honor and sense of duty. e moments
for moral injury, for a sense of grievous transgression and falling short, are all
too abundant inwar.
e challenge is to move on in ways that stay alive to feeling, including the
residue of profound hurts, without being retraumatized. But wars hurts lin
ger, and there is no easy way to understand healing without taking seriously
the moral wounds that need healing and that can crack soldiers wideopen.
A C E\r
is is what Ihave tried to do as a philosopherlisten to those service mem
bers Ihave come to know, through hours and days and, in many cases, years
of conversation, as they articulate just how their war lingers and in what emo
tions it lingers and what those emotions have to do with a sense of holding
themselves or others to account. Philosophers call emotions such as guilt,
shame, and resentment reactive attitudes that
self or others to account
and that demand an appropriate
. Some philosophers, including
myself, argue for the important role of positive, reactive attitudes such as
hope and trust, gratitude, and perhaps empathy.
Josh Mantz experiences
anguish, in part, because he feels he trans
gressed and fell short. He wasnt all he thought he should be as a commander.
He let his soldier go without help while he was saved. Lalo Panyagua digs into
himself:You shouldnt have let him leave the vehicle without reminding
him to secure the area. You lost your Marine. Implicit in that moral shout
out is that he is holding himself to account. He is blaming and shaming.
Whether he, in fact, says it out loud or just feels it, hes sanctioning himself,
and hard. And he is demanding that he respond by accepting the rebuke, or
proving to himself that he was somehow mistaken and doesnt deserveit.
e calls, themselves, neednt all be negative. ey can enliven and
encourage and invoke responsibility in positive ways. Donna will call out in
so many words and gestures to Lalo that she has hope in him. She is invest
ing in him, expecting him to try to meet the tough challenges ahead of
seeing therapists, going to school, laying down his weapons and rage. e
calls can be positive, and so can the responses. Resentment can be assuaged
by assurance, by trust, by forging the bonds that overcome contempt and
resentment. Trust is what so many alienated soldiers yearn for, but cant nd
in broken military judicial systems that make sexual harassment cases near
impossible to prosecute fairly, veteran hospitals with unconscionable wait
ing lists, civilians saying ank you for your service that can ring hol
low, or shield a gaping disconnect between those who wear the uniform and
is book examines that disconnect. It aims at forging a stronger moral
community that involves both soldiers and civilians. e calls
(call together) community. Service members returning from
the longest wars in our history are calling out (oen
to share the burden,
to advocate on their behalf, to take up responsibility for sending them to war
and for bringing them home, to bring military justice in line with equitable
judicial standards, to get members of Congress and a commander-in-chief to
take seriously their constitutional roles as overseers of the military and its top
brass and institutions. e lives and well-being of service members are in the
hands of a military hierarchy and a complex bureaucracy when they deploy
and when they return. And they are in the hands, too, of armies of military
contractors, in and out of uniform, who work in sprawling bureaucracies that
push paper slowly and in byzantine ways. Military service can ennoble in
thousands of ways, but it also can wound; and its sprawling networks of insti
tutions, civilian and military, when understaed or rigidly bureaucratic or
mismanaged or silo-ed o from one another, can retraumatize those wounds.
is book is not a manifesto for institutional change. Advocacy groups
and the media are better suited for that. Still, this book is its own kind of
manifesto. It is a manifesto for how to engage in moral repair, one on one,
with individual service members and veterans so that we can begin to build a
new kind of integrated community. Once we appreciate the reactive attitudes
as emotions that call for a response (oen
), we can see what it might
take to forge such a community.
Within the military community,
can sound sinisterwith
as its object, as in Engage and destroy the enemy. A military engagement
is, of course, a call to arms. But I have in mind a rather dierent kind of call
for engagementa call to be engaged with service members and to share the
burden of sending them to war and bringing them home injured and needy.
When my father returned from three and a half years of Army service in
the European front of World War II, he was stamped a veteran, proudly
so, who in quick order became part of the workforce, a husband, a father, a
neighbor, an active member of his religious community, and a lifelong user
of the VA and its healthcare system until his death at eighty-nine. He kept
much of his war to himself, far too much, but never that he was a GI and that
once home he had a profound sense of belonging there and nding meaning
in civilian life.
ere is a lesson here for all of us as we share the current homecomings.
a part of the homecomingwe are implicated in their wars. ey
may feel guilt toward themselves and resentment at commanders for betray
als, but also, more than we are willing to acknowledge, they feel resentment
toward us for our indierence toward their wars and aerwars, and for not
even having to bear the burden of a war tax for over a decade of war. Reactive
emotions, like resentment or trust, presume some kind of communityor at
least are invocations to reinvoke one or convoke one anew. Guilt is a call to
self, resentment to another. ey are a part of the reintegration of a self and
a community aer war. is book is an exercise in that moral engagement.
T P P
Before resuming that engagement, a few words about my philosophical
perspective are in order. My subject matter is not a traditional one for phi
losophers of war, whose primary focus is and remains the justication of
norms of warof going to war, ghting in war, using discriminate weap
ons in war, leaving war, creating conditions for stability and peace aer
psychic moral war and aerwar of those who deploy are
not typically part of this agenda. But they should be, and philosophers
have much to oer. For the work of moral philosophy and its subbranch of
moral psychology, from Plato and Aristotle onward, involve articulating
what it means to live well, to have moral obligations and sometimes trans
gress, to set moral expectations and promote ideals of character, to experi
ence emotions expressive of a sense of responsibility that hold persons to
account. All these concepts are involved in making sense of the experience
of going to war and returning home. Returning soldiers struggle with ques
tions and doubts day in and day out, sometimes in paralyzing ashbacks
and night traumas that touch precisely on issues of accountability, trust,
betrayal, obligations to friends and buddies, and helpless victims; they
worry about what it takes to be a good commander and a person who is
good enough. Many are engaged in Socratic
, a cross-examination
of the self to know if one has served honorably and with excellence. In pro
cessing their war, they are doing philosophy. Philosophers can play a role,
humbly so, in helping to make the moral terrain a little less murky. In my
own case, philosophy melds with a research background in psychoanaly
sis. Ido not practice, and have never seen patients. But Ihave been part
of a community whose work is dedicated to listening empathically. My
hope is that Ihave learned to listen empathically to the military members
and their families Ihave interviewed, catching what nags and lis in the
residue of their wars, and building bridges to theirworld.
What do we mean when we say ank you for your
DONT JUST TELL
At a civilian-veteran gathering in D.C.in early summer of 2012, a young vet
came forward, turned to a civilian he hadnt met before, and said:Dont
just tell me ank you for your service. First say, Please.
e remark was
polemical and just what was meant was vague. But the resentment expressed
was unmistakable. You couldnt be a civilian in that room and not feel the
sting. e remark broke the ice and the dialoguebegan.
I brought a Marine vet with me that evening who had just nished his
freshman year at Georgetown. He wasnt the vet who spoke those words, but
he shared some of theanger.
At twenty-two years of age, T. M. (TM) Gibbons-Neff served as
a rifleman in charge of an eight-man team in a second deployment to
Afghanistan. His unit was among the first to arrive in Afghanistan in
December 2009 as part of President Obamas surge that would send
30,000 additional U.S. troops to try to turn around the course of the
eight-year-old stagnating war. Like many of those troops, TM was
posted to the southwest of the country, to the violent southern Helmand
On the evening of day one of the rst mission, on the edge of a Taliban-held
village, TM and two other teammates were crouched down on the highest
rooop they could nd, surveying the nooks and crannies where the insur
gents could hide and arm. ey had their scopes on several who looked suspi
cious, but they drew no re and so just kept to their lookouts. en, it got
sporty, says TM, in his measured way, with lightning rounds and pops
coming in from three dierent directions. Two rounds hit the arms of his
buddy, Matt Tooker, just as he stood up to launch a grenade; another rico
cheted o the body armor of his light gunner, Matt Bostrom, leaving severe
chest wounds. Less than 24 hours into the mission, and TM was already
down two out of his eight men. e game plan had totally shied:he had
been the observer and now he was the primary shooter, and needed to nd
another observer. By the end of the day he was squarely in the role of strate
gic corporal, the apt term coined by retired Marine Commandant General
Charles Krulak for a low guy on the noncommissioned totem pole, typically
in a remote and dangerous outpost, away from direct supervision, having
to implement quick tactical and moral decisions with far-reaching strategic
implications. For TM, resuscitating the mission all-consumed him. Even the
thought that he had two friends who had just got badly wounded barely sur
faced. He was operating in code red. Not even the most subliminal, sweet
thoughts of home and his girlfriend darted through hismind.
In due course the losses sunk in. And more losses piled on. Ayear and
a half later, Matt Tooker, shot that night, was killed in a motorcycle crash
back home. TM is pretty sure it was the culmination of risky, suicidal behav
ior:with a maimed arm, he could no longer hold the sniper role that had come
to dene him. Two other close friends were killed in action in Afghanistan in
May 2010. TMs Marine career had begun with his fathers death (a Vietnam
War Navy veteran), just days aer TM had arrived at boot camp. Im no
stranger to people Iknow getting ripped out of my life pretty quickly, he
says, at twenty-four, with a war weariness that doesnt easily match his boyish
looks and small frame. e names of his three fallen best buddies are engraved
on a black bracelet he wears on his right wrist. It is his own memorial, a place
to remember his buddies by touch, the way visitors run their ngers over the
names on the VietnamWall.
D J T M T\tY
TM has done his share of grieving and visiting team members at Walter
Reed Hospital who werent as lucky as he. Still, the grief and the visits fuel a
deep sadness about what he thinks of as the futility of some of his missions in
Afghanistan. When he rst got to Georgetown University, the loose politi
cal banter on the social media sites about the need to intervene in various
conict areas around the worldLibya, Iran, Syriariled him. It was hard
to watch his peers beating the war drums while fully insulated from the con
sequences of deployments. e media- and philanthropy-backed campaign
against the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his abduction of children
as soldiers in his Lords Resistance Army (launched through the popular
YouTube video Kony 2012) made him especially resentful of his classmates
sense of comfortable entitlement. His own losses were still fresh. He didnt
want to see more: You know, a thing like Kony .
., and all these people say
ing, We should do more. What are we going to do about it?
to go over there! .
. at will be our job, and then more of my friends will get
buried, and then you guys can talk about it on Facebook. ats what upsets
e politics. e policy. e rant.
Oh, you want to go over there and
stop Kony. Hey, you YouTube watcher: Is this going to be
I am not saying dont support that political agenda. Or dont think
about those little kids who are dying out there. But what about
kids who are dying out there!
TM did not hit the Send button on any of the Facebook replies he com
posed. Instead, he went on to write about his war experiencefor the
war blog, the
Washington Post, Time,
and other war blogs. He has served as executive editor of Georgetowns stu
A year or so aer we met, he took a seminar I
taught on war ethics, and helped create in that class a remarkable civilian
veteran dialogue. And he has done that on campus, too, serving as the head
of the campus student veteran association. He is processing his war publicly
and reectively in writing and community outreach. But his early feelings of
resentment, like those of the veteran who turned to the civilian that night,
are important to hear and important to try to understand. ose feelings are,
in part, resentment at too easy a beating of the war drums by civilians safe
from battle, infused with militarism at a distance.
Resentment toward civilians is, Isuspect, an emotion felt by many who
have recently served, even if the feeling is oen kept under wraps. It is a way
of holding another to account, of demanding respect, of calling out another
for due attention and recognition as part of a shared moral community. It is
a way of saying another is responsible
. Sometimes it morphs into feel
ings of alienation and disengagement. For some veterans, the tipping point is
being publicly gloried as a war hero while privately disdained (or not at all
understood) for having heeded the call of military service.
Jonathan Wong, a former Marine from University of California, San
Diego, who later came to Georgetown for a masters degree in security stud
ies, spoke to just this point. He told me that when he came home from Iraq
in the early days of the war, he would go out to dinner with his friends and
there would be excess adulation. With a few too many drinks, his buddies
would boast to his date that he saved Jessica Lynch. ats all they knew.
ey knew little about his war or what Marines like him were doing in Iraq.
As civilians they were uninterested in his real military life. All they wanted
to do was turn him into a war hero. at really brought it home to me.
Nobody really understands. And aer that, Istarted really withdrawing.
He took up surng. He would go out alone oen:e ocean really doesnt
care that you went to Iraq, he told me. Its just going to dunk you to the bot
tom anyway. e sea couldnt praise, blame, glorify, or judge. Turning to the
sea was Jonathan Wongs way of disengaging from civilian disengagement.
It wasnt just the interpersonal reality that felt alien. It was the visual envi
ronment too, and especially the assault of vibrant colors on the San Diego
campus. Even aer three months of coming home, the amount of colors in
the clothes, in the buildings, even the sky was colorful, compared to Iraq, a
beige kind of place, covered in dust. at Kodachrome world, Wong said,
could either disconcert and unsettle you, or it could make you excited about
the possibilities for the future.
Others come home alienated in ways that dont so clearly involve resentment
or disappointment or visual dislocation. What they feel is profound moral
dislocation and a consequent slipping sense of connectedness with family
D J T M T\tY
they love. Some turn to work as their drug of choice. is was the experience
of Air Force Colonel Erik Goepner upon returning home as Commander
of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul in southern Afghanistan (2010).
During Goepners time Taliban ghters poured into Zabul Province, trying
to gain a stronghold over its patchwork of 2,500 remote villages. His forces
partnered with local government ocials to stabilize institutions rife with
corruption and incompetency:e stories you hear about corruption, at
least for Zabul, probably understated it, to be honest with you. Imean the
corruption was that bad, he said. Governance is bad, corruptions high, and
theres not a lot of government guys that are capable.
Goepner has gone on to write scholarly articles about the mission-
ineective environment of counterinsurgency operations with failed and
weak states. He argues that the prevalence of PTS in a war-torn population
like that in the Zabul Province both exacerbates vulnerability to insurgency
and makes eective counterinsurgency intractable. His was a mission you
couldnt accomplish in the time frame allotted, with U.S. touch-and-go
security and the fragility of the host institutions. e corrosive environment
and futility of the operations hit him personally:Anyone who comes close
to that environment is going to come away maybe not ruined but tarnished,
dirtied, sullied, he said as we talked. But he wasnt prepared for what those
sullied feelings led to at home:Im fairly introverted anywaybut Ibecame
introverted. Ihad a very strong desire to disengage from most every
thing. Work went ne. Iwas still doing a grade-A job there. And Ithink in
a sense that became its own little cathartic area, if you will. But in terms of
my wife, in particular, Iwas
. And Ibecame highly insecure
as Irelated to her, for no reason whatsoever. And not any reason you might
think, like, Youre separated, and so maybe someone was unfaithful. It
wasnt that type of insecurity. Just very bizarre.
And it was fairly persistent.
And so my response was instead of ever getting angry or yelling at anybody,
Ijust disengaged. Ididnt want to spend time with them, Id read a book, Id
do some writing or something like that.
Id say Inow have a higher need
for privacy and alone-time than Iusedto.
e disengagement may have seemed unfamiliar and bizarre, but
Goepner had been exposed to this kind of aerwar during much of his
childhood. He told me about his beloved and much admired grandfather, a
German soldier who served for six years during World War II and then emi
grated to the United States. War le its mark on his Opas soul and bear
ing:ere was always a steady tension in his face, he said, and no ability to
cry anymore. But what Goepner remembered most was how his grandfather
had retreated:ere would be a week that would go by and he would liter
ally not say two words to my grandmother. She endured quite a bit of pain as
a result of his pain. If times had been dierent, she conded to Goepner one
day, she would have denitely le his Opa. It was just too hard to live with
someone so emotionally disengaged. Goepner doesnt want to relive that part
of a soldierslife.
Steady tension and disengagement may keep in check the display of anger
and resentment, but the feelings can still brew. In the example in the begin
ning of this chapterof the vet who turns to the civilian and says, Dont
just tell me ank you for your service; rst say, please
the display of
resentment comes to the surface, and the moral invocation to another, in
second-personal address, is overt. Still, the you who is addressed is not
really the civilian whom the veteran happens to be talking to but, rather,
a generic civilian, a personation for a group, a stand-in for civilians who
havent served or who are not part of military families that have recently
served or who havent felt the pinch of war through war rationing or lifestyle
changes. (eyve been shopping at the mall while weve been at war, as
some have said to me.) It is a heterogeneous group of U.S.citizens who may
include one-time war supporters or dissenters, politically active or inactive
citizens, and those with varying degrees of engagement in veteran outreach
Assigning responsibility in light of group membership is messy here, and
messy in general. Philosophically, the topic touches on a host of extremely
thorny issues some to do with complicity and group identication. Focus
on these issues would distract and take us down too many winding roads.
Still, I mention the point to underscore that reactive attitudes can have
a wide address, with the appropriate target not just persons, but persons
whose relevant status is as members of specic groups and, in the case at
hand, non-serving fellow citizens. is is important for understanding the
D J T M T\tY
militarycivilian exchange. Its second-personal address, but also at times
impersonal. And the fact that it can be impersonal, addressed to
as the service member, puts each of us in a box that can
alienate and further complicate and strain any reconciliation. e work of
emotional communication becomes all the more critical, as we shall soon
We are beginning with tensions, ris, feelings of being misunderstood
and not given ones due, as a soldier or as a veteran, as one who has served
honorably or, in some cases, less than honorably. In those latter cases brought
to attention of late, bad conduct caused by the strain of war can result in
carrying bad paper (a dishonorable discharge), which cuts one out of the
benets, jobs, education, housing, or medical and mental health care due a
veteran. e punishment can be severe, deeply inequitable, and cause the bit
terest sort of resentment.
But before we probe veteran resentment and the conciliatory work of a
civilian ank you for your service, a few general remarks about the cur
rent militarycivilian gap are inorder.
e gap is, no doubt, exacerbated by the fact that we are not in an era
of conscription. Less than 1percent of the population served in the armed
forces during the recent wars. And we dont have general requirements for
universal national service; examples of seless service to causes larger than
oneself dont abound. Iam not advocating for universal national service, nor
do Ihave good ideas about how it could be instituted in a way that doesnt
replicate the Vietnam era inequities of conscription, or that doesnt under
mine national labor markets and employment growth. ankfully, that is
not my task. But the absence of a generalized obligation to serve ones nation
does isolate, and at times over-idealize, the military as a special group that
serves and sacrices. And it contributes to a sense of us vs. them moral trib
alism. at isolation is no doubt exacerbated by the fact that not only do
the military typically deploy to remote places, but once they are back state
side, they oen live in isolated bases, away from major metropolitan hubs
and civilian networks. Remote bases are, in a way, inside the wire, in places
like Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune, Fort Lewis-McChord, and so
on. ese are not destinations for civilians who dont already have military
connections. And so the encamped mentality persists, with little mingling
and with an entrenched sense of distance.
Congress is also disengaged in its own way, with a historic underrepresen
tation of veterans within its ranks. As Iwrite, only 20percent of Congresss
members are veterans, compared to more than 75percent in the post Vietnam
era. is may help explain the absence of a sense of camaraderie within the
halls of Congress, but it also mirrors, at an institutional level, a public dis
tance and disengagement from the veteran experience. ese are impression
istic remarks, but they indicate the gap many of us see and feel, as well as the
desire to narrow it and the belief that we ought to dothat.
ere is a further element in the moral background that is never far
from us, and that is the legacy of Vietnam. ank you for your service is
a national reaction to a past negative reaction. Speak to many Vietnam vets
to this day and they will tell you how demeaned they felt when they got o
planes and how reluctant they were to wear uniforms in public places, espe
cially near academic campuses. Take Paul Baco, whom we met earlier. He
was an ROTC graduate, class of 1968, the University of San Francisco, who
couldnt bring himself to burn his dra card, and so he headed to Vietnam
without believing in the war or its conduct. Over the course of six months,
as a communications platoon leader, changing out equipment and personnel
every three or four days, he faced 206 combat assaults and lost ve of his men.
Some of his assignments were suicide missions, he said, dropping o one
kid, and then another, and another by helicopter in rebases (essentially artil
lery bases) that were entrenched enemy encampments. In one case, Baco
dropped Ken Luttle, Dennis Borhman, and Bob Woodall, at 4 oclock in the
aernoon, and four oclock in the morning Ken and Dennis were dead, and
Bob was seriously wounded. e place was overrun with the enemy.
Why did Ipick them for the mission? Why didnt Ihave the courage
to stay with them? at haunts me. Forever. Paul carried that guilt o the
plane when he came back from Vietnam on a commercial ight to Travis
Airport, just south of Sacramento. When they landed, a crewmember gave
him specic disembarkation orders:When you get o the plane, there will
be a yellow stripe on the ground down the stairs and on the tarmac. Stay on
the yellow stripe.
Do not deviate. Do not engage anybody
. at stripe is going
D J T M T\tY
to lead you through a cyclone fence tunnel, and it will put you into the ter
minal. Your family will be waiting for you on the other side of the terminal.
Sure enough, through the tunnel all the protesters [were] there, and they
were jeering and booing, paint thrown on you, spitting water. Paul Baco
was in his tropical weight khakis. at was his welcome home. My defense
mechanism was, It dont mean nothing. Im going to stay encased, and Im
going to keep all that. And Im going to move on. My drug of choice? It
From my conversations with many Vietnam veterans and dissidents of my
generation, this homecoming was not atypical. Public dishonor was thrown
onto many who already felt profound private moral ambivalence. Resistance
to a war turned into antipathy toward its warriors. e homecoming le abid
ing scars on both sides. e residue within us is ank you for your service.
Weve been probing the feelings of resentment and grievance that underlie
the sort of remark that opened the chapter:Dont just tell me ank you for
my service. First say, Please.
Philosophers, since at least the time of Bishop
Butlers famous sermons in the Rolls Chapel in London in the 1720s, have
reected on the ubiquity of resentment and how, in particular,
ment (of the sort felt when one suers a moral injury) can have warrant, even
if the feeling puts one at odds, as Butler worried, with a Christian command
to love our enemies. e warrant has to do with the importance of voicing
moral outrage and of bringing a community together in that outrage, where
moral protest and the demand for justice are distinct from vengeance and
acts of payback and revenge. Given the strength and prevalence of feelings of
resentment in many veterans who are transitioning home, its worth pausing
for a moment to explore the structure and content of that resentment and
examine how attempts to allay it in explicit expressions of gratitude, such as
ank you for your service, might be appropriate responses.
Resentment is a reactive anger grounded in a belief, thought, or percep
tion of being wrongly injured by another. e emotion is
states of aairs in the world. In this way, it is dierent from a mental state
like anxiety or edginess, where we do not know what we are anxious or edgy
about, and we may not be anxious or edgy
anything at all. Put oth
something:that someone unjustly wronged us. In
the cases we are interested in, there is the implicit complaint that civilian
fellow citizens, or some subset of them, fail to assume an adequate degree
of moral responsibility for the wars that they (indirectly and directly) help
wage, and for the aerwarthe arduous veteran recovery that follows in the
wake of going to war. How one assumes and accepts moral responsibility is
oen a vague and varied matter. But at very least, it seems to have to do with
, or accepting some accountability for action
, or accepting some accountability to
another for future restoration or repair.
What is the specic grievance being aired in the veteran vignette with which
this chapter began? Iam pretty sure that the veteran who says Dont just tell
me ank you. First say Please
is not reproaching the civilian for bad man
ners, like picking her nose in public or using a dessert fork for the entrée instead
of a dinner fork. e demand for Please here is not about etiquette, any more
than is the expectation for what is conveyed in a ank you for your service.
Expressed gratitude in the form of a ank you is due another because
she has benetted or served you in some way or, more paradigmatically,
because she has gone above and beyond the minimal requirements due you.
I suspect that this latter idea comes closer to the work of gratitude. In say
ing ank you to a service member, we are recognizing another for service
to the community that involves considerable risk-taking and sacrice at its
vocational core. Of course, soldiers have a contractual obligation to accept a
certain amount of risk. Its a job, as an ocer friend is fond of reminding
mefor which there is compensation, he adds. But I suspect that accept
ing risk is oen motivated by professional honor and not just consent to a
role; and it is, in part, that
that we in principle are crediting in
our expressions of gratitude. We are recognizing charactercourage tied to
public serviceeven if somewhat abstractly. We see the combat fatigues in
an airport, and we honor an individual as a group member, with some notion
in mind about where she has been or will return to. Civilians and service
D J T M T\tY
members both wear their group identities in the interaction. ey represent
their groups and they engage in a ritual that each tacitly recognizes, whether
or not they fully endorse it.
e eighteenth-century German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel
Kant can help here. Gratitude, he insists, is more a matter of morals than
of manners. Specically, it is an expression of respect toward another per
son and the reciprocation of the goodwill that the person has shown, either
directly or indirectly, through some deed. In showing gratitude, we are let
ting another know that we are not taking for granted her assistance, even
when it is due; or, as in the present case, when it involves great risk or hard
ship that was accepted willingly. e reciprocity may not be especially robust
in the sense of trading places, in fact or fancy. A civilian may say ank
you sincerely, yet with an unspoken sense of relief
I am glad its not my child
returning om war
or without much empathic energy going into imagin
ing what it would it be like to wear full-body armor in 110 degree weather,
carrying an eighty-pound pack through booby-trapped terrain.
Still, Kant emphasizes the appreciativeness that pre-exists the giving of
gratitude or that comes to be cultivated through it. e gratitude is itself a
moment in gi giving:one is to accept the occasion for gratitude as itself
an occasion for giving a moral kindness; it is an opportunity .
. to combine
to others benevolence with the
of a benevolent attitude
of will, and so to cultivate ones love of man. Put otherwise, gratitude is part
of a mutual transaction of service and benefaction that builds community
and fosters mutual respect and a sense of humanity. All this is critical for
soldiers and civilians as they work to convoke a community and morally
re-enage with one another at home. Kant wisely warns that genuine gratitude
does not manipulate indebtedness for future service:gratitude is not a mere
maxim of encouraging another to show me
attesting my indebtedness to him for a past kindness .
.; for in such a maxim
Iuse him merely as a means to my further purposes.
Again, there is a crucial lesson here for us. Soldiers can rightly feel used,
sacricial, exploited by their nation-states or leaders, when gratitude is
merely instrumental, for the sake of getting them to renew their service,
or takes for granted their participation. Here I hear the words of Fitzroy
Newsum, a Tuskegee Airman who served in World War II and received the
Congressional Medal of Honor. He recalled an exchange at a speaking tour:
A young white man came up to me and thanked me for serving our country.
Are you including me when you say, our country?
Worries about morally dubious or thin gratitude are background to the
polemical Please in our opening vignette:Dont take for granted my ser
vice. Dont be cavalier in a call to arms. Take greater responsibility for the
wars that our country wages. You, as a citizen, through public debate and
an electoral process, through taxes and lobbying, through your military con
tracts and civilian defense work, are partially responsible for sending me to
war, keeping me at war, and integrating me into the workforce when Icome
home. You are morally obligated to assume some ownership for that partici
pation, even if not for my particular conduct withinawar.
e imagined dialogue Ive just given vividly captures the notion Iwill
appeal to oen in this book; it expresses the reactive attitudes, such as resent
ment, that call another to account with the implicit expectation or demand
of a reply to that call:Hey, there, you owe me an RSVP. e presumption
is of a shared moral community with expectations of mutual recognition and
goodwill. To show resentment is to call out to another in response to some
perceived wronging and hold him to account. In the case of returning veter
ans, the wronging that is the object of resentment may be more a passive than
an active wronging:a perceived denial or failure to accept responsibility for
ones facilitating and participatory role in the countrys war activities. What
hurts is that civilians appear to be free-riding, enjoying and having enjoyed
for more than a decade the benets of peace at homeeconomic, emotional,
and material well-beingwithout taking on the costs of a nation atwar.
S M R
I have framed the question of civilian moral responsibility for war in terms of
civilian participation and contribution to a war eort. at way of framing
the issue embraces larger ongoing policy and includes just war theory debates
D J T M T\tY
being carried out within the halls of academe and outside. A key question
is: Who can be held responsible and liable for intentional harm in war?
Relatedly, are there just and unjust combatants (and noncombatants) in war,
where the distinction hangs on whether or not the cause of their war is just?
e conceptual terrain here is ne-grained, but the discourse has engaged
many young soldier-philosophers with whom I work, who have been to war
in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have led troops in thickly populated civil
ian environments in morally trying partnerships with civilians, tribal and
national soldiers, and warlords. ey worry oen about who the players are
in war, who is liable for its harms, and to what degree. For them, these are
not abstract questions any more than is the question of civilian responsibility
at home for a war eort. Many of those same mid-level ocersArmy and
Marine and Air Force majors and Navy lieutenant commandersare now
teaching young cadets and midshipmen at West Point, the Naval Academy,
and the Air Force Academy. ose students, too, especially the better ones,
reect hard on their moral responsibilities as they contemplate following
orders someday to go to war and prosecute it, and to leave behind a better
peace for locals. For those who teach, the lessons are still being worked out,
especially in light of the massive reversals in regions where there has been so
much bloodshed. In short, the issues are very much on the minds of some of
the best mid-grade ocers, as well as those who will follow them. In light of
this, it is appropriate for us to dip a bit into the philosophical issues ourselves
e most prominent strand in the recent philosophical discussion is a cri
tique of traditional just war theory, a theory championed by Michael Walzer
in his famous
Just and Unjust Wars
(written in the wake of the Vietnam
War). Just war theory has roots in early theological doctrine, dating back to
Augustine (fourth century) and omas Aquinas (thirteenth century), and
concerns the central questions of what counts as a just cause for going to war
and what counts as just conduct in its prosecution. In the past two decades,
the philosopher Je McMahan has spearheaded a wide critique of Walzer,
attacking the central assumption that, in just war doctrine, there is moral
equality on the battleeld, irrespective of a combatants cause. As Walzer
puts the claim, all combatants have an equal right to kill. McMahans view,
however, is that moral justication for self-defense on the battleeld is far
more restrictive and is inseparable from cause. In this regard, the permissions
and justications for killing people in war become like those in other con
texts of individual self-defense. e proposal is radical, and a full examina
tion of the issues would take us far aeld. But one small aspect of the debate
sheds important light on the issue of returning soldiers resentment at civil
ians for not taking more seriously their own accountability for war. And it is
worth turning to that briey.
One way to enter the debate, as one philosopher has, is to think about
dierent degrees of moral responsibility. Someone is morally responsible in
sense if he or she causes a wrongful harm, but is not, strictly speak
ing, culpable for it (perhaps he or she caused this harm without meaning to).
Someone is morally responsible in the
sense, by contrast, if he or she
causes a wrongful harm and is culpable for it, such that he or she deserves
praise or blame. To be culpable, one must typically, though not necessarily,
understand that the action is right or wrong and perform it freely.
Suppose that a military operation goes awry and that several noncomba
tants are caught in the crossre. Who is responsible for their deaths? In the
strong sense of moral responsibility, it may be that no one is responsible. Even
the soldiers who pulled the trigger did not knowingly and intentionally kill
these noncombatants, and thus they arguably lack culpability. In the weak
sense of moral responsibility, on the other hand, it may be that many, many
people are responsibleeven the taxpayers who nanced the military opera
tion are linked in the causal chain leading up to thisharm.
us, weak moral responsibilitybeing enablers and causers and facilita
tors of wrongful harm without being strictly culpablecharacterizes many
combatants and noncombatants alike. It is not a salient moral marker that
distinguishes combatant from noncombatant. So, some combatants may not
re their arms out of reluctance to kill, yet their very presence on the battle
eld, armed as they are and standing as a part of the forces, may contribute to
the war eort by detracting an enemy from taking out a more lethal threat.
Similarly, noncombatants may make causal contributions to the course
of a war in a multitude of individually unnecessary ways. If weak moral
responsibility is all it takes to become liable for wars killing, then too many
D J T M T\tY
noncombatants would become permissible targets in an all-out total war.
eyd be sucked into the liability net:Many noncombatants .
small, individually unnecessary contributions to their sides ability to wage
the war, both directly and indirectly. Direct contributions include paying
taxes that fund the war, supplying military necessities, voting, supporting
the war, giving it legitimacy, so attracting further support from others, and
bringing up and motivating the sons and daughters who do the ghting.
Indirect contributions include the ways they have built the states capacity
over previous years, giving it the strength and support to concentrate on war,
and contributions they have made to the ghting capacities of specic com
batants:the math teacher, for example, who imparts skills to a student, later
necessary to his role as a gunner; the mother who brings up a strong, lethal
In the modern state, almost everyone contributes to the capacity of
our government to actall the more so in democracies. ough our contri
butions are individually small and unnecessary, that does nothing to distin
guish us from .
. [some] combatants.
If their causal contributions cross the
liability threshold, then so doours.
e point is highly relevant to the sort of resentment soldiers express in
the cases weve been considering. When soldiers suggest that their fellow
civilians arent shouldering their share of the moral burdens of war, Idoubt
most mean that, in general, civilians moral responsibility is such that civil
ians should fall within the liability net of wars intentional or collateral
harmsthat they should have skin in the game in that way. Moreover, as a
background point, Istrongly doubt most would even view liability to attack
in war as itself based on moral responsibility for cause, whether minimal or
maximal. Most soldiers implicitly hold the traditional view (which Walzer
articulates) of the moral equality of combatants on the battleeldthat
combatants are liable for military attack, irrespective of their cause. What
they are morally responsible for is their individual conduct, and specically
for ghting in ways that are discriminate and that minimize collateral dam
age to noncombatants.
Some version of this traditional view seems reasonable, and I shall assume
that here for reasons others have argued for well: the hurdles for determining
justice in the cause for war are extremely high, given the contentiousness of
academic theories of just war, the interpretive complexities of international
war conventions, and the obscurity and unavailability of many nonmoral
facts relevant to the battleeld. Moreover, the justication for wars may sim
ply not be available when soldiers are deployed and required to serve. For it
is only aer the fact that knowledge aecting the justication of a war, such
as the proportionality of violence to good accomplished, can be assessed.
Predictions are limited and oen wrong. And even if we could predict fairly
accurately the future outcomes, proportionality typically involves weighing
incommensurable goods. It is unreasonable to expect ordinary soldiers to
have knowledge that simply may not be determinate or available. e same, it
might be argued, holds for the ordinary citizenry.
Still this line of reasoning wont assuage many soldiers who feel that civil
ians can and should take greater responsibility than they oen do for both
indirect and direct support of wars that are botched, imprudent, or only
dubiously just. And they may reasonably and implicitly feel that, however
dicult it is to determine the justness of a cause, civilians are oen better sit
uated to investigate the cause, and are morally and politically able to protest
appropriately. Furthermore, civilians are not subject to the constraints that
service members facethe punitive consequences of selective conscientious
refusal, the shame of abandoning fellow service members who have come
to be family, the guilt of vacating national defense when an investment has
been made in their training at great taxpayers expense. Civilians are proxies
for service members in important ways, and their position gives them cer
tain advantages and responsibilities, as well as incurs costs. ose expanded
responsibilities may not be an argument for pulling civilians into the battle
eld and incurring its liabilities, but it does suggest the need to look for other
ways of accepting responsibility that are both backward looking and, more
important, forward lookingand that may better represent the nature of
moral responsibility. To put the point dierently, civilians may
the harms combatants face, but they are nonetheless
combatants for the harms they suer in defending the nation.
ere is an additional worry in thinking about causal contributions to
war that would pull civilians into the liabilities of the battleeld. And that is
that it is just too individualistic a measure for understanding the real nature
D J T M T\tY
of owning and accepting shared moral responsibility in a countrys collec
tive projects, such as its military interventions. e point about
responsibility doesnt have to rely on abstract notions of collective agents or
psychologized notions of group identity that suggest strongly felt nationalis
tic and tribalistic feelings. One philosopher and legal scholar has argued in
important recent work that the very nature of certain kinds of group mem
bership, including that of nation-state citizen, may itself ground certain nor
mative expectations of shared responsibility and obligation. And that sense
of shared responsibility may hold even when citizens do not directly partici
pate in an activityin our case, go to war, or support it, or materially con
tribute to its prosecution.
I leave it to others to develop that philosophical argument. For now Iwant
to embrace the conclusion:civilian gratitude expressed toward service mem
bers is a token acceptance of that shared responsibility and accountability for
sending fellow citizens to war, independent of specic causal contributions
to war activity or to its support. Saying ank you is a way we civilians
acknowledge and accept some responsibility for sending our sons and daugh
ters to war and a way of acknowledging our responsibility for taking care of
them when they comehome.
But there is a question that nags us:How can gratitude be substantive
when its expression is so trivialized in a pat, easy-to-say ank you? How
can that reentry ritual contribute to any kind of genuine reintegration?
Before answering, it is worth remembering the primary aim of this
book:understanding the one-on-one obligations and expectations that are
part of bringing soldiers home. e work is woven in the microbers of moral
communication and addressthe subtle texture of individual engagements,
in words and emotional tone and in body language and conduct, that con
vey our moral regard for each other and our responsibilities as members of a
shared community. ese engagements, right down to the feel and quality of
the exchange, are a critical part of moral healing and moral repair. And so we
need to understand the kinds of engagements that go into recognizing ser
vice through gratitude, placing hope in others and in ourselves; counting on
ourselves and others through overtures of trust and returned assurances; and
letting go of paralyzing shame and guilt by addressing the accused self with
empathy, compassion, and imagination for a brighter future. All this takes
place in interpersonal and intrapersonal moral (or, more broadly, normative)
space. It is part of our sacred obligation to those whoserve.
Of course, healing aer war is a nations work, driven by enlightened
institutions and policies, tax dollars and allocations, governmental and
nongovernmental agencies. Aveterans embrace of life aer warin some
cases, choosing lifeis impossible without state-of-the-art medical and
mental healthcare and research, expanded veterans education and training
opportunities, nonpredatory housing loans, and meaningful work. And, too,
there has to be adequate care, education, and job opportunities for military
spouses, who have vicariously gone to war for over a decade by struggling
to keep up the home front. And there are the special needs of many mili
tary children who have been strained by years of separation from one or both
military parents, and the stress of living with fear and uncertainty. All this
is part of reintegration and repair at the macro (and, we might say, mezzo or
mid-) level. It would be hard to imagine eective one-on-one engagement
without robust institutional programs at all levels, as well as careful monitor
ing of their ecacy.
I dont take any of this for granted. But Ialso dont underestimate the
power of one-on-one interactions in invoking and convoking a sense of com
munity that supports and is supported by enlightened policy.
T M T\tY
We hear ank you for your service in airports and planes, on Veterans
Day and Memorial Day. e practice can seem hollow, mechanical, and rote.
Whether service member or civilian, its easy to be cynical. But the distinc
tions here are too coarse, and the idea that emotional expression should show
exactly what is felt is too simple.
We manage our emotional expressions in all sorts of wayswe suppress
tears, coax a smile, prevent a face of disgust from taking over our demeanor.
In short, we are used to exerting emotional labor. But the military case is
fraught precisely because of the resentment (and reciprocally, the guilt) that
D J T M T\tY
can be an undercurrent in the exchange. Even if we are used to illusion in
our emotion performances, when there is a perception of inequity or entitle
ment, the illusion grates and we beg for some emotional honesty. In cases of
consequencenamely, a nations regard for its soldiersthere is little honor
in the illusion if neither side moves beyond a ritualistic volley of pat phrases.
is volley resets the ri and likely widens the misunderstandings.
Consider the case of Phil Carter, the National Veterans Director in the
first Obama presidential campaign and now counsel at the Washington
think tank Center for New American Security (CNAS), focusing on the
reintegration of veterans. Carter served nine years as an Army military
police and civil affairs officer, including a year in Iraq, where he advised
the provincial police, judiciary, and prisons in Diyala Province. In an
opinion piece that appeared on Veterans Day in the
Carter spoke candidly about the resentment he felt toward civilians upon
coming home from Iraq in the spring of 2006. The Thank yous and
hero labels rang hollow in light of what he had left behind: Thousands
of Iraqis .
. dying each month in a hellish civil war. If we were really
heroes, why was the war in Iraq going so badly? He was alienated and
withdrew from civilians: I .
. resented the strangers who thanked me.
I suspected that they were just trying to ease their guilt for not serving.
Instead of thanking me, I wanted them .
. to make some sacrifice greater
than the amount of lung effort necessary to utter a few words. Words
were cheap and action was dear, especially the sort of action he valued as
a military person.
He pushed away his family, tightening his web of trust to a near exclusive
circle of veterans. ere he found mutual trustworthiness rooted, likely, in
the mechanisms that oen inspire trusting attitudes: a sense of shared loy
alty, a presumption of virtue or goodness in those one trusts, and a belief
that trust is to everyones mutual advantage. With veterans, he didnt need
to take much of a gamble: trust was easy. Many veterans feel similarly. And
the assumption that those trust mechanisms will always be in place is at the
heart of many support groups, formal and informal, as well as the drinks that
veterans have shared with each other over the years. (I know veterans who
will go out for a beer almost exclusively with fellow veterans because they
know that, if one drink too many should lead to a ashback, another veteran
will be there who understands.)
I explore trust in a later chapter, in addition to the challenges of expand
ing trust circles. But for now, we note the messy and unspoken emotional
subterrain that can underlie a perfunctory ank you. ere is the nagging
sense, oen private but felt by both sides, that more needs to be saidjust
not here and just not now. ere is the worry on the part of the ank
You-er that she might seem meddlesome if she asks more, or cold if she keeps
the exchange formal, or supercial if she utters a pat expression that doesnt
convey her true feelings; that she may feel upset about the hardships of the
tours, doubtful about whether the sacrices have been worth it, skeptical
about whether twelve years of war have reduced the threat of either radical
Islamism or terrorism, or given real hope to failed states or the means for
reversing new insurgencies. e worry is not whether civilians will go back
to receiving veterans the way they did aer the Vietnam War. It is whether
the gratitude ritual can ever be more than just a thin crust of display. Can it
function as overture to a more satisfying form of moral address and recogni
tion? Can it do substantive work to bring the sides closer?
e provocative remark that opened this chapter expresses these demands
or, more loosely, the normative expectations. I presume in this case the vet
eran was not only expressing resentment but also feeling it. His remarks
his angry feelings. ey were evidence of it; in a loose sense, his
resentment became perceptible through his words. Emotional expressions
oen reveal underlying, corresponding emotional states; they dont always,
but when they do, they do far more than that. ey are pieces of conduct,
emotional interactions that can be untethered from their matching inner
states. When the drill sergeant screams at his recruits, he may not really be
angry; he may be using anger behavior to motivate and achieve specic ends.
e point is one Cicero and Seneca routinely make in discussing motiva
tional techniques in oratory. e orator may need to show the guise of doing
harm, says Seneca, in order to inspire fear in his audience. Real anger is never
to be encouraged, on Senecas Stoic view, for it disarms control; but it can be
strategically: Anger can never be permitted though it may some
times be simulated if the sluggish minds of the audience are to be aroused.
D J T M T\tY
Emotional posturing, demeanor, and mien are critical aspects of oratory, and
more generally, of interaction rituals in daily life, as the great sociologist
Erving Goman famously taught in a similar vein. We are emotional per
formers, on stage and o. We have audiences, real and implicit, including
ourselves. Verbal intonation, dynamics, facial and body gestures, open and
closed body positions toward those we address, and body distance all are con
stitutive elements of emotional communication: of signaling anger, delight,
annoyance, and interest, as well as resentment, blame, guilt, trust, gratitude,
hope, disappointment, shame, and empathythe emotions of moral engage
ment, injury, and repair.
But communication involves signaling
receiving. And while there is
some evidence that the expressive behavior for basic emotions, like anger, fear,
disgust, or sadness, are the same across cultures, more nuanced emotional
expressions will vary considerably across gender, cultural, ethnic, national,
and linguistic groups, with some also idiosyncratic to individuals or fami
lies. And dierent emotional styles can pose obvious interpretive challenges.
Emotional communities can challenge broad, inter-group communication.
Yet even if we have to work sometimes to successfully convey and recognize
others messages, we do so all the time. ere are attunements and misattun
ements, communications and miscommunications, signalings and resignal
ings, receivings and re-receivings. ank you for your service and Youre
welcome represents just one emotional performance among thousands that
we engage in and decode.
So, in what sense is this ritual more than a thin crust of display? What
kind of richer content might it have? What are some of the possibilities
implicit in our performance?
When a civilian says ank you for your service, he may be addressing
a service member, but its made before a larger real or imagined
audience of which he is a part and before whom he is modeling his behavior.
Hes signaling a norm and conveying a shared (or what he thinks should be a
shared) response. e basic idea borrows from early developmental literature
and on observations of how young children assess target
objects:Should they be scared or comforted by the new person who walks
into the room? Children look, or refer, to their parents (or caregivers) to
read their faces and see how they comport themselves before the stranger.
ey then regulate their emotions by reference to the parents reactions.
We adults continue with this practice, checking others faces and emotional
behaviors to gauge how we should react, looking for cues from others about
the norms of engagement. As addresser, we can intentionally send messages
to third parties, both by what we say and how we say it or behave; other times,
that is not our direct intent, though we are aware that we are signaling and do
little to make the display private.
I think some of this is going on in civilian ank yous to military mem
bers. We civilians are addressing our gratitude
the military, but we are also
the fellow civilians whom we stand for or with. We are saying
ank you on their behalf. e display is a public enactment and recommen
dation of a norm. Again, the parenting model has some purchase. For instance,
I may indirectly signal to my husband through my emotional reaction how I
should be reacting to our childrens behavior at the table. Im modeling
what I think we should do, and Im hoping he shows solidarity. is is a way of
thinking about a
reactive attitude: it is addressed
on behalf of
others) whom we regard as teammates and partners committed
to underlying group values. We are doing some of this when we thank soldiers
for their service. Our show of gratitude shows
how to respond. ats one
substantive role of the ritual.
But a second role is that in
gratitude, we ourselves come to
gratitude. e idea is again familiar:we nurse our hearts from outside in.
Kant urges us not to be put o by these enactments:Men are, one and all,
actorsthe more so the more civilized they are. ey put on a show of aec
tion, respect for others, modesty and disinterest without deceiving anyone,
since it is generally understood that they are not sincere about it. And it a very
good thing that this happens in the world. For if men keep on playing these
roles, the real virtues whose semblance they have merely been aecting for a
long time are gradually aroused and pass into their attitude ofwill.
e remarks shed light on Kants Pietism and his concern with whats
innerin this case, inner feeling promoted through outer aesthetic.
Charges of inauthenticity, of faking it, get dispelled once one appreciates
that display can be constitutive of character formation. We take on the
D J T M T\tY
benevolent feel of a smile by practicing smiling, Kant reminds us (we now
know that there is some physiological evidence for this in the notion of eer
ent bio-feedback loops):Aability, sociability, courtesy, hospitality, and
gentleness may be small change, he concedes. Yet they promote the feel
ing for virtue itself by [arousing] a striving to bring this illusion as near as
possible to the truth.
It may well be that at times surface acting leads only to more convinc
ing acting. But it seems plausible that it can also lead to deeper acting that
involves deeper engagement, vulnerability, and authenticity. e managed
thank you becomes an occasion for stabilizing genuine and reliable grat
itude. And if Kant is right, we dont necessarily undermine the aimed-for
uptake of our remarks when those who are targeted recognize we are engaged
in a performance ritual: we all know we role-play at times and that a way of
. ere is tacit acceptance of the point. Goman gives
a contemporary gloss to Kants point: Regard is something an individual
knows enough about what to feign on occasion; in turn, the recipient of
that regard knows not to steal information that goes too deeply behind the
So far weve indicated two ways even a routinized ank you for your
service can do substantive moral work:First, through a ritual display of
instate a norm
in a public way. Second, the
performance is a way to
our hearts and at the same time
to feel dierently.
A third function of the ritual is more straightforward and basic to both
of the above cases. In thanking you, Iam engaging you in
, as philosophers put it. Iam calling out to you that you have met
expectations or exceeded them. Ishow approval or recognition through my
gratitude. And that address can itself take two forms. e performance may
what Inow feel. I
my heart and its truth. But
my expression may also be a sign for something elsethat Iam expressing
interest and opening a door for future interaction.
All this has relevance to the ank you rituals we civilians nd our
selves engaged in with veterans. e address may be emotional perfor
mance, but the performance does moral workthat we lock eyes, show
interest, listen, and, in the best case, take the outreach and connect to the
In all this, the basic worry really is:How do we impose costs on civilian
ank yous? at was Phil Carters worry. It seems too cheap. Im sug
gesting that we go beyond a cheap aesthetic when we willingly engage in an
ongoing dialogue with a veteran and that we recommend and model that
commitment for others. Moreover, its likely that if we incur that cost, we do
so because we truly feel gratitude, whatever else we may believe about a war
and its cause. But we also are likely to deepen our gratitude and make more
concrete our appreciation through the engagement. Emotional attitudes are
rarely pristine, well-formed states that we simply turn inside out; even when
our heart, its through nuanced conduct that shapes our mental
state in the very outing.
P G W
Resentment, as has been said in this chapter, is about past injury, holding
someone to account for a past harm, whether apparent or intentional. You
step on my toe; I hold you to account. ere is no point in my demand
ing that you undo that step; its done. It is a fantasy of sorts to replay the
tape dierently, even if that is oen how we satisfy our wishes for respect
and redress. Resentment gets answered, constructively, in part, through
assurances about the future, about ones own future treatment but also
treatment of others like oneself. Indeed, for many soldiers, the assurance
wanted most is that future generations of soldiers will not be subject to
the same sense of betrayal when ghting imprudent, unjust, or unneces
sary wars. But, of course, that is an abstract aspiration, addressed at an
indeterminate group of political and civilian leaders who may or may not
be able to shape political will, now or in the future. Moreover, the kinds
of assurance wantedthat wars will be justied on moral or even pruden
tial groundsmay simply not be available when troops are deployed. As
a result, deep resentments may fester, and veterans may become re-trau
matized as they live through new wars that they believe are unjustied
D J T M T\tY
or unnecessary, and they watch a new generation of veteranssome their
own sons and daughterscome home, or not come home. e sense of
anger, helplessness, and futility gets refueled: new aerwars rekindle old
ones. Not surprisingly, the kind of trust and assurance that can oen salve
deep disillusionment may come not top-downfrom the promises of
civilian and military leadersbut, rather, from the bottom up, in one-on-
one engagements that build interpersonal connections and develop a sense
of being understood.
In this vein, consider a case that a psychiatrist friend, Sam Goodman,
shared with me, involving a Vietnam veteran he saw some forty years ago.
Sam served during the Vietnam War as an Army psychiatrist, although he
treated this patient aer he was out of service. He was reminded of him as we
talked about a new generation of soldiers transitioninghome.
e soldier, call him Bill, entered Vietnam early at the encouragement of
his father, who regarded it a patriotic act. Bill rose fast to become a sergeant
and an exemplary leader who cared deeply for the lives of his troops. is
guy won my heart, said Sam. He was a wonderfulman.
Bill later became a Green Beret, slipping through enemy lines as part of
President Nixons secret war in Cambodia. In the stealth of the night, Bill
would leave his lethal mark on many an enemy sentinel, slitting the guards
throat while others were asleep, as a calling card of what might come. In one
intimate, deadly encounter, Bill was pinned down, but managed to pull out
a concealed knife and stab the enemy fatally in the chest. e corpse fell on
him, with Bill remaining perfectly still so as not to awake others, himself
corpse-like under its dead weight for over an hour. In that hour, Sam said,
Bill savored the sense of peace in knowing how close he was to the enemy
and almost dead, yetalive, the victor in this battle.
But that sense of peace or victory wasnt to last. Bill came home pro
foundly disillusioned, regretting his war, feeling suckered by the Army,
and angry that he was fooled into thinking that his service was patri
otic. Aer a violent car accident, frequent panic attacks, self-medication
with alcohol, and a search for redemptive meaning through religion and
pacism, Bill came to Sam, whom he saw for four years, twice a week,
in face-to-face psychotherapy, in conjunction with anti-depressant drug
therapy:Id say he responded very deeply to the therapy, but his depres
What marked the therapy is that for four years, Bill was so very, very
engaged in telling his story and having his story understood by Sam, as a
proxy for others. In the nal session of their time together, in deep grati
tude, Bill bequeathed Sam a peace gi of weaponsa bazooka and a gun
that had been disarmed and were no longer utilizable:Give them to your
children, he said, and tell them never to use them. e sadness, said Sam,
is that in Bills own eyes, he was a murderer, whose deeds in war were ulti
mately unjustied. e depression was, in part, his unrelieved guilt and grief
at being caught in that untenable position.
Bills self-loathing mixed with raging resentment toward those whom he
believed aided and abetted his becoming a murderer. Sam, himself, oen
feared for his life:I was always very cautious about making him too angry,
and at times my blood ran cold when Irealized that he could kill me without
a weapon at any timea completely foreign idea under any other of my life
circumstances. e work involved this fear that he had at all times that he
could, if made angry, kill again or he could kill those responsible for his being
is is an extreme story of resentment, indeed vengeance, but not an unfa
miliar legacy of the war in Vietnam. e story of the most recent two wars is
still being written, though views of them are taking shape. e war in Iraq is
now considered by many to have been fought for an unjust cause and based
on false information and faulty reasoning. Even if not viewed as unjust, many
see it as an unnecessary and optional war. And it is a war that has not le
a better peace; rather, it has reignited war in a failed state. And the war in
Afghanistan, while widely viewed at its inception as the good war and a just
defense in response to domestic attack, has, over twelve years later, le many
soldiers wondering whether their eorts were ultimately worth it; whether
their mission of wooing tribal populations away from the Taliban and estab
lishing a stable, U.S.-supported government, with its own economic and
political infrastructure, was any way achievable or laudable, versus the kind
of end that demands a traditional ground war where we defeat an enemy.
is is the political backdrop for individual soldiers resentment, even when
D J T M T\tY
those soldiers are volunteers who oen feel great pride in their service, loyalty
to their comrades, and have identities and personal ideals tightly wrapped up
with their service in the military.
R\r B R
In light of Sams vignette about Bill, it is all too tempting to think of resent
ment as essentially defensive anger, a brandishing of emotional arms. Sam
feels fear, hes cautious, oen on guard. Bills resentment is murderous; it
feels that he could still kill, with or without weapons. e resentment is dis
placed, in this case, on a near-to-hand object. Sam is the replacement target
for some ill-dened generic, a fellow citizen-injurer.
, Bishop Butler articulates this notion of resentment
asdefensive anger in his classic sermon on resentment, mentioned earlier:
resentment is a weapon against injury, injustice, and cruelty. It is retaliation
against one who has been in a moral sense injurious to ourselves. Nietzsche, in
a similar spirit, roots the morality system for compensation and blame in what
he famously names the revenge impulse to
a yearning .
. to anaesthetize pain through vengeful emotion. Nietzschean
is perhaps better thought of as a perversion of resentment, a
squint and grudge, malice and spite that last too long. It is the morality of
the enslaved and inferior, he tells us, and it needs to be overcome. e point
echoes Senecas views in
in which he paints a graphic picture of the
depravity of revenge feelings.
But resentment in general, and the practice its expression mediates of
holding another to account, is oen too narrowly conceived as essentially
retaliatorya return of disrespect with disrespect, a retributive tit for tat.
at is one manifestation, but the underlying notion is broader and not, at
its core, belligerence or bullying. Resentment, at its most basic, is a bid for
respect, a demand of the person who caused the injury, or who contributed
signicantly, to acknowledge ones standing. One prominent contemporary
philosopher reconstructs a version of the sentiment in just this way: ese
circumstances can give rise, in the victim or in someone else on behalf of the
victim, to a very special fantasy of retrospective prevention. As victim, I have
a fantasy of inserting into the agent an acknowledgement of me, to take the
place of exactly the act that harmed me. I want to think that he might have
acknowledged me, that he might have been prevented from harming me.
Blame (or more precisely, as this writer puts it, focused blame for cul
pability, and not simply causal agency) asks for acknowledgement. In
general, it takes seriously the others persons deliberative process in some
thing of the way that oering advice does, but in retrospect, not prospect:It
involves treating the person who is blamed like someone who had a rea
son to do the right thing but did not do it. So although resentment cannot
that the other undo the past, the retrospective fantasy is more than
just a wishful imagining of an alternative past. Its focus is on an
that someone had a reason to do the right thing and didnt.
And that is future-oriented; its about how one normatively expects to be
acknowledged in anothers deliberations, in general and in future dealings,
where there is forward-looking responsibility. We are calling attention to
anothers regard for us (or lack of regard) and asking for receipt and recogni
tion of that review in a way that may have some inuence on future behavior.
As such, blaming, on this view, is neither moralistic disdain nor manipula
tion by coercion or force. e point is not to shame or threaten another with
your willyou are not brandishing your will, to bully or dominate; rather,
your aim is to engage with another whom you take to have the authority
and competence to
your complaint, to acknowledge it, and to be
guided by it in future interactions with you or others likeyou.
e point is one the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith
long ago recognized:e object .
. which resentment is chiey intent upon,
is not so much to make our enemy feel pain in his turn, as to .
. make him
sensible that the person whom he injured did not deserve to be treated in that
manner. What really enrages us, he continues, is the little account which
he seems to make of us .
. that absurd self-love, by which he seems to imagine
that other people may be sacriced at any time, to his conveniency or his
is is important background to further understand the resentment some
veterans feel. e resentment is typically not a demand for pity or sympathy.
D J T M T\tY
(Dont pity us, one four-star Army general invoked repeatedly in a keynote
speech to civilians and veterans at a Georgetown Veterans Day celebration.)
Nor is it necessarily a demand for empathic sharing of feeling, at least if that
means access to the horrors and gore of war through vicarious arousal; many
who go to war want to protect civilians from just that kind of exposure.
Rather, at the core of the resentment is a bidding to recognize .
. a kind of
. in which parties are responsible to each other.
at accountability of civilian to soldier is ongoing. e soldier wants
assurance from civilian and military leaders and, collectively, from a nation,
that they are
never just forces
, never just an asset to be used (or preserved)
instrumentally as a part of military necessity in achieving missions (and con
tinuing the ght). ey are fellow citizens, with rights to life and liberty, not
alienated even in ghting. And they are fellow citizens with rights to protec
tion, not just in battling the enemy outside but also in battling the enemy
withinall too vividly illustrated in the case of sexual assault within the
military, which we take up in a later chapter.
And as military veterans, they have rights to live
livesto the degree
that is possible, given severe impairments and disability. e needs here are
profound. If past wars are an indicator, the numbers with mental health
issues will likely rise, with deferred onsets and delayed seeking of treatment
peaking some ten to twenty years aer a war ends. Recent spikes in suicide
rates speak to the desperation already. And there are the staggering physical
wounds, the legacy of advanced battleeld medicine that keeps soldiers alive
at rates unheard of in history, but who are profoundly altered in face and
limb (and altered by surgery too, as in facial cases, where forty to y opera
tions may be required to keep reversing the fresh scarring that closes up ori
ces and makes impossible basic functioning.) e transitioning of soldiers
aer more than a decade of war is an antiseptic term that barely touches the
ravages of war on those bodies and souls.
All this is to point to the hard work of building concrete moral respect for
veterans in the complex and interconnected arrays of institutions public and
private, at federal, state, and local levels, and combinations thereof, regard
ing healthcare, housing, employment, education, transportation, recreation,
extended family assistance, and more. e nations obligations to provide
veterans with the best care and the greatest means for social reintegration
are strict. Foundation work and private inuence, however critical, can never
replace public institutions and the democratic obligations to fundthem.
But building concrete moral respect also takes place at the micro level, in
the ne texture of moral interactions and engagements through which we
acknowledge and accept moral responsibility for each other, both within and
outside larger institutional networks. ose practices of recognition consti
tute a critical level of social and informal institutional reality.
Some examples of moral injuries and reactions Ihave been discussing (and
will go on to discuss in the pages that follow) may strike readers as not grave,
however much they represent genuine tears in service members psyches and
communities. Reconciliation aer mass atrocity may be a dierent matter.
And here, letting go of grudges may be a pernicious form of cheap grace.
In such cases, resentment, and particularly Nietzsches version of it,
with its enduring squint of grudge, may strike us less as a perversion
and more as an essential way of holding onto humanity, as the moral protest
required for retaining membership in a moral community. It is what is le for
moral survival when repair is not possible.
is is the view of Jean Améry, an Austrian (whose father was an assimi
lated Jew and mother was a Roman Catholic) who, aer the Nuremberg
Laws of 1935 marking his Jewish ancestry, ed to Belgium. Aer Belgiums
occupation by the Germans, Améry was expelled as an enemy alien, interned
in France, and then escaped and joined the Belgian Resistance Movement.
Soon aer, Améry was captured by the Nazis and tortured during his two
years of internment in the camps. His memoirs, which he began writing in
the mid-sixties, are a remarkable rehabilitation of
ey pose an
argument worth considering:that reconciliation, in the case of some moral
injuries, risks undoing the humanity of the victim.
I cannot take up the case here in any detail, except to consider that, when
trust in a world has been so thoroughly shattered by the barbarism of other
D J T M T\tY
humans, letting go of the grudge may seem a nullication of the unspeakable
Aer twenty years of silence, Améry began writing his essayssome
of which he read on South German Radio (now a part of Southwest
Broadcasting)just aer the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials and during a
move within Germany, in the wake of those trials, for reconciliation. e
essays, on the state of one who has been overcome, lost, robbed of dig
nity and trust, are meant as a correction to policies of forgiveness and neu
tralization of the past from the perspective of one who cannot give up the
grudge. I dont pretend competence in German history of this period, but
I call attention to Amérys work simply to claim that there may be moral
injuries that cant be healed and reconciliations that defy preservation of
Améry writes in the essay Ressentiments, with explicit allusion to
Nietzsche: My personal task is to justify a psychic condition that has been
condemned by moralists and psychologists alike. e former regard it as a
taint, the latter as a kind of sickness. I must acknowledge it, bear the social
taint, and rst accept the sickness as an integrating part of my personality
and then legitimize it. Améry is well aware of the cost of his resentments and
its inconsistencies: It nails everyone of us onto the cross of his ruined past.
And absurdly, it demands that the irreversible be turned around.
two impossible things: regression into the past and nullication of what hap
pened. It leans backward and forward, with the fantasy, as we might put it,
that in going back, the agent of moral injury could be trusted to have acted
dierently, that he could have inserted into his agency an acknowledgment
of me, to take the place of exactly the act that harmed me. But Amérys
humanity cannot trust this fantasy for long, in the face of the more press
ing moral reality that torture imprinted on him: e Flemish SS-man Wajs,
whoinspired by his German mastersbeat me on the head with a shovel
handle whenever I didnt work fast enough, felt the tool to be an extension
of his hand and the blows to be emanations of his psycho-physical dynamics.
Only I possessed, and still possess the moral truth of the blows that even
today roar in my skull, and for that reason I am entitled to judge, not only
more than the culprit but also more than societywhich thinks only about
its continued existence. e social body .
. at the very best .
. looks forward,
so that such things dont happen again. But my resentments are there in order
that the crime become a moral reality for the criminal, in order that he be
swept into the truth of his atrocity.
Amérys point is that forward-looking healing and forgiveness may restore
body and politic, but it cannot restore the body
of the tortured innocent. Day and night the moral truth of the blows still
roar in [his] skull. Améry cant forget or forgive or move forward. He must
bear witness, lest he undo the moral reality of the crime for the criminal. e
passage is stunningly powerful and gives pause to the work of moral reconcil
iation in places where there have been genocides and systematic atrocityin
South Africa, Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria, and possibly others. Iturn to Améry
to remind us of limiting cases for relieving moral resentment, where there
can be no possibility of moral healing, whether in the work of self-empathy,
hope, or trust. e assaults of unmitigated evil erase any reasonable hope for
redemption. In many of the cases we take up in this book, there are openings
for hope and rapprochement. Still, the healing doesnt comeeasy.
O O M F
We have covered much ground in this chapter, much pivoting on a phrase
that symbolizes homecomingank you for your service. e phrase is
unanalyzed for most of us, but said and heard, oen with a sense of shrink
ing and denial. Do we really mean it? What are we
saying when we utter
the words? What are our underlying obligations in sending troops to war
and bringing them home? Why are we, as fellow citizens in a shared project
of nation at war, not liable for wars harms? If we arent liable for battleeld
harms, then what responsibilities can be expected of us as we bring troops
home? Ihave argued that personal, supportive engagement is critical at the
ne-textured level of one-on-one emotional communication and rapport.
at engagement is part of healing and recovery from war. It is part of our
shared responsibility toward those who ght ourwars.
D J T M T\tY
I began with resentment and gratitude because they are oen the start
ing points for our mutual interactionsor the points of blockage, the
unspoken resentment and the ritualistic ank you. We need to get
beyond that, together. And one way to begin is by exposing the practice
and its implications. In what follows, Imove to other emotional impasses
that need relief if the healing of moral injury from war is to take place.
Among them are the pounding guilt of not being able to save a buddy and
the self-indictment of falling so short of what one thinks a good soldier,
sailor, Marine, or wingman ought to be able to do. Here, the moral call
and response are internal, but the healing depends in part on being able
to tell others about the inner struggle, and in the telling others, allowing
them to empathize and share some of the journey together. In that sense,
also are being asked to listen.
Lalo Panyagua in Marja mud hut, preparing for the surge in December2009
I\r G C
Eduardo Lalo Panyagua is one of those Marines who looks just ne on the
outside, just a bit rounder in his face and waist than the Marine he was eight
years ago, at seventeen and a half when he enlisted. He survived the most dan
gerous and demanding engagements the Marines have been put through in
twelve years of ghtingin Fallujah, Iraq, and in Marja, Afghanistan. And hes
received his fair share of medals and honors for his service. Hell tell you that
the rst two deployments in Iraq were easy. He was a new kid, spit-polished
with no command responsibility. ird time round, Im the guy in charge.
His lieutenant, a recent ROTC graduate, had not yet cut his teeth on war. He
was happy to swap rank for experience. Lalo recalls their rst encounter:
Look, Iknow Im in charge, the lieutenant told him. But this is my rst
rodeo. You know how to get this shit done. At twenty, Lalo, war-tested and
eager, found himself de facto in charge of a platoon of thirty-ve Marines,
plus een Afghani National Army soldiers partnered with the unit. He
was a corporal lling a sergeants billet in a mixed armory/infantry bat
talion, shaping the battleeld for the surge in the Helmand Province to be
unleashed in January2010.
Lalo joined the Marines as a way out of tough gang life in the L.A.barrios
that enmeshed his family and pals, and was beginning to entrap him. Ascue
at Dorsey High School landed him with a revenge threat and an aer-school
meeting for the deed to be delivered. He skipped out of school before days
end, and by the aernoon was enrolled in a new school. At Hollywood High,
in his honors classes, he met Donna Hernandez, a dark-haired, dark-eyed,
then Goth girl with street smarts and a bookish sensibility. She was an
only child in a protective, traditional Mexican household, with her dad no
stranger to gangs. Lalo and Donna fell in love and worked hard to hide the
relationship from her parents, and from the extended family who lived across
the street. But they allknew.
During his senior year, Lalo enlisted. Ayear later, in 2008, he headed
to Iraq and the following year, Donna went to Georgetown Universitys
School of Foreign Service. On September 21, 2009, three weeks into her rst
semester, Lalo drove up to Washington, D.C.from Camp Lejeune, North
Carolina, where he was stationed aer his two back-to-back tours in Iraq. He
took Donna by surprise when he told her about an imminent third deploy
ment. On an impulse, we eloped.
To my parents joy, says Donna, I did not get married to validate a preg
nancy or receive military benets. But they still werent pleased, nor were
some of her mentors at Georgetown who thought that she might be giving
up her education. (I did not know Donna at this point. Imet her in the fall of
2012.) Amonth later, Lalo was on his way to Afghanistan. And Donna was
immersed in her studies and busy with a job; in her spare moments, she was
tracking any news she could nd about a rebase called Fiddlers Green in
the Helmand Province.
For Lalo, the Marines almost instantly became his core and, along with
Donna, his chosen family. Aer seven and a half years in the Corps, he will
leave on medical disability with benets that match those of someone who
served for twenty years. Seven years, in and out of war, speed up thetime.
As with many of the walking-wounded veterans of these wars, the injuries
Lalo suers can be hard to see, but they pile onto each other and disable.
And there are psychological and moral rewoundings. He has skeletal inju
ries:upper and lower spine bulgings and herniated disks and nerve damage
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that shoot pain down his arms and legs and that alternates with numbness.
He suers from traumatic brain injury:his short-term memory is sketchy and
he has trouble remembering peoples names. He gets disoriented easily, and
his hearing and vision arent what they used to be. Ill be driving, and ve
minutes later Im like, How the hell did Iget this far? He is still amazed
that the barrage of explosives he endured most days could wreak so much
havoc on his body and soul when at the time everything seemed so intact:I
had no idea that would come from getting rocked, youknow?
He has been diagnosed with severe and chronic posttraumatic stress. He
tells me he struggles with nightmares, hypervigilance, daydreams .
backs, outbursts of anger, aggressiveness, fatigue all the time. Im tired all the
. Idaze out throughout the day. Once when Donna was traveling out
of the country with a state department internship, he took to the bottle and
near destroyed his liver. Hes given that up. But now, under extensive care and
therapy, he pops a pill per symptom and hates it, but hates going without out
his meds evenmore.
e full onset of all the symptoms, especially the PTS and TBI, was
slow. Like Josh Mantz, he felt nothing for months aer returning from
war. He was home on a routine cycling from Afghanistan to the Marine
base at uantico, Virginia. Life was good:he was enjoying, as he said, a
new honeymoon stage with Donna, and was ready to leave the Marines
and start his marriage for real. But he had done well in the Marines, and
an oer of staying stateside at uantico, only an hour from Georgetown,
with a likely option for ocer training, was too good to turn down. And
so he re-upped.
e adjustment was rocky and the challenges Lalo faced in moving from
battleeld to stateside base give some insight into what a homecoming can
look like for hundreds of other service members. Two weeks aer being in
charge of nearly y troops in a high-risk, op-tempo, kinetic environment,
Lalo found himself hunkered over a computer for eight hours a day, sur
rounded by both military and civilians, most of whom had not deployed. He
felt out of place, unskilled and untrained, with equipment that seemed alien;
all of a sudden my primary weapon became a keyboard, and my handgun
. a mouse. He wasnt ready for the transition. And he wasnt ready for all
the time on his hands, for thoughts and memories to crowd in, and for the
chance in idle moments to go back to Afghanistan and follow troop move
ments vicariously on the web: Even though it was hell, I still freakin miss it.
Its like .
. home, you know.
At home, the anxiety mounted, the are-ups started to come, and aer a
full two years out of Afghanistan and a frightening episode of hurling Donna
half way across the bedroom when she tried to calm him down during a night
trauma, he agreed to gethelp.
Lalo takes care of his baby birds, as he puts it with tenderness. To
hurt Donna was the ultimate wake-up call:I woke up to her crying. And
Inoticed that Ihad hurt her. And at that moment, Im like, Ill do anything
to make sure Iget better, even if it means Ive got to go talk to the wizard..
ats what we Marines call the psychologist. So Itold her, Look, Im going
to go get assessed. Ill go do an assessment. And well see; well go from there.
Iwent, and theyre like, Sir, you have severe PTSD. You need help. And thats
when the treatment started. And even then, Im still like, Look, Im ne.
It is tempting to think of Lalos posttraumatic stress, and that of many ser
vice members like him, as primarily physiologic or autonomic. He reacts on a
dime, as he would in a war zone, hypervigilant and hyperreactive. He revisits
his war in nighttime traumas; he disconnects from those who dont under
stand his war. Exquisitely honed reexes and observational skills highly adap
tive in war become maladaptive at home. As Charles Hoge, a leading Army
psychiatrist, has put it, under prolonged stress, the stress thermostat is
reset. Recalibrating the thermostat to what is conducive to healthy living in
a peaceful civilian environment can be, for some, no small challengeeven
if for many the transition is without trauma.
Still, the metaphor of resetting thermostats is limiting, as Hoge himself,
a veteran of war and expert in combat trauma, knows well. In Lalos case,
what anguishes the most are not the conditioned fear responses that can
unleash real and lethal aggression. For help with that, he now has Max, a
black lab-spaniel therapy dog. Max covers my back and takes the rst hit,
he tells me when Irst met Max. And Donna has also taken away Lalos
knife that has gotten him too close to danger too many times. But what
really torments Lalo is the relentless sense of guilt he feels. And appeasing
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that is not a job for Max, or fear deconditioning, or even anger management
or weapons disarming.
Lalo cant let go of the guilt of not coming home with all his Marines.
It near kills him: To be honest, the thing I have dealt with the most [in
my therapy] is guiltsurvivor guilt. I would say the better part of the last
year and a half, the better part of my therapy has been focused on survivor
I was in charge of guys, and my biggest fear out there was losing any
one of them. eyre all like little brothers who I trained. So, you know, I had
guys that died because.
Before that [therapy] I never focused on myself, or
the trauma that I went through. I mainly focused on the guys that died in
It is hard for Lalo to nish the because. And even thinking of himself
as the deserving subject of therapy and the focus of care seems a transgres
sion, a way of letting up on his standing obligation to the others. Before, in
Fallujah, it was:Idont want to die. Aer that, Iaccepted that Imight die.
But Ididnt want my Marines to. My biggest fear going into Afghanistan was
losing a Marine.
He lost three Marines in Afghanistan. Two deaths haunt him, four years
later, leaving him drenched in sweat at night as he rewatches the inner movie
and relives the self-rebuke.
It was November 2009, the beginning of his command in Marja, and his
platoon was preparing for the surge of 30,000 U.S.troops who would soon
fan out in the southwest corner of Afghanistan, along the Helmand River,
not far from Dasht-e Margo, literally, the Desert of Death. Lalo was in
charge of a unit emplacing remote ground sensors to gather early warning
of enemy movements for target support. e area was riddled with insurgent
bombs, and Lalo was wont to warn his Marines as they prepared to leave their
armored vehicles to be sure to secure the area and take extra precautions in
On this day, he was one of four Marines in the second vehicle of the con
voy. ey were in their MRAPs, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehi
cles that could keep you more or less protected, at least if you stayed inside.
Corporal Justin Wilson was a mile ahead in the lead vehicle. He had to go
number 2, as Lalo put it delicatelywhen he rst talked about the incident
in an undergraduate ethics of war seminar Iwas teaching in which Donna
was a student. She was eager to bring him to class, and he was psyched about
Wilson, Lalo said to the spellbound class, really had to go. e driver
of the MRAP stopped the vehicle. Wilson jumped out, found himself an
empty hut for a bit of privacy, and got blownup.
Lalo heard the blast, called his corpsman, and rushed to the hut. e unit
was under heavy mortar attack, and though a medevac helicopter was in the
area, it couldnt land for close to ten minutes because of the barrage. Lalo
made it to Justin and cradled him in his arms. He was my Marine, Lalo
later says to me, a year aer this class, reliving the scene. I was holding his
hand, his bodyhis legs were somewhere else. And then it looked like he just
When he died, Inally put him on a bird ride. Some Marines
were sobbing, he said. But there was no time to mourn. ey were still getting
shelled. Lalo gave the order:Alright, hes on a bird. Moveon.
He justies to himself the move on tempo. As someone in a position
like that, Icouldnt allow myself to be mad. Icouldnt let emotions take over.
Ihad to pick up the body parts. And Lalo did. He stayed behind, collected
the strewn body fragments, and put them in the only bag he had in the vehi
cle, a black trash bag. Abrief memorial would comelater.
It is hard to hear this narrative without thinking that Lalo bears little or
no culpable blame for his friends death. e cause was an insurgent IED and
the bad luck of steppingonit.
Lalo sees it dierently:e Marine had to take a shit. Icould have said
through the radio, Dont forget to reinforce the area.
e wait to call in
the medevac could have been shorter, he adds:e sergeant who was on site
didnt have frequency to call in medevac for ve minutes. Icould have pushed
harder, found a way to make thecall.
In his mind, luckat least this manifestation of bad luckdoesnt miti
gate the obligations of command responsibility. Im the guy in charge, he
puts it. Its a father talking, a big brother. eyre my kids, he says, whether
older or younger. eyre my baby birds. Ever since Iwas little, Ididnt like
people bullying other people. Iwould see peoplelike, ve kids would get
onto this one kidand Iwould jump in, even though Idont know this kid.
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You want to ght somebody, ght me. Iloved ghting, but at the same time
Ididnt like people bullying other people. It was a rush to me. Iloved it. Ifeel
good helping out.
In high school Ialways protected all of my friends.
Lalo is the protector, in the hood, of his Marines, and now of Donna. In
his psychic reality, he sees only his missing causal agencywhat he
pen on his watch. He doesnt see the inated sense of control he
constructing this picture of volitional and morally responsible agency. He
doesnt see that he is making the blame t by turning an omission, for which
he isnt at all culpable, into a transgression that will hold him blameworthy.
But why should Lalo see that? At least, right away and without probing
and time? Here we can be speculative for the moment and interpret, at a
distance, psychoanalytically. Isuspect that some of his aspirations to pro
tect and be in charge are rooted in desires and fantasies of childhood about
how super parents can rescue and save, and in his
really protect and how gang leaders really
powerful. Marine ideals reinforce that familial and childhood world:
never leave a comrade behind, protect your own, be in charge, bring
your troops home. e socialized ideals of the profession resonate with a pro
tector culture of honor:to take care of those in your orbit. It is not surprising
that Lalo found a home for himself in the Marines.
e hyper-idealization of those Marine ideals is that the guy in charge
doesnt lose troops. Or, thats how the superego takes up the ego ideal and
punishes the self who is just a good enough commander who did his best
with what he had. His best was not enough, is the superegos devastating
critique. To settle for losing guys is shameful.
is the anxiety of being
is the anxiety of having ones
(the compromised and
managed ego) exposed and laid bare as mere pretense. e pretense, the thin
crust of displayto invoke the last chapters themedoesnt really convince
Lalo. e failure of pretense to satisfy the fantasy of how it is all supposed to
work out leaves a hole for crippling disappointment and despair to ll.
e fantasy, as Isay, draws from dierent sources:from loy norms and
primordial pulls, both internalized in the psyche; from a moralized Marine
ethos and from archaic longings about how grown-ups take care of those
who are vulnerable. We tend to forget that Marines, like Lalo, go to war as
child warriors, barely eighteen, with a mix of a childs needs and the self- and
group-projected identities of how adults are supposed to take responsibil
ity. e combination can be soul-destroying. Donna puts her nger on the
point:He gets so mad at me because Itold him that when he got out of boot
camp he had PTS [posttraumatic stress]. Itold him that you cant be a young
seventeen-, eighteen-year-old, go through three months of this people yelling
in your face, stripping you of your identity, giving you a new identity, all in
three months, and then spits you out into the world, without some sort of
e socialization is meant to be all-transforming, and for many it is expe
rienced as a new, chosen identity.
ere are other factors that likely contribute to Lalos trauma and
that have to do with the specic circumstances of Wilsons death, as well
as another that we will turn to soon. First of these other factors is the
open-endedness of the loss. ere was a delay in the memorial service, which
meant that the private and collective grieving had to be deferred, and with
it, the honor giving and tribute, through religious or secular ritual, that can
help dignify a loss:the rie barrel in the boots, the helmet atop the rie,
the dog tags draped, each Marine, one aer another, paying private respect
to the one who is missing. Second is the prolonged immersion in detritus.
I slept with Justin for two nights next to me, Lalo said in passing, aer
telling me about his death. Iwasnt following. Lalo had just told me he had
put Justin on the bird, and then joined his troops on the ground. In a
bag, he explained. e remaining body parts were in a bag. ose were
the remains Lalo had collected for two hours before rejoining his unit. It
was two days before the remains were repatriated with the corpse that was
in the medevac. All that time, Lalo kept vigil, protecting his Marine by his
side. ird was the inglorious black trash bag. ats all they had in the
truck, Lalo tells me, when he was picking up the body parts. A
Iwas putting my friend in a
Icant have black trash bags in my
house because of that. Right, Donna?
Lalos moral injury is complex, with layers compounded on layers. At
its core is a young persons self-imposition of oversized liabilityliability
for the destruction of a friend who has instantly become body shards that
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have to be gathered up in a shameful trash bag, with no time to properly
mourn. e detritus alone leaves imprints that few of us, half a world away
from the battleeld, can fully grasp. Lalo was seeing, smelling, and touch
ing the charred and bloody esh that had shot across a landscape, scrupu
lously picking up the tiniest of pieces so they wouldnt turn into enemy
trophies. e most avid followers of war coverage these days rarely see
what the combatants see; the public is protected, even when photojour
nalists are onsite. And that sensory overloadstored in the brain in ways
that we now know are hard cognitively to mediate and processcan get
stuck in repeating video loops, ashbacks that attach to a punishing nar
rative of moral accountability. e self-condemnation turns toxic through
Corporal Justin Wilsons death is one moral wound. ere is another
loss that racks Lalo with guilt and smoldering resentment. In Arlington
Cemetery, ten feet away from Wilson, lies Sergeant Christopher Herbeck.
Herbeck commanded Lalos sister platoon in Marja. In December 2009,
Lalo headed up patrols in which he would locate IEDs and then debrief
a unit intelligence ocer on their coordinates, so the bombs could be
defused and the area secured. Lalo reconstructs the events that led to
Herbecks death. e conversations, the tone of voices, the looks, the
glances, the anger and disbeliefhes sied through the scenes over and
over to see if he missed something:ere was one [an IED] in southwest
ern Marja that Ireported a month earlier, and it was supposed to be taken
out. And this second lieutenant [the unit intelligence ocer], because he
had heard of all the battles we had gotten into there, wanted to go out and
Icalled him a freakin ribbon-chaser. He just wanted to
go out there and get his combat action ribbon. So he gets a platoon to go
theregathers a bunch of guys that had never patrolled in the area.
he gets my friend, Sergeant Herbeck, to be the guy in charge of the patrol.
Igo and Ibrief them.
Look. My guys have been patrolling this for months.
is is here; this is here; this is here. You want to go here; you want to go
here; you dont want to go there.
Lalo pressed the lieutenant on his motives for the patrol:
Whats your guys
mission? e lieutenant looks at me, Were just going to go out there and poke.
What do you mean, youre just going to go out there and poke, sir? Hes like,
Exactly that, corporal. Im like, Sir, if you guys are going to do some sort of
mission, I understand that. Hes like, No, were just going to go out there
and poke and see whats going on and what to do about it. At that moment
I look at Herbeck, and I ask, Look, do you need me and part of my guys to
be attached to your guys? Weve been there; we know the area. We know
what its like. And the lieutenant answers, We dont need you. Youll be our
backup. In case we need you; just be on your radio.
Soon after, Lalo got the distress call: A Marine stepped on an IED.
The caller read off the grid square coordinates. Im like, I know these
coordinates. Sure enough, those were the coordinates I gave the second
lieutenant a month prior so they could have the IED blown up. And they
didnt do it. Lalo rushed in with his unit to set up a cordon and secure
the area. Wheres Herbeck? he blurted out. A dazed Marine stared
back. Wheres your platoon sergeant? he demanded again. Then he
heard what he feared: Corporal, hes the one that stepped on the IED.
There was no need for a medevac. The explosive had instantly pulverized
Herbeckan area, fifty square feet, filled, spread out with body parts
of my friend.
From the narrative so far, this is a tale of dereliction of duty by a supe
rior ocer, hungry for action and a medal for it, and cavalier about who will
pay. Ask any young Marine or soldier:a superiors ribbon chasing turns them
livid. But in Lalos mind, there is blame enough to go round:e IED never
got cleared. And Inever went back to check if it got cleared, either. Im the
guy patrolling the area. Why the hell didnt Igo to check it out with my
guys to make sure? You never knowespecially, if Im patrolling the area.
You know? And heres one of my good friends, whose body parts Ipicked
up for how many hours? Six hours. Because we didnt want to leave a single
piece of him there for the enemy. e body remains, again, went into a black
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Protecting his and the Corps ideals against a clear, professional betrayal
turns the screw of subjective guilt a bit tighter. e counterfactuals, the
what ifs, pourout: I feel like I
done something else. I
persuaded them to stick me with them and let me patrol. I
and made sure that the IED was taken care of. In a big way Ifeel guilty that
my friend died. And sometimes
I wish Icould
just go and make sure that the
IED wasnt there anymore. Its out of my power. Its out of my control now.
But, shit, Iwas the guy in charge
. of a whole combat area. I
sure that it got taken care of. But Itrusted that second lieutenant to take care
Philosophers and others who hear narratives like this are quick to tell
me that guilt feelings of this sort are essentially irrational and inappro
priate reactions. AMarine like Lalo must know that he cant control for
these kinds of battleeld vagaries. His guilt is recalcitrant:the indictment
that is at the basis of the guilt is in conict with and lags behind a belief
he endorsesthat he did do what he could, without negligence or culpa
bility. ere is cognitive dissonance. Alternatively, if there isnt cognitive
conict, Lalo is just mistaken in his beliefs. Maybe hes naive about what
he can controlmaybe hes in the grip of wishful fantasies or has a sense of
Many in the military have similar views:You cant go into war, com
mand units, and think you are not going to lose lives. So insisted a West
Point instructor to a group of cadets in a classIattended. Others Ihave
spoken to view soldiering like doctoring:you know you are going to lose
some lives. And you need to get calloused if you are going to do your job
well. You need to be exposed not only to blood and guts, in both pro
fessions, but also to the limits of moral responsibility. Lalo has similar
thoughts:In war, is it expected to lose guys? Yeah. We had been trained
to a point where combat is second nature. Its muscle memory. You get hit
with a mortar attack. You get up, everythings attached, you keep going.
You dont stop.
Imean Igot blown up a couple of times in reghts. It
was normal, it was expected.
But what is in muscle memory is how it feels for
to get hit and move
on. How he feels when
he is in charge of get hit, and dont move on, is
something dierent. A sense of command, a strict liability kicks in. I dont
look at the stu I went through [as] traumatizing to me as it was to lose my
guys, he says. I trained these guys for a whole year, they deployed with me,
and here they are dying in my arms, and here I am picking up their body parts
for six hours at night. ats what hurts me the most.
. And I havent been
able to gure it out.
Part of the ambiguity here is in what normal or expected means. In
one sense, it is
that there is a more than likely chance that, in
war zones like Marja, a unit like Lalos will take losses. Ill lose some and
Imay get killed. Whats in muscle memory is not so much that declarative
thought but, rather, the procedure for what to do when you do get hit. You
move on. You move your troops on. e ancient Roman Stoics talk about
pre-rehearsal of evils, or getting used to bad things happening. ey invoke
this kind of habituated, rehearsed response and something morethat you
can learn to act habitually without fear or distress, in part, because you have
come to believe that there
no real threat or loss to cause full-throated fear
or distress in the rst place. As long as you are holding on to your virtue,
and its rock solid, you have nothing to fear and have lost nothing. at reca
libration of value takes the sting out of loss. e only loss that is real and
stress-worthy, on the Stoic view, is your virtue.
But thats the rub for Lalo, and its at the heart of a dierent meaning of
whats expected. Lalo has
expectations of himself, both morally
and in his role as a good leader. Whatever he expects to happen as probable
outcomes, he has
expectations for himself, nourished by boyish fan
tasies and realities and by Marine armations of them. He judges himself by
how well he meets those aspirations. And he has set the bar high, in abstrac
tion from the very external challenges that gure into the probabilities about
outcomes. With the bar set so high and so much psychic energy hanging in
the balance, the inner challenges and outer challenges and constraints blur.
He lost guys, he failed to meet what he views as a reasonable challenge:he
failed to meet the normative expectation he set for himself and others set for
failure and disappointment is not at all in his muscle memory.
Moreover, in his own case, he reads normative expectation rigidly, as close to
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a demand. To fail to meet the demand as the guy in charge deserves stern
All this is an interpretation, as Isaid earlier. Away from treatment and a
clinical setting, it is not therapy. In part, it is an attempt to understand if the
conict Lalo struggles withand that so many other veterans faceis best
understood as a kind of at-footed irrationality, of believing
same time. Or, is it better thought of as a dierent kind of conict, between
what he reasonably expects out there, in specic circumstances, in light of
enemy re and the quirks of accident, and what he expects of himself? Strict
self-demands push him into a preventive fantasy, with could haves and
should haves of how he
fullled his expectations while defying
luck. Ithink it is the latter kind of ambivalence that is at play here. And as
Iwill say in later chapters, erasing the irrationality in a way that obscures the
demand on self and an idealized command role does a disservice to service
members. It also veils the need to change professional development training
so that the internalized normative expectations with which young military
men and women go into war are more realistic. Grit, resolve, motivation, and
reliability dont have to depend on models of zero-defect perfectionism.
Lalo holds himself responsible for losses caused by his acts or omissions,
irrespective of culpability. At least in the case of his care for his troops, he
subscribes to a version of strict liability. In tort law,
without a nding of fault for the damages or proof of negligence. In his court,
Lalo is, of course, plainti and defendant. And he is a fairly merciless plain
ti. He sees now what he couldnt fully see then, and holds himself to the
retrospective assessment. Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith
oers a description of the dual stance we take in self-assessment:When
Iendeavor to examine my own conduct, when Iendeavor to pass sentence
upon it, and either to approve or condemn it, it is evident that, in all such
cases, Idivide myself, as it were, into two persons; and that I, the examiner
and judge, represent a dierent character from that other I, the person whose
conduct is examined into and judged of. e rst is the spectator, whose sen
timents with regard to my own conduct Iendeavor to enter into, by placing
myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me, when
seen from that particular point of view. e second is the agent, the person
whom Iproperly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a
spectator, Iwas endeavoring to form some opinion. e rst is the judge; the
second the person judgedof.
e spectator that Smith famously has in mind is not an actual
bystander but, rather, an imagined impartial spectatoror, as fellow
Scottish philosopher, David Hume calls it, in modeling a related notion,
a judicious spectator. e agent judges himself by imagining what
the impartial spectator would approve or condemn in his conduct.
e emphasis on imagination in Smiths notion invokes a spectator who
doesnt just mirror social praise and blame (or internalized versions of it),
but who, free of actual bias and its limits, can assess praise
With this in mind, what if Lalo were to try to get to that fairer tribunal
by bringing Herbeck into the roomat least, in imagination and fantasy? If
he were present, would he be the plainti that Lalo now is? Would he accuse?
Would he hold Lalo strictly liable for actions and omissions, independent of
fault or proof of negligence? e idea of bringing an empty chair into a safe
therapeutic setting, where the lost buddy or victim can return and perhaps
absolve the patient who feels responsible for his death, is a technique being
developed by some VA clinicians to supplement or replace more standard
cognitive exposure techniques, commonly used in trauma treatment. Lalos
therapy has, in part, as he has explained it to me, involved more standard
exposure techniques used in fear extinction. With a therapist, in a clinical
context that feels safe, the traumatic scenes that are so oen blocked and
repressed are revisited; what happened is felt and experienced and narrated.
In some cases, when recorded in journals or on audiotapes, those narratives
are reread or replayed on ones own at night. e aim is to desensitize what
one couldnt earlier touch. It is a de-conditioning exercise, on the model of
However, guilt is in many ways more complex than fear. On a
view of emotions, both emotions have cognitive content and are not just brute
feelings. ey are
somethingfear about a real or apparent threat and
guilt about a real or apparent transgression. Guilt, in addition, as an attitude
of moral engagement, engages or addresses the person it is directed at and
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looks for some uptake. Lalo blames himself and demands, through his guilt,
both payback of a kind and penitence.
Would the fantasized Herbeck do the same? Who knows? Even if resent
ment and guilt dont necessarily co-travelone can feel resentment toward
an individual without that individual feeling guilt, and vice versawe are
here talking about how Lalo would reconstruct Herbecks reactions:Would
he imagine Herbeck as a benevolent presence who could help construct a
corrective emotional experience? Isuspect that is what the empty chair
therapy is banking onrevised or updated uptake through the mediation
is transposition of disposition is complicated, in general and here.
But the rst step is a willingness to hear oneself addressed by anotherin
this case, to make room for an imaginary conversation with someone who
is not just a beloved buddy who covers your back, as you do his, but also
who is now a black trash bag of body parts. at may be in part why
a conversation of this sort is so hard. e traumatic imagery is part of the
causal narrative and part of the roadblock. e repetitive compulsion to
undo what happened in part involves a wish to erase that horrible ending.
e step forward requires keeping whats done done and liing the mis
placed and overwrought blame. is is the purported role of a benevolent
empathizer. Herbeck may be that person, or at least as introjectthat is,
an internalized objectthat Lalo can vividly imagine. But rst he has to
detoxify the image of Herbeck that he carries with him and that so tor
Lalo is trying to take care of himself these days, to turn his gaze inward and
acknowledge that hes hurting. At rst, compliance was to please Donna, but
with more psychological and physical injuries showing up, its been hard for
him to deny the evidence. Treatment of all sorts has been required:a pile
of pills, physical and psychological therapy, memory coaching for diagnostic
and MRI workups, arm surgery, andmore.
None of this went over easy with his immediate superiors at uantico.
And the moral rewoundings began. He was threatened with a disciplinary
separation from the Marine Corps for the weight gain aer he started tak
ing some of his meds. en, a sta sergeant grew tired of all the time he was
taking o for medical and mental health appointments, and accused him, in
so many words, of being a malingerer. Its convenient that you have invisible
injuries, Lalo reported him saying. It got to the point, said Lalo, that he
told that boss at out, Look, yeah, Im a Marine.
Im used to getting my
big-boy straw and sucking it up, but Ineed help. His psychiatrista civil
ian contractor on another baseintervened, reporting the sta sergeants
obstructive behavior up the chain of command and threatening to go higher,
if there wasnt a quick remedy. Lalos sergeant relented, but only aer insist
ing that Lalo make up time by reporting to work at 5:00
. daily. at was
hardly viable, given Lalos chronic insomnia and night traumas, and treat
ment for it, that make sleep regulation a challenge at the best of times. Acon
frontation ensued that brought Lalo right to the edge. e commander told
Lalo he didnt have a choice in this matter:Well, it looks like youre going to
have to stop taking your sleep medication.
e tirade went on. Tempers boiled over. Lalo insisted that they go out
side and talk about matters privately, but the sergeant persisted, in full view
of Lalos junior Marines. When he got closer nose to nose, and bucked up
like he was going to do something, Lalos hypervigilance kicked in and he
brandished a knife (the knife that Donna has since removed).
Its easy to portray Lalo, and those like him, as a veteran with a short fuse,
ready to snap and turn violent. Hyper-arousal and ashbacks to the battle
eld are certainly part of his symptom set. But this exchange with his supe
rior was also a full plate of moral reactions to moral abuse:he was made to
feel weak, a fake, an impostor, a Marine who couldnt make it, a Marine who
should be able to suck it up without medical or psychological help. Wounded
was weakat least,
this kind of wounded
. And he was told so to his face, and
in front of his subordinates.
at shame and humiliation was piled on top of what Lalo already
felt. Still, in the case of these shamings from outside, Lalo is able to create
some distance, with Donnas help. Lalo knows the sergeant was out of line
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in denying him ocial Marine-approved appointments. And the appoint
ments are ones he, in fact, needs; they are not an indulgence, and he is not a
malingerer. And the sleep meds are also not optional, at least at this point,
without an alternative sleep-treatment program. Lalo gets that psychological
and moral injury is real. e sergeant doesnt, or at least it is convenient for
him to deny it. But the shame for not being the Marine he thought he was, or
thought he could be for his subordinates
judgment is one he still takes
to heart. He believes it. He cant wiggle out of it easily. And the moral despair
it leads to can be paralyzing.
ree years aer arriving home from Afghanistan, Lalo was selected for
the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in
Bethesda, Marylanda residential program for Marines with psychological
and physical injuries, aimed at providing care coordination and recovery sup
port. e commander at the uantico base supported his application:Lalos
full-time job as a wounded Marine was to get better. at was his only job,
the commander told the obstructive sergeant.
But there was a bureaucratic wrinkle that would injure again. Lalo showed
up on campus with Max, the certied and trained therapy dog that was help
ing keep him calm and getting him out of the house regularly. But according
to local base regulations, Max was not an ocial service dog, even though
he was ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) certied. From the point of
local base rules, he was just a pet and wasnt allowed in the barracks. But Lalo
wasnt going without his dog. ere had been too many sudden changes in
his life; he had just driven Donna up to New Haven, where she was start
ing a masters program. ey were back to an every other weekend visiting
schedule. He had just given up his therapist of one and a half years as part
of the transfer of bases from Virginia to Maryland. He wasnt about to also
give up the only constant at this point in his therapy. Aer some wrangling,
an accommodation was found: he would live o campus, in a military retire
ment home in Virginia, with Max. And he would commute daily to the
Bethesda hospital. A critical piece of the programwounded warriors living
together 24/7was compromised from the start.
Its a glitch in huge, lumbering bureaucracy. As an Army colonel at West
Point put it to me:In my experience, you cant make it in the military unless
you have a sense of the absurd. Lalo actually handles the absurd fairly well,
with a little help from Donnas sass. Upon coming home, he was asked to pay
the replacement cost for his Kevlar ak jacket because he returned it dam
agedit was stained with blood! Excuse me, Donna erupted, nishing
the story for Lalo, the vest did its job. ey owe you for having gone through
the injury. His commander wrote him a letter to get him out of the equip
ment ne:e fact that the letter had to be written in the rst place.
is how Istarted becoming an advocate for these guys, saysDonna.
Donna is Lalos advocate. It would be hard to imagine his recovery with
out her, and without her sustained hope in him. Iexplore this in
But for now, this story serves to give insight into the crushing guilt and
humiliation many service members feel and the hard road they encoun
ter in seeking help. Lalos guilt may be overwrought, built on narratives
constructed around ctitious missteps and impossible omniscience. But
it is a guilt that needs to be understood and acknowledged by us at home
because it is one way that service members can honorably bear the burden
of taking young men and women into war. ere are other less destructive
ways to honorably carry that burden. And nding them is critical to resil
ience and recovery. But for those who do feel the guilt, a rst step forward
is having it recognized for what it is, with its moral pulls and aspirations,
and its blurred vision.
e heavy weight ofloss
T W S\r
Army Major Jerey Hall deployed to Iraq twice, commanding infantry
and artillery units (at the time, at the rank of captain) near Baghdad and
Fallujah. He signed up for the Army at seventeen, and at forty, despite having
implemented versions of COIN (counterinsurgency operations) in those last
deploymentsserving as mayor of a local advisory council of elders, painting
schools and laying sewers, outtting scores of children with shoes (who never
having worn them before had no clue that shoes, or their feet, had a right and
a le), and risking life to bring food and medical care to families in needhe
still thinks what he should do in armed conict, and what he is good at and
trained to do as a soldier, is to engage and destroy anenemy.
And yet that was not what his war in Iraq was about. Once Baghdad fell in
2003, he found himself deep into soer and more cultural methods of warfare,
oen inadequately supported, and unclear of the cause or mission. He oen
felt betrayed by his command, and as a result, he in turn was forced to betray
those who counted on him. Stateside, he was diagnosed with severe, near
suicidal posttraumatic stress (PTS), and with the support of his wife and his
commander at home, sought treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
As he puts it, You have to understand. My PTS had everything to do with
moral injury. It was not from killing, or seeing bodies severed, or blown up. It
was from betrayal, from moral betrayal.
One incident stands out. In his rst deployment in 2003, a civilian family
driving home from church in Bagdads Mansour district crossed a cordon and
got caught in the crossre of a U.S.attack on a high-value target. Halls unit
didnt carry out the attack, but he was near the scene at the time. e mother
and son were evacuated from the car, though died shortly thereaer. e father
was instantly killed, his body parts strewn over the road. Hall and a buddy
gathered up the fragments and rolled them up in a rug that they then loaded
onto an ambulance. It was collateral damage that happens and that is probably
justied in war, Hall says philosophically. e car just turned a corner at the
wrong place at the wrong time. But in his mind what followed was not at all
justied or unavoidable, and that is the aermath that unravelshim.
Shortly aer the accident, Hall got orders from his battalion headquarters
to nd the surviving family members and begin to make amends. He found
the home and a young daughter and elderly uncle, who had stepped in as
guardian. Over Chai the family made it clear that what they wanted most was
the return of the bodies for a prompt burial. Hall set to work, but his eorts
were stymied at every turn. His battalion was partnered with the Coalition
Provisional Agency (CPA)Paul Bremers American occupation adminis
tration set up to govern Iraq aer the fall of Baghdadand incompetence,
by many accounts, ran deep. Hoping to cut through the bureaucracy, Hall
drove to the morgue himself and located the bodies. But the CPA wouldnt
release them without ocial paper work authorized and signed by the Iraqi
Ministry of Health. So began the wait for over a month for the bodies.
In the meantime, Halls commander called to inform him that the CPA
had issued solace money for the family. With cautious excitement, Hall drove
to battalion headquarters to pick up the money; nally, hed have something
positive to show the uncle and daughter. He was speechless when he opened the
envelope and counted the bills. It was a piddling $750. He let his commander
know how he felt:Sir, they lost a father, a mother, and a son. And a car that is
probably as important to them as the other losses. He handed the money back
to the commander in disgust:You go pay them with this! e commander,
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cocooned for much of the war inside Saddams former palace in the Green Zone,
was unmoved. Hall had an unequivocal order to deliver themoney.
And so he did. In silence, he handed the uncle the envelope and watched
as he counted the bills, and then ung them to the ground. I deserve what
ever this man does, Hall recalls thinking. If he slaps me in my face, Iwill
take it. Iwill just take it. But the uncle just stood up, turned his back to Hall,
and walked out of the room, the money still strewn on the oor. With the
young girls eyes glued on him, Hall put on his helmet, snapped his chinstrap,
and le the house, covered inshame.
But the ordeal, and the shame, wouldnt end. e bodies were nally
returned to the family, unembalmed and rotted beyond recognition by the
scorching desert heat. e family had one last request of Hall. ey needed
death certicates to nalize the burial. And so Hall returned to the Ministry
of Health and was given the certicates. On each was stamped in bold red
. Cant you give me something that doesnt have enemy
stamped on it? Hall beseeched. No, the ocial curtly replied. ey are
enemies. ey are considered enemies.
e incompetence of Halls superiors verges on the comedic, but the pro
found moral injury that Hall suered verges on the tragic. Disarmed of much
of his usual arsenal as a warrior, more than ever he needed to be able to trust
his own basic goodness and have some assurance that he could compassion
ately help these noncombatants caught in war. However much a part of the
just conduct of a soldier it is to minimize collateral damage in war and ame
liorate its eects, for Hall the duty was more basic:it was an intimate duty
to a family he had come to know and care for. He felt thoroughly impotent
in the role. He felt profoundly betrayed by his command and coalition, and
humiliated that their massive incompetence forced him to betray innocents
who had suered so grievously. When he says the injury was worse and more
lasting than what he suered from seeing the detritus of war for three years,
what he means in part is that the betrayal by command put him in a position
of feeling trapped and helpless, much more powerless and captive than he
had ever felt in facing enemy re. He was stripped and le defenseless, with
nowhere to go. at shame haunted him until one day back home, on base
at Fort Riley, Kansas, he simply couldnt put his combat boots on. Suicidal
feelings and ideas took over. It was at that point that a new, far more benign
commander than his previous one got him help. Empathy and self-empathy
were a critical part of the healing.
e idea of self-empathy may strike some as odd. As an epistemic notion,
empathy is typically directed at another and is a vehicle for understanding
how to see the world from someone elses particular corner. As an aec
tive mode, it is a way of being able to share someones emotion and so have
congruent feeling. But what work does empathy do when directed at the
self? Even if we are never
in sync with our own minds and emotions,
for most of us there isnt the same gap within us as there is between peo
ple. e idea of empathizing with oneself, some might say, is redundant.
Iargue in this chapter that this is not so. Even if we are already in sync with
many aspects of ourselves, there are still corners we dont peek into because
their contents are too alien, so possibilities for change there are closed o.
Self-empathy (or what Iam interested in, therapeutic self-empathy) can
play a role in peering into those corners and opening the doors. It can be
an important part of recovering a sense of lost goodness. It can be a way of
calling out to oneself that one is hurt and in need of attention and response.
Put this way, self-empathy can be construed as a kind of positive reac
tive attitude, alongside trust and certain forms of hopein ourselves and in
others. ese emotions, each in their own way, and whether directed at the
self or others, expose vulnerability and call out to others about ones needs,
dependence, aspirations, normative expectations, and so on
a response. With trust, we call upon another to tend to our interests when
we cannot. With hope, we call upon another to aspire to heights that we may
not expect that person to reach without our setting the challenge. And with
self-empathy, too, we call upon ourselves to re-evaluate our past actions, and
to show mercy and understanding where we could not before. Sometimes
we grow responsiveness in those we engage through our emotional calls.
is is oen true in the case of trust, where if we are a bit wise with regard
to whom we trust for what and when, our very act of trusting may elicit and
reinforce anothers trustworthiness. Something similar may happen in the
case of therapeutic self-empathy. We uncover our hurt to ourselves, and in
that acknowledgment can sometimes elicit resources for responding to and
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ameliorating the suering. In the case of punishing guilt, in empathetically
reviewing the very evaluations that are at the core of our self-reproach, we
may nd room to hold ourselves to account in a more compassionate and
equitable way. Rather than focusing on the fact that we have fallen short of
some standard to which we hold ourselves, as we do when we take up the per
spective of the accuser, we learn to empathize with our imperfect selves:we
take up the perspective of the accused, of one who genuinely attempted to
meet the endorsed standard, but who failed through no fault of herown.
We shall come to the various dimensions of self-empathy and their heal
ing powers. But rst Iretell another story of shame, this one an ancient tale.
And then Iturn to a contemporary story of guilt with underlayers inshame.
In all this Icome to moral repair slowly, as do the veterans Italk with,
through the concrete challenges and anguish of real moral damage. For
them, thriving or ourishing aer war is rarely just about positive thinking.
Healing requires a complex understanding of ones warhow to make sense
of its detritus and profound losses. ose losses can seem, on the one hand,
all too futile in the face of wars oen dubious and grand political goals, and
on the other, thoroughly avoidable if only ones own conduct were just a bit
more perfect. Repairing selves involves a kind of inner moral dialogue, a kind
of call and response. Soldiers oen feel need and hurt, and seek help that
acknowledges that hurt and helps to redress it. Healing starts, then, from
recognition and empathy; self-healing starts with self-empathy. All this takes
time, loving support, and intellectual honesty. For many in the military, it is
still all too easy to so-peddle the realities of mental and moral injury, and
to believe that with just a little bit more positive thinking and stoic sucking
it up, they can get the mission done. But healing aer moral trauma is not
that kind of mission. riving aer war requires a dierent kind of resilience.
A S\r PG
I rst met Major Hall at a reading of Sophocless
the eater of War before a mostly military audience at the 13
Force Health Protection Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in August of
2010. e play is another story of shame, with disastrous outcome. Ajax
is stripped of his
his honor and status, when the Greek chiefs vote
to award Achilless armora prize given to the best ghterto Odysseus
rather than to him, despite his legendary status. As Homer chronicles in
, Ajax was the bulwark of the Achaeans in their ght against
Troy, giant in size, powerful and well-built, the giant god of battle,
unrivaled as a ghter. In a famed duel with Hector, he is easily the victor.
His own warrior mettle is storied, god-like, but so too is his fathers. He is
the son of Telamon, who battled the Trojans alongside Heracles and who,
for his mettle, was awarded the Trojan kings daughter, Hesione, as a war
In the play, Ajaxs shock and shame of losing a prize comparable to his
fathers becomes part of a more generalized, psychological break. He has lost
all face before those who matter:I will return from Troy having earned
nothing. How could he [my father, Telamon] stand to even look at me?
In a pique of blazing rage, he sets out to take revenge on Odysseus and his
troops, and to prove once and for all his unmatched skill as a swordsman. But
the goddess Athena blinds him and he ails his sword in the dark, mistak
ing barnyard animals for his rival:He hacked at this chief and that chief,
recounts Athena. And aer tiring of the slaughter, he took the rest of the
beasts captive and tortured them. Ajax comes to in a bloodbath of butch
ered carcasses and mutilated livestock. He mocks the sight of himself:Look
at the valiant man! e brave heart! e one who uninchingly faced the
enemy! You see the great deeds Ihave done to harmless beasts? Oh, the ridi
cule runs riot againstme!
ere is ironic distance, but it fails to insulate. Ajaxs self-evaluation
couldnt be more unforgiving. He seems to look at himself as someone in the
past. But his past is not
. It consumes him in the present. In an unparal
leled moment in Greek tragedy, this great Greek general falls on his sword
on stage. In this particular staging of the play, before a community that has
come to know suicide all too intimately, the scene brought a hush like few
moments Ihave known in theater. Ajax was in the room, in Major Hall and
in many others, who felt they had lost their identity as warriors, and then
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Here, the work of psychoanalyst Melvin Lansky is pertinent and well
worth mentioning. Lansky, who has worked extensively with Vietnam War
veterans, writes insightfully of stages that lead up to a violent, impulsive
act, such as suicide, and the role of shame as a precipitant. ough Lanskys
discussion is not focused on Sophocless
, the stages he describes have
interesting correlates in the play and underscore the power of the play for
understanding suicidal impulses and the role of shame as a causal factor:
(1) In the rst stage, turbulence and shame erupt from a narcissistic
wound that exposes ones own limitations. In our play, Ajax is passed over
for the all-critical prize, to which he believes he is entitled. is injury to his
ego throws him into a narcissisticrage.
(2) Next, there is a dissociative break that may follow the upsurge of
shame. As Lansky puts it, In more protracted cases, the patient oen
reports a disorganized, fragile, paranoid state of mind. Similarly, for Ajax
there is madness induced by a god:Never in your right mind / Would you,
Telamons son, / Go so far as to slaughter livestock. / e gods must have
driven him mad! sing the Chorus. I can darken the sharpest eyes, Athena
boasts to Odysseus.
(3) e dissociative break is followed by an impulsive act, with the impulsive
actor oblivious to its consequences. Ajax nds himself in a delusional state:He
thought he was bathing his hands in your blood, Athena tells Odysseus. Mad
with rage, Ajax is unaware of his environment and the objects he actson.
(4) e agents consequent reaction to the act, oen conscious remorse or
guilt, can mask the shame of dissociating and of the impulsive act. Surveying
the massacre he has executed, Ajax bemoans:You see the great deeds Ihave
done to harmless animals. So Ajaxs wife, Tecmessa, reports:He has been
laid low by this evil. He wont eat or drink or say anything. He just sits in the
midst of his butchery.
(5) Finally, there is a tenuous and manipulated reaching out to loved
ones in response to the intimidation of self-harming. So Ajax demands that
Tecmessa bring to him their son for a nal encounter:Li him up to me
here. e sight of fresh blood will not frighten himNot if he is truly his
fathers son. Now he must begin to be broken in and hardened to the ways
of his father. In Ajaxs case, shame piles on shamethe barnyard massacre
piles on top of the loss of the coveted and anticipated prizeleading to the
e experience of shameas Ajaxs and Halls stories, ancient and con
temporary, showis about being seen and about having nowhere to hide.
Greek etymology is a reminder.
is related to
, genitals. To be
ashamed is to be caught without your g leaf. e audience can be real or
imagined. When Aristotle says, eyes are upon you, he should not be read
literally. at is how shame
In some cases, shame can be too toxic to be consciously experienced,
screened as a more socially respectable and manageable feeling of guilt with
its presumption of a discrete act of wrongdoing and its promise of redemption
through moral repair. Indeed, perhaps one way to think of certain instances
of epistemically ill-tting (or irrational) guilt is as a substitute for shame, a
sublimation of sort. So an Army commander who loses a private owing to
an accidental blast of a turret gun on an army vehicle may not be culpably
negligent, though he feels horric and unabatedguilt.
is is a case of what Icall accident guilt in
e Untold War
. In the spe
cic case Idetail there, the commander, Captain John Prior, approved, with the
advice of his team of engineers, the use of a Marine replacement battery for the
Armys Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the early months of the Iraq War. What no
one foresaw was that turning on the ignition would now cause the current to
jump to the turret and automatically re the gun. e blast scooped out the face
of young private Joseph Mayek, who did not survive the ordeal. Prior tells me,
several years later:e aermath of that was the guilt of the situation because
Im the one who placed the vehicles; Im the one who set the security. Like most
accidents, Im not in jail right now. Clearly Iwasnt egregiously responsible. Still,
Idealt with and still deal with the guilt of having cost him his life essentially.
Aer a lengthy investigation, the mechanical cause of the misre was pin
pointed to the amperage of the replacement battery. ough the Marine bat
tery had the same voltage as the original Army battery, the amperage was
dierent and that turned out to be all-critical. In this case, the guilt Prior
feels may be morally tting and admirable, though not strictly speaking
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objectively tting, given the actual facts of moral responsibility. at is, in
feeling guilt (perhaps mixed with shame), he may be expressing the sense of
falling short in his inability to save one of his men. He failed Mayek, in a
way, and there is something admirable in that sense of taking seriously his
obligation to his troops. But at the same time it is irrational to think that
he really was at fault for failing to understand how the replacement battery
would work, especially in light of having authorized its use only aer expert
consultation on the matter. Prior is well aware of this and so, in a way, his
guilt is recalcitrant. at is, the belief or appraisal that grounds the feeling
is in conict with another belief or appraisal he holds that he was not at fault
in causing the accident.
What Prior feels is that he
been able to take care of his soldiers
better, or as philosophers might put it, that he less than perfectly fullled his
imperfect duty of care. (As an imperfect duty, there is typically room for
play, as Immanuel Kant calls it, for how and how much one fullls the duty,
but Prior viewed the duty as having to be fullled perfectly.) So cast, the
emotion may have more the color of shame than of guilt, the shame of falling
short of an ideal that Prior set for himself and that captures his responsibili
ties of oce and role. But given the context and the fact that a unit member
was killed in a noncombat action, in friendly re on his watch, for Prior
and (for many like him, Isuspect), the more ready-to-hand way to express
that self-reproach is in holding oneself culpable for a negligent omission.
Guilt brings with it concrete opportunities for moral repairto the
mother of the dead soldier, to soldiers who lost their good buddy, to unit
members who need reassurance that a similar accident will not be repeated.
Shame may bring opportunities for moral repair, as well, in terms of reinstat
ing oneself and reviewing ones commitments to ideals. In some cases that
repair may be more self-regarding than other-regarding. In other cases, not.
Hall feels diminished by his stymied eorts to aid the Iraqi family, and the
discomfort of that shame may motivate him to redouble his eorts at aid. In
his case, at least, it seems the urgency for action comes from a desire to right
a grievous wrong to others that will derivatively help restore his own sense of
goodness. One can imagine other cases in which the fall in self-standing and
self-image itself pushes toward correction and a closing of the gap between
reality and aspiration. In such cases, the push comes from the damage to the
self more than the damage to others.
In pointing to the complex and camouaged nature of this emotion, Iam
not suggesting that the feeling of guilt, here or in similar cases, is in any way
manipulateda contrivance that allows for a contrition that might not
otherwise be possible. Rather, Iam suggesting that feelings of guilt can eas
ily eclipse feelings of shame; and when the shame isnt obvious or manifest,
we may be too quick, both as self-judges and as judges of others, to think
that what we feel is misplaced or epistemically irrational guilt. As shame,
in contrast, the feeling is all too epistemically tting, whether manifest or
fall short of an implicit image of himself as a commander
who takes care of his troops. Moreover, the idea of seeing oneself as a leader
who should be able to avoid this kind of malfunction on his watch is not
that far-fetched or grandiose; at least, it does not seem over-idealized to me,
in the way that, say, thinking one can avoid enemy-inicted combat death is.
Epistemically tting shame, in this regard, seems more permissive than epis
temically tting guilt and perhaps less irrational. Still, shame of this sort
can linger far too long. at is precisely why it is important to try to unmask
the shame, dierentiate it, and nd ways to own and tolerate it. Self-empathy
We are nearly ready to turn to self-empathy and its role in helping to assuage
the hounding (sometimes suicidal) recalcitrant shame and guilt feelings sol
diers can experience aer traumatic incidents in war. But to understand the
reparative work of self-empathy, we need to understand better in what sense
these emotional experiences are, in fact, recalcitrant. Consider one philos
ophers view of recalcitrant fear:In a recalcitrant bout of fear, a person is
primed to act on and assent to her construal of her situation as dangerous, but
does not act on or assent to this construal, believing instead that her situation
dangerous. ere is a waste of cognitive resources here. Recalcitrant
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emotions therefore involve the mobilization of cognitive resources in the ser
vice of a question that has, by the subjects own lights,
already been answered
e waste of resources means that attention is taken away from factors that
relevant to ones situation, and invested instead in an inclination to seek
more conrmation of an evaluation one doesnt believe.
But sometimesI suspect oen, in dicult casesfeeling guilt involves
question of ones moral responsibility. One simply may not have
settled the matter as to whether one is fully o the hook. ere is lingering
doubt and enough harsh self-judgment to keep the question alive. It is not
so much that one has an incoherent evaluative prole, as this philosopher
puts it, a conict of evaluations about what one did and its potential wrong
ness. It is that one is genuinely uncertain, not sure what to believe about ones
moral responsibility given ones causal involvement, whether one could have
or should have known the consequences of ones actions (as in Priors case,
in replacing the battery) or could have or should have found a more grace
ful way out of complicity (as in Halls case, in betraying the civilian fam
ily through the bureaucratic operations of his command chain). ere are
shadows of doubt, not a at-out conict of evaluations in the way there is,
say, in the case of a knowing phobic who walks onto a plane and immediately
becomes frightened, evaluating the upcoming ight as dangerous, though
she in fact believes the situation poses no threats. Recalcitrance oen comes
in shadesit is a spectral notion, with unstable or ambivalent emotions
occupying points on a continuum.
In the case of subjective guilt, to call it irrational or recalcitrant can be
dismissive, encouraging us to overlook the genuine guring out that is oen
part of the psychological process of healthy ownership of moral responsibility.
at process may include an investigative sorting out of the facts of the mat
ter:a psychological working-through (what Freud called
of the conicts, investments, and losses; an acceptance of the limits of control
that oen are part of this kind of reection; and an openness to feeling new
emotions, such as grief, sorrow, and self-empathy, based on new evaluations
once self-reproach lis its grip. As such, subjective guilt may have deep con
nectivity to a range of epistemically appropriate feelings that we come to only
indirectly, aer rst experiencing guilt and then surmountingit.
Consider the following case involving a student of mine. Again, the details
are important for capturing the contours of the moral phenomenologyhow
it feels to experience this kind of guilt. Tom Fiebrandt served in Iraq between
July 2001 and December 2005. At twenty-one he was a young sergeant and
a team leader of a group of intelligence analysts attached to an Army cavalry
squadron of 410 men in Tal Afar, a desert town not far from Mosul, about
forty miles from the Syrian border. As cavalry, his unit served as the eyes
and ears of the battalion, collecting and sorting intelligence critical for a
dynamic picture of the current battleeld. e unit was a bridge between
those inside and those outside the wire, with Fiebrandt himself spending
much of his time outside, talking to troops and locals, and drawing and
redrawing a visual, rst-hand picture of the vicinity and its dangers. He knew
how tall buildings were on dierent streets, where snipers could lurk, where
you did and didnt want to be. He became the point guy who noncommis
sioned ocers and ocers alike sought to get their information. As he put it,
with modesty but candor, his superiors had condence in his competence.
About three months before his deployment was up, he was ordered to take
a few days of R and R (rest and relaxation) in Qatar before returning to the
States for a longer two-week leave. Fiebrandt was reluctant to abandon the
unit so close to the end of their deployment, but an order was an order and
leave time was mandatory anyway. He was stressed of late, bouncing inside
and outside the wire, as he put it, and at some level, he knew that a break was
probably a goodidea.
En route to Qatar, he learned that his unit was about to run a cordon
and search operation in the southeast corner of Tal Afar that had become a
major smuggling hub, with weapons pouring in from unsecured border spots
with Syria. It was now time to ush out the weapon caches and insurgents
with a strong show of troop forces and a door-to-door raid. What Fiebrandt
didnt know was that as part of the preparation, one of the platoons, headed
by Lieutenant William Edens, a close friend, had been ordered to scout out a
potential egress route at the backside of the city, where a wall of troops could
be mounted to block insurgents eeing the raid into the desert. It was during
this preparatory drive-through that an IED struck Edenss vehicle, killing
him and two others. Fiebrandt learned about the incident a few days aer he
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arrived in Qatar. It hit him hard:What bothered me was that it was in an
area that Iknew very well. It was in a part of the city that you really had to
see in order to visualize. And Ihad this lurking suspicion that my soldiers,
who had never actually, personally been there, didnt really have a grasp of all
the information that Ifelt Idid. In some way, Ialmost felt responsible for not
being there to provide them with the information that may have potentially
resulted in a dierent outcome. So it is rough. It is a dicult thing for me to
So here Iwas sitting by a pool, and Ihear this. It wasI dont even
know how to describe it. It wasdevastating.
Had Fiebrandt been there, he is sure he would have recommended against
Edenss taking that road. He knew that back area of the city was especially
dangerous and that no unit vehicles had traveled down that road for good
reason. He would have urged more reconnaissance on the routes and poten
tial alternatives. Whether or not Iwould have been successful in getting
that to become the battle plan, Idont know. But given that he was relied
on for this kind of information, he had a good chance of making the case. In
his mind, he let down his command as well as a friend. What happened, as
he puts it, reected poorly on him. He faults himself for not being there,
and though he is frustrated that his unit members didnt have the same
clout as he did, and couldnt pick up the slack in his absence, he doesnt
fault them for failing to make thecall.
Signicantly, it is just this sense of feeling that he is the only guy who
can do the job and that it is a job that requires constant vigilance, without
gaps and breaks, that both hounds him and ultimately opens the way for
self-exculpation. e fact that he didnt
to take the leavethat he was
acting on an orderonly gets him so far. e real exculpation comes some
three to four months aer the incident, when his deployment is over and he
reects on the incident in connection with whether he should re-enlist and
return to Iraq aer what would amount to a longer period away. He now sees,
somehow, that the demand he put on himself to be quasi-omniscient, to keep
constant vigil of the changing battleeld, as he puts it several times, with
out gaps in his knowledge, is unsustainable. He reconstructs the think
ing:Well, god, Ithought to myself, if Iam not here in a two-week period
of time and things go to hell in a hand basket .
. what is the situation going
to be like when Iget back, having been away longer? Iam going to be less
equipped to handle any further situations, because now Ihave a real gap in
my knowledge. So all of this was coalescing at the same time, and it took me
a while to sort of realize that Icouldnt be the person that was there all the
time. Icould only be in one spot at a time. Icould reenlist and Icould stay
in the job. But ultimately Iam never going to cover the whole country. Iwas
never going to be the one-stop intel analyst for the whole Army. Maybe my
role was actually very small.
Looking on from the outside, we might say, Well, of course. However
well Fiebrandt served in his role and however critical he was to the safety of
his unit, he wasnt there that day, he wasnt at fault for not being there that
day, and he wasnt at fault for not brieng in advance his unit about a mission
that he didnt even know was going to take place. Yet for Fiebrandt, it was an
epiphany to see that holding himself responsible was grandiose. It required
too idealized a sense of his role responsibilities and duties, and too idealized
a set of expectations and injunctions about how he was supposed to function.
And yet the unreasonableness of the demands to which he held himself only
dawned on him with time, when he realized their absurd implicationsthat
he was expecting of himself something close to full omniscience and omni
presence, a constant vigil on the battleeld that could produce an accurate,
automatically refreshed picture without gaps, breaks, and breaches. He
chuckles as he thinks about the absurdity of it all and of the
took to get him to realize it. But, it is a tentative laugh. He still knows the
pull of those expectations and what it is like to be in their grip. He may no
longer endorse the evaluations so intimately related to the feelings, but when
he says, I kind of fault myself, or I almost felt responsible for not being
there, he still can put himself in the mindset of what it was like to endorse
those evaluations and feel their tugs. He is now at a point where he has moved
on. But he got there only through an honest moral struggle with what it
means to be vigilant as an intel guy. ere were limits to his knowledge and
frailties that he had to accept, however they compromised his agency. Like
many soldiers Ihave spoken to, Fiebrandt doesnt easily volunteer the word
. His words are
. But, it is clear that he is talking
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I tell this story to illustrate the function of guilt, as a way of working out the
boundaries of moral responsibility. ere is genuine
e emotion of guilt is not just recalcitrant in this case, with Fiebrandt seek
ing conrmation of a construal despite believing that there
reasons in favor of that construal. Fiebrandt is not sure what he believes, and
he is not going to let himself o the hook until he is sure. e rub, of course,
is that having to be sure quickly spirals into intellectualization and rational
ization, an inventing of reasons. In short, it becomes primitive thinking that
mixes rational processing with the illogicality of wishful/magical thinking
and presumptions of omniscience. ere are elements of this in Fiebrandts
thinking. Without any inkling of the planned raid, Fiebrandt had no reason
to inform his commanders of potential dangers before he le for R and R.Yet,
he repeatedly put himself back in the reporting chain as if he knew, or should
have known, what would become relevant only later. Similarly, there was little
reason for him to have pointed out that particular street to Edens; though
projecting forward, he helps himself to what is now the salience of that piece
of knowledge and faults himself for failing to share it earlier. He faults himself
for an epistemic stance he couldnt easily have hadthen.
But my point is what Fiebrandt was going through wasnt
that. He was
also thinking, as he put it:Was he like the homeowner who never quite got
around to putting a fence around the backyard pool and then one day discov
ers a child has wandered into the pool and drowned? Or was he more like the
cop who might have had helpful information but was legitimately o-duty
at the moment and nowhere near the scene of danger? In the end, he seemed
to think he was more like the cop than the homeowner, but accepting that
required a lengthy psychological process of surmounting his self-reproach. It
required accepting his limits and the bad luck of being up against them then.
It required self-empathy.
Much has been written on empathy in the past three decades, and so Iwill
be brief in this prelude to self-empathy. Empathy is a term of fairly recent
academic coinage. It came into use at the turn of the twentieth century with
the translation by Titchner of the German word
to enter into
a feelinga term itself rst used by Robert Vischer in 1873 in the context
of the psychology of aesthetics and developed by eodor Lipps in the con
text of how we know other minds. Two prominent models of empathy have
emerged in recent years as something of competitors in the psychological and
philosophical literature. e rst is empathy as vicarious arousal or conta
gion. e key historical gure is David Hume and his notion of sympathy,
though what he means is what we would now call empathy, a mechanism
that allows us to catch another persons aect. We know others emotions
by coming to feel qualitatively similar or congruent emotions. Humes meta
phor is intuitive:We are attached, as if by a cord, with movement at one end
reverberating at the other, causing a fainter impression of the original feeling.
e second camp, led by Adam Smith, conceives of empathy in more robust,
cognitive terms. Empathy (again, sympathy is his term) is a process that
engages imagination, requiring simulation and the taking up of roles or per
spectives. We come to know anothers emotions by trading places in fancy,
as Smith puts it, and coming to beat time with their hearts. But Smith
insists that the swap is not only situational but also dispositional. We not
only stand in anothers shoes, we try to become them in their shoes: to enter,
as it were, into his body and become in some measure the same person with
How do these models fare with respect to
-empathy, and in particular,
with its role in surmounting overly harsh self-reproach? One obvious worry
for the contagion model is that it suggests a picture of empathy as a repetition
of the same stuck, oen intrusive feeling, and it risks re-traumatization as a
secondary eect of the repetition (even when the repetition is in the service
of mastery and self-understanding). e idea of emotional xity or stubborn
ness is part of a more general worry about the inbuilt biases of emotional
construals (or ways of seeing as) that predispose us to judgments (in the way
perceptions do), but also, sometimes, predispose us to what we dont believe.
As one philosopher puts it, emotional subjects tend to conrm rather than
disconrm their evaluative construals: e feeling directed toward the
object of the emotion, and the related perception of the object as having the
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[evaluative] property, tend to be idées xes to which reason has to cohere.
e phenomenon is a familiar one: when we are afraid, we tend unknowingly
to seek out features of the object of our fear that will justify the fear. So we
have an epistemic tendency to build an epistemic landscape that coheres
with an evaluation and feeling. We lock ourselves into a specic emotional
take. Self-empathy, as a contagious re-experience of emotion, may exacerbate
a tendency that we already have and that itself requires intervention.
Similar worries emerge for the simulation view of empathy, for it would
require that we take up, again, the very perspective from which we are try
ing to free ourselves. In the cases Idetailed above, the emotional subjects
focus is framed by guilt and shame that capture and consume atten
tion. Self-empathy requires dwelling again in that perspective, and so
re-experiencing the same emotions. In the case of traumatic emotions, it may
ese objections may be limited, but they make clear that if a notion of
self-empathy is to be part of a model of emotional and moral growth, some
thing more than simulating and re-experiencing traumatic events and emo
tions (whether through narration or other representational formse.g.,
artwork or dance) is required. Here, not surprisingly, the notion of empathy
in psychotherapy is helpful. Psychotherapy of various stripes, and especially
psychodynamic models, depends on a patient revisiting and reliving painful
emotions, characteristically in the context of an empathic listener who can
both bear compassionate witness to the pain and through various interven
tions and gentle corrections of bias, interpretations, or reframings help break
the repetition and defenses. e therapists empathy involves tracking a
patients emotionsometimes through her own congruent reenactments
or counter-transferences, other times more cognitively. But it also typically
involves a conveyed sympathycompassion, trust, rapport, and a nonjudg
mental stance that help build a working alliance. Empathy, in this rich
context, involves access but also benevolence and trust. e stance is both
protective and transformative, helping the patient safely to remember, revisit,
and feel painful reactions to traumatic events, as well as to reconstrue what
happened in ways that may involve fairer self-judgment and less rigid notions
of success and failure that ultimately help loosen self-destructive feelings.
All this is relatively familiar stu. Less familiar is the notion of self-empathy
and what role it can play in moral healing, not as a competitor or replacement
for second-personal empathy and its role in formal or informal therapy, but
as something in addition that has an important place in its ownright.
One way to think about self-empathy is as a conceptually or causally deriv
ative notion. We look at ourselves as if from outside, from a spectatorial point
of view. Adam Smith develops the stance: Whatever judgment we can form
concerning [our own conduct], accordingly, must always bear some secret
reference, either to what are, or to what, upon a certain condition, would be,
or to what, we imagine, ought to be the judgment of others. So, individu
als may come to self-empathy by internalizing a second-personal instance of
it, say, when they learn a measure of self-empathy through the empathy of a
therapist toward them. In this case, they may internalize anothers stance.
But they may also internalize the stance that they take toward others.
So, too, a rape victim in a support group may come to feel self-empathy
only aer rst feeling empathy toward others in the group who were simi
larly victimized. Oh, my God, thats what happened to me, the victim
might come to say to herself. e recognition of experiences similar to her
own and the ensuing empathy toward others may enable her now to look at
herself through new eyes. Second-personal empathy, both the receiving and
giving of it, may thus prepare one for rst-personal empathy. One gains an
outside perspective on oneself that is qualitatively dierent from the punish
ing and shaming stance that has held one hostage until now. Veteran support
groups may similarly enable self-empathy through the validating experience
of empathizing and being empathizedwith.
In thinking about self-empathy, it is useful to turn to Aristotles remarks
about self-love (or self-friendship). He is aware that the idea of self-love may
be a bit strained, both because it requires that we stand as subject
toward ourselves, and more importantly because it connotes a problematic
sort of selshness. However, there is room for a good kind of self-love, he
insists, that is the capacity of a self to listen to practical reason with equanim
ity. He associates this kind of self-love with nobility and the sacrice charac
teristic of virtue and practical wisdom, and contrasts it with the baser kind of
self-love that involves taking material advantage for oneself.
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However, in the soldiers stories that are my focus, there is no short
age of nobility and sacrice. If anything, that aspiration for virtue is too
hard-driving, giving way to too much self-punishment when luck runs out.
Even so, Aristotles idea of nding the right way to befriend oneself is useful
here. e best kind of friendshipthat of character friendship, he tells usis
an arena for character critique and moral growth, which like all friendship
requires positive feelings (
) toward ones object and feelings of good
Self-empathy, as Iam imagining it, involves a similar kind of self-friendship
and requires a minimal measure of goodwill or compassion. Iam also imag
ining it in the service of moral growth and in the cases Ihave limned of moral
repair, of being called forth when one has held oneself accountable in a way
that begins to seem unfair, or at least requires further reconsideration and
reassessment of the nature of that accountability. And so the self-empathy
Ihave in mind emerges as part of a moral process and is
as a coun
terweight to overbearing self-judgment. is helps deect various popular
images of self-empathy as essentially self-kindness or self-compassion, a
going gentle on oneself, or, relatedly, the kind of self-esteem that is a con
trived boost to undo self-deprecation, or a narcissistic self-absorption where
gaze turns too much to the self and not enough to others.
But equally, Iam not thinking of self-empathy as a minimization of self,
a putting of self in its place, as Cicero redacts the Epicurean teaching:these
are the restrictions under which all humans live, you are not the only one
to have this happen, to endure these things is human. e Epicureans
are saying, in eect:Get over it; what you suer is just a part of the shared
human condition. But this is not the kind of self-empathy Ihave in mind.
Iam envisioning self-empathy as an emotional attitude that predisposes one
to a fairer self-assessment, especially, in the cases Ihave focused on, where
luck and accident and power ceded to others squeeze out ones moral ecacy
or cast doubt on ones goodness.
As a kind of felt reactive attitude, self-empathy operates by drawing us in,
in the way that
and not less charged mental states dorein in
our attention on what is morally salient and signicant to our moral agency
and well-being. One way of thinking about Tom Fiebrandts experience
is that he entreated himself to look back at the specic evaluations in his
self-condemnation and the need for reopening the case. He went back to the
very scenes that caused so much pain and assessed them from a new perspec
tive that time and distance allow. In the dialogue of expressed reactive atti
tudes, overwrought guilt calls on the self to consider the reasonableness of
showing oneself some compassion and empathy, in the same way that resent
ment asks those who have transgressed us to now give us reasons for reassur
ance or trust. e call in each case has the standing to expect areply.
As suggested, the notion of self-esteem doesnt get at this reparative idea,
but neither does that of self-respect. e underlying notion behind self-respect
is that one is not servile or subordinate to others but, rather, an equal among
equals. Yet someone may have no doubt about that, stand in no need of its
rearmation, and yet still need a fairer hearing about whether could have
dones entail should have dones in the case of guilt feelings, or about how
xed or severe the damage done to the self is in the case of shame feelings.
is reparative or therapeutic view of self-empathy presupposes the pos
sibility of narrative distance and what one author has called a narratable
conception of self:We are able to deploy in thought and feeling a narratable
conception of oneself:with a narratable past, which one now remembers,
interprets, and evaluates in various ways; with a present; and with a narrat
able future, about which one can make plans, have hopes and aspirations, and
so on. is conception of oneself is the narrative sense ofself.
One is in eect seeing oneself as another. And this creates an evaluative
and epistemic gap essential to reappraisal and reevaluation:One now knows
what one did not know then; .
. one can now take an evaluative stance which
diers from the stance that one thentook.
My notion of self-empathy adds to this narratable conception of self an
ability to see from beyond or outside without radical dissociation or alien
ation from the old self and its ways of seeing
feeling. at is part of the
force of the notions of aective and cognitive reengagement. In this sense,
self-empathy allows for self-reintegration (a kind of connectedness), rather
than serial reinvention or radical conversion. ough one may have psycho
logically and emotionally moved on, one can still remember how one saw
and felt things. One can still be aected, even if slightly, in some such way.
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As Iam imagining it, in a case like Priors, he can still feel a bit of the bite of
the old guilt. It doesnt rattle him any longer, but in narrating the story, he is
nonetheless aected by the remembering, in some way as he once was. at is
not all he feels with respect to the events, though. He now sees circumstances
far more completely and his emotions reect those changed appraisals. But
it is not just that he is now
what he used to feel or think, or
it for what it was, as therapists might put it. Rather, he also
knows how it feels, as if in
. at is part of his self-empathy.
Similarly, in Je Halls case, we can imagine him experiencing a ush of
shame as he retells the story and brings to mind the faces of the father and
daughter or hears the commanders intonation as he gives him the order to
deliver the envelope. e shame is no longer intrusive and paralyzing, as it is
in posttraumatic stress. But it is still accessible. Self-empathy, as Iam using
the termin addition to a compassionate, less judging regardinvolves this
kind of aective, empathic access.
Obviously the degree of access will depend on how changed a persons psy
chological make-up has become. Access exists along a continuum. When the
narrative distance is great, an individual may be able to remember only coldly
and cognitively, with little emotional valence. He isnt much alive to how
circumstances felt then. At this extreme, a limit to self-empathy has been
reached, at least for awhile.
A S L:T S
To illustrate the idea of self-empathy as empathic access, the Stoic writers
discussed two conceptions of emotional change. One characterizes the path
to emotional enlightenment of the sage; the other, describes the emotional
reforms of the progressorthat is, the student who makes moral progress
but never reaches sagehood (namely, you and I, and all those Iinterview!).
Self-empathy, both as empathic access and as compassionate, fair regard, can
play a role in the progressors life, though not easily at the point of sagehood.
And its the reasons that help underscore the notion of self-empathy Iamaer.
But rst, some very brief background is helpful. e Stoics hold that emo
tions are ways of accepting certain impressions or construals about the world,
And so, they are cognitivists. e impressions constitutive of ordinary emo
tions (and there are four basic ones) have to do with goods or bads in the pres
ent or future:
is directed at a future good and
at avoiding a future
is directed at a present good and
at a present bad.
e Stoic prescriptive claim overlaid on top of this is that, in experiencing
these ordinary emotions, we are assenting to
impressions about what
is good and bad and what will make us happy. So, in experiencing ordi
nary desires and appetites, we mistakenly think the objects of those desires
and appetitesfood, drink, comfortable homes, and beloved children and
spousesare real goods and fail to grasp that the only real good in life is
virtue, and that it alone constitutes well-being or happiness (
Everything else is an
it makes no substantive dierence to our
happiness. To be a sage is to be free of all those ordinary emotions and their
clingy attachments, and prize virtue as the only real good. e sage who
arrives at this enlightened state will not be emotion-freetruly
(without emotion): he will have cultivated or good emotions (
hygienic versions of three of the four basic emotions (there is no good kind of
distress for a sage) that will function as handmaidens of virtue and gatekeep
ers against vice.
e taxonomy is clunky. But the point of introducing it is that to be a sage
who sees externals as truly indierent requires
transformation, a con
version of sorts, with a discrete break from a past self. You are either a sage or a
fool, in one of the many hyperbolic Stoic formulations, and to become a sage
is to leave behind what you used to experience as a fool. Stably recalibrating
externals so that they are now seen as indierents removes the sage from the
emotional vulnerability to them that the fool still experiences. But crucially,
for our purposes, this also means that the sage remembers his past in a way
from how he used to experience it. e remem
bered events simply dont touch him in the way that they were felt. ey have
lost their charge and emotional valence. ey are not relived aectively, not
even faintly. ere is no Proustian madeleine. us with equanimity comes
a change in phenomenological access. And so the sage loses empathic access
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to who he was, but also, presumably, empathic access to those who are still
emotionally like he used to be. In short, on this interpretation, the price of
being a sage is that you lose connection to what it feels like to be a fool. is
may be a blessing that makes achieving the most stable kind of happiness pos
sible. But it denitely puts the sage at odds with most of humanity, including
who he once was. is is a radical picture of conversion that requires dissocia
tion from the past as part of an embrace of an enlightened future.
Admittedly, the picture is complicated by the Stoic concession that the
sage still can shutter and shake. A sages hair may stand on end at the sight of
awful physical danger, the knees of even the ercest soldier [may] tremble a
little as the signal is given for battle. Still these are not full-blown emotions,
insist the Stoics. ey are protoemotions (
bances that dont impugn the sages pure virtue. ey are caused by seductive
impressions that only when assented to become proper emotions. If anyone
thinks that pallor, falling tears, sexual excitement or deep sighing or a sudden
glint in the eyes or something similar are an indication of emotion .
. , he is
wrong, insists Seneca. He fails to see that these are just bodily agitations.
Emotion never occurs without the minds assent. e sage knows not to
give assent to these seductive presentations.
is idea of a protoemotion drives home the point that the sage still can
what he used to feel and so preserves empathic access with his past. (And
I have made this point myself in some reconstructions of the sage.) But the
congruence of feelings, here, is thin and merely physiological. e battle cry is
sounded, the sages knees tremble, presumably as they used to, in the old pre-
enlightenment days. But it is a physical sensation in his knees, like a startle
reex. Even if he can remember, cognitively, the thoughts that were part of an
earlier set of reactionsthat the enemy is fearsome and death unnerving
those are old appraisals no longer infused with aect. He doesnt relive the
fear. Nor does he assent to impressions of present threats that would bring on
similar feelings now. His body is just acting out involuntarily. He knows
that to have the old emotions is both untting morally and untting epis
temically, misrepresenting what is good and bad out there. And his character
is in line with those new judgments. e upshot is that empathy with his past
self is precluded as a condition of equanimity, but so too, it seems, is empathy
with others who still feel and see through pre-enlightened sensibilities. is
may be a new kind of numbness.
Contrast this picture of a sage with the less idealized model of emotional
change that the Stoics also oer. e progressor aims for the sages goal, to
recalibrate values and emotions and thus achieve the self-suciency that
comes with grasping inner virtue as the only true good. But the goal is always
only asymptotic, and there is progress but also the possibility of regress. Even
when the aspirant is most zealous, there is still empathic openness to what it
feels like to be emotionally vulnerable and hurt. is is the best most of us
mortals can expect.
Seneca, at times, takes up this stance when he writes to his moral tutees,
his progressors, from the vantage point of a fellow progressor who is just a bit
further along. He is the doctor as well as the patient: Listen to me, therefore,
as you would as if I were talking to myself, .
. lying ill in the same hospital.
In a letter to Lucilius upon the death of his good friend Flaccus, Seneca urges
Lucilius to move beyond his grief and not .
. sorrow more than is tting,
though take comfort in the fact that the the ideal soulthe sagecan
himself be stung by an event like this. Still, if the sting (
) is a ref
erence only to the physiological protoemotions to which the sage remains
vulnerable, then Seneca is not oering much of a bone.
e real concession comes when Seneca condes that he who writes these
words to you is no other than I, who wept so excessively for my dear friend
Annaeus Serenus that, in spite of my wishes, Imust be included among the
examples of men who have been overcome by grief. He suers real grief,
and not just protogrief
that are an involuntary, physiological
drip. Granted, the mature Seneca now condemns (
) this behavior
and believes he might have avoided it had he practiced then the Stoic con
solations he now embraces. But what catches the readers attention, and no
doubt Luciliuss, is the empathic stance both toward himself and toward his
student. Despite the psychological progress, Seneca remains alive to what
he once felt. We can imagine him remembering the narrative details of the
loss of Serenus and the actual feelings that he felt thenthe helplessness and
grief as he shed excessive tears, the shock and surprise, as he says, that some
one so much younger than himself should predecease him. e feelings are
R L G
repudiated but not disowned. Seneca,
progressor, doesnt pity his former
self for having been so vulnerable or fear for his current self that he will be
derailed by the glance backward. In contrast, the sage both condemns his
former behavior and feelings and has made them alien. e progressor main
tains a kind of self-empathy with his past as he moves forward.
S-\r I N S-
Some readers may have the nagging thought that what Ihave been aer all
along is not self-empathy but self-forgiveness. Isnt it forgiveness that can really
heal the guilt-wracked soul? Isnt it self-forgiveness that helps Tom Fiebrand
move forward, or Je Hall leave behind the awful weight of guilt andshame?
Even if a notion of
-forgiveness is coherent in cases where one has
transgressed against another, still it seems an ill-tting notion when there is
no real intentional wrongdoing for which to demand forgiveness, as in the
case of these soldiers. True, as a more general idea of foreswearing anger and
blame, it may have its place in the surmounting of self-reproach, irrespec
tive of whether that reproach is deserved or not. But even so, self-forgiveness
doesnt expose the more complex evaluative and aective mechanism Ihave
been keen to exploreof surmounting certain emotions with compassion
while preserving empathic access tothem.
And why is that access important and worth preserving? Isuspect it is
because Idont believe that dicult conicts and the emotions that express
them are ever so completely resolved that all residue of such conicts disap
pears. Self-empathy is a way of remaining attuned to those tugs and pulls as
they morph into new shapes on new landscapes. It is a compassionate form
of keeping self-vigil. at said, we may also need self-empathy in the cases
where we have, in fact, transgressed or acted morally wrongly and forgive
ness, toward ourselves or from others, doesnt seem quite rightperhaps
because the wrongdoing was so heinous (and unforgiveable).
Weve traveled a long and winding path in this sketch of the role of
therapeutic self-empathy in a homecoming, uncovering along the way his
torical and philosophical resonances in the notion of self-empathy. As Ihave
developed it, self-empathy is a composite notion that resists easy unication.
Aquick recap of some of its features will helpful. Self-empathy involves:
to past emotionally imbued experiences, such
that one is able to feel and recapture something of the tone and
valence of those experiences. is is the force of being alive to
those experiences, not numb or dissociated. (is picks up on
Humes notion of empathy as a way of catching aect.)
Cognitive and imaginative engagement
such that one can rein
terpret, reframe, and so reconstrue emotionally powerful and, in
some cases, traumatic experiences. is will oen involve reas
sessment of the evaluative dimensions of that experienceones
sense of betraying or being betrayed, or letting oneself or oth
ers down, and so on. (is idea resonates with Smiths cognitive
gloss on empathy as involving imagination or fancy.)
Compassionate and benevolent regard
toward oneself, espe
cially in cases where it is needed to counter harsh self-rebuke. In
the cases Iam most interested in, this attitude can oen amount
to a fairer and more equitable assessment of responsibility thats
crucial for moral repair. (Relevant here is Aristotles notion that
all friendships, including those toward self, involve feelings of
aection and goodwill, and that the best friendships involve
Reactive attitude structure,
in the sense that self-empathy is an
emotionally charged way of calling out to oneself with the nor
mative expectation of a reply. We can think of the narratives I
have retold as involving moral calls to self about how to hold one
self accountable. Soldiers such as Tom Fiebrand and Je Hall are
exposing their shame and guilt and demanding of themselves a
shi from blame to
for doing what was at the time reason
able or appropriate or simply the best that they could do.
narratable conception of the self,
in the sense that in under
standing ones past actions, one narrates as if from outside, with a
perspective not shared by the self that is inside the narrative:one
R L G
knows now what one didnt know then. is notion of self
invokes a historical perspective; one now has an epistemic and
evaluative advantage that only time aords.
may gure as a companion notion in this
account of self-empathy. However, forgiveness typically connotes
an objective wrongdoing that one forswears and seeks atonement
for as a condition of reentry into a moral community. Insofar as
the kinds of moral injuries Ihave been focusing on do not typi
cally involve objective wrongdoing, self-forgiveness seems inapt.
Granted, Ihave spoken of self-exoneration in places, but Iam
bending that term to capture the psychological sense of release
from reproach and the move toward credit giving and self-trust,
without commitment to the
of a wrongdoing.
Perhaps the best way to capture that move from negative to positive
self-reactive attitudes is by thinking about the shame or guilt that can
come with nonperfect fulllment of imperfect duties, and the ultimate
acceptance of ones bounded but nonetheless honorable and creditworthy
engagement. So, Icouldnt save my buddy, but Iwas still a good soldier
or Marine and Idid nothing that intentionally or through negligence or
incompetence or self-serving ends exposed them to undue risk or harm.
To arrive at that point is no small achievement for many service members.
And it may take the kind of self-empathy that is hard to come by for many
a tough soldier.
To sum up, in thinking about self-empathy Ihave focused on moral inju
ries that may
only apparent because the wrongs
only apparent. But
the injuries are no less real. And the soldiers suering is no less real. Soldiers
routinely impose moral responsibility on themselves in the face of factors
that make light of their own agency, whether ukish accident, the tyranny
of bureaucracy and public indierence, gappy intelligence, or all too lethal
high-tech and low-tech weaponry. All this begs for healing, in part, through
the consolations of self-empathy that allow one to touch the past in a way
that doesnt devastate and to see a future lled with some sense of trust and
hope in oneself and others.
How deep is trust within theranks?
A D H S
In late 2005, Sally, then twenty-two, deployed to Iraq from an Air Force
base in the Midwest. e walk into the chow hall each day was a routine
reminder of her perilous state as an attractive woman in a predominantly
male and fairly sexist military. I would walk in and everybody would stare
at me, she said. I felt like a deer in hunting season. She felt guilty relief
when another woman would come on base, and eyes were redirected. What
particularly upset her was that ocers led in the staring:e rst ones that
Inoticed ogling me were the commanders, the higher ocers, and aer two
seconds, they would look down or look away. So they are feeling kind of
ashamed, and they know that they all have simultaneously reached that point
in ogling and feel like, I shouldnt be doing this.
Sally wasnt the only woman I interviewed who told me of the chow hall
ordeal. When I would go into the dining room, I mean
at you. ere will be tables of guys elbowing each other: Hey, check it out,
a mid-level Air Force ocer told me on a recent visit I made to give a talk at
the Air Force Academy. e leering wore on her, though she was no stranger
to that kind of gender-drenched environment. In 2003, she was a freshman
cadet at the Academy when it was roiled by sexual harassment and assault
scandals. She now teaches there and sees an all too familiar pattern of sexism
persisting in many of her classes and pervading life on the base, in subtle and
not so subtle ways.
In Sallys case, downrange, her ocers predatory leers inspired little con
dence in their leadership:When all else fails, theyre who Ishould be able
to go with problems .
. but theyre having a hard time, just struggling with
my presence. Still, she felt conicted throughout her deployment, and aer
wards, about whether she was empathetic enough toward many of the males
and took seriously enough their sense of sexual deprivation. She worried that
she was putting her own fears before their needs. Were sexual creatures,
Iunderstand this, she told me. So, Im sure in an all-male shop the sexual
urge was a little bit more rampant and the frustration dealing with that built
Ithink Ialways fought with whether Iwas compassionate enough for
Ialways struggled with how much Icould put up with, and how
Two harassment incidents forced her to turn to her superiors for inter
vention. In the rst, a unit member began to stalk her, spreading rumors
that they were sleeping together. Given the daily chow-hall ogling, she was
already hypervigilant; then, on top of that, Ihad to look out of the corners
of my eye all the time to see if someone was following me. It was really
stressful. In a second incident, she noticed that her underwear went miss
ing while she was doing her laundry one day. She had stepped outside the
laundry area to take a break for a few minutes; when she returned to fold
the dry clothes, her panties and bras had vanished. She felt embarrassed
and exposed, and ashamed even to have to write to her mother to ask, with
out explanation, for a care package, not of goodies but of a new supply of
Aer the the, she decided it was time to report what was going on to her
immediate supervisor, a male NCO (noncommissioned ocer). ough she
was reluctant to burden him with her problems in the midst of a war, and
especially embarrassed to have to expose the weird underwear the, she felt
threatened and needed help. It got to a point, she said, where I just couldnt
take it anymore. We might say that she took a stab attrust.
Trust and trustworthiness are irreducible elements in the fabric of mili
tary life. ey are the glue of any good military and are key to the willingness
of battle buddies to ght and die for each other. Ordinary trust is the con
dence that people wont betray you or waylay you in an alley or fail to bring
you your soup, if theyre your waiters. e bar is obviously higher for battle
buddies than for waiters and diners. And yet trust is constantly tested in war
among those who are supposed to be ones archdefenders. Betrayal by com
mand or peer or institution is all too common a theme in military life and a
signicant cause of moral injury. e residue of those betrayals is part of the
long aerwar in need of repair, in part through the renewals of trust athome.
e issue can be especially acute for women in the services, at home and
abroad. Overall, women make up about 14percent of the active-duty force,
and on some bases abroad during the recent conicts, they have been only
2percent of the personnel, or 1 in 50. Betrayals in war zones can leave women
with a profound sense of isolation, unprotected on American bases in a for
eign enemys land. On ships, where battle can quickly turn internecine in
the absence of an outer enemy, women oen feel especially alone and at risk.
Trusts call, so critical to a band of warriorsthat one can count on a buddy
to cover ones backfalls on deaf, and sometimes hostile, ears. e reasonable
expectation that battle buddies will be trustworthy, motivated by goodwill,
or respect, or conscientious performance of dutyor more minimally, inter
est in reputation bound up with being regarded as trustworthyis too oen
violated. Systemic biases underlying gender betrayal in the military, includ
ing sexual assault, harassment, unwanted contact, and inequities in prose
cution, have been slow to be exposed, and only now, as Iwrite, are making
their way to the Senate oor, with proposals and responses of service chiefs.
High-prole cases are exposing a broken judicial system and ill-thought-out
responses to political pressures that can make worse the inequities.
It is not just
who are abused sexually inside the wire. In a recent
report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service mem
bers experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010.
Of those cases, 53percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.
is should not be surprising, given that men make up the bulk of the
force and predatory sexual behavior has long been a form of bullying and
entertainment in an all-male force. When Itaught at the Naval Academy in
the mid-1990s, the masculine entrenched environment made life for some of
my women students desperately uncomfortable. Amore recent high-prole
sexual assault case at Annapolis, and campus-wide shunning of the female
accuser, suggest that patterns of sexism have not changed much in twenty
years and may even be more entrenched now than then. Given the diculties
for victims of sexual abuse, male and female, to come forward, the statistics
likely underreport the incidences. Victims are le to suer with shame and
humiliation and trauma that are oen overlooked in favor of more tradi
tional combat exposure trauma.
But what the public debate presumes is that we all understand well enough
what trust is and how to rebuild it. Idont share that presumption. Given how
critical trust is within the military and to reentry at home, it warrants our
careful scrutiny. In this chapter, we listen to several female service members
and the serious challenges to trust that they face. And we listen to an ancient
Greek male warrior whose willingness to trust the Greeks aer a massive
betrayal gives general insight into the conditions necessary for trustingagain.
W T O
I conceive of trust as Ihave the other reactive attitudes, as implicitly involv
ing a call to a person that you are holding him to account, with a normative
expectation of an appropriate reply. Specically, it is a summoning of another
to recognize that you are in need or dependent in a specic way and require
attention or assistance in that domain. In a most general sense, it is an expo
sure of vulnerability to another of ones nitude as a practical agent, with the
expectation that the other will be responsive. Trust is as basic to the military
as forming acadre.
But why think you can trust another, especially when you lack strong
beliefs that the other wont let you down? Why should a trustor trust a
trustee to do something?
Consider Sally again. In coming forward, Sally might think, this man may
be no more concerned about my well-being than my harassers. But in his role
as supervisor, he is
to help me, and if he cares at all about compli
ance and conscientious fulllment of his duties, then he should behave rea
sonably. In the philosophical literature, some have objected that this line of
thought amounts more to
on another person than real trust (where
reliance is a predictive notion that could be answered by the workings of a
machine, stable patterns of nature, or a persons dependable psychological
habits). Trust, in contrast, is a normative notion, an expectation based on a
belief about how people
to behave toward you, given your normative
standing or status. Specically, it is an expectation of anothers genuine inter
est in your well-being or dignity. As one philosopher has argued in important
early work on trust, trust is the expectation of another showing you goodwill.
But while conscientiousness may be a thinner kind of moral (or normative)
motive, it still seems to ground a kind of trustworthiness. Indeed, in Sallys
case, knowing that her supervisor is motivated by conscientiousness in tak
ing care of his troops might be enough for her to feel she can count on him.
In this regard, conscientiousness as motivating trustworthiness works like
goodwill. As a conscientious teacher, it is just part of my role to be responsive
in various ways to my studentsand so, too, a doctor toward her patients
and, similarly, a rst-line supervisor toward his soldiers. His job just is to take
care of those under his command.
e rub, of course, is that in practice, in the context at hand, an entrenched
male military, what constitutes the ideal of a conscientious commander is
oen laced with deep-seated bias and built-in institutional prejudice that
can harm and disadvantage women and other minority and marginalized
groups. (e issues can range from sexual harassment and assault [of women
and men alike] to gender naivete with regard to hygiene requirements that
can mean downrange port-a-potties that cant handle tampon disposal and
stench.) e more general point is that social norms can compromise positive
responsiveness to need, whether the responsiveness is in the form of goodwill
(respect and benevolence) or a blander conscientious performance of duty.
Each alike can be blind. On their own, they are abstract ideals that dont
necessarily meet the needs and capabilities of real people in concretecases.
Others have argued that the ground of trustworthiness has little to
do with moral motives, thick or thin, and reduces simply to self-interest.
To be regarded as trustworthy by others satises a persons basic need for
self-esteem:We desire and take pleasure in each others good opinions. And
being trusted is one such important opinion. e cunning of trust, as one
philosopher puts it, is that it takes a motive that might be thought of as prob
lematic and tames it for its social capital. In a parallel vein, another author
argues that it is in a trustees own self-interest to maintain a trust relation
ship and so in her interest to encapsulate the trustors interests within her
own. Trust banks on that condence:You can more condently trust me
if you know that my own interest will induce me to live up to your expec
tations. Your trust is your expectation that my interest encapsulates yours.
But while it may be useful at times to ground trust in anothers self-interest,
relationships built on mutual self-interest (such as utility, as Aristotle argued
long ago in cataloguing dierent kinds of friendships) tend not to be all that
stable:e useful is not permanent but is always changing, he reminds us.
Self-interest is a wobbly ground for friendship, in part because whats in ones
interest doesnt always coincide, or coincide for long, with the interests and
needs of another. Similarly, self-interest is too transient a ground to motivate
stable trust. Self-advantage can pull apart from what others are counting on
one to do. And when it does, and prevails, trust and trustworthiness giveway.
is is the backdrop for thinking about Sallys narrative. Imagine for the
moment what she was probably hoping: that her interaction with her super
visor would be trusting in the sense that he would show her some goodwill.
In coming forward, she is hoping he responds to her with genuine interest
in her well-being and with an acknowledgment that she has been mistreated
and threatened. Her trust overture may well be tentative. Its as if she is ask
ing her supervisor, implicitly, if she can trust him before she trusts him. We
do this kind of thing all the time when we make general inquiries: Can I ask
you a question? is sometimes the preface to asking a question. What we are
trying to do is establish our listeners standing, or maybe instate it through
some prep work. We roll out the substantive exchange slowly so that we can
build condence in a partnership. In
to come forward, Sally is doing
some of this. Shes setting up a meeting, asking her supervisor to make time,
asking him, in a way, to warm to the idea of being interested in her well-being
and her personal safety on base.
Once they meet, his goodwill toward her would be communicated in just
that kind of responsiveness, adapted, of course, in the way that attitude always
is, to our personalities or temperament and professional codes of conduct. But
the point is that goodwill is normatively expected. But so, too, is conscien
tious fulllment of his oce as a good supervisor, role modeling by example,
and setting the right kind of nonsexist tone for the command climate within
his unit. When she exposes her vulnerability, she in essence is saying, Im
counting on you. Icant handle this one on my own. e interaction, ide
ally, puts in motion a reective loop:he knows that she is counting on him,
and she knows that he knows, and so on. As Aristotle might put it, build
ing on a metaphor from the ancient Greek Stoic Chrysippus (280207
and preserved by Seneca in his account of the mutual interaction in benet
and gratitude:Each does not fail to notice that the other has properly
thrown and caught [the ball] from one pair of hands to the other. at
mutual acknowledgment ought to reinforce the supervisors sense of being
held accountable and of Sallys holding him accountable. But she might also
think about his potential trustworthiness in more strategic terms, as weve
said:that its in his basic self-interest to care about her opinion of him, and
that of other women on base who, if he responds well, may come to view him
as a trustworthy advocate and good leader.
However, from my conversations with Sally, its clear that she didnt ever
develop that kind of trust toward her supervisor, or other senior ocers, male
or female, for that matter. (ere were no female ocers in her unit, and the
one female ocer outside her unit was well above her rank and outside what
Sally viewed an appropriate reporting chain.) In short, Sally never got the
sense that her supervisor was particularly responsive to her. In the case of the
stalker incident, he did step in and mediate. But in the case of the underwear
the, he wasnt particularly empathetic or much interested in following up.
He didnt seem to think it threatened her in any serious way or made her
feel less safe in a war zone. In the end, she relied on her supervisor in only a
perfunctory way; she never felt like she was being cared for in the way that
noncommissioned ocers are supposed to take care of their troops. e
suspension of trust exposed an irony not lost on Sally:I remember Idid
seek service with a chaplain .
. and he happened to be a captain. One of my
complaints was that Ididnt feel like Icould trust any of the ocers. It was
an awkward moment, because Im telling an ocer Idont think Ican trust
In the end, in the absence of trust, she became self-protective. She andro
genized herself, she saidnever wore make-up and cut down on her use of
shampoo aer receiving irtatious comments on how nice her hair smelled.
You just dont want to look pretty. You want to be clean. But thats it. And
she began carrying an unconcealed knife to meals, clipped to her wallet and
slung around her body on a string.
Sallys bid at trust was not successful. Her resentment and fear on base
went unabated. She never got the reassurance that what happened
wouldnt be repeated. Her wariness toward many of the males around her
triggered a backlash of defensive hostility and more reactive vigilance on
her part. Her supervisor did little to improve the climate. Ayear or more
aer her deployment, she was still cautiously working out trust issues
back home:e knife was only an Iraq thing, she told me. I now carry
mace in my car. For the most part, civilians take care of their sexual needs.
And Ihave good enough judgment to know how to keep myself away from
the wrong people. By and large, she was amazed at how much more easily
she could breathe on a large coed university campus that had near gender
parity in its student population. Her sense of being routinely toyed with
as a woman was beginning toli.
Put all this into the language of expressed reactive attitudes, the manifest
attitudes by which we hold each other accountable as members of a shared
moral community:expressed resentment is moral address mediated through
anger. We react with hurt and pain to something that has been done to us
that violates due regard or a norm, and we sanction the transgressor through
blame. Resentment demands recuperation of respect and goodwill in a nega
tive way, through direct or second-personal reproach. Indignation is a third
partys reproach toward those who have injured you. In one sense, it is moral
on your behalf
for an injury against
in another sense, it is moral
protest more globally for an aront against
ones shared humanity
way, it involves the kind of intervention and empathy Sally hoped she would
inspire in her supervisor, in even the faintest way, when she came forward.
But of course we hold each other to account in positive ways, too, as
Ihave been arguing throughout, and we build partnerships and engagements
through more reparative forms of moral (and normative) address. Resentment
sometimes paves the way for it. In a formulation used earlier, the preventive
fantasy in retributivist attitudes is the thought that the other
acknowledged me. ere was room and reason in anothers deliberations for
a dierent, more positive response and regard.
Trust makes good that fantasy. As another philosopher has put it well,
the sought-for answer to being addressed in the mode of resentment
is be assured, trust again. is is to say that trust can be reparative. To
loosely repurpose Nietzsches idiom for
(which we considered in
chapter 2), trust is a
reactive pathos. It is a positive attitude of hold
ing another accountable that may work to undo resentment.
While resentment looks primarily backwards,
to what another
has done, trust along with hope looks primarily forward, imagining and
. Trust is anticipatory, and broadly speaking, takes the form of a
condence (albeit oen mild or weak), or an expectation about a person that
falls short of sure belief and that involves some exposure to vulnerability and
risk-taking. When expressed and explicit, as we have said before, it signals
to the other that one is counting on her to recognize and respond to ones
dependency or entrustment in a certain domain. We are counting on her to
be responsive to our trust and to mirror that trust through trustworthiness.
Granted, as weve noted, there are oen backward-looking (reactive) reasons
that support ones forward-looking projection of trustworthiness in another,
such as past evidence of goodwill or solidarity or conscientiousness. Still, in
trusting, one takes a gamble. at is especially so for Sally. She comes for
ward hesitantly in a way that so many victims of sexual harassment and abuse
do. She fears she wont be taken seriously or believed, and that talk of bras
and panties will seem like girly patter. Shes not playing along in the bro
game. Still, Sally takes a chance in summoning help. It is clear that she is
not asking for a moral bludgeoning against the stalker or underwear thief;
reparative trust can be built on empathy. Empathy goes a long wayin this
case, by the supervisor showing that he gets it, understands why she might
feel unsafe, inside the wire and not just outside. If she trusts, in part, it is in
order to bootstrap trust with a trustee who hasnt yet fully earned it. Even if
she fails, she reasons that she needs to take the risktreat the supervisor
hes trustworthy and responsive to her call. She doesnt begin by wearing the
knife. at comesaer.
H G M H H,
Let us now enter the realm of Greek mythology and take up another com
plex tale of testing trust. e trust trial comes in the aermath of a mas
sive betrayal by command, a festering resentment, and an entreaty to trust
again by an emissary of the group who betrayed. e strange trust relation
ship Irefer to is that between Philoctetes and Neoptolemus in Sophocless
. e case has little on its face to do with women in the
military. But it is has everything to do with betrayal and abandonment, and
the bootstrapping of trust aerwards. And in this regard, it speaks to women
men in the services who may suer betrayals by command, or by politi
cal leaders, or by public and private institutions of all sorts, or by civilians
too ready to say to a service member, I just cant imagine what youve been
through and so perpetuate the myth that the military are made of dierent
stu from the rest of humankind, and that their experiences and traumas are
somehow unfathomable and unspeakable. at remark is part of an implicit
call and response, antiphonal to a service members own defensive retreat,
You wouldnt understand, you werent there. From both sides, the remarks
conspire to create a romantic view of the warrior class that too easily lets
civilians o the hook and invites isolation and betrayal by distance.
Our tragic tale has to do with profound isolation and betrayal. But
before recounting the story, it is important to remember that Sophocles
) was himself a Greek general whose plays, like
were public reentry rituals of sorts performed before returning
veterans. ey served as a public homecoming, or
e audience would
likely include top brass in the front rows, and hoplites, or foot soldiers, in the
upper reaches, in an amphitheater that could hold some 15,000. e audience
knew war all too well. Sophocles was writing in a century in which there were
seven decades of war. e reenactment, or
, of betrayals by command,
awful separations from family and home, abandonments due to war-incurred
disgurements, and psychological maladaptions were among the themes.
But so, too, especially in
was the theme of repair through trust
and hope. e audience learning from the suering (and growth) on stage,
through the cathartic and identicatory emotions of pity and fear, could, as
Aristotle teaches in the
, engage in their own healing from war.
e story will be familiar to some readers. Philoctetes is a Greek warrior
marooned for ten years on the island of Lemnos, abandoned by his Greek
commanders as they headed on to Troy. He was le behind because of a fetid
foot wound he suered as the result of a bite from a poisonous snake guard
ing the tomb of the goddess Chryse. Shunned by his command and by a eet
that couldnt tolerate the putrid smell of his mutilated foot or the constant
shrieks of his anguished wailing, he was le to die with his weeping disease.
But ten years into his solitary connement, Philoctetes, or more properly his
bow, becomes critically necessary for the victory of the Greeks against the
Trojans. And so Odysseus, trickster and cunning speechier, enlists a boy
warrior, Neoptolemus, with the right credentials and ancestral lineage (he is
son of the deceased and glorious Achilles), to do Odysseuss and the Greek
armys bidding. e two arrive at the island, Odysseus keeping out of sight as
he coaches Neoptolemus to capture the bow through a snare of trust:You
know Icould never speak to him as you can / He will trust you, and you will
Like a good military interrogator, Neoptolemus is to build trust in order
to exploit it. Of course, it is not intelligence that he will gather, but the unas
sailable weapon itself. He is to say that he too has a grudge against the Greek
commanders for not holding him worthy of inheriting Achilless arms. And
from that sense of shared
, Philoctetes will begin to make him
self vulnerable to Neoptolemuss overtures. He will begin totrust.
e trusting at rst seems odd. Why should Philoctetes trust this young
stranger who has pulled in from Troy and arrived so mysteriously on his
island? Moreover, is it trust or just desperation that disarms him of caution?
For he is miserable and lonely, and above all else craves safe passage home. He
longs for human contact, and aer a decade of solitary connement thirsts
for any news a messenger can bring of the battlefront and the fate of his fellow
soldiers. In light of all this, is he just too ready to gain a friend, as a possible
meaning of his name suggests (he who gains a friend)? Trust is an atti
tude born of dependency. But when the need is abject and the power others
have over one is near total, trust is manipulated, not given. Indeed, as Isaid,
Neoptolemuss narrative of betrayal by the Greek commanders might be seen
as an ancient version of a rapport-building technique that a good interroga
tor uses. e good interrogator develops an intimate and empathic relation
ship with his subject, and may even sow the seeds for an erotic or idealizing
transference onto himself that can then be exploited for further domina
tion and advantage:Neoptolemus rehearses plausible grounds for rapport:
Abused and insulted, Iam sailing for home / Deprived of what is rightfully
mine / By that bastard son of bastards, Odysseus. / Ihold the commanders
accountable. / Philoctetes is moved, as planned. / We share a cargo of com
mon grievances, he says. / You and Ising the same song.
e trust is coerced by faked trustworthiness, or at least trustworthiness
fashioned with bits and pieces of truth, designed to ensnare. at is the hoax,
a kind of Trojan horse rolled onto this island, once again engineered by the
wily Odysseus, with the young warrior Neoptolemus (which is just what his
name means) being initiated by his side in the sorts of treachery oen morally
permissible in warfare, though typically not directed against ones own. But
is there any genuine trust and trustworthiness displayed in this play? Is there
trust and trustworthiness that is not part of an intelligence scheme? ere is.
But it has to be developed. And its manifestation is critical for Philoctetess
moral repair from the double moral betrayal he suers by his command (the
rst in the original abandonment by his commanders, the second in this
trumped-up trust hoax). e power of trust in this parable, and the fact that
it comes into being in the very moment of a potential massive betrayal, is an
object lesson, albeit an idealized one, of trusts generative capacities.
e pivotal moment comes when Philoctetes, persuaded to leave the
island with Neoptolemus and set sail for what he believes is home, gathers his
few belongings, including his famous bow. Eager to get his hands on the bow,
Neoptolemus asks to see it. Without the slightest reluctance, Philoctetes
begins to entrust Neoptolemus with the very bow that has kept him alive
on this island, protected from predators and provided with food. I will
grant your wish. eres nothing Iwouldnt do for you, obliges Philoctetes.
Neoptolemus gently demurs:Is it allowed (
)? If not, Iwill relent.
Philoctetes assures him that it is permissible, and more importantly, that he
trusts him because he has shown him goodwill and kindness. In that, he says,
he mirrors Philoctetes himself, who received the bow from Heracles as a gi
for his own demonstration of kindness.
ere are two wrinkles in this passage, and they mislead about what is
most fundamental in the trust exchange. e rst is the apparent worry
about background norms, implied by the question of whether it is right or
permitted to hold the bow. Can he, Neoptolemus, really hold this sacred
bow? Will it oend the gods? Is it okay to touch it? Is Neoptolemus really
concerned about acting in conformity with a divine norm, or is he just exhib
iting fake decency in order to mask his intention to steal? Isuspect it is the
latter. But whatever the answer, the basic trust isnt grounded in Philoctetess
expectation of Neoptolemuss compliance with some external norm. Rather,
Iwant to argue that it is essentially grounded in the interaction itselfin
Philoctetess calling out to Neoptolemus saying, Look. Im counting on you
as competent here. Im counting on the idea that youll take seriously my
dependency and be responsive to it in your own reasons for action. Moreover,
that trust is projective. e trust is expressed here as a way of trying to elicit
trustworthiness from Neoptolemus. It scaolds trust, nurses it along, and
helps it to grow through the expectation that he ought to be trustworthy.
at is part of trusts cunning and perhaps why, at times, it can create not just
trustees but also dependents, manipulated into collaboration.
e second wrinkle is that Philoctetess own remarks bury this point.
He suggests that his trust is based on his anticipation of Neoptolemuss
continuing to show goodwill and compassion toward him in his suering.
Neoptolemus has become a priceless friend, and friends act out of goodwill
and benevolence. I can trust my bow with a friend, he thinks. He wont steal
it. He wont stab me in the back, as we would say. But even in this kind
of case where trust imputes goodwill to the trustworthy, there is something
more basic going on. Philoctetes is telling Neoptolemus that he is counting
on him. And that expectation can itself, at times, motivate. So Philoctetes
assures Neoptolemus, Dont worry [
have condence], the bow will
be yours to hold / And then hand it back to the hand that gave it. He plies
on additional reasons for his trust, namely friendship, goodwill, and com
passion. And they too, no doubt, can incentivize and bring Neoptolemus
around. But in a barer, more minimal way, Philoctetes is fostering trust sim
ply by projection of his trust, implicitly saying Im counting on you to keep
safe the bow and then give it back. Being responsive to anothers dependency
is the bare bones of trustworthiness.
Moreover, in this staged case of trustworthiness, though Philoctetes pre
sumes Neoptolemuss goodness, we as audience have an ironic distance that
Philoctetes does not yet possess (and will have only in retrospect). We know
that despite the fact that he seems genuinely moved by the islanders suer
ing, Neoptolemus is still in the employ of Odysseus, and his goodness, even if
native and genuine, may just be instrumentally deployed here. So we are suspi
cious, rightly, from our position of knowledge, that his antecedent goodness
or good name is doing any work here other than that of ensnaring hisprey.
But, despite this, it would be hard to come away from this scene with
out seeing a genuine spark of trust and trust responsiveness being kindled.
What we see, and probably what Philoctetes also picks up in Neoptolemuss
response, is that he is answering an address to be trusted and trustworthy.
He is responsive to the address, I am counting on you. And recognizing
that he is being so addressed, and acknowledging it, however thinly, back
to Philoctetes, adds a new level of being counted on by him. Put dierently,
Neoptolemuss catching the ball is the rst step in the reciprocation. And
that acknowledgment, that one is being counted on, is then thrown back and
caught by the trustor in a way that reinforces thetrust.
ere is much more to say about trust and trustworthiness in this play.
Neoptolemus insists repeatedly on his trustworthiness with respect to the
safekeeping of the bow, and his sincerity seems to grow the more he is exposed
to Philoctetess excruciating suering. Philoctetess utter dependency on him
makes it hard for Neoptolemus to carry through with the plot. And he opts
to return the bow to Philoctetes rather than continue as Odysseuss lackey,
despite the consequences for the mission. It takes a
deus ex machina
, in the
form of Heracles, to resolve the plot and assure Philoctetes that his (and the
bows) return to Troy will bring both victory to the Greeks and the cure for
So goes the plot. e take-home lesson is that in this story Philoctetes,
though traumatized by betrayal, still reaches out through trust, and thereby
elicits trustworthiness in a potential enemy bent on subjecting him to yet
more betrayal. Part of the work is done by the cunning of trust and not just
by Philoctetess generous and resilient spirit or by Neoptolemuss potential
compassion, pity, and remorse. ese other factors no doubt play an impor
tant role in a richer trust relation that can be read into this play, but Idont
want to overmoralize the story or lose sight of a ubiquitous, more easily avail
able form of trust that is also part of this story. Iam keen to show what a basic
display of trust itself can sometimes do, by calling out that one is counting
on another to do something (or be competent in a certain domain), and how
the fact of dependency may become a compelling reason in that others delib
erations. Whether it is an overriding reason is another matter. And what
Neoptolemus must do is to gure out precisely what Philoctetes is counting
on him for and whether he can comply in a way that minimizes conict with
his other important standing obligations, including trust relations. But the
general point is that expressing trust can bootstrap trustworthiness. It proj
ects onto another a normative expectation that can have causal ecacy.
T \r B\rU
But trustors, of course, need to be wise and make their addresses to those
who are plausibly competent to aid and assist in the domains that are rel
evant. And those who are competent also need to signal their competencies,
and in some cases contribute not just interpersonally but also institutionally,
through networks of support. In the case of returning veterans, there can be
a familiar shutting out of civilians, even family members, as potential recipi
ents of trust:those who dont put on the uniform dont know what war is
like. As we have seen, the resentment toward a civilian ank you for your
service can carry just that thought. And the retreat of veterans to their own
circle gives permission to too many civilians to withdraw or believe that it is
meddlesome or presumptive to think one has something to oer in helping
a soldier process wars eects. But thats a myth that needs to be debunked
I myself may have once, in a signicant way, been complicit in perpetuat
ing the myth. And the insight speaks to a more general point about elicita
tions of trust responsiveness. My dad was a World War II veteran (an Army
medic) who died several years ago. Iwas le to clean up his eects in the
hospital room. And in putting away his belongings, Ifound his key chain,
with his dog tags (Army identications) attached. ey were well worn, and
his name, Seymour Sherman, was just visible. ey had been touched and
rubbed and ngered for some sixty-ve years. My mother said he had carried
them during their whole marriage. But Inever noticed them before, and he
never showed them to me. Perhaps it was a case of willful ignorance on my
part, and willful concealment on his, a dont ask, dont tell policy of sorts.
But his war experiences were by and large not something to be shared with his
children. ey were his private burdens, not ours. And we complied. Despite
the remnants of World War II in our housewhat Iremember best was the
pile of scratchy brown-green Army blankets that were spare bedding in our
hall linen closetwe didnt talk about the war and how it could have aected
my dador for that matter, all my uncles who also served. It wastaboo.
I mention this because many returning veterans do feel, as my dad did,
that the inner landscape of war is for soldiers and not for the civilians to
whom they return. Why spill out the gore or the doubts or ambivalence to
ones innocent family? War is a moral maze about killing and being killed,
about liability to lethal and nonlethal harming, about the boundaries of war
time and peacetime, and adapting to the fuzzy boundary crossing. e most
resolute Marine may still wonder if he did enough to prevent harm to inno
cent civilians or avoided undue risk to his troops. Guilt, shame, and a sense
of betraying others can easily commingle with adrenalized pride, bravado,
and the overwhelming sense of purpose and meaning that participation
in war, even an unjust or imprudent war, can oer. e psychological and
philosophical mess is hard to untangle and easy to wall up. And there is a
certain comfort in thinking one is protecting others, innocent others, from
ones toxins. But it comes with a priceof alienation and isolation. In this
regard, Philoctetes becomes a bold metaphor for the anomie of a veteran,
war-wounded, resentful, still at sea, alone. Philoctetess homecoming (
in Homeric idiom) is all too uncertainwill he come home and in what
condition? How will he be seen? How will he reenter? We are now bringing
home the remaining service members from the longest and some might say
endless war in American history. It should not surprise us if many return with
nostalgia, meaning literally, in this seventeenth-century, Greco-derived
medical termhomecoming pain (
And yet Philoctetes heals, or at least begins to. And so he is also a remark
able symbol of the power of transformative trust and how it can bootstrap
trustworthiness in the right set of conditions. Trust embeds hope, hope
others, that they may be responsive to ones need. Philoctetes pleads to
Neoptolemus:Have mercy, my son.
Dont let it be said in scorn that you
Youre not a bad lad, but Ithink youve been trained by bad
men. He invests parental hope in the youth; Neoptolemus can overcome
the bad inuences. And even if his empathy is a bit out of sync at times,
misattuned, and subjecting Philoctetes to fresh soul wounds and narcissistic
injuries, even if there are many good reasons for him not to risk more vulner
ability, the price of that protection is high and at the cost of connectivity
with self and others.
Sometimes those who signal competence and interest may be represen
tatives of important institutions responsible for key policy changes and the
behavior of scores of others. Neoptolemus symbolizes that, too:he is an emis
sary of the Greeks. And his tender relationship with the needy Philoctetes
will change the view of those in power toward this forsaken bowman.
is brings us to our own stage and to the Senate oor where there has
been a recent massive campaign in support of victims of sexual harassment
and assault in the armed forces. A few words are appropriate here, as the
case illustrates well how, as in the case of Philoctetes and Neoptolemus,
counting on another and being counted on can be a catalyst for change
at high levels of power. In the background to the advocacy is the docu
e Invisible War
(which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film
Festival and was later broadcast on PBS) that features interviews with
veterans of the dierent branches of the armed forces who recount the
incidents that led to their assaults. e documentary is harrowing. I have
shown it to studentswomen and men, civilians, veterans, ROTC cadets
and active-duty ocers, including one high-level Army Ranger battalion
commander, married to an Army colonel and West Point sweetheart.
What he saw struck a deep nerve. He had just returned from ten years
of back-to-back commands in Afghanistan and Iraq. During one of his
commands, one of his troops got an emergency call in the midst of a tense
engagement: his wife, serving in country in a dierent unit, had just been
assaulted and raped by a fellow soldier. He needed his commanders per
mission to leave his post immediately and go to her aid. My class froze in
hearing the account. e vulnerability that the Ranger commander felt,
himself in a dual-career Army marriage, was raw and in the room. All of a
sudden my students were looking at a brawny, brainy, invincible-seeming
soldier who was not so invincible.
ere was another moment that brought the reality of inside-the-wire sex
ual assault close to home. e lm culminates with the exposure of a horric
rape, perpetrated not far from the Georgetown campus, at the prestigious
Washington, D.C., Marine Barracks, the oldest post of the Corps, and
home of e Presidents Own Marine Band that plays Hail to the Chief
at parades and ceremonial missions. Barracks Row in Capitol Hill S.E.has
itself become a trendy scene of bars and restaurants, with military pageantry
punctuating one corner as Marine sentinels stand guard at the gated court
yard of the historic Barracks. But aer watching the lm, it would be hard
to look at those gates without deep suspicion about what takes place inside.
I leave to the side the harrowing testimonies of the victims and their loved
ones. Iurge readers to watch the
. e deep misogyny depicted
in the lm will not come as a surprise to some. e history of U.S.service
mens treatment of women in regions where they have served, whether in
Normandy during the invasion in World War II or in Subic Bay in the
Philippines during Vietnam, has not been pretty. Prostitution and objecti
cation of women have gone hand in hand with U.S.military engagements. It
may not be too cynical to say that what was turned against occupied women
is now turned against those within. (I have my own stories here:My father,
treating troops returning from Normandy on the
, told me in one
of the few conversations we did have about war that, in addition to amputa
tions, what he was treating in his many trips was rampant syphilis and gonor
rhea, amid the pleading of his soldiers to not tell the wives at home. And while
Iwas teaching at the Naval Academy, a colleague and retired Marine colonel
who commanded troops in Vietnam told ethics classes of how he ordered the
bulldozing of prostitution sites his Marines were frequenting that put mis
sions at risk and made light of the humanity of too many women.)
What is crucial to our narrative with regard to beginning to restore
trust for todays women who serve is that several of the survivors featured
in the lm (in particular, Kori Cioca, beaten and raped by her super
visor in the U.S. Coast Guard; Ariana Klay, an Iraq War Marine who
returned home to be raped by a senior ocer and his friend, and then
threatened with death; and Trina McDonald, who was drugged and raped
by military policemen on a remote Naval station in Alaska) went on to tell
their stories to senators on Capitol Hill, including two female senators,
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of NewYork and Senator Claire McCaskill
of Missouri. Deeply disturbed by what they heard and by DOD statistics
that conrm an epidemic of sexual assault in the ranks, each proposed
legislation to give victims greater power in the legal process. is is not
the place to track legislative reform. Nor is it the place to track whether
these milder reforms have enough muscle to do real work in fair adjudica
tion for victims of sexual assault within the ranks. e outcome of two
high-prole court cases just in the news as Iwrite suggests a system that
is still broken.
What Ido want to expose, though, is that these bills (and especially
Gillibrands) represent direct personal
institutional responses to the
testimony heard and to the systemic fear victims describe of not coming
forward because they wont be believed. It is an illustration of the call and
response of vulnerability and the bid for trust ratcheted up to an institutional
level through individual engagementin this case, women listening to
Building trust is a complicated matter for those who have been violated,
whether the trust bond is with a producer making a documentary that might
change a national conversation, or with a senator who tries to change adju
dication procedures, or with a young warrior who shares your grievances,
seems of noble cast, and promises you a way out of your desperation. ere
is risk, exposure, potential betrayal, and sometimes re-traumatization. But
signicantly, even in the case of restoring trust in an institution or organi
zation, the trust is typically built bottom up, in one-on-one interactions, as
in these examples, in conversations with an empathic producer, in private
hearings with a public ocial who seems to get it, in an enigmatic relation
ship with an emissary who reaches out and recognizes anguish. e interac
tion moves both ways:there is exposure and vulnerability, on the one hand,
and recognition of the dependency, on the othertheres empathy oen,
and an acknowledgment of the need to respond, in part precisely because
one is being counted on. Trust even in institutions as lumbering and bureau
cratic as Congress oen begins in one-on-one engagements, where there is
some sense of uptake, mirroring, and recognition of value. e reach of even
that uptake, though, is limited. Asenator may not convince enough fellow
senators. Military court cases may still embed entrenched sexism by keeping
the case within the chain of command. Test cases may founder because of
bungled prosecutions and weak or inconsistent testimony from the plaintis.
Still, getting some senators to take seriously the sexism in the military and
begin to x a broken system is astart.
I B B W TV S
We have been talking about trust among adults. But coming home from
war is oen coming home to children, the children a mother or father has
le behind. And we would be naive to think that these trust bonds are not
among the most fragile. We know from famous developmental research con
ducted by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the wake of World War II,
and evacuations of children during the London Blitz, that attachment and
trust go hand in hand, and that separations early in life can aect a childs
sense of secure base thats critical for social and emotional growth.
Concern about the eect of separation on her children must have been
in the background of a remarkable set of practices that Air Force Colonel
Stephanie Wilson put in place as she prepared to deploy to Ul Adeid Air
Base in Qatar for a year-long senior deployment in the Air Force. I came
to know Stephanie at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.,
where we were both public policy scholars during the academic year 2011
12. Stephanie is an African American engineer with a masters degree in
organizational management from George Washington University, who
entered the Air Force through the ROTC program at Georgia Institute of
Technology. By May of our year at the Wilson Center, Stephanie was pre
paring for her next mission, commanding some ve to six thousand persons
in logistical mission support for Iraq and Afghanistan. It would involve leav
ing behind her young childrenher then ve-year-old daughter Mikalya
and her two-year-old son Liam. It was her second long deployment in three
years; the last overseas deployment was in Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
is time round, Skype would be the family glue, with her husband Scott
Wilson, a retired Air Force yer working on a Ph.D., in charge of the home
front and of rounding up the children daily for Skype time on the TV screen
with Mom. e kids just had to be in the room, playing and chattering, with
Mom in the background as part of their daily routine. True, she wouldnt be
hugging them:Skype hugs are not real hugs, as one Air Force colonels wife
once told me in describing the hug good night her son had each night from
her husband. e touch, the smell, the feel, so crucial in early attachment,
would not be there. But Stephanie would be there in voice and image on the
screen, and in that sense, with them physically every day. e time dierence
was seven hours. e chat would take place in the morning for the kids:Ill
be on the big white TV screen while the kids are running around in the living
room talking to me. So, they dont have to sit in one place. ey can continue
life, and Mom can just observe and be part of that life for half an hour every
day. ats my goal; half an hour every day.
During the previous deploy
ment, the attachment bond got built in a dierent way:My daughter was one
at the time, and Isat down before Ile and read about thirty-ve books on
videotapeby video recorderand my husband would play one a night for
her. And so thats how she got to see who Mom was:Iwas the girl reading
books at night. My daughter was at the age where she didnt need to see the
book. She was just fascinated drinking her bottle, listening to hermom.
In this new deployment, roles would be reversed:her daughter would be
reading a book to her once a week over Skype as part of the routine.
Not all parents, military or otherwise, are as creative or as conscientious
as these two. Isuspect the fact that Stephanie is a logistics expert and engi
neer by education and training explains how she tackles a problem. But also,
not all parents have had to face the same trials. At age three, Mikayla was
diagnosed with kidney cancer, and within days, Stephanie and Scott were
able to change their career plans so that they could be based in Washington,
with access to Walter Reed Hospital, where they would have the best ght
ing chance of beating the cancer. And they did. Mikayla has had a remark
able recovery aer aggressive rounds of chemo and radiationIm leaving
her healthy, shes completely healthyStephanie tells me with enormous
relief, when we spoke over lunch one day just days before her departure from
Dulles. Anything is a cakewalk, she laughed, compared to ghting your
Still, she knew the departure and separation for a year was its own trial.
It would begin with two and a half long hours of waiting in the airport
lounge. And then, in civilian clothes, she would step onto the plane and
leave Scott and the children behind:
ats probably the hardest partit
the last time Iwent that rst step on the plane. Ive jumped o a plane
before, out of a perfectly good airplane before. e rst step is the hard
est. Stepping into nothingness is the hardest. Stepping onto the plane is the
For Air Force Colonel Stephanie Wilson, stepping onto that plane
was parachuting into the abyss. The metaphor absolutely paralyzed me.
Iimagined myself ejected into a black chute with no chance in hell of a
soft landing. But for Stephanie, a wingman trained in parachuting, the
metaphor had its comforts. And imaging it afforded her a pre-rehearsal,
as the Stoics would say, to anticipate perceived danger and detoxify some
of the sting that comes with being unprepared. Thats how Ithink of
it mentally. Im mentally prepared to jump out of this perfectly fine air
plane. So, mentally Ihave that. So how am Inow going to take
step? Iam going to allow myself to cry. Ill have my box of tissues there.
Ill have my pictures there. Ive totally war-gamed this thing in my head.
Its okay tocry.
Her Stoic pre-rehearsal had its own twist. She would war-game it so
it was okay to cry. She could cry with advanced permission, and so with
a kind of resolute control. e tears would owthere would be no sur
prise there. e only issue, she joked, was whether she would have enough
A year is a highly abstract concept in the mind of a young child who can
barely understand the passage of time. And so again, the logistics of counting
a week was a problem to solve. ere would be jar of goodies in the kitchen,
and every Friday, each child would reach in and pick out a treat, marking
each week Mom isgone.
All this is a way of laying down the trust bond in advance, or at least
its means. Colonel Stephanie Wilson is anticipating her responsiveness
and the conduits that will have to be in place for mutual responsiveness
to growthe nursing story hour, the Skype half-hour, the weekly count
down that brings a young family closer to real time together. ousands
of other military families, some strained by a decade of separation, have
been enacting some version of this. It is an enactment to keep the trust
T, B, E\r, A
Trust is a future-leaning, reactive attitude, directed toward others and
also, by extension, toward oneself, self-reactively. It is a mental attitude
that is an emotion, felt and oen explicitly expressed. But in what sense
is it really an emotion? In what sense is the soldier who, acting through
and living with emotion, trusts civilians to understand, or supervisors to
not betray her, or senators to acknowledge her delement, or an emissary
to take her home? Aristotle tells us that emotions are accompanied with
pleasure or pain. But trust doesnt have a strong valence, a lot of zing, or
wing, or heat. Even if it isnt a belief, in the sense that the reason we turn
to trust is precisely because we lack the evidence that would ground rmer
belief, still trust doesnt have that excitable feeling we associate with many
emotions. Of course, many emotions have their own quietness, and we
know well by now that an emotions feel, as the critics of William James
on emotion long ago pointed out, is not a reliable indicator of either emo
tion in general (we could just be feeling edgy) or of an emotion in particu
lar (resentment, for example, rather than shame).
But perhaps the better way to get at trust as an emotion is by what it
rather than how it
. To trust someone is to organize ones attention in
a certain way, to notice what another is signaling or open to, to block out
some doubts or suspend suspicion and build up an epistemic landscape.
But trust doesnt just see someone in a certain light. It makes an invest
ment in that person to do something with the thing or condence that
is entrusted. Trust digs us into vulnerability. And we expose that vulner
abilityshow it to another, in our face, or voice, or expectant or beholden
tone. And we disclose that dependency to ourselves, oen by externalizing
it to others or by trying it out in a performance. But trust in another may
not so much see or nd value as help build it, elicit worthiness, as weve
said, that isnt yet obvious or proven. And all that can motivate us to share
burdens, entrust intimacies, seek succor, come out of a shell, and be less
e bottom line is that trust,
emotion, makes us vulnerable to others:
to their help and hurt, to their power over us, and to our desire that they be
responsive to us. Trust, as emotion, is a basic form of attachment. It is depen
dence writ large. And as important as trust is to a military corps, the idea of
dependence is not something many soldiers, Marines, wingmen, or sailors
want to embrace full on. To be self-reliant, stoic, to suck it up, and soldier on
are the mantras. Trust may be basic to a cadre, but willful determination and
control are how one survives. Or so goes the myth.
But even if there is ideological resistance to the deep dependency and
vulnerability that goes with trust, the violations of trust make the fact
of dependence all too emotionally clear. And that is what we have been
detailingthe ache and agony of betrayal and the cautious resowing of seeds
of trust in its aermath.
Ancient stories, like that of
, are our own stories through which
to understand betrayal and the possibilities for trusts renewal. Other war
stories are alsoours.
A Civil War Philoctetes is perhaps Summereld Hayes, ctional as well,
nineteen years old and a Union soldier from Brooklyn, whose three days of
battle take place in the opening campaign of the North against the South in
the Battle of the Wilderness. Like Philoctetes, Summereld is abandoned
by his command, in his case as punishment for failing to rise from sleep at
the bugles reveille. He lost his hearing from an intense mortar attack the
day before and slept through the call. His commander strips him of his rie
and identity papers, and blasts him with the humiliation that would leave
him stunned and mute, I have no time to be playing nursemaid. With that,
Summereld Hayes is deserted, le to make his way between enemy lines in
the smoke-shrouded forests of northern Virginia, with no weapon, no bud
dies, and no name. He nds his way somehow to a Washington hospital,
unable to utter his name, or his circumstances, framed by his command as
a malingerer. One missionary nurse, named Walt, with a gray beard, so
wrinkles under his eyes, a tattered haversack, and a fondness for verse, rec
ognizes that Summerelds invisible and silent wounds must tell a story as
grave as those that can speak through gushing blood and sawed-o limbs.
Summereld keeps looking for his wounds; he must have them if he is so sick.
Nothing else could cause him to waste away as he does. He strips down over
and over. He knows they must be somewhere.
ey are there, wounds of betrayal, distrust, and abandonment. And they
ache intensely. It is a ctionalized Walt Whitman, a nursemaid of the soul,
who trusts the realness and hardness of this nameless Union soldiers wounds
and who helps him to nd them, and recover them, in voice and memory.
at overture of trust, an act of faithfulness, is the beginning of a long and
arduous healing for Summereld.
Summereld has neither the agony nor the luxury of Philoctetess fetid leg
as tangible legitimation of a deeper moral hurtindeed, he wants that vali
dation desperately and contemplates oen returning to the front to secure
the badge that can prove his wound. It is only through the work of friendship
and trust (of Walt) that he comes to accept that the hurt of being deserted
by ones own troops is no less real than the hurt of losing an arm or a leg by
We shouldnt be glib here. Philoctetess wounds are physical as well as
psychological and moral. And presumably that festering, foul-smelling leg
is the cause and putative justication of the moral betrayal: he must be cut
o from the whole if the whole is to be saved; with a little utilitarian logic
chop, the sacrice of one soldier preserves the army of many. War always
puts its human assets, and not just its matériel, at some risk.
just another case of balancing force protection against the exigencies of
But there is something insidious, haunting, cruel, and inhumane
about Philoctetess sacrice, and it has to do with the trauma of isolation.
Philoctetes has been a prisoner in solitary connement for a full ten years.
In his case, he has nature and the beasts as his companions. Not all are so
lucky, especially those who have spent the past decade in the U.S.detention
center at Guantanamo, set up as a part of the global war on terror. Still,
Philoctetes was put into solitary by his own side, by his own command, and
that is perhaps the unkindest betrayal. And thats the reason his trust in
Neoptolemus is so fascinating. Why should Philoctetes trust this emissary
sent by his betrayers? And why should Neoptolemus be moved to renege on
his plot? e moral address in this interaction, the signaling of dependency
and the projection that it will be recognized and acknowledged as legitimate,
are the components of this new trust bond. (And perhaps that was also so
with Summereld and his Walt.) Trust and trustworthiness are built here
from the ground up, on the ashes of soul-shattered living. is is an ancient
and abiding lesson for veterans coming home and for civilians to whom they
Dan Berschinski leading troops in
Kandahar in July2009
President Obama visits Dan in fall of 2009 at
Dan with new legs in summer of
I begin with an example that is from war, but is not about its combatants. It
draws from the documentary movie,
about the Nazi camp
of Terezin (in eresienstadt, outside Prague), which portrays the Jewish
inmates singing for their life through performances of Verdis
movie follows conductor Murry Sidlins recreation of that
mance recently in the extant walls of Terezin.
As is well known, many of the inmates at Terezin were accomplished art
ists and musicians, performers, conductors, and composers. And one, Raphael
Schächter, a talented pianist and opera-choral conductor, captured by the
Nazis in 1941, brought with him just one piece of music, Giuseppe Verdis
demanding choral work, his 1874
. During the internment and with
complicity of the guards (for Terezin was a show prison and central to the
Nazi propaganda machine), the prisoners gathered nightly in the dank base
ment of the compound, around a piano, and learned the complicated Lain cho
ral parts of the piece, with Schächter holding the only copy of the score. ey
sang, with hope against hope, to change minds, to have the Nazi leadership
hear the humanity of their voices and rescind their death sentence. at hope
became increasingly futile, as one death train aer another rounded up Jews
and took some of them on death marches or to Auschwitz. And when that
happened, they would reconstitute their chorus, over and over, with winnowed
and frail population, and repeat the deant act of hope. e Nazi brass even
tually did come to hear the chorus in a culminating performance on June 23,
1944; it was entertainment for them, but for the singers and Schächter, it was
survival of the soul. And as Sidlin implied in remarks at a showing of the docu
mentary in Washington, D.C., the sequence in the
, Dies irae, that
the day of wrath would come, was ironic for these Jews, unpracticed in the
rituals of Latin Masses, a moral protest that they could deliver face to face to
their torturers, concealed through art. It was their retribution.
But singing the
also expressed their hope. And it was hope with
two interrelated facets. e prisoners sang to express hope
a future out
come or eventualityto be saved, rescued, and redeemed, whether by Gods
hand or human hand. And that hoped-for outcome nourished some as food,
despite desperate hunger, as one survivor of the chorus recalled. Singing to be
saved brought back to life near-corpses.
But another aspect of their hope, far more galvanizing, Isuspect, was the
hope they had
each other and the aspirations they placed in their human
ity. By singing together, aer backbreaking days of labor and beaten servi
tude, they raised their voices and followed an extremely complex musical
score. ey worked on their parts, put them to memory, and saw mirrored
in each other their high humanity. ey kindled hope in each other and in
themselves, in their potential to rise above the most subjugating circum
stances, and to not just survive but also to thrive, in a sliver of a way, for a
sliver of time, as artistic and spiritual souls. In the very act of choral sing
ing, in answering a soloists vocal call with responses and intricate recants,
they reciprocally addressed and recognized each other, and in this context,
each others hope in humanity. Moral address was woven into
the interaction and was communicated as part of the choral activity. Perhaps,
too, they had hope in the Nazi leadership that their art would awaken their
own humanity. But Icant imagine that this energized as much as the recip
rocal hope they placed in each other, a calling out to each (through music) of
the potential of the others humanity, and an echoing back, in acknowledg
ment, that each has been appropriately recognized. Singing Verdis
to each other, night aer night, was an act of deance, but also was an act of
resilience, a way of being buoyed by a commonwealth of humanity, at work in
recreating a piece that must have been appreciated by the performers as itself
an exquisitely ne and noble expression of humanity.
is is a powerful example of the promise of
hope, even in
futile conditions. Hope can be about eventualitiesnonnormative hope,
following Adrienne Martins usagebut it can also be about aspirations we
hold on behalf of personsnormative hope, as she calls it. And in some
cases, though not all, part of the point of addressing others with hope is that
the recipients might take up the values or principles deemed worthwhile and
aspired for on their behalf. Hope can scaold normative change.
Aristotle makes clear this last point in the
His remarks also go some
way toward showing the intermingling of normative and nonnormative hope.
He reminds us that we dont accurately attribute happiness or ourishing
) to a child; but in calling him happy, we invest hope in him that
he will become that:It is natural, then, that we call neither ox nor horse nor
any other of the animals happy; for none of them is capable of sharing in such
activity [of reason and its excellences]. For this reason also a boy is not happy;
for he is not yet capable of such acts, owing to his age; and boys who are called
happy are being deemed happy by reason of the hopes we have forthem.
Calling the child happy
to him the developed rational
capacities requisite for character excellence (or virtue) and that, when exer
cised properly, with the experience of years and adequate external goods, con
stitutes happiness. But the misattribution can be pedagogic:deeming or
congratulating the child as happy sets a goal worth aspiring to and begins
to bootstrap (or scaold) the requisite development and behavior for it.
It gives the child a job and the parents a job, and encourages a two-way set
of emotion-inected behaviors that will communicate assessments in mak
ing progress on completing that job. Hope and disappointment, the parents
and the childs ownand, in turn, responses to each others reactive uptakes
and updates in the face of various interim goalswill populate the path.
ese are back-and-forth volleysmirrorings and challengingsthat are
the familiar stu of interpersonal engagement from childhoodonup.
Given that hope for happiness in Aristotles lexicon is not just hope for
successful outcome (to conceive of happiness that way would be a very
defective arrangement, he insists, that would mistakenly entrust to chance
what is greatest and most noble), the hope he points to here is
normativethat is, hope
the child that he will undertake the right kind
of study and care, as Aristotle puts it, requisite for realizing a ourishing and
happy life. To be sure, the Stoics will press Aristotle on just this point, argu
ing that he has fudged on the issue and still le too much to externals and
luck. Virtue is sucient for happiness, they insist, following Socrates. ere
is something to this charge, and perhaps for our purposes what it shows is
happiness, for an Aristotelian and probably for most of us, slides
ones agency and reason (and in that of others) and
the world in which we exercise our individual and shared agency will be hos
pitable. Normative and nonnormative hope mix and mingle.
e point is a familiar one, especially in war. Good commanders place
their troops that they will embrace the rules of engagement
and have the skill bases necessary for good and just ghting. But they also
they will fare well in addition to do well. And the wisest among
them will hope that in doing well, they will have the resources to accept and
internalize judicious discriminations of responsibility.
is is background for a number of themes I explore in this chapter, among
which are: how to conceive of hope in persons as something like a reactive
attitude; what the relation of that kind of hope is to hope that a particular out
come will eventuate, as in the case of a soldiers initiative to relearn how to walk
aer losing both legs and a hip in a mine blast in Afghanistan; how nascent
self-hope, as in the case of a young injured Marine, can be bootstrapped by
others hoping in the Marine. e narratives are based on extensive interviews
with individuals. ey are not meant to yield easily generalizable lessons for
all to follow. But they are intended to open a conversation and begin the call
and response of moral engagement within relationships and communities.
P R A:
S\r B B\t
As we have been saying, one way of thinking about expressed reactive emo
tions is as a means of calling out to another that you are holding him to
account, and thinking you are owed an appropriate reply. In expressing reac
tive attitudes, we are not making detached appraisals, but we are engaging
the other, calling out, with the presumption of some kind of connectedness
and shared community. Were addressing him (and, in reexive cases, us)
with the demands, expectations, or aspirations implicit in those emotional
expressions. And we are looking for an appropriate response to ourcall.
Until fairly recently, the focus on reactive attitudes has been on the neg
ative onessuch as resentment, indignation, and guilt. But in the origi
nal articulation of reactive attitudes, positive emotions were always meant
to be an important part of the continuum:In general, we demand some
degree of goodwill or regard on the part of those who stand in these rela
tionships to us, though the forms we require it to take vary widely in dier
ent connections. e range and intensity of our reactive attitudes towards
goodwill, its absence or its opposite vary no less widely. Ihave mentioned,
specically, resentment and gratitude; and they are usefully opposed.
But, of course, there is a whole continuum of reactive attitude and feel
ing stretching on both sides of these andthe most comfortable areain
A number of philosophers have been exploring of late just what kind of
demand or looser notion of expectation or aspiration is involved in various
positive reactive attitudes. e details of that work are not our immediate
concern here. What is important for our discussion, and what is implicit
example, is the structure of reactive attitudes as a
call-and-response, and that hope preserves that structure. Hope in another,
like resentment toward another, is an address to another that we are holding
him to account. But crucially, in the case of hope, we are doing it in a way that
is aspirational rather than binding. As one philosopher has put it in original
and important work on normative hope, hoping in someone is investing in
a norm or principle on his behalf; it is a way of treating a principle as worth
aspiring to, without
on compliance. e fact that it is not a demand
shows up in the sequel of appropriate reactive attitudes. In the case of some
one hoping in you, you might be praised if you succeed, but not blamed if
you fail. Disappointment is not the same as reproach, even if it sometimes
has that avor.
In lived life, hope in persons, in their agency and eort, is tangled up in
hope for outcomes. Still, its important to try to distinguish these two facets
of hope. We shall come to hope in persons shortly. First we turn to hope for
outcomes and its role in moral recovery aerwar.
W L, W\t
Returning service members sometimes tell me that they feel like they have
lost meaning and purpose in their lives. Some desperately miss the sense of
being part of something much larger than themselves in the way that a war
eort is; others miss the fast operational tempo of missions that can intensify
that sense of purpose and belonging. Some long for the respect and status
earned in uniform, as Eduardo (Lalo) Panyagua does. e twenty-some
thing Marine corporal we met in
chapter 3 rose out of the L.A. barrio and
its gangs to serve three deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, his last as a pla
toon leader in charge of thirty-ve Marine and Afghani National Security
forces outside Marja, in extremely dangerous and demanding engagements
in November 2009 to June 2010. For his outstanding leadership and tre
mendous patience in twenty-seven partnered combat patrols oen under
small-arms re, he received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
ough a corporal, he oen lled the billet of a sergeant. Lalo is just not sure
he can nd that kind of standing in civilian life. In his case, the loss is pro
found, the despondency at times unbearable, and the hunger for replacement
meaning palpable. Others come home missing limbs and some with severely
disguring facial scars or brain injuries that severely challenge a notion of
good functioning aer war. For some, unhappiness as despairthe sense
that reality falls short of longed-for ideals and that one cant close the gap
descends. Recent spikes in suicide rates within the military point to real and
urgent concerns here.
is is where hope can get a foothold. Paradigmatically, hopesubstan
tive hopelooks with desire (or perhaps with its own special kind of moti
vation) to the future, with its possibilities but also its uncertainties, and in
normative cases, to self and others, and to positive dierences each can make
in a life. Hope presumes that possibilitieshowever bare(and people) are
to one, and that prospect can galvanize energy. Hope presumes a kind
of possibilism, that can stabilize focus and fortify resolve.
One prominent philosopher develops the idea this way:To form the
hope that something is the case or that Ior someone else will manage to
make it the case, Ihave to invest that scenario with a level of condence
that may exceed the condence of my actual belief in the prospect and
with a degree of stability that will certainly exceed the stability of my actual
belief. In this sense, hope is a
rationality. It redirects attention and
desire and imaginative planning to possibilities that a more fact-processing,
probability-assessing, evidence-seeking mentality might reject:Forming the
hope that a particular scenario will eventuate, or at least eventuate in the
event of your taking a certain initiative, is a way of handling the hurly burly
of belief. It frees you from the bleakness of beliefs that wax and wane unpre
dictably in level of condence. It gives you rm and friendly coordinates in
an uncertain and uncompanionable world. To have hope is to have some
thing we might describe as cognitive resolve.
Without hope, there would
oen be no possibility for us of asserting our agency and of putting our own
signature or stamp on our conduct. We would collapse in a heap of despair
and uncertainty, beaten down by cascades of inimicalfact.
Hope, on this picture, is deeply connected with practical agency, or as it
sometimes put, is a form of agential investment. In this regard, it is dis
wish, such as for the impossible or near impossible
for immortality, as Aristotle says. And, too, it is distinct from wishful
thinkingat least in the way Freud sometimes understands it, as a turning
away from reality with wishful fantasies regarded as a better reality. For
similar reasons, the notion of wish fulllment, in the sense of satisfaction
fully hived o from the constraints of reality, does not capture the meaning
of hope, either. To be sure, substantive hopes typically involve a kind of ego
satisfaction, in the sense of a desire for ones own thriving, or
And these kinds of hopes may be expressed in the constructions of fantasy
and its narratives, as vehicles for practice and for trying out future possibili
ties. Iexpand upon this shortly. But the point for now is that fantasy can be
an important way of
reality and, not of retreating from it, in a fully
Its hard not to think about hope when you meet Dan Berschinski, a
young Army veteran from the war in Afghanistan. On August 18, 2009,
Dan, then a twenty-ve-year-old rst lieutenant from West Point, in com
mand of an infantry platoon in Kandahar, Afghanistan, stepped on a bomb
while trying to retrieve the remains of his unit observer. Abotched-up
medevac le Dan bleeding profusely, and his family was pretty sure he
was not going to make it out of Afghanistan alive. In the end, he was
stabilized enough to be put on a plane to Landsthul Regional Medical
Center, though too fragile to actually leave the plane. Within a week, he
was own to Walter Reed, where his parents awaited him. Bob and Susan
Berschinski were warned that if Dan somehow pulled through, the hem
orrhaging would likely result in severe brain damage. Dan miraculously
did pull through, with no trace of traumatic brain injury. As Susan said
to me, once they brought him out of the coma, it was rapidly apparent
was still there.
But his body wasnt all there. He had lost nearly half of his skeleton and
the joints that held it together, now so much dust in the Afghani desert:My
guys found a boot .
. mostly intact actually, and they said to me later that
they played rock-paper-scissors to see who would have to stick their hand
inside the boot to see if there was any esh inside. But there wasnt. It was
Idont know what happened.
When Dan came to, he knew much of his body was gone, but under a
protective white hospital sheet he couldnt really take in the damage, and his
parents kept up a brave face. He was a mess
ere was not a place on him
that you could touch that didnt hurt, said Bob. Aer more than a dozen
operations, and being pinned together by an exoskeletal frame to stabilize his
remaining limbs, Dan ocially became a double above-the-knee amputee,
with a reconstructed le arm and hand, minus a pinky. But critically, he was
missing a right hip joint. With that much skeletal damage, and profound
socket challenges for a good-tting prosthesis, it was fairly clear that Dan
would never walk again. Without sit bones, he even had trouble sitting in a
wheelchair without slidingo.
e evidence conrmed that prognosis. Others in the Army had suered
his kind of injury, but no one had walked again. Walking wasnt just about
ambulating. As Ilearned from other amputees, walking was about standing,
and being eye-to-eye with others.
In Dans case, a shard of hope emerged. Dan soon learned of one success
ful (i.e., ambulatory) missing-hip, above-the-knee amputee. Andre Kajlich,
a civilian living in Seattle, was hit head-on by a train while studying chem
istry in Prague. Ten years later, Kajlich now walks with two prosthetic legs
and a single cane. AYouTube video shows his jerky movements and his falls
going downstairs without quadricep muscles. But it also shows that he clearly
walks. And he not only walks, but he is a world-class paratriathlete.
Kajlich soon became an emulatory model for Dan, and was evidence that
walking with his meager skeleton was humanly possible. And that possibil
ism set in a motion a
of hope not unlike a complex master plan with
embedded initiatives, both collaborative and individual. ose initiatives
included consultations that brought Kajlich to Walter Reed Hospital in
Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss his case with Dan and other similarly injured
vets. But gruelingly, for Dan, it involved two and a half years of intense physi
cal and occupational therapy at the rehabilitation gym on Walter Reeds
campus, and a deep immersion in the mechanics, t, and usage of prosthet
ics. Dan became expert in the metrics of gait, stride, and balance and, more
basically, in wearing legs:how to keep stumps comfortable inside a silicon
sleeve and carbon socketall day; how to get a good t in the morning, when
the stump is thin and not yet swollen from rub and wear; how to maneuver
and feel comfortable wearing the heavy belt needed to hoist up the leg that
is missing its hip bone and socket. All this was in aid of making possible an
independent and ambulatory lifestyle.
Dans case illustrates well how hope can be pragmatically rational. We can
speculate that, in the course of his recovery, Dan puts the counterevidence
and low probabilitiesthe examples of unsuccessful similarly injured
military guys that would stand between him and ambulationto the side.
ey become background information, though presumably still accessible
at some level. True, in taking up this stance of hope he restricts exposure
to evidence, but does that much in the way that we do many emotionsby
narrowing our focus to certain patterns of salience that then dispose us to
building ways of seeing, or epistemic landscapes, that cohere with those
patterns of salience. In this sense, hope is not systematically dierent from
other emotionally laden ways of seeing. Dan, like many vets, carries a men
tal calculation of where his war injuries t relative to those that others suf
fer. He has it easy, he thinks, compared to arm amputees or veterans who
suer severe brain damage. But he has it a lot harder than below-the-knee
amputees:theyre mere single or double paper cuts, as he aectionately calls
them! Also, he doesnt take for granted that he is a veteran with a college
him, and that he has had strong resources in a loving and
upper-middle-class family and supportive friends. All that helps, he says.
Others arent as lucky. ese considerations factor into Dans hope. His
hope is ardent, but it isntblind.
It is also not entirely dierent from a more common, pragmatic stance
. Aphilosophy colleague who works with surgeons on medical
ethics issues reported a view of the ideal surgeon as one who has a ratio of
condence to ability that is slightly higher than 1.e idea is that the good
surgeon gives himself a little boost before going into a dicult surgery; he
psyches himself in the way an elite athlete does before a race. He has a kind
. Hope involves that kind of pragmatic boost, and
perhaps even a stronger dose of it. But it also involves something we havent
yet explored and thats not typically an element of condence. And that is
imagination and fantasy.
I suspect, at some level or another, Dan fantasizes that he is like Kajlich,
and that some day he will be able to do the things that Kajlich can do. He
trades places in fancy, as Adam Smith would say, with Kajlich. And in the
space of imagination, Dan is able to practice and anticipate constructively,
to pre-rehearse, to use a Stoic term, what a possible future reality might
look like, and so avoid the paralysis of idle fears and the futility of empty
hopes. Kajlichs precedent means that Dan does not have to have
imagination from scratch. Here, I have in mind the concept of tran
scendent hope as one philosopher has developed it in his portrait of Plenty
Coup, the Crow leader, who must and does imagine (through the interpreta
tions of dreams and fantasies) a totally novel way of thriving for himself and
his people in the face of the annihilation of Crow culture that comes with
the death of the bualo. Crow concepts of courage and virtue that depend on
the warrior life of hunting bualo no longer have application; radical hope
and radical fantasy are required to create new, thick content for virtue if a
people are to ourish again. Dans conceptual and moral challenge is not as
great. Still, in a related way, imagination, fantasy, and interpretations make
concrete his hopes and help to shape and revise plans that are expressions of
Dan trades places with Kajlich, but Isuspect Kajlich also trades places
with Dan. rough a biographic, retrospective narrative of what it was like to
take his rst, post-accident steps, he puts himself in Dans shoes and comes
closer to Dans current frustrations and challenges. is also puts him in a
position of investing
Dan (aspiring on his behalf), which presumably
helps inspire Dans hope in himself.
Dans hope, in this reconstructed narrative, is for an eventuality when he can
walk. But that hope is interlaced with normative hope. He invests hope
medical and therapy sta at Walter Reed and in the institution that supports
its remarkable, rehabilitative gymthe MATC, short for Military Advanced
Training Center (and aectionately referred to by another double amputee,
Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Gadson, as the Golds gym of guys that are
missing things). Dan puts hope
the civilian contractors who make and t
prosthetics for veterans; he puts hope
his immediate circle of family and
friends, including his new family of injured veterans at Walter Reed, like
Tyson uink, whom Imet, a West Point football player who lost both legs
three months into his deployment to Afghanistan; he puts hope
in myriad ways:to authorize adequate allocations for veteran spending, to
deliberate wisely about future military and humanitarian engagements, to
support worldwide rights for persons with disabilities. And he puts hope
the American electorate to elect the right people to oce who will make
these decisions. Equally, he puts hope
American business and education
leaders to create opportunities for veterans, like himself, to be re-integrated
into the workforce and to return to school and training programs. And oth
ers invest hope
himhis therapists, coaches, mentors, fellow amputees at
the rehab gym, his family, peers, and so on. And he invests hope
in ways that are mutually reinforced by his investments in others and their
investments in him. Normative investments underlie his hopes for himself
(and others) to be able to function well aer military service inwar.
As in the earlier
example, to expressly communicate hope to a per
son is to morally address that recipient, to call her in a way that normatively
anticipates a response. As with trust, the anticipation falls short of condent
belief and involves exposure to vulnerability and risk-taking. e caller
could be disappointed; the target might not take up the call. Or she may
recognize that she is being hoped in, counted on, so to speak (to use the lan
guage of trust), and acknowledge that she has been appropriately recognized;
but still she may not fulll the aspirations invested in her or wholeheartedly
take up the challenge. As Aristotle implies, our sons and daughters may not
do what is required of them to meet the challenges implicit in our hopes for
their happiness. We may hope in them on credit, but then be disappointed.
, Seneca, the rst-century Roman Stoic
and tutor to the Emperor Nero, rehearses a colorful example of the call-
and-response trope of recognition and acknowledgment in gi-giving and
gratitude. His example is prescient as a sketch of the reiterative looping char
acteristic of reactive attitudes and the need for good attunement for success
ful uptake. Doing a kindness returned with gratitude is like a game of catch.
You should know to whom you are throwing the ball. e passage bears a
close look: I would like to take up an analogy which our own Chrysippus
drew with a game of ball. It falls to the ground through the fault either of the
person throwing it or of the person receiving it, while it only remains in play
by passing, properly thrown and caught, from one pair of hands to the other.
A good player needs to send it o dierently to a tall partner than to a short
one. e same principle applies to a favour. Only if properly accommodated
to both the persons involved, bestower and recipient, will it leave the one and
reach the other as it should. Again, if the game with a trained and practised
player, we shall be bolder in throwing the ball. No matter how it comes, his
hand will be ready and quick to drive it back. Against an untrained novice,
we shall not throw it so hard or so vigorously but be more relaxed, aiming the
ball right into his hands and simply meeting it when it comes back. We should
use the same procedure when doing favours.
As it is, we very oen make
people ungrateful and welcome the idea that they should be so, as though our
favours could only be great if we cannot be thanked for them.
better and more considerate it would be to see to it that recipients too have a
part to play, to welcome the idea that you could be thanked.
Obviously, doing someone a good turn is best geared to what that recipi
ent needs and is capable of using. As Seneca goes on to tell us, giving books
to a country bumpkin or a heavy coat to someone in summer is probably not
a well-placed pass likely to be returned with much gratitude! Similarly, trust
given to someone who has signaled no competence or interest in the domain
in which one is asking her to be trustworthy is not a wise exposure of vulner
ability, nor a likely way to scaold deeper trust in that person.
But hope in others is somewhat dierent from trust. We may not fully
trust persons and their readiness to receive us appropriately, but we still may
hope in them; and in an even more robust way than trust, hope that our hope
in them makes them responsive to our call. us, hope in others can presume
a clearly developmental stance. We want to move a recipient along and hope
she will rise to the challenge and catch the ball. Still, we are oen willing
to accommodate somewhatthrow the ball, with the recipients limits in
mindall the while still trying to get her to catch. And where we simply
cant engage the other properly (or are met with deep resistance), we may
enlist others help to throw the ball for us.
To make this concrete, consider the following narrative of a service woman
I interviewed. Roberta, with a distinguished record of academic laurels and
military awards, is told to her face by her new commander that, despite her
promotion to a highly coveted senior job on his base, he fought against
her going there and would continue to do everything he could to undermine
her appointment. As she put it, miming the lingo of her brothers on base,
her very presence was disrupting the status quo and tearing down heri
tage and tradition. In her case, she turned to a male mentor to help break
into the bro network, and plead her cause. ere was no way that her new
boss could recognize directly from her that her hope in him to accept her on
an equal footing with her male peers was legitimate and something he had
moral reason to commit to. He had to hear that through dierent channels.
It is not even clear that he recognized the moral call in the end, and may only
have felt pressured for political reasons to act in conformity with regulation
and policy. To revert to Senecas metaphor, this is a case where an individual
(Roberta) is already in a game of ball, but cant get successful uptake from
the recipient. And when she nally does, only through the intervention of
another player, the successful catch may reect changed behavior more
than changed attitude.
In this case, Robertas hope presumably devolves to disappointment. And
her disappointment in the commander is compatible with any resentment
she might feel toward him, or indignation her mentor feels toward him. e
resentment or indignation has as its evaluative content that she has been
demeaned and degraded by her commander, forced to work in a hostile envi
ronment where he encourages sexist values protective of the old military as a
male-only club. Any resentment, were she to express it directly to him, would
hold him strictly accountable for his wronging her. Her disappointment, in
contrast, has as its evaluative content that she is let down by his impoverished
leadership and by his failure to recognize her bid to him (or that made on her
behalf) to take her military service seriously and on an equal footing with
any males. Her disappointment, in part, is that he doesnt invest hope inher.
One more caveat is important here. We might think of this normative
disappointment as a tamped-down or suppressed version of resentment. We
hold back, suppress the full force of our blame or resentment, and feel only a
milder version of it. But I dont think this gets it right, even though on occa
sion we may
our resentment with disappointment, in deference either
to the youth and inexperience of the moral progressor or to the dicult
challenges, external or internal, the target faces in meeting aspirations. But
even in such cases we are taking up a dierent normative stance in disap
pointment than we are in resentment. In the rst case, our aspirations on
behalf of someone are frustrated and we feel let down; in the second, we feel
violated, transgressed, toyed with, and we hold the target responsible for
the transgression. We blame him in a way we dont in the rst case. (at
is, the counterpoint to praise, in the rst case of meeting aspirations, is not
blame when there is failure.) Moreover, disappointment, in others or in one
self, neednt be inherently a mild emotion. It can be felt as profoundly and
intensely as the most bitter kind of resentment or guilt. It can cripple and
paralyze and lead to the bleakest kind of despair. Again, Aristotles remarks
about parental investment in a childs happiness (however guided or mis
guided) makes this all too clear. e dierence between disappointment and
resentment is qualitative, not scalar.
We have been focusing on hope and disappointment in others. But many
who return from war are dogged by profound disappointment in them
selves and the sense that they have fallen short of ideals of what it is to be a
good soldier. Sometimes the disappointment stems not from wrongdoing
or evil, but from an over-idealized sense of good soldiering, or an intoler
ance for good and bad luck in war. In a related way, some may feel (subjec
tive) guilt that doesnt track culpability or wrongdoing. In some of these
cases, there may be causal but not moral responsibility at work, such as
when an individual is the proximate cause of a nonculpable accident. In
other cases, merely surviving when a buddy doesnt, without any sense of
being the agent or cause of that buddys death, unleashes deep guilt and
Hope in the face of evil is another matter, either when one is the victim of
evil or when its perpetrator. ere is no shortage of evil in going to war and
killing and maiming for a cause that may not be just or at least is imprudent,
as many in the public increasingly regard the wars in Afghanistan, and
especiallyIraq. is has not been my central focus, largely because the sol
diers who are my focus have not made it theirs. is may speak to all sorts of
issues, including an enlisted military and not a draed one, a conservative-
leaning military, a military that swelled in the wake of a patriotic surge aer
9/11, or wars that have wound down only to be reignited. I suspect there will
be far deeper disillusionment as the experiences of investing $2 trillion and
too many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan leave little lasting impact in those
e experience of some of the Marine veterans of the bloody Fallujah
invasion of the Anbar region of Iraq in November 2004 may be indicative
here. e battle that wrested the insurgent-held city was erce and costly,
and for the Corps a dening moment of the twelve years of war in Iraq and
Afghanistan, with nearly 100 Marines killed and hundreds wounded. When
the city fell back to insurgent Sunni forces with Al Qaeda links in January
2014, shock waves of disbelief ran viral through the close-knit Marine com
munity who fought in that battle. With the fall came a lost sense of the mis
sion and what they took themselves to accomplish. As Kael Weston, a State
Department political adviser who worked closely with Marines in Fallujah
and later Afghanistan put it, is is just the beginning of the reckoning
and accounting. e reckoning will come, and with it the shiing grounds
of hope or despair. is is a future story to be told for these veterans and for
many others who have served in thesewars.
But for now I want to focus on a dierent reckoning: hope in the face of
accident and the hope one should have. at is, hope that is appropriate and
tting, and that can update and correct earlier reactive uptakes. at hope
can also be therapeuticliterally, life saving, liing one from suicidal self-
rebuke and despair. But coming to that self-hope is not easy. And it oen
requires the hope others invest in us.
Self-hope is self-address. But rst, it might seem a stretch to think of
reactive attitudes as moral addresses. Aer all, in the self-reexive case,
we dont have to
the attitudes to
them to ourselves. And so, if
address is primarily
attitude, then the idea of moral address to one
self seems strained. Moreover, the background notion of call and response
in speech acts, or in Gospel music of the Church and later absorbed in rock
and roll patterns (stereotypically with a solo woman or girl group chorus
answering the call of the male lead singerthink of Lou Reeds A Walk
on the Wild Side and the controversial call line, and the colored girls sing
with the reply, Doot, doo doot, doo doot, doo doot doo doot), makes vivid
that idea of public and, paradigmatically, oral address and response. e
vocal model isnt an easy t for private, normative self-review.
But this is too literal and restrictive a read of moral address. Even in sec
ond-personal cases, we still may hold each other
, where additionally the latter involves imposing sanctions that
only make sense when our blame or reproach is expressly communicated.
Moreover, insofar as evaluative attitudes are
that draw us in or rivet
attention, an important part of expressed address, which is to get someone
to pay attention to you, is already at work in the self-reactive case. All this
of course is to put aside the fact that we oen do openly express emotions to
ourselvesin talking to ourselves, in singing to ourselves, in journaling, in
screwing up our face muscles, and in scores of other communications. Some
of these communications may need decoding and unmasking, but when
they are, they are the beginning of interpretive narratives, again, that we
But to return to the question Ibegan with, in what sense can
self-hope act as a corrective update on harsher reactive attitudes we
hold toward ourselves, particularly when those attitudesof guilt,
shame, or self-disappointmentare not entirely apt and are the cause
of deep anguish? Self-forgiveness, self-empathy, and self-compassion all
can play a role, as we have seen in earlier chapters. But so, too, can nor
mative hope. Insofar as hope invests aspiration rather than normative
demands for strict compliance, we begin by giving ourselves some lati
tude in the face of significant internal and external challenges we may
face. We take up the progressors stance, not the perfectionist stance
of a sage, to deploy Stoic idiom. For some, this will involve recogniz
ing the limits of agency in the face of luck and embedded existence.
And this willingness to tolerate luck may combine with the resources
of hope to engage imagination in order to rethink and renarrate the
traumatic or nagging scenarios in a less stuck and less self-punishing
way. So, in time, a Marine may come to imagine those who have died
under his watch as
not condemning him. Or he may no longer
imagine himself exposed, under anothers critical gaze, in a way that
compromises self-presentation and brings on shame. In short, new pos
sibilities open up in how he holds himself responsible and how he views
others as holding him responsible.
With this in mind, lets revisit Marine Corporal Lalo Panyagua and
his wife, Donna Hernandez. Recall that Lalo had sustained multiple
injuriestraumatic brain injury, nerve damage in his arms, some vision,
speech, and memory impairments, severe posttraumatic stress, and chronic
insomnia. But what anguishes him the most is moral injuryin particular,
the guilt of losing three Marines. One incident, which weve already detailed,
keeps eating him up. It is the loss of Corporal Justin Wilson in Marja. It was
bad luck. Wilson had to take a shit at the wrong moment and got blown to
pieces. But Lalo didnt remind him to watch his step. at was Lalos fault,
and not a matter of luck, thinks Lalo. e citation on his achievement medal,
Corporal Panyagua adapted and overcame any challenge, oers little com
fort in facing the self-rebuke and the suicidal fantasies that come withit.
Donna, his wife and my former student, is a powerful mix of sass, humor,
dark beauty, street smarts, and academic sophistication. She is on an even
keel, and while ery about her interests and academic independence, she is a
devoted partner, endlessly patient and empathic. Early on at Georgetown she
decided on a career in the Foreign Service, and won a prestigious Pickering
Foreign Aairs fellowship to do her masters at Yale in security studies, as
part of her preparation for postings abroad.
All this is important background to Lalos project of self-hope. Donna
brings to bear her exceptional gis and personal resources in her relationship
with Lalo. And they have been critical for his recovery back home. Lalo is a
progressor in her eyes, and his own project of hope in himself depends in
critical ways on her hope in him. Still, the journey has not beeneasy.
To recap, with next to no transition time, Lalo returned from war to a
stateside base where he became a combat guy at a desk job, surrounded
mostly by those who had not gone to war and a commander who viewed
him as a malingerer for taking o time for his medical appointments. It was
Donna who got him to seek psychotherapy (to see the wizard, as he puts it),
two years aer his return and aer a pile-up of frightening incidents, where
he ung her out of bed across a room as he relived a ashback, held her to
knife point when she came up on him from behind during a thunderstorm,
and nearly killed others on street corners in D.C.in attempts to protect her.
She took away his knife. He took up archery in its place:He cant really hurt
me with a bow and arrow! she laughs. e bow and arrow have now been
conscated, too. No weapons, she told me. Its too dangerous.
Donna is herself good at compartmentalizing, and since childhood,
academic study has been her sanctuary and salvation. Its her safe retreat.
Nourishment. But as separate as her bookish world is from the Marine
Corps, Lalo has always been a part of it. In part, its through her vision. She
has a sustained vision of Lalo as someone who is absolutely winning and
loveableeveryone falls in love with Lalo, she has said to me on several
occasions, meaning not just that he charms but also that he is
love and that of others.
Estimations of worth and goodness, of course, neednt have anything to
do with estimates of a persons psychological capacities to overcome crip
pling and harsh guilt, or to accept the limits of agency and what is beyond
ones control. But
anothers goodness or capacity for hard work in
the service of important and worthwhile ends
have such an inuence.
And Donna knows well and deeply, in a way that Lalo can forget, just how
good a Marine he is and how he surpassed expectations in every mission he
was assigned. When he wears his regalia, at her request, such as at their wed
ding when they eloped when she was a freshman, and at her graduation from
Georgetown, she is reminding him of his honors and his capacities. She is
trying to reconnect him with his capabilities and his condence in them.
ese are public addresses of sorts
him of her hope
him. ey are
nudges, oerings of content for introjections that will renourish his own self-
images. ey are attempts at tempering and updating his self-blame for being
a leader who lost troops. Of course, uptake, especially in this kind of case,
can be partial and primarily a performance, outer posturing of normative
hope, perhaps in showing up for psychotherapy appointments, say, but also in
resisting the hard work and trust alliance with a therapist required to really
invest in the possibility of therapeutic change. But just as a therapists nely
expressed trust in a patient can elicit trustworthiness, so, too, can a partners
artful and nely attuned hope in one bootstrapping ones own. Donna is able
to do this for Lalo.
Lalos nascent self-hope, in this case, mirrors Donnas hope in him. Early
on in the philosophical record, Aristotle invokes that image of a friend as
another self, a mirror, not for narcissistic reection, he insists, but for
self-knowledge when we wish to know our own characters .
. and direct
study of ourselves is near impossible. e background assumption in
Aristotles claims is that we are not empty vessels for others aspirations, but
we are aspirants who cant do without others support, trust, and compassion
ate critique in articulating how to live well and then trying to live thatlife.
It would be hard to spend any time with this couple and not pick up on
this dynamic in their relationship. Donnas hope is neither sweet, nor supine,
nor Pollyannaish:She has lived war and knows too much about the war that
keeps going on. She is a survivor of war no less than he. But he is also now a
student, at a community college in New Haven, where he takes classes four
days a week, with one day free for himself and VA appointments. And hes
enjoying being the student again. Each has invested in the others future.
Donna and Lalo partner one another by trading places in fancy, and some
We human progressors engage in complicated moral and psychological
interactions. We elicit change in response to each others investments in us,
as well as in our own. For a returning veteran, recognizing that another has
invested hope in you can be profoundly transformative. It can nourish hope
in oneself and sustain hope for projects that rekindle a sense of meaning and
purpose aer war. It is an important moment in healing.
A homecoming for a sailor and a new beginning for afamily
Lieutenant Alysha Haran is a thirty-seven-year-old naval ocer, whom Irst
met in 2006 when she was a midshipman in the NROTC (Naval Reserve
Ocer Training Corps) program at the University of San Diego. Iwas giving
a lecture honoring the late Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale, the senior
POW held by the North Vietnamese for seven and half years who attrib
uted his survival through brutal isolation and torture to adherence to the
teachings of Stoicism, and its call to let go of everything outside ones control
as extraneous to inner virtue. Alysha had her own Stoic awakening around
the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. She was a California actress and
producer, whose L.A.career in lm and commercials started to seem vapid,
fat with material objects but lacking in authenticity and a sense of service.
Shooting car ads, chasing the California summer daylight for seventeen
hours a day to get the right angle and shot, struck her then as a worthless
pursuit:Making Mercedes commercialswhat does it really matter? e
Navy, in contrast, oered a life of public service where her age and experience
(she was ten years older than most of the other midshipmen on campus) and
love of mentoring could have a solidplace.
What clinched the Navy for her was a sense of a womans place at sea.
ere was nostalgia, too. Her grandmother was in the WAVES (the Navys
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.
When she died in February 2001, Alysha saw a picture of her in uniform for
the rst time. She was overcome with wistful longing: She looked beauti
ful, she sighed. It was a moment lled with nostalgia. e smell, the feel was
right. In joining the Navy, Alysha had something of a conversion experience.
A romance with a uniform became a romance with the sea and a romance
with ships: I love the ships. I love the eciency with which you can get a city
at sea to run, she told me recently. And she found her calling in a dedication
to sailors, who for the most part grew up with neither her privilege nor her
sense of expectation in life.
Alysha graduated USD and was commissioned into the Navy on May 27,
2007. Two months later she was an ensign, aboard a 300-person destroyer,
at sea in the Middle East. Within ve weeks of boarding the ship, she quali
ed in her watch station in a steering, having had no prior training before
deploying. Just around her commission time, the Navy shrunk its training
program and jettisoned a six-month course for Surface Warfare Ocers
(SWOs; a program that they have since reinstated). Alysha was forced to
learn on the job, by the book, with the help of the enlisted at her side. She
had little doubt about the importance of her oce. A steering was the last
line of defense, she explained to me, in ensuring the safety of your crew.
And she had always been committed to performing to the highest standards
of excellence. She always pushed herself. She had walked on the ship ready to
be a professional, ready to lead, and ready to being given the standing of an
ocer. But she also knew she needed formalized training to do her job well.
e Navy didnt treat surface warfare as it did aviator training and learning
to y, she said: I had zero training before boarding that ship.
New on the job with her mint new credentials and little training, she was
the ocer in charge at the a station when a supervising ocer happened to
walk in, did a routine inspection, and barked out Unsat. He made a beeline
to the commanding ocer to share the unsatisfactory review, Alysha said,
rather than seizing the occasion as a moment for her training. Within a day,
three enlisted sailors and Alysha, their junior ocer, were brought before a
mast hearing with the commander at the helm. e proceedings commenced
against the enlisted, with Alysha forced to watch from the rear, feeling help
less in her role of taking care of her enlisted.
e procedures for the watch were gone over at mast in far greater detail
than she had ever heard before. She was here, at captains mast, getting the
kind of formal training she should have had before stepping onto the ship.
e charges against the sailors were dropped. It was now Alyshas turn. In a
moment of weight and gravitas, the commander moved the location of the
mast to the more formal ocers podium. It became a spectacle. And she
was certain she was about to lose her commission and be publicly disgraced.
Her Navy career, her dreams of a womans place were shot. But then the
charges were dropped, just as they had been for the enlisted. But the spirit of
indictment and the public shaming never lied:I became the Jonah of the
ship, she said, using sailors lingo for a person who brings bad luck on board.
Given who Iam, Itook it seriously to the point that Ifelt Ihad nowhere to
go. She was trapped at sea. She later learned that the captain never had any
intentions of putting her in the brig. His motivation was to send a message
to the wardroom. In an odd, perverted way, they used theater against me,
she said, referring to how she felt stigmatized from the start for her unusual
theater background. e captain had made a leadership decision:she was the
object lesson to be put on stage. She was the plaything of the deterrent pun
ishment, or at least the threat of it. And though she was never put in the brig,
the public mast was humiliation enough.
is incident set the tone for her deployment. She became a Philoctetes
of sorts (to recall the discussion in
chapter5), marooned on an island, struck
down only aer ve weeks of becoming an ocer, shunned by her fellow
sailors. Iwas taking my rst step, she said to me, seven years later, with
no time to become toughened up and have allies. She did have one ally,
a woman who was her department head, who knew that the charge would
be dismissed. But as a matter of professional propriety she chose not to tell
Alysha before the decision was formally delivered.
Alysha fully acknowledges that she and her enlisted companions made
mistakes. And she was forthright and apologetic to the commander at the
time. She had been given assurances by others who had a duty that it was
okay to bring a non-Navy book with her to read during the long lulls at
watch. at was ill-advised and became a bone of contention with the super
visor. It also turned out that one of the enlisted men was not easily visible
when the supervisor passed throughat that very moment he was behind a
large piece of equipment mopping up an oil puddle. In addition, the whole
team was lethargic in the 117-degree heat. at, too, didnt help. Still, the
disgracing le a black spot on her psyche:To this day, Istill feel it. ey
picked the worst possible ocer to do this to. Others could shrug it o. But it
had a lasting impact on me, with four months le of deployment on the ship.
at was the only time Icame close to contemplating suicide. Iwould go to
the transom on the ship and look at the wake and just want to jump.
Igot up for every watch, and did it all. But Iinternalized it alldown, down,
downa complete severing of my previous life. All that happiness Ifound in
San Diego, all that happiness dried up. Istopped writing to friends and fam
ily. Ihad no way to tell them Iwas a complete failure. And Iwas failing on the
ship without anyone to help me. Ithink Iwas 112 pounds. Istopped eating
in the wardroom because Ihad no friends. So Islowly started to disappear.
Alysha was vulnerable. As oen in the case of trauma, there is a history.
e third sister of four girls, she was oen blamed for mishaps. And she was
the working daughter who brought home the paycheck as a child actress. She
felt exploited: I was only valued for
I was as a kid, and not for
was. I was an actress. And as an actress, you never let down your mask. She
internalized the blame and became expert in shaming herself. e perfec
tionist military, demanding blemish-free performance, suited her own harsh
superego. And that she was dierent, an actress, a writer, a dancer who loves
yogaall that made her an easy target, on a ship on edge, combat ready with
no enemy in sight except the one within. e war is
the ship, Alysha
Lord of the Flies
syndrome sets in. And on a small destroyer of
300 persons, unlike an aircra carrier that is a virtual city of 5,000, there is
nowhere to hide: You are confronted by that hostility every day. Even the
most ecient ship can devolve into a moral snake pit: When you take in all
lines from a ship, you lose your perspective.
It is easy to see Alysha as cut from a dierent cloth than many in the tra
dition-bound male Navy. An actress and dancer with a background in the
arts, she didnt t into a familiar pattern. She is extremely wary of pinning
her uphill battles on sexism, though. When I ask her if there was discrimina
tion involved in the commanders picking her out for an object lesson, she
is adamant: No, no, no. He wasnt sexist at all; the three enlisted sailors
were all male. He made a leadership decision. She says emphatically, e
gender issue was irrelevant. Still, when I mention the term implicit bias,
the idea behind it resonates: When you regard a male and female junior o
cer, somewhere on an unconscious level, you automatically assume the guy is
going to be more successful than the girl. And she suggests that disparities
in the elevation rates up the ranks in surface warfare denitely conrm the
Alysha returned from that deployment badly traumatized and feeling
desperately alone during the next postings at sea. Despite her anguish, she
surprised herself at how she managed to do well at the job, got pegged high,
and went on to serve as an aide to the commander of the Navys Central
Command and 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain. Her second boss in that posting,
Vice Admiral John Miller, quickly gained her trust in a way few commanders
ever had. I was really, really on the brink. I was ne at work because I have
mastered control, keeping it all in, not letting my face crack. And then I was
talking to my grandfather one day. Hes passed away, but he was in the Navy
and I was calling on him, so to speak: I was lost. And then arrives this admi
ral who looks like my grandfather, talks like him, and completely accepts me.
He accepted the artistic side of me. It wasnt a big deal for him.
In psychoanalytic terms, what Alysha experienced is a kind of double
transference, an attachment to a beloved grandfather mirrored anew in a pro
fessional relationship with an admiral who admires and respects her, in a way
that allows her to incorporate that positive image into her own self-regard
and self-esteem. In the terms we have been developing in the previous two
chapters, she experienced a reciprocal positive moral address of trust and
hope:Alysha can now reliably
a senior naval ocer who has a stable
vision of her as a talented, young naval lieutenant in whom he is willing to
invest publically. is positive call becomes critical for her sense of self-trust
and self-hope, and self-empathy. His mentorship was sustaining and Alysha
went on to apply for a highly competitive Olmstead fellowship (a kind of
Fulbright scholarship for mid-level ocers), which she won and is now work
ing on for two years in Tokyo.e healing came through championing not
what Iwas but
Iwas, raising me up, acknowledging me .
me, allowing me to come to work as an entire human being. He trusted me
enough to allow me to trust the
e lesson should not be trivialized. e military is very much a stage of
masks and managed hearts, roles and demeanorouter performances that
oen keep at bay inner conict and turmoil. e temperate Stoic, as Icall
it and have written extensively about in
, is the valorized role.
tempered Stoicism comes at a cost. And the ability to access
what one is really feeling, and not wall it o into lasting numbness or disdain
or fear of exposure, needs to be part of doing well and thriving, even in the
I recently gave a seminar at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,
California, to Special Forces ocers just back from ten years of war and
selected by that prestigious institution to pursue mid-career masters degrees.
One ocer spoke candidly before the others of the trauma he suered as a
child, and the pain of multiple adoptions and foster parents who were emo
tionally abusive and obtuse. He now has his own child, and he doesnt want
to transmit those absorbed habits into an abusive tough, truck it on parent
ing style. ese were issues he could think about now, in leisure and in an
academic setting, while he was home with his wife and child, not downrange,
leading troops, surviving on little sleep, primed to be hyperreactive, ready to
pounce as the intelligence demanded, a man of action, who has to ward o
the appearance of soness and vulnerability.
My aim in this book has been to tell the story of many dierent kinds of
homecomings, from lonely ships, from dubious missions, from assaults inside
the wire, from accidents that make human perfection laughable, from Greek
islands where the wounded are abandoned, from o-duty poolside R and
R where life-saving intel sits idle, from rooops in Marja where crouching
versus standing means life rather than death, from picking up your buddys
remains from a bomb blast and then losing the whole bottom of your body
from another blast, from not giving your troops the warning to take care
and having that omission haunt for the rest of your life. And in some cases,
too many cases, there are no homecomings. Or homecomings that later take
livesones own or ones spouses or fellow soldiers on home bases. And then
there are homecomings
, in classrooms, in hospitals, in work corridors,
in airports, where the lived worlds can seem alien until we morally engage
each other and do what we humans do best:recognize and acknowledge
each other, and invoke and convoke community through our emotions and
That is the work of emotions such as trust and hope and empathy.
They are calls to each other, invocations to take responsibility. In the
case of expressing trust, you let another know that you are counting
on him or her, as Sally, the wingman did, often to her commander,
though sadly, without adequate uptake. She had to resort to her own
self-protection when she entered the chow hall. Hope is an investment
in another, a setting of a challenge, in the best cases, with the kind of
care and concern that helps the recipient bootstrap him or herself up
to reach those new heights. This is what Donna does so well for Lalo,
and what he now feels empowered to do through his own aspirations for
himself. Empathy is a soulful connection with anotherand in many
cases, with oneselfthat allows one to touch past hurts without their
being toxic and paralyzing. After months and years of beating up on
himself for not being in Tal Afar for Lt. Edens, Tom Fiebrandt came to
the epiphany that he couldnt be the one-stop intel officer for all of the
Army in Iraq. To think that one ever could, of course, sounds grandiose.
But guilt can wrack in just that way that demands a full and merciless
self-flagellation. Shame can even be more global in its self-rebuke, rob
bing a self of any sense of worth in any domain. Ajax fell on his sword
because he felt fully emptied of honor. Jeff Hall felt stripped of all his
goodness when hamstrung by bureaucracy in his repeated attempts to
help a civilian girl bury her dead mother, father, and brother killed in
Guilt and shame can tear a self into pieces, to the point that one loses
sound judgment about who one is and who one can be. e task is to recover
lost goodness, to renew a desire to live well, and to nd meaning at home.
at is a kind of invocation of community, within one self and in ones own
company. Service members long for that, tooto recognize themselves
when shorn of the uniform and the side arms, when their old civilian self
seems unfamiliar, alien, and maybe even hostile. ose of us who have not
worn the uniform, and have sent others to war in them, have a sacred role in
this peace process.
Where ey AreNow
e healing continues for many of the service members Ihave interviewed.
Here are some brief updates:
is transitioning out of the Army with the devoted help of his
life-long soul mate and spouse, Sheri, and their two grown daughters. He
is starting a new life, he reports, in two business venturescustom wood
milling and an art shop. Both are interests he took up during his convales
cence from war, initially as therapy, carving intricately detailed war helmets
and painting masks that glimpsed at the war within. Sheri is opening a coee
shop and following her culinary passion. ey both remain committed to
soldier and veteran advocacy. Je has had numerous surgeries and ongoing
treatment in the wake of complicated war injuries that have taken a toll on
his body and mind.
recovered from his near fatal femoral wound of 2007 and
redeployed to Iraq ve months later to lead troops. Aer that tour, he worked
stateside, as Company Commander in the Fort Riley Warrior Transition
Battalion, helping soldiers face up to the emotional wounds of war. Interested
in Arabic since he was at West Point, he was selected as an Army Foreign
Area Ocer, and completed an advanced intensive Arabic language program
at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. He remains
a close observer of the areas he served in, following Arabic newsfeeds and
YouTube videos coming out of Iraq and the neighboring regions. Isaw him
in mid-June 2014 in Monterey. He was sickened by the sectarian bloodletting
he was seeing on line, and was deeply disillusioned by the collapse of Iraq and
the infrastructure that he and his troops fought so hard to build, at such high
cost of life of life and limb. He still remains an advocate of counterinsur
gency operations, but he is convinced that they can work only if troops have
decades to implement the changes and far more resources and personnel. He
is growing weary of Army bureaucracy and inexibility in its care of troops,
and is contemplating what might be next for him in his career. Promoted to
a major, he is peparing to leave the Army, for medical reasons and more, and
is pretty sure his next job will be in the private sector, away from the military
and government. He has had a divorce, struggles with his own psychological
and physical injuries, and has nally reached out to his father for candid con
versation and support. He has a little sister at home in Pennsylvania whom
he adores to pieces. During his deployment in Iraq, she and her classmates
made tee-shirts for him to distribute to Iraqi children their age. Josh is just
is at Stanfords Graduate School of Business. He
gets around the large campus on a Segway, donated to him by the charity
Segs4Vets. Afew years back, he started his own manufacturing company in
plastic-injection molding, setting up a division of the company that serves
military bases. He is hoping to do more partnerships with businesses that
work with veterans and is in an incubation program this summer to explore
that route. An ongoing interest is the development of prosthetics and joint
replacements, including making safe and exible, well-designed but inexpen
sive legs for nonprots and ird World distribution. ough he is enjoy
ing Stanford and the ease of being outdoors in sunny Palo Alto, he wishes
that more of his classmates, outside the small veteran community, would ask
him how he got injured. Its not that he wants to be known as the guy who
W T AN
lost his legs in war. He wants people to feel comfortable asking how it hap
pened so that both sides can move beyond it, and he can be just Dan. During
the past three summers, Dan has served as a counselor at a special wilderness
camp for kids who have lostlimbs.
is nishing up at Georgetown University, having
served as the president of the campus Students Veterans Association. He
enlisted in the Marines, thinking that the second time round he would serve
as an ocer. Hed lead knowing what life was like in the ranks. But the writ
ing bug has bitten him, and he is now rmly intent on a career in journal
ism. He was an editor at Georgetowns newspaper,
; a columnist
for the blog,
War on the Rocks
; and is a contributor at the
A number of his pieces have been published in the
New York Times, Time,
He follows war cor
respondents closely, especially those who were themselves once Marines, like
C. J. Chivers at the
New York Times
, a graduate of Georgetowns School of Foreign Service,
does intelligence work for a defense contractor in the D.C.area, and hopes
soon to become a Foreign Service ocer. We reconnected in early 2014, just
as Al Qaeda forces were claiming control of U.S.hard-won sites in Ramadi
and Fallujah. He was disillusioned by the re-ignition of ghting and deeply
concerned for locals, like those he worked closely with, trapped permanently
in the crosshairs of war. Iasked if he thought about going back to Tal Afar
and Mosul, the cities in northern Iraq where he was posted. He hesitated
before answering:Its a possibility, but Im not sure how Id handle it, being
back in the lions den. e lions den was not just the sectarian violence,
but also the return of his own demons. Toms fascination with the region
dates back to childhood:Its one of those places whose culture and history
always gripped me since Iwas a young kid reading the Bible. e tale of
the prophet Jonah begins and ends in the plains of Nineveh, in the northern
region of Iraq near the Syrian border. It is the site, as Iwrite now, of the vio
lent Sunni takeover by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), in their assault
to form an Islamic state in the region. And there are conrmed reports of
footage that show jihadists taking sledgehammers to the tomb of Jonah as
part of their attempt to eradicate Judeo-Christianity in the region.
Aer his tours in Iraq, Tom took classes at the community college in
his home neighborhood, where he met Brittany, his wife of several years
now:We were both the oldest students in class. at was the initial draw.
An accomplished equestrian, Brittany competes and teaches young children
riding and care for horses. e couple has bought a foreclosed, 110-year-old
house in rural Maryland that they are renovating.
was medically discharged from the Marines in a formal
ceremony at the VA elder residence in Virginia, where he and his care dog,
Max, lived for several months while Lalo was in treatment at the Marine
Wounded Warrior Regiment at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland. In the
audience were many elder veterans and widows of veterans who had become
Lalos informal support system during those months of psychological conva
lescence. He and Max have since relocated to New Haven to be with Donna.
Lalo is thriving in his new life as a student at Gateway Community College.
During the summer of 2014, he took classes at Yale as part of a warrior/
scholar program. One day during the summer, he told me with an exasper
ated voice that he was having a love/hate relationship with de Tocqueville!
He had to read
Democracy in America
that week and was struggling with the
nineteenth-century French-translated prose. Iwas caught by surprise a few
weeks later when he announced that de Tocqueville had become a personal
favorite. e change of heart came aer Lalo visited Yales Beinecke Rare
Book and Manuscript Library and the librarian pulled out de Tocquevilles
handwritten manuscripts. In an instant, an abstract work became concrete
and even likeable! Donna Hernandez continues as a U.S. Department of
State Pickering fellow at Yales Jackson Institute for Global Aairs. Among
her seminar teachers has been retired General Stanley McChrystal, now a
senior fellow at Yale. On Lalos twenty-sixth birthday, newly discharged
from the Marines, Lalo joined Donna and her classmates for a beer with
McChrystal aer his seminar. McChrystal toasted Lalo. Lalo had a chance
to talk directly to the commander who had been in charge of all American
forces in Afghanistan, including the Marine presence in Marja where Lalo,
in ashbacks, still returns to pick up the fragments of his buddies.
During the summer of 2014, while Donna was out of the country on
assignment in Cambodia, Lalo took long, meandering walks with Max up the
W T AN
wooded hills in East Rock in New Haven. Protected by Max in the city park,
Lalo could take in nature. Aer he nished his program at Yale, he was hon
ored when the school invited him to return next summer to be on hand to help
new vets who may be struggling with posttraumatic stress. Once the course was
over, Lalo returned to his search for a psychotherapist in New Haven, someone,
he tells me, who can listen and is compassionate, and who he can trust. Hes
become a sophisticated patient and consumer of mental health treatment, open
about his moral and psychological injuries and eager to get better. Still, there is a
little-appreciated hurdle in the system for veterans like Lalo: though his Tricare
health insurance allows him to go outside the VA system, the insurance pays
only at Medicaid rates. And not many providers will accept those fees. Lalo and
Donna, who eloped in her freshman year, will be wed again in a religious cer
emony before parents and friends, in June, 2015 in California. As Donna put it,
Lalo and I nally bowed to our parents' pleas for a Catholic ceremony.
Most of the service women Ihave written about do not want their names
disclosed. In those cases Ihave used pseudonyms. But Alysha Haran is the
actual name of
. While at sea, and as a part of a masters pro
gram, she wrote a creative nonction book under her own name that draws
from her experiences in the Navy. Under her Navy-sponsored Olmsted fellow
ship, which seeks to immerse military members in the cultures in which they
serve, she is doing a second masters in Japanese Studies at Sophia University in
Tokyo. As part of the immersion, she is directing a play with the 118-year-old
theater company, Tokyo International Players. Her background in lm and
theater has also led to an unusual collaboration with Japanese public spon
sors on a possible TV series that sets Louise May Alcotts
modern Japanese society. e collaboration is part of a push in Japan to gain
some ground for women, long subordinated and kept out of the workplace
and public life. Alysha is an unusual and unlikely sailor. As she jokes, Im glad
the military repealed dont ask dont tell, because once everyone is nally
comfortable with the word
, we can move onto the word
support others who have the same dream of nding room in a military life
for a literary or artistic soul, she has founded with her sister Laurel Haran,
Artists in Uniform, a nonprot organization that will bring accomplished
writers, actors, dancers, and artists onto bases to talk about their artforms.
Alysha has recently married a retired Navy master chief who is my family
for the rst time in a long time. Eager to go back to sea aer her Japanese
studies, she plans to serve for twenty years, all in, and then retire. At last she
is making peace with the Navy and with her dream of serving honorably as a
naval ocer in whites.
Stephanie Wilson is also not a pseudonym.
from her command in Qatar, heading up security logistics for mission sup
port, to take a post at the Pentagon under a three-star female Air Force gen
eral. Shes a supportive colleague, Stephanie told me, who understands
the demands on working mothers and spouses. An engineer by training,
Stephanies current work focuses on environmental oversight issues aecting
the Air Force, stateside. Stephanies children, Liam and Mikayla, are healthy
and ourishing and did well during Stephanies year-long absence. Her hus
band, Scott Wilson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was at home at
the helm. Afew years back, when Stephanie was selected early for command,
Scott supported her decision to accept the promotion, giving up his own
opportunity to command. Had they both stayed on their career tracks they
would have probably been commanding concurrently on two dierent conti
nents. Scott was willing to make the sacrice and retireearly.
Stephanie is well aware that in her command position she is a role model
for the military but also for the military family. Before she deployed to Qatar
she and her family met the families of the squadron commanders who would
be deploying under her. e challenges of juggling family and career were on
her mind as she reached out to these families. Later, when we chatted, she
put her rising career in perspective, in a way one wishes more men would:
Family relationships are so important probably in every job, every occupa
tion, in every step of life, but especially in the military. Its what grounds you.
Its what helps you. And sometimes, as military members, we have to remind
ourselves about that as we get into the quagmire of our day and our duties,
and the stress and strain. We have to remind ourselves that at the end of the
day, when you retire, the Air Force is going to say goodbye to you.
forgotten by the system, by the organization the minute you are out the door
and you are no longer working for them. But that family, if youve done your
job right, being a mom and a wife, (or a dad and a husband) and balancing
that with being an airman and a soldier, will be with you for life.
indebted, in writing this book, to the men and women who have served
(and their families) who have been so willing to talk openly to me about the
moral challenges of going to war and coming home. e book has incubated
for over three years, some of its ideas taking shape while I was giving talks on
e Untold War
. e list of debts is long. Among those I owe gratitude to are:
Michael Abbatello, Matthew Alexander, Ashley Anderson, John Anderson,
Bill Andrews, Paul Baco, Dan Berschinski, Bob and Susan Berschinski,
Dave Blair, Phil Carter, Rhonda Cornum, Caitlin Davies, Max Despans,
Joe Felter, Tom Fiebrandt, Greg Gadson, George Glaze, Erik Goepner, TM
Gibbons-Ne, Je Hall, Alysha Haran, Dave Hodne, Colby Howard, Rob
Kislow, Tim Karcher, Miriam Krieger, Fernando Lujan, Josh Mantz, Mauro
Mujica, Steve Robinson, Jacob Sotak, Tom Vail, Peter Weinert, Corneila
Weiss, Stephanie Wilson, and Jonathan Wong.
I am also indebted to conversations and symposia over the years with
those in the behavioral health clinical and research communities who treat
service members and veterans, or run and support advocacy programs and
outreach. I owe thanks here to: Christina Biedermann, Joe Bobrow, Victoria
Bruner, Robin Carnes, Abbey-Robin Durkin, Chuck Engel, Jerry Fromm,
Sam Goodman, Chuck Hoge, Leslie Hunter, Helene Moriary, William
Nash, Kathleen uinkert, Elspeth Cam Ritchie, and Steve Xenakis.
I could not do my work without the circle of philosopher-warriors who
are a part of my larger, academic community. Here Iowe special gratitude to
Tony Pfa and Jim Dubik. Ialso owe hearty thanks to Ian Fischbach, Lon
Olson, and Kevin Schieman.
And Iam grateful, too, to the war journalists who have shared their
insights with me as they have covered these thirteen and more years of war,
especially Jim Dao, David Finkel, Greg Jae, and Mark Mazzetti. Iowe
thanks, too, to Celia Strauss for bringing together the We Serve Hour to
work on media programing to help bridge the mil/civ divide.
My home base remains in academia and here the debt is large. Many have
read or heard versions of parts of this book, given me comments on related chap
ters, or steered me in the right direction at the right time. My largest debt is
to Francisco Gallegos and Trip Glazer, both philosophy graduate students at
Georgetown, who have been at my side in the writing and rewriting, transcrib
ing of interviews, compiling of references, and much more. I also wish to give
special thanks to Christina Biedermann, Susan Brison, Alisa Carse, Victor
Caston, David Konstan, Adrienne Martin, Peter Meineck, Sabine Roeser, Cain
Todd, B.J. Strawser, Sam Rickless, Saba Bazargan, and Jessica Stern. Each read
some bits of the book, in manuscript form or tailored for self-standing articles. I
owe special thanks to Shira Nayman who brainstormed with me early on about
resilience and just what aspects of it concerned me. I also owe deep thanks to
Julia Annas, Jonathan Lear, David Luban, and Martha Nussbaum for their
support early on of the project. I fear that I may have forgotten some who have
helped me along the way, and I hope I will be forgiven for any oversights.
I have given many seminars and lectures, here and abroad, based on the ideas
in this manuscript, and have beneted greatly from the lively discussions that
followed. Ithank all those who have extended invitations to me to visit and to
the audiences who have been so willing to engage with my work. Among those
lectures and institutions are:the Sidney Drell Lecture, Stanford; the Changing
Character of War Conference, Oxford, England; the Kim T.Adamson Lecture
in International Studies, Westminster College; Aective Dynamics Conference,
Geneva, Switzerland; Moral Emotions and Intuitions Conference and Public
Lecture, e Hague; the American Psychoanalytic Association Meetings; the
Hans Bethe House Scholar in Residence, Cornell University; Empathy and
Ethics Conference Keynote, Indiana University; Virtue and the Life of Soldiers
public lecture,Villanova University; ey Also Serve Conference, the Woodrow
Wilson Center; Educating Veterans on Americas Campuses Keynote, the
Department of Education; Our Ancient Wars Conference, the University of
Michigan; Sapientia lecture, Dartmouth; the Ethics Center, Kings College,
Wilkes Barre; Keynote to faculty, US Air Force Academy; Soldiers within
Society Conference, Reading, England; Untold Stories, Hidden Wounds War
Trauma and its Treatment Conference, Austen Riggs Center; War Ethics
Conference, University of California, San Diego; US Military Academy at
West Point; Keynote, e Last Chapter Conference, Lehigh University; Loyola
University, Baltimore; the Jubilee Center for Character and Virtue Conference,
Oriel College, Oxford, England; Practical Philosophy Workshop, University
of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania; Ethics of War Conference, Villanova
University; the Onassis Center; the Tavistock Institute, London; Georgetown
University Psychiatry Grand Rounds; Union College; plenary address at the
International Applied Ethics Conference, Hokkaido University,Japan.
e writing of this book would not have been possible without the gen
erous support and encouragement of the Guggenheim Foundation, whose
fellowship sustained me during 201314. Iremain deeply indebted to my aca
demic home, Georgetown University, and especially my chair, Wayne Davis,
for his unagging support over the years. Ialso wish to thank Provost Bob
Groves and Dean Chet Gillis for freeing me from academic responsibilities
during the Guggenheim year. e book began life in 201112 while Iwas a
Public Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. e Wilson
Center has been an exciting second home to me, both during my time as a pol
icy scholar and my earlier fellowship year in 200607. Iam grateful to Sonya
Michel for bringing me on board as a Scholar, and to Rob Litvak, Lindsay
Collins, and Mike Van Dusen for their continuing support over the years.
Two scholar interns were at my side at the Wilson Center, 201112, to whom
Iowe special thanks. ey are Kris Bradley and Dilbar Tina Rasulova.
Kris was instrumental in helping me sort through the extensive psychologi
cal research on resilience. Tina was an invaluable transcriber of interviews.
Her insights and striking maturity, and nuanced mastery of English, though a
recent emigré from Baku, Azerbejian, continue to inspireme.
Some of the themes of a few chapters have close relatives in indepen
dent scholarly essays. Versions of
chapter 4 appear in the following arti
cles: Recovering Lost Goodness: Shame, Guilt, and Self-Empathy in
31, no 2 (2014): 21733; Self-empathy and Moral
Emotion and Value
, edited by Sabine Roeser and Todd Cain
(Oxford University Press, 2014); and Moral Injury, Damage, and Repair,
to appear in
Our Ancient Wars
, edited by Victor Caston and Silke-Maria
Weineck (University of Michigan). A cousin of
chapter 5 appears as He
Gave Me His Hand, but Took my Bow: Trust and Trustworthiness in
and Our Wars, in
Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks,
edited by Peter Meineck and David Konstan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
e themes of
chapter 6 are explored in Moral Recovery aer War: e Role
of Hope, in
edited by Sam Rickless and Saba Bazargan (Oxford
University Press, forthcoming).
owes a great debt to my agent Jim Levine, and to my editor at
Oxford, Peter Ohlin. Peters enthusiasm and encouragement, from acquisi
tion to publication, and his discerning editorial eye have made working with
him a pleasure. Ialso wish to thank his editorial assistant, Emily Sacharin,
for overseeing many of the production details.
As always, no words can express my abiding love and gratitude to my fam
ily. We are a close-knit team, and though Kala and Jonathan now reside in far
away San Francisco, they are with us daily, as intellectual, witty, creative, and
inspiring soul partners in life. To Marshall, whose good nature, humor, love,
and sharp intellect have sustained me for well over half of my life, Ithank you
profoundly. And to my mother, Beatrice Sherman, who still comes in rst in
bridge and reads several novels a week, Ithank you for the example you set of
how to age with dignity, competence, andgrace.
the Vietnam Wall or the beaches of Normandy:
Or, too, virtual
memorials, such as the online Garden of Remembrance for the Falklands-
Malvinas War. Royal Navy Surgeon-Captain Dr. Rick Jolly (OBE), who took
troops to that war and served in the long conict, established the site:
. I interviewed Rick Jolly at his home in
Cornwall, England, in July 2002, and I write about him in
(Sherman 2005a, 11012). At the time of the interview, he told me that the
memorial was crucial: many troops were lost at sea or buried in a country far
from home. ose who lived needed tangible graveyards to pay their respects
to their comrades.
as General Stanley McChrystal called his counterinsurgency direc
REBORN BUT DEAD
Captain Josh Mantz died in Baghdad:
Iinterviewed Josh Mantz several
times, and at length, on March 14, 2012, March 29, 2014. We have also cor
responded by email.
as Icall it in
e Untold War
the moral injuries:
e term moral injury is increasingly used in military
behavioral health units. In the denition I oer here, I have been helped by Brett
Litzs formulation below. In my own work, I have stressed the fact that transgres
sions can be real or apparent, and in either case, can cause deep and real moral
suering: survivor guilt may not arise from a real transgression, though it can rep
resent a real sense of falling short and failing in ones care of another. See Litz et al.
(2009); Maguen and Litz (2012); and Nash et al. (2011). Litz et al. (2009) denes
moral injury as perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning
about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. For a sum
mary discussion of scientic research, see the National Center for PTSD website,
and Maguen and Litzs (2012) review: Moral Injury at War, (p. 700):
According to Maguen and Litz (2012), PTSD and moral injury should
be distinguished in clinical settings: PTSD is a mental disorder that
requires a diagnosis. Moral injury is a dimensional problemthere is no
threshold for the presence of moral injury, rather, at a given point in time,
a Veteran may have none, or mild to extreme manifestations. Litz et al.
(2009, p. 2) argue that the phenomenon of moral conict-colored psycho
logical trauma among war veterans has been understudied in the clinical
science community, and propose models for diagnosis and treatment spe
cic to moral injuries. ey argue that trauma treatment, oen based on
fear extinction models, ill-ts the nature of moral injuries. While I have
been an early reader of Jonathan Shays work (1994, 2002), I came upon
this newer clinical research aer the initial draing of many chapters in
this book. I thank William Nash, M.D., and Navy Captain (Ret.) for con
versations on these topics. I am in debt for his sharing his presentation to
the Armed Forces Public Health Conference, March 23, 2011 (Nash and
Westphal 2011). I also thank Jessica Stern for correspondence on this issue.
the preaching of Bishop Joseph Butler:
See, for example, Bishop
Butlers Sermon VIII. Upon Resentment and Forgiveness of Injuries, in
Fieen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel
, Butler (1964).
e term is folksinger Donovans. And the song
makes clear that the universal soldier is, in fact, no easily proled stereotype.
For lyrics, see:
business executive Paul Baco:
Iinterviewed Paul Baco on March
4, 2012. He has written a memoir of his war experience as a way of coming to
peace with his war. See Baco and McNamara (2014). Ireturn to Bacos
homecoming in the next chapter.
a psychiatrist presented at a war trauma conference:
trist Frank Ochberg presented this case at the Erikson Institute Conference
on PTSD and Moral Injury, Austen Riggs, Stockbridge, MA, October 2012.
For an interview with Ochberg on his interventions pursuant to this confer
ence, see Fromm (2014).
ones activities are worthwhile:
On this, see Susan Wolfs
insightful essay, Wolf (2010).
On cognitive resolve and hope, see Pettit (2004).
Alarming peaks in suicide:
In July 2010, under Vice General Chiarellis
directive, the Army released what became known as the Red Book Army
Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention, widely distributed
to leaders to set in place an Army-wide discussion of suicide prevention and
destigmatization of behavioral health treatment (Chiarelli 2010). In 2012 the
number of military suicides outpaced the number of soldiers dying in com
bat. See Timothy Williams, Suicides Outpacing War Deaths for Troops,
New York Times,
June 8, 2012, at:
. See also the Center for
New American Security policy brief of October 2011, Losing the Battle, e
Challenge of Military Suicide, at:
. (Harrell and
Berglass 2011) Finally, see Patricia Murphy, Military Suicide Prevention
Should Include Personal Weapon Disclosure, Retired General Suggests,
December 17, 2012, at:
See Martin Seligman in the introduction to
Snyder etal. (2011, p.4).
$145 million Army-wide
. Fitness program:
e price tag var
ies according to dierent accounts. In an announcement in the
, the gure is $117 million. See Benedict Carey, Mental Stress Training
Is Planned for U.S. Soldiers,
New York Times,
August 17, 2009, at:
. In a
article in which Seligman describes the program, the price tag
is given as $145 million, a gure I oen hear mentioned. See Martin Seligman,
Harvard Business Review,
April 2011, at:
. e program has had its critics. Early
on, the absence of proper pilot testing riled the psychological community.
See Seligman and Fowler (2011) and Tom Barret, Soldiers of Optimism,
Chronicle of Higher Education,
October 30, 2011, at:
. Most recently, a DoD requested
review from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine deliv
ered a stinging rebuke, claiming that most of the DoDs prevention interven
tions were not theory or evidence based. e Armys Comprehensive Soldier
Fitness was singled out as problematic. See Denning et al. (2014).
as Cornum and her deputy described it to me:
I interviewed General
Cornum and her deputy Col. Tom Vail on December 14, 2011. Both were retir
ing from the Army that week. For more on Cornums captivity, see Cornum and
Copeland (1992). I am also grateful to conversations with Air Force Capt. Bill
Andrews, March 12, 2012. In FebruaryMarch 1991, he ejected out of his F-16 air
cra into Iraqi enemy territory, badly breaking his leg. It was he that Cornum was
headed out to medevac, when her helicopter was shot down and she was captured.
See Reivich and Shatte (2002).
mixed messaging within the Army:
I am deeply grateful to conver
sations with William Nash, retired Navy Captain and military psychiatrist.
Nash has worked extensively with the Marines on issues of resilience and moral
injury. See, for example, Nash et al. (2009). I am also grateful for conversations
on this issue and more general issues regarding empirical research standards for
intervention programs with psychiatrist Ellen Liebenlu, Chief of Section on
Bipolar Spectrum Disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health.
few unifying factors:
For a discussion of suicide prevention in the
Army at the time, see Chiarelli (2010), or what became known as the Red
Book. For a sensitive reporting of those meetings, see David Finkels account
in Finkel (2013, p. 1398).
perturbations of the past:
Ihave written about this at length in
Figures from the recent wars:
Figures vary and can obviously depend
on tools and who is doing the surveying. See PTSD: A Growing Epidemic,
NIH Medline Plus
4:1 (Winter 2009), 1014, at:
. For the far wider claim that more than half of the 2.6 million
Americans dispatched to ght the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle
with physical or mental health problems, feel disconnected from civilian
life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of his genera
tions veterans, see Rajiv Chandrasekaran, A Legacy of Pain and Pride,
March 29, 2014, at:
traumatic brain injury (TBI):
See Hannah Fischer, A Guide to U.S.
Military Casualty Statistics:Operation New Dan, Operation Iraqi Freedom,
and Operation Enduring Freedom,
Congressional Research Service,
19, 2014, at:
TBI as high as 23percent:
See Terrio etal. (2009).
See Bryant (2011).
the mounting evidence:
See, for example, ESPNs coverage, NFL at
Crossroads: Investigating a Health Crisis, at
symptoms of TBI overlap with those of PTS:
See Bryant (2011).
e notion was rst developed by Strawson
(1962/1993) and the subject of much rich, current philosophical research.
Strawsons seminal idea is that reactive attitudes, of the sort we have been talk
ing about, are constitutive of moral responsibility, and not a side eect of some
independent, underlying belief in responsibility. See, for example, Strawson
(1962/1993), Watson (2004), Wallace (1996), Darwall (2006), Walker
(2006), Macnamara (2011), Hurley and Macnamara (2010), Martin (2008,
2010, 2011), and Smith (2005). As Iwill go on to say, the expressed emotion
targets an individual and calls attention to the fact we have taken normative
review and are now calling on the addressed person to respond appropriately.
e expressed emotions are thus reactive and vocativethey respond to per
sons but also address them (in
with a demand or aspiration.
See McGeer (2012), Macnamara (2012), and Kukla and Lance (2009).
the important role of positive, reactive attitudes:
For an argument
for a kind of hope, normative hope, as a close sibling to a reactive attitude, see
Martin (2010). For gratitude as a reactive attitude, see Macnamara (2012). For
the suggestion of trust as a kind of reactive attitude, see Jones (2012).
they feel resentment toward us:
For a historical perspective on this,
see Wright (2012).
DON'T JUST TELL ME "THANK YOU"
e remark broke the ice:
e event was sponsored by Intersections
and their Veteran-Civilian Dialogue program.
T. M.(TM) Gibbons-Ne:
Irst interviewed T.M. Gibbons-Ne in
the summer of 2012. Ihave been in ongoing conversation with him ever since.
Iinterviewed Jonathan Wong on March 9, 2012.
e ocean really doesnt care
As the Jewish twentieth-century
theologian Martin Buber might put it, it was outside an I-ou encounter of
mutual vulnerability and accountability. It was not part of the to-and-fro of
moral address and normative review (Buber 1970, p.60):e human being
to whom Isay You Ido not experience. But Istand in relation to him.
when Istep out of this do Iexperience him again. Experience is remoteness
Air Force Colonel Erik Goepner:
I interviewed Erik Goepner in
November 2011. At the time he was a fellow at the Center for International
and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.
Taliban ghters poured into Zabul:
See Joshua Partlow, Zabul
Province Seeks U.S. troops, but Is Caught in Afghan Numbers Game,
March 9, 2010, at:
exacerbates vulnerability to insurgency:
See, for example, Erik
Goepner, An Enduring Argument against Counterinsurgency,
September 27, 2012, at:http://smallwarsjournal.com/
For the notion of personation, see Pettit (2009).
complicity and group identication:
Among the philosophical top
ics are:collective agency, shared intentions, shared benets, consent to group
membership and exit rights, group commitments, normative expectations that
comewith group membership, identication with group values, and so on. For
selective discussions of shared and collective responsibility and attitudes, see
Gilbert (2002), Cooper (1972), Kutz (2000), Huebner (2011), Searle (2009),
Sepinwall (2010), and Tollefsen (2003). For a robust and critical review of the
literature, Iam indebted to Amy Sepinwall.
Indeed, the reactive attitude can sometimes
not have a present target, as when one voices ones resentment
in their absence,
ones own group members, as a way of modeling and
rallying further participation for that emotion. Itake up cases like this later.
mental health care due a veteran:
For discussions of this issue,
see Phillip Carter, e Vets We Reject and Ignore,
November 10, 2013, at:
; and also the NPR
multi-part special series on vets with bad paper (or other than
honorable discharges):Marisa Peñaloza and uil Lawrence, Other-an-
Honorable Discharge Burdens Like a Scarlet Letter,
NPR Morning Edition,
December 9, 2013, at:
; Marisa Peñaloza
and uil Lawrence, Path the Reclaiming Identity Steeps for Vets with Bad
NPR Morning Edition,
December 11, 2013, at:
; and Marisa Peñaloza, Filling the Gaps for Veterans with Bad
, December 16, 2013, at:
universal national service:
For some of the debate, see Phillip Carter
and Paul Glastris, e Case for the Dra,
Moskos (1988); Conor Friedersdorf, e Case Against Universal National
, June 26, 2013, at:
the latter, in response to General Stanley McChrystals call for a national ser
vice program at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, at:
See Greene (2013) and Luban (2014).
inside the wire:
Ithank Phil Carter for this apt phrase.
20percent of Congresss members:
See David Greene and Cokie
Roberts, Since Post-Vietnam Era, Fewer Veterans in Congress,
, November 11, 2013, at:
From an interview with Paul Baco on March 4, 2012.
Paul describes his homecoming in further detail in Baco and McNamara
(2014). In addition to his monthly trips to the Vietnam Wall where he volun
teers as a docent, Paul is deeply involved in his home in Illinois in the ongo
ing work of the Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services. He is currently
helping to set up a nonprot foundation to sustain their work. For more on
this veteran outreach program, and its wide-ranging services for veterans and
their families, see
e homecoming le abiding scars:
My remarks throughout leave
to the side the weighty national issue of civilian military contractors, who in
the past decade have served in historically large numbers alongside citizen
soldiers and yet are ineligible for most of the benets to which citizen sol
diers are entitled. For discussion of this important issue, see Dunigan etal.
(2013); Josh Hicks, PTSD Rates Similar among Defense Contractors and
Veterans, Report Says,
, December 10, 2013, at:
; and T.Christian Miller
and Doug Smith, Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care,
, April 17, 2009, at:http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/17/nation/
Rolls Chapel in London:
Achapel that once sat on Chancery Lane,
near the Strand, and the site now of a library at Kings College, London.
Interestingly, the church was initially established by Henry III as a resi
dence for converted Jews. See
importance of voicing moral outrage:
See the helpful article on Butler
by Aaron Garrett in the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
and especially the
discussion in section 6 on compassion, resentment, and forgiveness:
dierent from a mental state like anxiety:
See Searle (2009, pp.
2526). I am indebted to Searle for his clear elaboration on this issue.
See Macnamara (2012).
sacrice at its vocational core:
See Luban (2014, p.286).
a ritual that each tacitly recognizes:
For an interesting related discus
sion on collective acceptance or recognition vs. cooperation, see Searle (2009,
an expression of respect toward another person:
pp.45455); see also Buss (1999).
to accept the occasion for gratitude:
Kant (1964, p.455).
gratitude is not a mere
Kant (1964, p.355),
second italics mine.
feel used, sacricial, exploited:
See Kahn (2008) on the notion of
sacred violence and exploited sacrice. Service members can feel played with
by public displays of gratitudesay, ovations at sporting eventswhen the
opportunities for gathering vets together with civilians could be better used
for job networking or the like.
the words of Fitzroy Newsum:
From an interview by Nina Talbot
on July 26, 2010, and part of a series of narratives (written up by her daughter,
Sophie Rand) that accompany Talbots remarkable portraits she has painted of
veterans from her neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Hey, there, you owe me an RSVP:
See Darwall (2006) and Walker
to show resentment is to call out to another:
Moral outrage is what
we feel against moral monsters who subject us to the most unspeakable atroci
ties. Even here, Isuspect in expressing the outrage, there is a sense that those
monstrous individuals belong to that same community of humanity, but they
violate, in the most awful way, the moral laws of its membership. Iturn to this
issue later in the discussion of Jean Améry.
liable for intentional harm in war:
Some of the debates hang on
the distinction between combatant and noncombatant and the moral space
between them, occupied by collaborators, supporters, and sympathizers. e
implications of these important normative roles for battleeld ethics is a
thrust in Pfa (2012). For a discussion of related issues, see Pfa (2011). For an
important repudiation of the moral signicance in the traditional distinction
between combatant and noncombatant (and for a prioritizing of ones own cit
izen combatants), see Kasher and Yadlin (2006). For an inuential reply in the
just war debate, see Avashai Margalit and Michael Walzer, Israel: Civilians &
New York Review of Books
, May 14, 2009. For a reformulation
and defense of the priority of the combatant, see McMahan (2010).
just and unjust combatants:
See McMahan (2010, p. 345) for a brief
review of distinctions he draws. For his full view, see McMahan (2009).
an equal right to kill:
Walzer (1977, p.21).
degrees of moral responsibility:
is is Seth Lazars (2010) approach
in his review of McMahans book
Killing in War
, McMahan (2009). I am
indebted to him in the following discussion.
she deserves praise or blame:
Lazar (2010, p.184).
reluctance to kill:
See Lt. Col. Dave Grossmans work on psychologi
cal inhibitions to killing, Grossman (1995). Much discussed in this vein is S.
L. A. Marshalls controversial combat re ratios about World War IIspe
cically, that less than 25 percent of American combat infantrymen in battle
discharged their weapons. e point remains, that there are retreaters and
nonrers on a battleeld, as well as many others who have supporting and
enabling roles not necessary for liability. See Marshall (2000).
. make small:
Lazar (2010, pp. 19394).
reasons others have argued for well:
Lazar (2010, pp.19397).
even if we could predict fairly accurately:
See Lazar (2010, p. 195)
on the radical unpredictability of facts relevant for the proportionality
Civilians are proxies for service members:
For an important related
discussion of alienated and insulated warfare, see Ryan (2009).
ose expanded responsibilities:
Or at least more exhaustive argu
ments would have to be made to demonstrate that specic contributions and
roles constitute battleeld liability. For example, accepted liability lines may be
currently drawn in ways that vastly outdate the massive blurring and commin
gling of civilian and defense communities that characterize the contemporary
military/industrial/technological complex. Just which kinds of contributions
or what kinds of roles would pull civilians into the liability net is not a topic
Ican take up here.
that sense of shared responsibility:
See Amy Sepinwall (2010). Like
parents who are part of a collective project in sharing goals and expectations in
raising their children, so, too, as fellow citizens do we share certain goals and
expectations and do some common work to bring them about. at notion of
group identity may be sucient for some sense of shared credit and blame even
when individual contributions within the group are vastly dierent, uneven,
and not all goals are equally supported.
See Hochschild (1983). Hochschild distinguishes
emotional labor from emotional work and claims that the former takes
place only in the workplace while the latter can take place anywhere. Iam
using the term emotional labor to refer to all kinds of emotional work.
, Carter spoke candidly:
Carter, For Veterans, Is ank You for Your Service Enough?
, November 4, 2011, at:
everyones mutual advantage:
See Pettit (1995, pp. 20812) on the
mechanisms of loyalty, virtue, and prudence as bases of trustworthiness.
Friendship is, of course, a privileged sphere of trust and, as Aristotle notes, is
motivated by similar reasons: virtue, pleasure, and utility. See Aristotle (1984,
thin crust of display:
Hochschild (1983, p.21).
a more satisfying form of moral address:
Interestingly, I know British
service members who would love some of those ank yous thrown their
way as a part of their homecoming. From conversation with David Ian Walker,
a retired career soldier in the British Army who has worked extensively with
soldiers exiting military service and their resettlement. See Walker (2010). I
am grateful to conversations at Kings College, London, Department of War
Studies, during a seminar I gave in fall of 2010. I am especially grateful to con
versation with Dr. Simon Wessely for helping me to understand some cultural
dierences in the American and British reintegration experience.
resentment became perceptible:
For an excellent discussion of emo
tional self-expression, see Green (2007).
untethered from their matching inner states:
For an exploration
of these themes, I am indebted to conversation with Trip Glazer and his
Georgetown Ph.D. in progress on emotional expression and communication.
on Senecas Stoic view:
II.14, I.6.1, II.11). See
Sherman (2005a, p.76 and notes).
sociologist Erving Goman famously taught:
See Goman (1959).
are the same across cultures:
See Ekman (1994) and Ekman and
Rosenberg (2005). e question of whether the expressive behavior is the same
across cultures can be detached from the question of whether the recognition
of expressive behavior is the same across cultures. eres empirical research to
suggest that individuals from dierent cultures will interpret the
ior slightly dierently, depending on, among other things, culturally relative
display rules. Ithank Trip Glazer for conversation here. See, for example, Jack
etal. (2012), Ebner and Riediger (2010), and Plant etal. (2000).
So, some languages and ethnicities seem
to involve more emotional
on the part of their native speak
ers than others; contrast New York Jewish conversational style with, say, a
Midwesterner style. See Tannen (2005). (I am indebted to Tannens talk at
Georgetown Program in Jewish Civilization, Fall 2013, on this topic, as well as
private conversation.) Equally, American Sign Language uses facial expression
as itself an element of expressing meaning, as a non-manual, or non-signed
marker to intensify meaning; expressiveness, we might say, is built into the for
mal code of meaning. Women may stereotypically perform emotions more
than men, or may be interpreted that way, as part of a gender stereotype. (On
how gender norms and stereotypes aect recognition of mens and womens
emotional expression, see Plant et al. .) e military as a group may
underperform emotions, especially in the context of formal bearing, and so
on. e point is emotional expressiveness varies across persons and groups.
Hes signaling a norm:
e same might go for the resentment that a
service member addresses
other battle buddies to rally
and model participatory support.
On the social referencing literature, see Emde etal.
(1976) and Sorce etal. (1985).
public enactment and recommendation of a norm:
obviously take this point to new levels, but that is another subject. For debate
on who has authority to have and express certain reactive attitudes, see Smith
(2007) and Searle (2009).
shows others how to respond:
To put it in philosophical language, on
the call side we are modeling implicitly as a we. And on the target side
the you addressed is implicitly in the plural, as a person who represents a
group. So we are engaged in a second-personal address that is implicitly in the
plural on both sides:Its less I-You address (with You in the singular) than
a We-You address (with You in the plural). So its a dialogic address in the
Men are, one and all, actors
Kant (1974, p.151). See Sherman
(1997b) for further discussion of the aective dimensions of virtue training,
especially pp.12186 for a discussion of Kant on emotional training.
Kant (1964, p.473); see also Sherman (1997a).
eerent bio-feedback loops:
See Strack et al. (1988).
too deeply behind the façade:
Goman (1967, pp.60, 58). On faking
it, see Miller (2003).
I am showing what Inow feel:
For insight on the notion of self-ascrip
tion of current mental states, see Bar-On (2004).
opening a door for future interaction:
Cicero and Seneca are impor
tant sources again. Just how to play
of the good person is of cru
cial importance, Cicero insists, in our eective communication to others.
Creating the right appearances matters in fullling many of our oces and
is key. Seneca is rich in detail here:No one can
feel gratitude for a favour haughtily tossed down or angrily thrust on him or
given with groaning or aunting, with an insolent expression or language
swollen with pride, or in a way that is simply irritating. It is like giving
bread with stones in it, he says! Of course, it is easy to run afoul and become
mere poseurs, on the one hand, or disclosers, on the other, in the face of invol
untary emotional emissions. e Stoics are well aware of pre-emotional phe
nomena that can escape the dictates of assent, such as blushing, erections,
or hair standing on end. Still, they hold that in matters of showing kindness
and gratitude (and even in many cases of spontaneous responses to danger or
loss), we are subject to far more emotional agency than we oen give ourselves
credit for. See Seneca (1995,
). See also my discussion in Sherman
(2005a, ch. 3).
we lock eyes, show interest, listen:
It seems obvious that third parties
who are onlookers may not be privy to the full emotional communication.
What Isignal in indirect modeling to third parties might be thinner and not
something they can fully pick up without being present as part of the direct
the basic worry really is:
Ithank Trip Glazer for help with the thoughts
in this paragraph.
that you undo that step:
For a colorful discussion of this, see
sons and daughters
. come home, or not come home:
For a mov
ing narrative of Vietnam veterans watching their own sons and daughters
volunteer to go to war, see the documentary movie
My Vietnam, Your Iraq
by Ron Osgood. is is also the subject of the brilliant war novel by Israeli
author David Grossman,
To the End of the Land
(2010). e novel depicts
the trauma and recovery of war, relived in a family, rst in one generation
of soldiers and then in another, and the awful anticipation of losing ones
child, announced by that awful knock on the door. e doorbell rang at
the Grossmans own house on August 13, 2006, to announce the death of
their son Uri, killed by Hezbollah in the Lebanese village of Hirbet Kseif.
Grossman had nearly nished the novel a month earlier. Art foretold the
brandishing of emotional arms:
Walker (2006, p.115).
a weapon against injury, injustice, and cruelty:
one who has been in a moral sense injurious:
p.126). Indignation is the analogous attitude on behalf of others, though
Butler uses the term resentment to cover both personal and impersonal
reactions. Still, resentment can be normative without being narrowly moral,
as when a fellow crook becomes resentful toward his buddy because he
botched the burglary. Bernard Williams (1995, p.40) discusses this gen
eral kind of blame in terms of focused blame:People can be blamed for
missing their opportunities or making mistakes, and they can be blamed by
non-moralizing people. R.Jay Wallace (1996) recognizes the same point in
his notion of reactive emotions, such as resentment, sometimes being quasi-
evaluative, by which he means not strictly appealing to a moral conception
or moral transgression. John Rawls is narrower in linking his conception of
resentment with background
conceptions. See Rawls (1971, pp.416,
423, 467, 468, 47274).
Nietzsche (1994, pp.21, 24, 26, 28, 32 n.41, 36, 52,
the depravity of revenge feelings:
For discussion of Seneca on anger,
see Sherman (2005a, pp.6499).
holding another to account:
See Strawson (1962/1993).
ese circumstances can give rise
Bernard Williams (1995, p.73).
. who had a reason to do the right thing but did not do it:
(1995, p.42). On resentment being dierent from advice and the putting out
of a piece of information, see Darwall (2006, p.49):Second-personal address
makes a claim on the addressees will (and not, like advice, only on her beliefs
about what there is reason for her to do).
neither moralistic disdain nor manipulation:
Williams (1995, p.44).
to be guided by it in future interactions:
See Darwall (2006,
pp.7081) and Kukla and Lance (2009, p.142).
is the little account which he seems to make of us
(1759/2000, II.III.1, pp. 13839). I am indebted to Steve Darwall for pointing
this out in his discussion of second-personal morality.
Georgetown Veterans Day celebration:
e speech was given by Gen.
Dr. Richard Scales (Ret.).
a bidding to recognize
. a kind of relationship
Urban Walker (2006, p. 134) and Bennett (2008a, p. 14).
ey are fellow citizens:
Ithank Tony Pfa for pointing this out in
Pfa (2011). In making this point, Pfa refers to James Dubik, who rejects
Walzers claim that soldiers give up their right to life to gain the right to kill.
See Dubik (1982) and Walzer (1977).
the case of sexual assault within the military:
More pointedly, the
fact that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrands bill recently rejected by
the Senatestripping military commanders within the chain of command
of any involvement in the review of allegations of assault and rapewas
so virulently protested by the top brass itself sheds interesting light on the
dynamics of civilianmilitary power relations at the highest levels. See, for
example, CBS News, Militarys Top Brass Prep Measures to Combat Sexual
Assault, August 9, 2013, at:
. It exposes the chal
lenges even the most well-placed civilian can face in trying to break down
military insularity and respond, as a caring civilian and public civilian ser
vant, to military injury and abuse. See Ed OKeefe, Gillibrand Wants Vote
on Military Sex Assault Bill Right Away,
10, 2013, at:
; also, Kathleen Hunter and Tony Capaccio,
Gillibrand Vows to Pursue Military Sexual-Assault Bill,
December 10, 2013, at:
e needs here are profound:
See the Center for New American
Security report on this by Phil Carter (Carter 2013a, 2013b). In 2012 the
Department of Veterans Aairs cared for nearly 6 million of the nations
22 million veterans, with much of the care focusing on mental health
issues, including posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. In 2013,
there were approximately 2.6 million veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and
other theaters of the war on terrorism. Among those, about 900,000 have
sought VA care, and about half of those have been diagnosed with a men
tal health disorder of some type. And this data does not include veteran
private defense contractors who have served in unprecedented numbers in
the war zones in the past decade and have been exposed, like regular sol
diers, to wars stressors. For discussion of this pressing issue, see Dunigan
et al. (2013). On the nancial legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan conicts, see
recent spikes in suicide rates:
For a discussion of the spike in sui
cides, which by some estimates has exceeded those in the civilian popu
lation, see Harrell and Berglass (2011). During his tenure as Army Vice
Chief, General Peter Chiarelli tackled this issue head-on in monthly
suicide advisory board meetings in which commanders around the world
reported in detail on suicides under their commands during that period,
and potential lessons learned. Iattended several of those Pentagon
profoundly altered in face and limb:
Consider face injuries, such as
close-up wounds and burning due to explosives. According to one recent sur
vey, facial wounds accounted for almost 40percent% of injuries sustained by
U.S.soldiers. Facial reconstruction in these cases is not primarily cosmetic
and the results oen not optimally aesthetic. e reconstructions are for basic
human functioning so that a patient can breathe through her nose, open her
mouth to take in liquid and food, hear, and see. Fresh scarring can ravage the
best surgical results. See Claudia Dreifus, Healing Soldiers Most Exposed
Wounds:AConversation with Col. Robert. G.Hales,
December 2, 2013, at:
social and informal institutional reality:
See Searle (2009, p.91) on
dierent levels of institutional reality.
Jean Améry, an Austrian:
My discussion is indebted to omas
Brudholms excellent discussion of Améry and the refusal to forgive. See
My personal task is to justify
Améry (1980, p.64). e title of
the above essay
is translated in this edition as Resentments.
It desires two impossible things
Améry (1980, p.68).
inserted into his agency an acknowledgement of me
e Flemish SS-man Wajs
Améry (1980, p.70).
THEY'RE MY BABY BIRDS
Donna was immersed in her studies:
From extended conversations
and an opinion piece in Georgetowns student newspaper that Donna wrote
in Georgetowns undergraduate newspaper,
. She wrote the piece at
the request of a classmate in a classItaught who happened to be the editor of
and realized few on campus had any idea of what it might be like to
be an undergraduate at Georgetown and a military spouse.
I had no idea
Interview from October 17, 2012.
the stress thermostat is reset:
Hoge (2010, p.xiv).
inated sense of control:
Ihave been helped in thinking about this
by Jonathan Lears discussion of therapeutic action, in Lear (2003), especially
chs. 2 and 3.
thin crust of display:
Hochschild (1983, p.21).
the one who is missing:
See Shay (1994).
even when photojournalists are onsite:
See the early work of pho
tojournalism in the Magnum Photos, founded 1947, that included such
giants as Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, and Chim (David Seymour).
For a recent trove of lm negatives of the Spanish Civil War, known as
the Mexican Suitcase, and shown in a recent New York exhibit at the
International Center of Photography, see
. For recent work on photojournalism, and an
attempt to show the public more of what the agents, victims, and witnesses
of war, see the exhibit War/Photography, Images of Armed Conict and its
and especially the graphic and now iconic picture of the bombing of an Israeli
bus in 1974.
hard to cognitively mediate and process:
For an accessible discus
sion of how brain biochemistry is altered during episodes of intense stress, see
McEwen and Lasley (2002).
a preventive fantasy:
is is Bernard Williamss helpful term. See
a version of strict liability:
ere may be a more appropriate role for the
imposition of strict liability in war conduct, and that is in combatant account
ability for enemy noncombatant deaths, caused collaterally or discriminately.
And it may be that accepting that liability should be better reinforced in sol
dier training, so that soldiers come to feel not just that they ought to take
care of each other but that they ought to minimize harm done to enemy non
combatant innocents. Strict liability may make sense here insofar as armed
soldiers, like hazardous materials (oen discussed in the liability literature),
can cause great harm, unintentionally and collaterally. Moreover, soldiers have
protective advantages through troop defense and medical evacuation teams
that noncombatants lack and that make them more vulnerable to harm. For
discussion of related issues, see Luban (2014).
When I endeavor to examine my own conduct
III.1.6, p. 164).
Hume (1739/1968, III.1, p. 581).
invokes a spectator:
See Charlotte Brown, Review:
Impartial Spectator:Adam Smiths Moral Philosophy,
, November 18, 2007, at:
a technique being developed by some VA clinicians:
a Boston VA psychologist, discussed a technique of this sort developed as
part of Marine treatment protocol. An empty chair is part of the therapy.
e buddy returns to the room in a face-to-face conversation. He knows
you survived him. e goal is to make plausible a fantasized conversation
in which he doesnt hold you liable or accuse in the way the patient does
toward himself. He discussed this empty chair technique at a conference
on war trauma and soldiers moral injuries at Austen Riggs, October 2012.
For abstracts and the proceedings of the conference, see the special issue of
Psychoanalytic Psychology:Untold Stories, Hidden Wounds, War Trauma
and its Treatment
. See also Litz (2014).
On a cognitivist view of emotions:
See John Deighs excellent review
essay on cognitivist and neocognitivist views in Deigh (1994).
Even if resentment and guilt dont necessarily co-travel:
Sepinwall elaborates upon this idea of non co-traveling in Sepinwall (2010).
But rst he has to detoxify the image:
It might be argued that if there
is a proper place for strict liability on the battleeld, it is not so much in a
soldiers accountability to fellow combatants as it is in his accountability to
noncombatants. David Luban suggests a notion of strict liability for combat
ant caused civilian injuries in Luban (2014).
He was threatened with a disciplinary separation:
At the Austen
Riggs conference on war trauma, Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen Xenakis,
an Army psychiatrist, lambasted this smoking out of service members due
to weight gain from psychiatric meds. He implied that the screening was an
unconscionable cost-saving measure.
RECOVERING LOST GOODNESS
Army Major Jerey Hall:
Irst interviewed Je Hall in September
2010 and several times later that year and many times thereaer. Iam also
grateful to his wife, Sheri, for conversations about moral injury.
the Coalition Provisional Agency (CPA):
For an excellent account,
see Chandrasekaran (2006).
e incompetence of Halls superiors:
ere may be comedic ele
ments in the incredible incompetence that characterized much work o the
Coalition Provisional Agency: You couldnt invent more comedic war narra
tives, Rajiv Chandrasekaran (2006) said in a seminar at the Wilson Center,
September 2011, reecting on his own research and writing about that period
of the war in Iraq.
It can be a way of calling out to oneself:
Here, Iam inuenced by
the work of Kukla and Lance (2009) and Macnamara (2012) on Strawsonian
models of reactive attitudes. See Strawson (1962/1993).
our very act of trusting may elicit:
See Jones (2012).
Theater of War:
For more on the Theater of War, and the
larger umbrella theater group under the direction of Bryan Doerries,
; see also Patrick Healy, The
Anguish of War for Todays Soldiers, Explored by Sophocles,
November 22, 2009, at:
. For the performance of Greek
plays by military veterans (some who also are trained dancers and singers,
as well as actors) before civilian/military audiences, see classicist Peter
Meinecks important outreach work as director of the Aquila Theatre
based at NYU at:
Ajax was the bulwark of the Achaeans:
Homer (1990, III, lines
27090; VII, lines 242332). For a wonderful account of lessons to be learned
from a retelling of the Ajax story, see Woodru (2011).
I will return from Troy
Sophocles (2007a, lines 46465).
Look at the valiant man!:
Sophocles (2007a, lines 36467).
ere is ironic distance:
On narrative and ironic distance, see Goldie
(2011, p.87; 2007).
the role of shame as a precipitant:
See Lansky (1995, p.1086).
Never in your right mind
See Sophocles (2007a, lines 182185).
I can darken the sharpest eyes
Sophocles (2007a, line 85).
He thought he was bathing his hands
Sophocles (2007a, line 43).
You see the great deeds
Sophocles (2007a, line 366).
He has been laid low by this evil
Sophocles (2007a, lines 32025).
Li him up to me here
Sophocles (2007a, lines 54550).
e experience of shame:
For a penetrating study of the ancients on
shame, see Williams (1993).
to be caught without your g leaf:
Susan Brison has raised the ques
tion with me as to whether shame must have this sense of being exposed, in
addition to the sense, Idiscuss later, of falling short of an ideal. She suggests
that these may be two very dierent features of shame, and the latter is a more
central part of the concept.
eyes are upon you:
promise of redemption through moral repair:
See Lansky (1995,
See Sherman (2010, ch. 4).
facts of moral responsibility:
For important work on disambiguating
moral notions of appropriateness from those that have to do with epistemic
warrant, see DArms and Jacobson (2000).
room for play, as Immanuel Kant calls it:
See Kants discussion of
imperfect duties of care or, as it is sometimes put, imperfect duties of end, to
self and others, in the
Doctrine of Virtue
(1964). Idiscuss the notion at length
in Sherman (1997b, chs. 4 and 8).
falling short of an ideal:
On ego-ideals, see Freud (1974, pp.14, 937).
more self-regarding than other-regarding:
On a related noted,
Peter Goldie and Kate Abramson have recently argued that shame may
not always have insidious, globalizing tendencies that deny all moral
worth. In some cases of shame, one sees oneself from a perspective that
allows for self-forgiveness and redemption. See Goldie (2011, p.89) and
Epistemically tting shame:
is seems to follow from the idea of
construing it as a failure of imperfect rather than perfect duty, again to use
Kantian terms. Kant famously leaves playroom (
) as to what degree
and extent we are to fulll imperfect duties of end, such as benecence to oth
ers, though he does not himself develop the category of the supererogatory.
For further thoughts on this, see Sherman (1997b, ch. 8). Also, see Sherman
(1988), Hill (1971), and Baron (1995).
by the subjects own lights,
already been answered
Brady (2009, p. 427, my italics); see also Brady (2006, 2007, 2008).
attention is taken away from factors that
Brady is eager
to put forth a neojudgmentalist (variant of cognitivist) view of emotions that
steers a middle course between imputing too much irrationality to the subject
of recalcitrant emotions and too little. On his view, the subject of irrational
emotion does not hold two conicting beliefs, as strict judgmentalists argue.
Rather, the subject holds a construal and a belief, but the construal, while fall
ing short of a belief is not simply arational; it has deep cognitive teeth, in that
the subject to expend limited cognitive resources wastefully and
hence take epistemic missteps. us, Brady is a neojudgmentalist who still can
impute a fair degree of irrationality to the subject of recalcitrant emotions. See
Brady (2009, p. 429). In a related piece, Brady argues that recalcitrant emo
tions are somewhat analogous to cognitively impenetrable visual illusions,
but not strictly so. e arational perceptionsay, that the stick appears bent
when we know it is straightunlike the recalcitrant construal (say of phobic
fear), lacks cognitive teeth: the visual illusions do not capture and consume
our attention; the illusions dont persist and waste our cognitive resources. See
incoherent evaluative prole:
See Brady (2009, p.414). On irratio
nal emotions, see Greenspan (1983).
whether one could have or should have known the consequences:
See Aristotles case of forced, mixed actions, Aristotle (1984,
III.1). Ishould note that my view of so-called irrational/recalicitrant
emotions is dierent from Rawlss notion of not proper guilt feelings, or
what he also calls residue guilt feelings (Rawls 1971, pp.48182). He gives
as an example a person who is raised to believe going to movies is sinful. He
no longer believes that, but yet when he goes to the movies he feels guilty. is
kind of case doesnt leave room for those where one is ambivalent or unsure
about an evaluation that one has done nothing wrong. For a discussion of
Rawls, see Wallace (1996, pp.4050).
what Freud called
For use of the term by Freud, see
Remembering, Repeating, and Working rough, (1914) and Inhibitions,
Symptoms and Anxiety (1959), in Freud (1974).
Iinterviewed Tom Fiebrandt in fall of 2010. Icame
to know him through a classItaught at Georgetown that fall on the ethics
despite believing that there are no genuine reasons
ere are elements of this:
Similarly, a therapist who works with sol
diers recently told me of a patient who repeatedly went over the site of where
he lost a buddy, homing in over and over on the spot on Google maps, working
out how he could have prevented the death if he only took this route rather
prelude to self-empathy:
For my own overview of the subject with
lengthy references and discussion of the literature, see especially Sherman
(1998a, 1998b, 1998c).
developed by eodor Lipps:
For discussion, see Eisenberg and Strayer
(1987), Lipps (1903), and Titchner (1909). For Freud and his interest in empa
thy, see Pigman (1995) and Freud (1986, p. 325).
Humes metaphor is intuitive:
Hume (1739/1968, pp. 31624).
e second camp, led by Adam Smith:
"coming to beat time with their hearts:
Smith (1759/2000, I.I.1, p. 4).
not only situational but also dispositional:
For reections on becom
ing another, see Bernard Williamss Imagination and the Self, in Williams
enter, as it were, into his body
Smith (1759/2000, I.I.1, p. 3).
On the notion of becoming the other person and the therapeutic work of
empathic resonance, the writing of psychoanalytic theorist, Heinz Kohut is
extremely helpful. See Kohut (1971, 1977, 1984). Note, for Smith, there is an
ultimate interest in moral judgment and the ttingness of the emotion, and
this requires a bringing back of that empathic connection to ones own bosom
(Smith 1759/2000, I.I.1, p. 5) in a way that can both facilitate moral insight
but also distort empathy with a projection from our own home base.
a secondary eect of the repetition:
See Freud on repetition compul
sion in Freud (1974, p.293). Also, included in the symptoms of posttraumatic
stress are intrusive recollections. For a very helpful discussion of posttraumatic
stress and its treatment, see Wilson, Friedman, and Lindy (2001). Note, there
has been a move afoot, with some momentum from the Army, to drop the D
in PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) because of the stigmatizing eect of
the term. e argument is oen made that service members returning from
war with limb losses do not have limb disorders. Why should those return
ing from war with psychological stress have disorders? ere are other termi
nological shis aimed to normalize the response to stress. For a history of
PTSD and its inclusion in the
Diagnostic and Statistics Manual III
see Herman (1992).
inbuilt biases of emotional construals:
Construal is Robert
Robertss term for the cognitive content of an emotion. For how Roberts
distinguishes that notion from a stricter judgment, see, for example, Roberts
features of the object of our fear:
Goldie (2004, p. 99). is is similar
to Bradys view with respect to recalcitrant emotion, that because emotions
tend toward a capture and consume mode, through emotional engagement,
we sometimes waste attentional resources for problems already solved. See
capture and consume attention:
Brady (2009, pp.423, 42526,
congruent reenactments or countertransferences:
See Chused (1991)
and McLaughlin (1991).
benevolence and trust:
And so the therapist is not just a blank screen
or withholding (or abstinent), on the traditional Freudian view. For a discus
sion, see Sherman (1998b, 1995).
Whatever judgment we can form
Smith (1759/2000, III.I.1, p.
she might come to say to herself:
Ithank Susan Brison for this point.
Aristotles remarks about self-love:
Aer all, there is only one chapter
on this odd kind of friendship (namely, IX.8) in a
discussion that that goes on for 26 chapters (at least in the
the baser kind of self-love:
e best kind of friendship:
IX.12 1172a). See also Sherman (1997b, ch. 5).
friendship requires positive feelings:
See Aristotle (1984,
VIII.2) for the criteria of friendship.
a narcissistic self-absorption:
See Ne (2003).
the restrictions under which all humans live:
you are not the only one
to endure these things is human:
e Epicureans are saying, in eect:
e Epicurean teaching, more
fully, is that distress occurs when we direct our attention toward something
we regard as a relatively
evil compared to goods measured against it.
e Epicureans hold that we are masters of our own attention, and so we
can prevent this kind of stress by redirecting our attention to pleasures of
various kinds. We also minimize our woes by realizing that others suer
similarly. See Gravers useful discussion of the Epicurean position in Cicero
rein in our attention on what is morally salient:
See Sherman (1997b,
p.68) on the idea that emotions are ways of tracking, in defeasible ways, the
morally relevant news. See also Hurley and Macnamara (2010).
reasons for reassurance or trust:
See Walker (2006), Williams (1995,
pp. 42, 73). Just as blame asks a transgressor for acknowledgment of ones
standing, so too does self-blame ask ones condemner for acknowledgment of
the hurt and reconsideration of the charges. On the call and response nature
of reactive attitudes, see Macnamara (2012).
We are able to deploy in thought
Peter Goldie (2011, p.86). For
a sharp and lively criticism of the idea of a narrative self, see Strawson (2004).
in eect seeing oneself as another:
Goldie (2011, p.86).
One now knows what one did not know then
Goldie (2011, p.87).
this kind of aective, empathic access:
See Schechtman (2001),
whose work I came upon in revising this paper. She invokes Richard
Wollheims notion of event memory, as discussed in
e read of Life
(1984), which, as she explains, is not a cold cognitive relation to the past,
but one which is thoroughly infused with aect (Schechtman 2001, p. 248).
Wollheim, when describing his World War II soldier years, recalls driving by
mistake into the German lines in August 1944: Having described the event
and the memory of it, he says, and as I remember feeling those feelings, the
sense of loss, the sense of terror, the sense of being on my own, the upsurge
of rebellion against my fate, come over me, so that I am aected by them
in some such way as I was when I felt them on that remote summer night
(Wollheim 1984, p. 106).
they are cognivitists:
For qualications on cognitivism and neocog
nitivism (also judgmentalism and neojudgmentalism) of the emotions, see
Deigh (1994) and Brady (2009).
(and there are four basic ones):
For further adumbration of Stoic
views on emotions, see Sherman (2005). For a neo-Stoic view of emotion, see
Nussbaum (2001). For an overall account of Stoicism, see Brennan (2005). For
another in-depth account of Stoic emotion, see Graver (2007).
the sage at odds with most of humanity:
Again, the texts underde
termine a portrait of the sage. For my own alternative pictures, see Sherman
(2005a). For John Coopers compelling and more sanguine picture of a
sage, see Cooper (2005). I am grateful to conversation on this issue with
Margaret Graver, though I interpret the texts less sympathetically than she
If anyone thinks that pallor
view is propounded in other Stoic texts. See Graver (1999).
the congruence of feelings:
One could get more mileage out of
protoemotions by suggesting that they are a kind of re-enactment, of the
sort a psychoanalyst might feel in listening to a patient and experiencing a
fleeting congruent feelingsay of anger, or sexual arousal, or sadness. The
analyst doesnt indulge the emotion in a full-fledged way, yet still the taste
of that emotion is a moment of connection and attunement that allows
access and understanding. See Chused (1991), McLaughlin (1991), and my
misrepresenting what is good and bad out there:
e texts can pull in
other directions on just how to reconstruct the sages equanimity. One of the
good emotions (
) the sage feels is
, wary or rational control
that replaces ordinary fear (
). It may be watchfulness with respect to
virtue, but also wary control to help keep a tight lid on potential entangle
ments with vice. If so, then the sage is still alive to what unnerved him in
the past; he still tracs in the world of emotions and its vulnerabilities. See
John Coopers (2005) interpretation of the sages equanimity, cited above, as
pulling in this direction. Also, see my discussion of the role of Stoic good emo
tions, including this kind of rational wariness, in Sherman (2005a, pp.81, 106,
109, 193, 205).
as if Iwere talking to myself
he who writes these words
the sage both condemns his former behavior and feelings:
case of anger, Seneca himself gives us a taste of that process of walling o:
conceal it, keep it hidden and secret; give the mind an advance directive
that should anger erupt, the mind must bury it deeply and not proclaim its
distress (Seneca 1995,
3.13). Perhaps anger is more toxic than grief
and a greater threat to equanimity.
not self-empathy but self-forgiveness:
For the coherence of that
notion, see Goldie (2011).
a more general idea of foreswearing anger and blame:
(2007), Goldie (2011), Roberts (2003), and Calhoun (1992).
Reactive attitude structure:
In the background to all this is the
rich discussion of reactive attitudes begun by P.F. Strawson. See Macnamara
(2012) on the general view of reactive attitudes as having
a call and response
A narratable conception of the self:
is notion builds on Peter
Goldies views. Goldie (2003, p.584; 2007, p.303) refers to this as ironic.
ough this kind of stance may be necessary for irony, it doesnt seem su
cient. Ithank Sabine Roeser for comments on this.
Sally, then twenty-two:
Sally is a pseudonym. e interviewee
asked that her name not be disclosed. I interviewed this Air Force service
member in June 2012.
I felt like a deer in hunting season:
Others Ihave interviewed
had similar experiences. Iinterviewed five faculty women officers, in
spring 2012, during a visit to the Air Force Academy. Ashley Anderson
was one of them. An Air Force officer in intelligence, she spoke of often
being only one of twenty women on Army bases of about 1,000 in south
women make up about 14 percent:
See CNN Sta, By the Numbers:
Women in the U.S. Military,
, January 24, 2013, at:
. West Point, for example, has a
matriculation rate for women of about 16 to 17 percent. See Larry Abramson,
West Point Women: A Natural Pattern or a Camouage Ceiling?
, October 22, 2013, at:
In a recent report on sexual assault:
See James Dao, In Debate
Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims,
June 23, 2013, at:
attacks on men, mostly by other men:
According to one report by
military sociologists, e risk of developing PTSD from sexual trauma is at
least as high if not higher than, the risk of PTSD from exposure to combat.
See Kelty etal. (2010).
A more recent high-prole sexual assault case at Annapolis:
coverage on the story, e.g., Helene Cooper, Former Naval Academy Football
Player Is Acquitted of Sexual Assault,
New York Times,
March 20, 2014, at:
I conceive of trust:
See McGeer (2012, p.303); see discussion of this
in Macnamara (2012).
it is an exposure of vulnerability to another:
In broad brushstroke,
here, Iam following Karen Joness recent excellent work on trust. See Jones
(2012). Implicit in her account is an acceptance of a three-place relation analy
sis of trust and trustworthiness:A trusts B in a certain domain of interaction
where B has competence (Jones 2012, p.70). Or, Atrusts B to do Z:A trusts
B in domain of interaction D (Jones 2004, p.16, n.1). She draws on Annette
Baiers inuential work on trust, specically, Trust and Anti-Trust, and the
three-place analysis of, A trusts B with valued item Z (Baier 1986).
As one philosopher has argued:
See Annette Baier (1986).
conscientiousness as motivating trustworthiness:
As Karen Jones
has put it, though otherwise quite dierent, goodwill and conscientiousness
are alike in one respect: it is constitutive of having goodwill or conscientious
ness that, in certain contexts, the fact that someone is counting on you can, all
by itself and without further incentive, activate responsiveness. e mistake
is in thinking that this goodwill is something distinct from the responsiveness
itself. See Jones (2012, p. 69).
His job just is to take care of:
As an Army guide puts it, A non
commissioned ocers duties are numerous and must be taken seriously.
An NCOs duty includes taking care of soldiers, which is your priority.
Corporals and sergeants do this by developing a genuine concern for their
soldiers well-being. See:
From conversations with Army Col. (Ret.)
Elspeth Cameron Cam Ritchie, MD, former Psychiatry Consultant to
the Army Surgeon General and Senior Editor of the Armys updated combat
behavioral health manual (Ritchie 2011).
e cunning of trust:
See Philip Pettit (1995).
tames it for its social capital:
See Jones (2012) for this way of making
in her interest to encapsulate:
Russell Hardin (2004, p. 5).
e useful is not permanent
VIII.2, 1156a22, translation slightly altered).
trust and trustworthiness give way:
Again, see Jones (2012) on this
the preface to asking a question:
Ithank Trip Glazer for discussion
of this in relation to recent work of my colleagues Rebecca Kukla and Mark
Lance on the performative force of various locutions. See Lance and Kukla
thrown and caught [the ball]:
See Aristotle (1984,
VIII.2, 1155b301156a5) and Seneca (1995,
e preventive fantasy in retributivist attitudes:
be assured, trust again:
Margaret Urban Walker (2006, p.135).
Nietzsche (1994, p.53). On strict vs. more
inclusive reactive attitudes, see Wallace (1996, p.27).
a positive attitude of holding another accountable:
In R. Jay
Wallaces terms, the dening mark of reactive attitudes is their connection to
the expectations we hold people to. And holding someone to an expectation
involves a susceptibility to a certain range of emotions (Wallace 1996, p. 26).
the military are made out of dierent stu:
For a provocative
opinion piece on just this topic, see Phil Klay, Aer the War, a Failure of
NYT Sunday Review,
February 9, 2014, at:
their own healing from war:
I am indebted to Bryan Doerries for his
many performances of the eater of War in which he conveys so well to pub
lic audiences the relevance of ancient theater to our current wars. I am also
indebted to performances by Peter Meineck and his Aquila eater, which
takes up similar themes. I participated in a talk-back aer an incredibly riv
eting Aquila eater performance of
on Veterans Day,
2014, at NYU, performed, in part, by veterans. For recent anthologies on
ancient and modern war and trauma, see Meineck and Konstan (2014) and
Caston and Weineck (2015). For a discussion of learning through a tragic
heros actions and suering, see Sherman (1992).
e story will be familiar:
Iuse throughout Peter Meineck and Paul
Woodrus translation and notes in Sophocles (2007b).
constant shrieks of his anguished wailing:
For a plea not to mini
mize as a mere inconvenience the physical wound and the eect of Philoctetess
animal screams of pain on the Achaen troops, see Stephens (1995).
his weeping disease:
Sophocles (2007b, p.6).
You know Icould never speak to him
the unassailable weapon:
Sophocles (2007b, p.77).
he who gains a friend:
Sophocles (2007b, p.673). See Meineck and
Woodrus note (Sophocles 2007a, p.217) on this possible translation. See
also Daly (1982) for the names related connotation:a friend better than any
possession. e traditional meaning is fond of gain.
e good interrogator:
For a discussion of interrogation techniques
based on building rapport, see Sherman (2010, ch. 56, with notes). For the
Army eld manual on interrogation techniques in human intelligence collec
Abused and insulted:
Sophocles (2007b, pp.38185).
You and Ising the same song:
Sophocles (2007b, pp.404405).
For the theme of false and persuasive
used to lure Philoctetes, see Hoppin
I will grant your wish
Sophocles (2007b, pp.65859).
Sophocles (2007b, p.660).
who received the bow from Heracles:
When Philoctetes, as a young
boy, lit Heracless funeral pyre. See p.671n. in Sophocles (2007a), which lls
out the background here. Also, see
Women of Trachis,
in Sophocles (2007a,
manipulated into collaboration:
Pettit (1995). For a brief discussion
of just when in the play Philoctetes addresses Neoptolemus as a friend (
see Konstan (2001).
Sophocles (2007b, p.673).
the bow will be yours to hold:
Sophocles (2007b, p. 667).
an ironic distance:
See Peter Goldie (2003) on ironic narrative
So we are suspicious:
For a discussion of Neoptolemuss ultimate
change of heart and his rejection of Odyssesuss stratagems in favour of his
natural honesty, see Gill (1980).
a new level of being counted on:
For this back-and-forth iteration of
second-personal address, see suggestive remarks by Jones (2012), Macnamara
(2012), and Kukla and Lance (2009). For suggestive and complementary
remarks here about the restoration of communication between man and
man, see Segal (1995).
the rst step in the reciprocation:
See Seneca (1995,
II.29.37) for an important game of catch metaphor showing the to-and-
fro of gi giving, acceptance with gratitude, and acknowledgment of that
gratitude. I discuss this in
chapter 6 of this volume. Also, see the related
metaphor of the three Graces dance that goes back on itself (Seneca 1995,
I.3.24). For a related perspective on this reciprocation of gi
giving with thank you and in return, youre welcome, see Macnamara
his sincerity seems to grow:
For a complaint that Neoptolemus is
motivated by an unexplained pity, see Sandridge (2008). For a more sympa
thetic view of the growth and motivational power of Neoptolemuss (and the
Choruss) pity, see Konstan (2006).
the cunning of trust:
See previous note.
the fact of dependency:
Again, Iam indebted to Jones (2012, p.71).
another a normative expectation:
ere is an overlap here with the
psychoanalytic notion of projective identication. e rough idea, rst devel
oped by Melanie Klein, is that an individual splits o negative represented parts
of self (or ego) onto another in order to distance and defend herself from the
anxiety those represented parts arouse. Projective identication is a defense
mechanism. e projection Ihave in mind is not defensive, but more proactive
and normative. It is a transference and then mirroring of ones own trust of
another onto that other, with the aim of that target receiving, recognizing, and
reciprocating (through trustworthiness) that trust investment. For a discussion
of the history and meaning of projective identication, see Grotstein (1995).
the anomie of a veteran:
For a wonderful psychoanalytic piece on
Philoctetes and the sense of abandonment of Vietnam veterans, see Lansky
many return with nostalgia:
For a powerful tale of nostalgia, see the
novel by that name about the psychological trauma of a young Union soldier
from Brooklyn, Summereld Hayes, who nds himself aphasic with invisible
wounds in a Washington, D.C. hospital, lovingly attended to by a gray-bearded
civilian named Walt. He is Walt Whitman. See McFarland (2013).
Have mercy, my son
Sophocles (2007b, pp.96772).
On the concept of narcissistic injuries, see Kohut
(1971, 1977, 1984).
e Invisible War
For discussion by the direc
tor, Kirby Dick, of the lm, see Invisible War Director Kirby Dick on the
Healing Power of Film,
PBS Independent Lens,
May 9, 2013, at:
also the press kit for the movie, at:
the oldest post of the Corps:
For information on this post,
It may not be too cynical to say:
See the insightful essay of Linda
Gordon (2013) in her review of Roberts (2013). My colleague, Alisa Carse, has
spoken to me oen about the abuse of her mother in Germany at the hands
of the occupying U.S. forces. For further discussion of crimes against women
beyond the U.S. Armed Forces, see Barstow (2000) and MacKinnon (2006).
For a remarkable account of the Russian occupation of Berlin, see Anonymous
(2000). For a reading of the book (through the lens of a radical critique of
the governance feminist argument for criminalization of rape in interna
tional criminal courts), see Halley (2008). For testimony of the private war of
American service women sexually abused while serving in Iraq, see Benedict
senators on Capitol Hill:
See Rebecca Huval, Sen. Gillibrand
Credits the Invisible War with Shaping New Bill,
PBS Independent Lens,
10, 2013, at:
; and Eleanor Cli,
War Spurs Action Against Military Rape,
February 23, 2013,
. Former Secretary of Defense Leon
Panetta previewed the lm early on and apparently, two days aer watching
it, transferred power to prosecute sexual assault crimes from the level of unit
commander to colonel.
an epidemic of sexual assault in the ranks:
According to a
report released by the Defense Department Sexual Assault Prevention
and Response Oce (SAPRO), FY 2012 SAPRO, there were an estimated
26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assaults in 2012, rep
resenting a 37percent increase from 2011. e report found that 50per
cent of female victims stated that they did not report the crime because
they thought that nothing would come of it. For an overview of the nd
. For the complete SAPRO
each proposed legislation:
Gillibrands bill took the prosecution out
of the chain of command, and McCaskills eliminates the good soldier legal
defense from evidence rules unless a defendants military character is directly
relevant to the allegations. On March 10, 2014, though Gillibrands bill fell
ve votes short of a libuster-proof majority that would have cut o debate
and allowed the bill to come to the oor in a nal vote, McCaskills bill, with
its own more limited sexual assault prosecution reforms, passed on a 970
vote. See Darren Samuelsohn, Claire McCaskills Sexual Assault Bill Passes,
March 10, 2014, at:
two high-profile court cases:
On the case of disgraced Army
general, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, see Craig Whitlock, Disgraced Army
General, Jeffrey A.Sinclair, Receives Fine, No Jail Time,
March 20, 2014, at:
On the Naval Academy case, see Helene Cooper, Former Naval Academy
Football Player Is Acquitted of Sexual Assault,
The Commandant of the Marine Corps General
James F.Amos acknowledged the point when he said of victims, they
dont trust the chain of command. Transcript of Testimony, Senate
Armed Services Committee, Oversight Hearing to Receive Testimony
on Pending Legislation Regarding Sexual Assaults in the Military at
92 (June 4, 2013)as reported in:
. See also:
, and Lanny Davis, Obama Should Back Gillibrand,
July 24, 2013, at:
. with a producer:
See Eleanor Cli,
War Spurs Action Against Military Rape,
February 23, 2013,
British psychoanalyst John Bowlby:
See Bowlby (1969/1973/1980).
Air Force Colonel Stephanie Wilson:
Col. Stephanie Wilson and
Iwere both fellows at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.,
during 201112. We talked several times that year about her coming home
from war and getting ready to redeploy. e above conversation draws from an
interview on May 2, 2012.
For discussion of Senecas use of the notion, see
Sherman (2005a, pp. 117, 145).
emotions are accompanied with pleasure or pain:
, II.1, 1378a20).
not a reliable indicator:
See James (2003).
rather than how it
Ihave argued in earlier writings that
emotions play various critical and overlapping roles in our lives as practical
and moral agents See, for example, Sherman (1997b) where Iargue emotions
; that is, they direct, and oen,
rivet our attention to certain objects of value that we care about and take
to be important for good living. ey help us to
convey and express values
; that is, when expressed, they commu
nicate those values to ourselves and others; they
what we care about.
In some cases, we may have not have corresponding inner attitudes we are
externalizing. Rather, we are engaged primarily in emotional
that themselves show an interest in certain values. Smiling can be like that.
Modes, relatedly, that
values we were unaware we had; that is,
experiencing emotion or expressing emotion reveals an interest and value
that we didnt fully recognize ourselves as having, or at least, we underap
preciated that fact.
create or instate
new values and dont just track or discern
antecedent ones; emotional engagement is a way that an individual
to care about something
resources in it. It is a way of bootstrap
ping interest and value and attachment.
Modes, most familiarly, perhaps, that
motivate and mobilize
us into action
or mental activity; so, we act
e emotions, as the Stoics put it, are kinds of impulses (
). Or as
Aristotle says, they involve desires (
For a discussion of this last point, see Sherman (1977b, pp.3950). For
the Stoics on emotions as impulses (
), see Brennan (2005, ch. 7).
As Peter Goldie puts it, emotions have an epis
temic tendency to build an epistemic landscape that coheres with an evalua
tion that that emotion has. In Michael Bradys terms, emotions have a capture
and consume mode of directing attention and cognitive resources. See Brady
(2007) and Goldie (2004, p.99).
Summereld Hayes, ctional:
In Dennis McFarlands remarkable
Civil War novel,
U.S.detention center at Guantanamo:
For a recent discussion mark
ing the 10th anniversary of Gitmo, see Kim Lawton and Nancy Sherman,
September 6, 2013, at:
. Ivisited Gitmo in fall 2005, by invitation of the U.S. Defense
Department, to investigate issues of mental and physical health of detainees in
the wake of hunger strikes. For my reactions at the time, see Nancy Sherman,
Mind Games at Gitmo,
, December 12, 2005, at:
. For more on the issue, see
Sherman (2010, chs. 56).
HOPE AFTER WAR
For information on the
. Iattended a show
ing at the Washington Jewish Community Center, May 6, 2013, aer which
Murry Sidlin spoke. Terezin was a transit camp for Czechoslovakian Jews.
Of some 140,000 Jews who passed through, 90,000 were deported to near
certain death in concentration camps and killing centers. Some 33,000 died
in Terezin itself. For information on Terezin, see eresienstadt,
e United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, June 10,
Singing to be saved:
at survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, a distin
guished pianist before the war, recently died at age 110. Of the concerts at
Terezin, she said, is music was
. our food.
rough making music,
we were kept alive. She knew of musics sustaining power. Shortly aer the
Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, she began a serious study of
Chopins Études. ey are very dicult, she told a reporter at the
in 2010. I thought if Ilearned to play them, they would
save my life. Her young son survived the camp as well, and became an emi
nent cellistRaphael Sommer. Margalit Fox, Alice Herz-Sommer, Who
Found Peace in Chopin Amid Holocaust, Dies at 110,
February 27, 2014, at:
another aspect of their hope:
In thinking about hope, Iam indebted
to conversations with Adrienne Martin, especially with regard to Martin
(2013) and her notion of normative hope, or hope in persons. For other work
on hope that has inuenced my thought in this chapter, see Walker (2006),
Lear (2006), and Pettit (2004).
It is natural, then
1099b331100a3, translation altered slightly, changing being congratu
lated to being deemed). Aristotle explicitly touches on hope in this passage,
as in by reason of the hopes
dia tn elpida
each others reactive uptakes and updates:
Ithank Trip Glazer for
interpersonal engagement from childhood:
For patterns of attun
ement and misattunement between child and caregiver, see Stern (1985).
entrust to chance
requisite for realizing a ourishing and happy life:
1099b18). Again, I am indebted to Adrienne Martin for
this notion of normative hope. See Martin (2013).
the Stoics will press Aristotle:
For further discussion of Stoic posi
tions, see Sherman (2005a).
they will have the resources:
is is not to suggest that such line
drawing is ever easy or intuitive. For notions of responsibility in the context
of balancing risks in force protection and protection of noncombatants, see
Luban (2014). He suggests the plausibility of a strict liability view of accepting
risks (and hence, acquiring responsibility) in cases where soldiers cause danger
to noncombatant civilians.
an appropriate reply:
McGeer (2012, p. 303); see discussion of this in
looking for an appropriate response to our call:
Darwall (2006, p.
159); Walker (2006, p. 135).
In general, we demand some degree
A number of philosophers have been exploring:
Macnamara (2012) and Adrienne Martin (2013) have argued, inde
pendently in recent work, that a demand analysis (of the sort developed
by Watson , Wallace  and Darwall ) doesnt do well
in accommodating the broad spectrum of negative and positive reactive
attitudes. (Macnamaras work focuses on gratitude, while Martins work
focuses on hope.) And, as Macnamara argues, expressed attitudes construed
as demandings may not even issue in tenable demands that can be com
plied with in the case of a paradigmatic negative reactive attitude, such as
resentment. Demands seek compliance (p. 901). But just what demand am
I making, she asks, when I express resentment when you step on my toe? My
options for complying with your demand are rather limited. I cannot comply
by refraining from the oending action, since it is already in the past.
compliance, of course, is possibleI can refrain from stepping on your foot in
the future. But while we can agree that this would be a good thing, such for
bearance is not satisfying as a complete account of the response your expression
of resentment aims at. It is highly implausible that my
not stomping on
your foot in the future renders your expression of resentment fully successful
the structure of reactive attitudes as a call-and-response:
and-response models, see Walker (2006, p.135) and Darwall (2006, p.159).
Macnamaras view also draws from the normative account of speech acts that
Kukla and Lance develop, and specically, their account of vocatives, or hail
ings (Yos). See Kukla and Lance (2009, pp.14546).
in original and important work on normative hope:
ch. 5, p.130; also, pp.11822 and 124). Martin takes her lead from an earlier
article by Jonathan Bennett (2008b) who notes a constriction in demand-
based accounts of reactive attitudes.
praised if you succeed, but not blamed if you fail:
Callard for clarication here at the Practical Philosophy Workshop Igave at
University of Chicago, February 7, 2014.
sense of purpose and belonging:
is is not to downplay the bore
dom in war. For an interesting discussion, see
dangerous and demanding engagements:
Lalo is the husband of a
former Georgetown student of mine, Donna Hernandez, whose story I tell
below. I have interviewed both on many occasions, formally and informally,
over a period of four years or more. I rst interviewed Lalo and Donna on
October 17, 2012, then again July, 24, 2013, and again Lalo on his own on
October 2, 2013. Our additional ongoing conversations have taken place in
snippets, over tea, coee, a meal, in class, and on the phone over those years.
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal:
I refer to the citations
in the Secretary of the Navy issued Navy and Marine Corps Achievement
Medal citation awarded to Corporal Eduardo L. (Lalo) Panyagua on June
unhappiness as despair:
See Buss (2004) for this notion, though she
claims such unhappiness is, at root, irrational.
Recent spikes in suicide rates:
On this, see Margaret C. Harrell
and Nancy Berglass, Losing the Battle: e Challenge of Military Suicide,
Center for a New American Security,
October 2011, at:
. For a recent report suggesting that deployment to war zones is not a major
factor in the rise in military suicides (and for criticism of the report), see James
Dao, Deployment Factors Are Not Related to Rise in Military Suicides,
New York Times,
August 6, 2013, at:
hope can get a foothold:
For resilience and positive thinking initia
tives in the Army, see Martin Seligmans designed Army-wide resilience train
ing program:Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, discussed in Seligman (2011),
Seligman and Fowler (2011), and Reivich, Seligman, and McBride (2011).
For critiques of Seligmans positive psychology approach, see Held (2004),
Ehrenreich (2009), and Roy Eidelson, e Dark Side of Comprehensive
, March 25, 2011, at:
. Hopefulness on my view is not an optimistic temperament or
behaviorally trained positive attitude, but an aspiring attitude with regard to
worthwhile ends we set for ourselves or others (in the case of normative hope)
or a desire for what we believe are uncertain outcomes where that hopeful
ness gives us a certain cognitive resolve to put projects and plans in place (non-
(non-normative) hope I mean to
exclude trivial hopes, such as gure in the expression I hope it wont rain
today, or I hope he catches his train, though I dont have good ways of
drawing a hard line between these usages and weightier ones aside from
context. My primary interest is in hope that mobilizes focus and practi
cal agency, as will become clear shortly. Here, too, I recognize that there
are genuine and substantive ways of hoping where a notion of agency (or
agential investment) seems out of placesuch as future directed hopes that
do not involve eort (e.g., hoping that certain legislation passes but essen
tially being passive about it) or past directed hopes, where practical agency
is out of place (e.g., hoping that Hitler died a miserable death). On this see,
Martin (2011). Still, I am thinking of hope paradigmatically as a kind of
Albert Hirschmans term, discussed in Cass Sunstein,
An Original inker of Our Time,
New York Review of Books,
the condence of my actual belief
Philip Pettit (2004, p. 159).
Forming the hope
Pettit (2004, p.160).
For an overview and critique of agential
investment views, see Martin (2011). She argues that hope is not a special form
of motivation, though a common way of expressing hope is through fantasies
that can inuence motivation both rationally
. and nonrationally (p.171).
So in the end, she accommodates typical cases that express the motivational
character of hope. Her worry is that viewing hope as itself a special form of
motivation or eortful investment is too restrictive, and cannot accommodate
the sort of counterexamples where hope is genuine but
, whether respect
to the future or paste.g., hoping that certain legislation passes but putting
no eort into advocacy and support, or hoping that Hitler died a miserable
death, where agential eort just makes no sense. On this see Martin (2011).
Still, the kind of hope Iam interested in here is
motivational, whether constitutively so or as a matter of concomitant, typical
Choice cannot relate to impossibles,
. but there
may be a wish even for impossiblese.g., for immortality. And wish may
relate to things that could in no way be brought about by ones own eorts
turning away from reality:
See Freud (1974, XIV.233; XIV.244,
pp.31618, 32425; and XI.5051).
See Nussbaum (2001, pp.3133) on this view of some
emotions and their connection with
these kinds of hopes:
For more on the role of fantasy in hope, see
Martin (2011) and Lear (2006).
he clearly walks:
both collaborative and individual:
Goldie (2005, p. 99); Brady (2007). Also, see
Hurley and Macnamara (2010) for considerations on reactive attitudes as
and not beliefs, and background to this in Sherman (1997b, p. 39).
she psyches herself:
Ithank Dan Brudney for this insight and others
at the discussion of my paper at University of Chicagos Practical Philosophy
Workshop, February 7, 2014.
avoid the paralysis of idle fears:
Idescribe this kind of mental prac
tice in Sherman (2005a, pp.117, 145)in connection with Seneca and Ciceros
Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Gadson:
Greg Gadson on May 9, 2011. Also, see Steve Inskeep, Where
Generations of Soldiers Healed and Moved On,
NPR Morning Edition,
August 29, 2011, at:
contractors who make and t prosthetics
And in par
ticular, Mike Corcoran, the remarkable prostheticist who works with
injured military members at Walter Reed. See
worldwide rights for persons with disabilities:
As in the United
Nations treaty for disabled rights that the Senate recently rejected; see
Ramsey Cox and Julian Pecquet, Senate Rejects United Nations Treaty for
Disabled Rights in a 6831 Vote,
December 4, 2012, at:
I would like to take up an analogy
On the game of ball, see
, II.17.36). For related analogy based on the loop
ing back of the mutual reciprocations of the ree Graces, see Seneca (1995,
As Seneca goes on to suggest:
For an earlier discussion of Seneca on
emotional expression and performance in gi giving, see Sherman (2004,
trust given to someone:
Idevelop these ideas in the case of trust in
disrupting the status quo:
Roberta is a pseudonym. Preserving
heritage and tradition is really code, she adds, for protecting pornography
in on-line briefs and pinup posters on the wall.
devolves to disappointment:
ere can be a double attitude, as
Adrienne Martin (2013, pp.12024) puts it. Ithank her for conversation on
(that made on her behalf):
makes this all too clear:
For a painful discussion of all too common
misguided parental investments in childrens vertical identities (that is, aspi
rations hearing parents pass down for their deaf children to be hearing-able or
straight parents for their gay children to be straight, or non-autistic parents for
their autistic children to be normal, and so on, see Solomon (2012).
In other cases:
Idiscuss these cases in Sherman (2010, ch. 4; 2013).
little lasting impact:
For an insightful op ed on this, see omas
Friedman, Dont Just Do Something. Sit ere,
New York Times,
This is just the beginning
As quoted in Richard A.Oppel Jr.,
Fallujas Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There,
January 9, 2014, at:
. The article also quotes one
of the Marines, Adam Banotai, in 2004, a 21-year-old squad leader in
Fallujah whose unit seized control of the government center early in the
campaign:I dont think anyone had the grand illusion that Fallujah or
Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was
going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency.
It made me sick to my stom
ach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly
Lou Reeds A Walk on the Wild Side:
e Blossoms respond in Lou
Reeds, A Walk on the Wild Side; or the call and response of Merry Clayton
(or Lisa Fischer) to Mick Jagger: Rape, murder,
. Its just a shot away in the
Gimme Shelter track. See
Twenty Feet om Stardom
for insights into the
role of backup singers, typically African American women for whom the call-
response pattern is inculcated early in participation in church gospel music, at:
may hold each other
Macnamara (2011) emphasizes this
evaluative attitudes are
Or conversely, emotionally sig
nicant objects and events capture and consume attention as Michael Brady
(2009, p.423) puts it.
brings on shame:
For an exploration of this view of shame, see
e citation on his achievement medal:
e Department of the Navy
issued Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to Corporal Eduardo
L.Panyagua, June 14, 2010.
primarily a performance:
For Stoic lessons on the diculty of inner
change, see Ciceros critique of Stoic doctrine in connection with his own
grieving, discussed in Sherman (2005a, pp.132, 14349).
a therapists nely expressed trust:
For an excellent discussion of
trust and growing trustworthiness, see Jones (2012).
Aristotle invokes that image:
See Aristotle (1984,
Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale:
Imet and interviewed Jim
Stockdale several times, and wrote about those encounters in
(Sherman 2005a) and
e Untold War
(Sherman 2010). For Stockdales own
reections on his philosophy, see Stockdale (1995).
there are no homecomings:
For more on this, in connection
with the April 2014 Fort Hood shooting, see my Its the Gun, Not the
WHERE THEY ARE NOW
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THE WHITE HOUSE
U.S. Navy photo of Kelley Wood by Stephanie Tigner/Wikimedia
accident guilt, 8,8486
active constructive attitudes,13
Afghanistan and AfghanistanWar
Department of Veterans Aairs
moral responsibility and,35
Panyagua in, 57, 6163, 6567,138
Alcott, Louise May,167
American Sign Language,183
Amos, James F.,203
anger, 3132, 42, 4950, 112.
Aquila eatre, 190,199
on friendship, 15152,182
on mere or idle wish,139
Artists in Uniform (nonprot
Baco, Paul, 10,3031
Berschinski, Bob and Susan,140
Berschinski, Dan, 910,
Bill (Vietnam veteran),4749
Brady, Michael, 19192, 194,211
Butler, Joseph, 8, 31, 49,185
Carter, Phil, 41, 46,18687
Center for New American Security
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv, 176,190
Chiarelli, Peter, 1415,187
children, 4344, 12427,135
Cicero, 42, 95,184
Congressional Research Service,15
Cooper, John, 195,196
e Daily Beast
Darwall, Stephen, 185,186
Democracy in America
Doerries, Bryan, 190,199
(to enter into a feeling),92
compared to self-empathy,9596
empathy, 80, 9194, 161.
(well-being, happiness), 98,
fear, 7071, 8687, 98,196
Fiebrandt, Tom, 9, 8891, 9596,
Freud, Sigmund, 87,139
Gibbons-Ne, T. M.(TM), 9,
Gillibrand, Kirsten, 123,186
Gimme Shelter (song),211
Glazer, Trip, 182, 183, 198,206
Global Assessment Tool (GAT),13
Goldie, Peter, 191, 196,204
resentment and, 23, 3134, 3946,
Seneca on, 14445, 184,200
Panyagua and, 6063,6773
Prior and, 8, 8486,97
as recalcitrant, 67,8691
shame and, 63, 8486,16162
shame and, 9, 7780, 81, 85,87,97
Haran, Alysha, 9, 155160,16768
Hayes, Summereld (
Panyagua and, 9, 58, 60, 64, 7274,
Hochschild, Arlie Russell,182
homecoming pain (
in oneself, 12, 147152
in others, 12, 18, 13738,14347
in outcomes, 12, 137143
newspaper), 25, 165,188
imperfect duty of care,85
e Invisible War
Iraq and IraqWar
Department of Veterans Aairs
Fiebrandt and, 8891,16566
Mantz in, 78,1112
moral responsibility and,35
Panyagua in, 5758,138
ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria),165
Jones, Karen, 198,201
Just and Unjust Wars
just war theory,3438
Kajlich, Andre, 141,14243
Kant, Immanuel, 33, 4445, 85,191
Kukla, Rebecca, 190, 198,207
Lance, Mark Norris, 190, 198,207
Litz, Brett, 174,189
Lords Resistance Arm,25
Macnamara, Coleen, 190, 2067,211
, 78, 1112, 18,
Marshall, S.L. A.,181
Martin, Adrienne, 135, 205, 206,
Master Resilience Training
Max (Lalo's therapy dog), 60, 73,
Meineck, Peter, 190,199
moral healing, 1011, 3940, 9397.
moral injuries, 7, 7880,174
moral responsibility, 32, 3440,5455
Nash, William, 174,176
Neoptolemus, 11419, 12122,130
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 49, 52, 53,113
(McFarland), 129130, 201,204
(public homecoming), 11415,
Obama, Barack, 23,
Oppel, Richard A. Jr.,211
hope and, 18, 138, 15052,161
in Iraq and Afghanistan, 5758, 6163,
moral rewoundings and,7174
physical and moral injuries of, 9,5871
passive destructive attitudes,13
Pfa, Tony, 181,186
(Sophocles), 11419, 12122,
Plenty Coup (Crow leader),14243
civilian population and,27
Department of Veterans Aairs
Master Resilience Training program
moral injuries and,174
sexual trauma and,197
traumatic brain injury and,16
use of term,193
pre-rehearsal, 68, 127,142
Prior, John, 8, 8486,87,97
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).
recalcitrant emotions, 67,8691
gratitude and, 23, 3134, 3946,
moral responsibility and, 32,
trust and, 18,11213
residue guilt feelings,192
, 49, 5253, 113,115
Ritchie, Elspeth Cameron Cam,198
Roberta (service woman),14546
Sally (service woman), 9, 1057, 1089,
as epistemic notion and aective
moral healing and,9397
Stoicism on sage and progressor
view on empathy and,9193
self-forgiveness, 101, 103,149
Seligman, Martin, 1213,208
on emotions, 100101
on gratitude, 14445, 184,200
sexism, 1059, 14546,159
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
sexual harassment and assault, 9, 18,
guilt and, 63, 8486,16162
Hall and, 9, 7780, 79, 81, 85,87,97
Sherman, Seymour, 120,123
Smith, Adam, 50, 6970, 92, 94,142
Sophocles, 8184, 11419,12122
Stockdale, James Bond,155
on pre-rehearsal, 68, 127,142
on sage and progressor, 97101,149
Strawson, P.F., 177,196
substantive hope, 138140
suicide, 12, 1415,138
survivor guilt, 78,6163
Terezin (Nazi camp), 13335,144
terrorist attacks of 9/11,155
eater of War, 81,199
e read of Life
(honor and status),82
Titchener, Edward Bradford,92
To the End of the Land
Tocqueville, Alexis de,166
traumatic brain injury (TBI), 1516,
building of, 119124
compared to hope in others,145
as expectation of appropriate
resentment and, 18,4142
role in military life of,1058
United States Congress,30
universal national service,29
e Untold War
Vietnam Memorial (e Wall),1011
Vietnam War, 3031,4749
A Walk on the Wild Side (song),148
Walker, David Ian,182
e Wall (Vietnam Memorial),1011
Wallace, R.Jay, 185,199
War on the Rocks
(newspaper), 25, 41,165
Whitman, Walt, 129,201
Williams, Bernard, 185,188
Wilson, Justin, 6162, 64,150
Wilson, Liam, 125,168
Wilson, Mikayla, 12526,168
Wilson, Scott, 125,168
Wilson, Stephanie, 12527,168
sexism and, 1059, 14546,159
sexual harassment and assault against,
in A Walk on the Wild Side,148
Haran, Alysha; Roberta; Sally;
Xenakis, Stephen, 189