For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



The Moral Responsibility of the U.S. Military Officer in the Context of the Larger War We Are In

This essay proposes to consider the long-range effects of a gradually implemented educational reform within the American military culture – a form of re-education that was slowly introduced by the psychological and social scientists after World War II. In a more mitigated form than the German military’s Umerziehung (i.e., re-education) after World War II, the American military culture seems to have undergone its own transformation and “instrumentalization” in order to become a more useful, non-authoritarian professional cadre in the service of a modern, often messianic, and increasingly imperial democracy.

It would seem that the traditional, more or less Christian, American military culture had to be re-paganized and neo-Machiavellianized and made more philo-Judaic – or at least less patently (or latently) anti-Semitic.

The Freudian-Marxist “Frankfurt School” doctrines could further build upon the educational reforms which had already been implemented by John Dewey’s own theories of pragmatism and instrumentalism. These combined innovations in military, as well as civilian, education would seem to have weakened the intellectual and moral character of the American military officer, and concurrently inclined him to become more technocratic as well as more passive and neutral as an instrument in the service of his civilian masters in a “modern democracy” or a new “messianic imperium” with a “globalist, neo-liberal ideology.” Indeed, some of these innovations were introduced when I was first being formed as a future military officer.

It was in the autumn of 1960, after Plebe Summer and the test of “Beast Barracks,” that I first heard about the revisions that the West Point academic curriculum had recently undergone, and which would be experimentally applied to our incoming class of some eight hundred men. Colonel Lincoln’s Social Science Department, as it was presented to us, was to be much more influential and more deeply formative than before upon the education of officers. There were to be several more classes now in military psychology, sociology, and leadership, and fewer in strategic military history and concrete military biography. The long-standing and ongoing process of replacing the Humanities with the academic and applied social sciences would, we were told, continue and increase.

At the time – especially at 17 years of age – I had little idea of the implications of these curricular revisions, nor of their underlying soft “logic of scientific discovery,” much less an awareness of the growing “soft tyranny” of the Social Sciences and their subtly relativizing “sociology of knowledge” (as in the work of German sociologist, Karl Mannheim). But I do remember reading two mandatory books: Samuel Huntington’s The Soldier and the State and Morris Janowitz’s The Professional Soldier. Both of these books, we were told, were to help form the proper kind of officer that was needed in “modern democratic society.”

Janowitz had an intellectual background rooted in neo-Marxist “critical theory” as it was first propagated by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Frankfurt in Germany. (This school of thought became more commonly known as “the Frankfurt School.”) This internationally networked school of Marxist-Freudian thought – indeed a well-armed ideology – was likewise active in conducting various “studies in prejudice” and quite intensely concerned about the dangers of the “authoritarian personality,” especially because this character type supposedly tended to “fascism” and “anti-Semitism.” The Frankfurt School “critical theory” claimed to detect and to unmask “anti-democratic tendencies,” perhaps most notably in traditional military institutions and their more autocratic cultures – especially because of the recent history of Germany – but also in traditional, well-rooted, religious institutions of the West, i.e., Christian institutions in general and the culture of the Catholic Church most specifically.

The Frankfurt School theorists and activists claimed to want to produce the “democratic personality” – although they had originally (and more revealingly) called it the “revolutionary personality.” This purportedly “democratic personality” was to be a fitting replacement for the inordinately prejudiced and latently dangerous “authoritarian personality,” which allegedly conduced to the disorder and illness of anti-Semitism.

The combination of Karl Marx’s earlier writings and critical theories and Sigmund Freud’s psychiatric theories would be a special mark of this “neo-Marxist critical theory,” not only in the writings of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse, but also in the “anti-authoritarian” psychology of Erich Fromm.

Morris Janowitz was at the time (1960) a sociologist at the University of Chicago, and he seemed to want to form a “new kind of military professionalism” and a new kind of military officer. That is to say, a military officer who would be a “suitable” instrument to serve those who are truly “governing a modern democracy.”

These last few words in quotation marks were taken from a recent essay by the candid Irving Kristol (the neoconservative patriarch and patronus and former Trotskyite) who has for some years been writing about, and promoting, “the emerging American imperium,” first in the Wall Street Journal in the mid-1990s.

In the 25 August, 2003, issue of the Weekly Standard, Kristol wrote a forthright article entitled, “The Neoconservative Persuasion.” In this essay he uses words that could also be retroactively applied to the larger, long-range re-education and cultural project of the Frankfurt School, of Morris Janowitz, and of his kind of “neo-military sociologist.” Kristol speaks in somewhat elevated but bluntly candid language as follows:

The historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism [and also of the “new” military sociology and psychology?] would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism [and also the American military culture?] in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics [and hence a neo-imperial American military and its Global Expeditionary Force?] suitable to governing a modern democracy.[1]

In the article Kristol further argues that, “like the Soviet Union of yesteryear,” the “United States of today” has “an identity that is ideological” (though he does not specify the content of this purported ideological identity). Therefore, in addition to “more material concerns” and “complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest,” the United States, says Kristol, “inevitably” has “ideological interests” and “that is why we [sic] feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival [sic] is threatened.” (Israel Shamir, for slightly different reasons, also thinks that Israel is now threatened, at least as a “Jewish supremacist state” or as an “exclusionary, apartheid state.”)

However, is it conceivable that after our anti-authoritarian re-education in America’s purportedly tolerant, new “democratic military culture,” any active-duty military officers would now be permitted – much less long tolerated – to make any critique or have any moral reservation about this pre-eminent “ideological mission” for America, either for the protection of Israel or for the further expansion of, in Kristol’s own words, “the emerging American imperium”? It would seem not. The culture of tolerance would seem to be a fiction, especially when truth is taboo. Furthermore, a sign of real power is who effectively controls (or is intimidating about) what is permitted to be discussed and critiqued in open public discourse, and what must not be spoken.

Indeed, to what extent could any general officer or flag officer today even make a strategic argument – much less a principled, moral argument – that such “ideological interests” and permanent missions for America actually undermine true U.S. national interests and the common good? If any younger military officers were openly, or even privately, to make such critical arguments, or were known even to have such principled views, would they not likely be “weeded out” before they could even become general or flag officers? Nonetheless, the American military officer, in his Commissioning Oath, still accepts a high moral obligation when he solemnly swears to defend the (clear and plain, i.e. un-“deconstructed”) Constitution of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Therefore, from the vantage point of “the emerging American imperium” in 2004, and in light of our seemingly intimidated military culture, one may now better consider the strategic, longer-range cultural project of “anti-authoritarian re-education,” which was gradually implemented by way of a reformed “military sociology and psychology.” This cultural project was, in fact, slowly implemented, even back in 1960 during the so-called “cold war,” and was intended, it would seem, to be part of the quiet and unobtrusive “re-education” (Umerziehung) of the “updated” and “progressive” military officer, so as to make him more “suitable” and docile for helping his civilian superiors in governing a modern democracy – which is also now seen to be an emerging American imperium more and more “governed” by inaccessible and seemingly intractable oligarchies or new elites. In Antonio Gramsci’s terms, a new “cultural hegemony” has been attained, replacing an older, traditional military and political culture with a new ethos and orientation. While the United States was fighting the “cold war” against the more conspicuous revolutionary socialism of the Soviet Union and Red China, the culture was being quietly, indirectly, and “dialectically” captured! After seeing these fruits from the vantage point of 2004, we may soberly ask: To what extent were we cadets being prepared, even back in 1960, to be compliant officers in a “modern imperial democracy,” or even a new kind of Praetorian Guard for our new elites and their Proconsuls?

Indeed, it was Samuel Huntington’s The Soldier and the State which was the second mandatory book for us to read as cadets in 1960 as part of our new curriculum, in addition to the writings of Morris Janowitz. Huntington’s book also promoted the ethos of an unquestioningly obedient, properly subordinated, and docile military officer as a compliant instrument in the service of a modern State and “democratic society.” Huntington’s concept of “civil-military relations” clearly implied that there was not to be a keen intellectual or strategic culture in the U.S. military, and certainly nothing resembling the German General Staff concept of well-educated, strategic-minded, far-sighted, and thinking officers who were to be not only indispensable senior staff officers but also field commanders with high qualities of moral and intellectual leadership. (Even the post-World War II German military culture was permitted to retain the German General Staff concept in its educational system for future officers, but the American military culture was, ironically, not permitted to imitate – or even to know much about – this brilliant achievement. I never learned about it during my studies at West Point except when I was abroad among the German military as an exchange-cadet in the summer of 1962.)

Two other men made indispensable contributions to my deeper understanding of strategic psychological warfare and modern cultural warfare, as well as the historical instances of Kulturkampf and the re-education of an enemy: Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Sam V. Wilson and Theodore Ropp.

During the early 1970s, when I studied military history under the Austrian-American professor Theodore Ropp at Duke University, I realized that this great teacher, scholar, and author of War in the Modern World, understood not only “battlefield” military history but also the relation of war and society and the subtle influence of war upon larger civilizations and cultures. And he understood these matters in a very profound way. Professor Ropp, who taught many West Point officers in graduate school, cultivated and disciplined the eager minds of his students to take the longer view of various profoundly differentiated military cultures. He especially illuminated these different traditions by way of counter-pointed contrasts and a finely nuanced comparative cultural history of long-standing military institutions, to include their specific martial effects upon civilization as a whole.

Under the instruction of Professor Ropp, I realized for the first time that something serious, important, and substantial was missing from my formative military education at West Point. Although I had been on the exchange trip with the German military and their cadets, I was then still too young and callow to have a deeper appreciation of the formation of the new German military culture after World War II, in contrast to its earlier history – and not just its Prussian military history. But Professor Ropp helped me and so many other students to understand and savor these deeper matters, for which I am so grateful.

Another important influence in my deeper education was Colonel Sam V. Wilson, who in 1969 and 1970 was my mentor. He was also during that time (and during the Vietnam War years in general) the director of studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sam Wilson was a deep-thinking military officer, especially in the field of irregular warfare and strategic special operations. He, too, made me realize, though in an incipient way, the deeper strategic, moral, and cultural factors in the waging of modern war. West Point, I then realized, had prepared us very little to take this longer, truly strategic, view of military culture, history, and war, even though the Academy had been in fact founded to form and cultivate the discerning mind and moral character of a future strategos (the Greek for “general officer”), like the historian Thucydides.

Irving Kristol and Professor Sidney Hook were both involved in “the cultural cold war” as part of the CIA-supported Congress for Cultural Freedom, in which they tried to influence and capture the culture of the so-called “non-Communist left,” and to increase its active resistance to the increasingly “anti-Semitic” Stalinist form of Soviet Communism. In like manner, there seems also to have been a quieter “cultural project,” by way of the social sciences, to “update” and “transform” the traditionally authoritarian and rigid American military culture into a more “dynamic” and more “democratic form of society.” For, as the argument went, a more authoritarian and explicitly Christian military culture also had the danger of being at least latently anti-Semitic.

Professor Joseph Bendersky’s recent book supports this suggestion and intuition. Published in 2000, his book – which contains ironic or sarcastic quotation marks even in his title – is called: The “Jewish Threat”: Anti-Semitic Politics in the U.S. Army.[2]

Bendersky shows how the “Officers’ Worldview, 1900–1939,” as well as their dangerously “elitist” views, had to be corrected and transformed, especially in light of “Officers and the Holocaust, 1940–1945” and in light of the “Birth of Israel, 1945–1949” (the quoted periods being also the titles of three of his chapters).

When one finishes reading Bendersky’s lengthy and learned (but not entirely intelligent) ideological book, one realizes that a very intelligent psycho-cultural project had been designed and conducted, especially after World War II, to remove and to chasten the “dangerous” propensities of the “elitist” American military culture – especially its sometimes “racist” (and “eugenicist”) and un-democratic propensities toward “anti-Semitism.” (Bendersky never sharply defines, though, what he means by anti-Semitism, although he implies that it constitutes a kind of summum malum – i.e., the greatest of evils.)

In the context of strategic, cultural warfare, Antonio Gramsci, along with Géorg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, and the whole Frankfurt School apparatus, understood the “cultural channels” of religious and strategic subversion, especially of traditional Western civilization and its once deeply rooted Christian religious culture. In like manner, there seems to have been some well-prepared “cultural warfare” within the United States subtly conducted against the post-World War II military culture and its Christian moral traditions (which included formation in the life of the four cardinal virtues, as distinct from the dialectic of mere “values” and its mostly emotive and subjective “critical thinking.”)

Moreover, I am led to make these observations merely as a “fruit inspector.” For I have seen the fruits of these cultural and curricular revisions, and I have also seen what was once present and is no longer. I also see the extent to which the truth is taboo concerning these matters. Like other matters of historical inquiry, the matter of the transformation of the American military culture also seems to be “off limits.” Investigators are not welcome.

Nonetheless, I have observed the fruits and shall continue to examine the cumulative combination of the deeper causes and agents of this transformation of our military education and culture into something which is more vulnerable to manipulation; and whose moral and intellectual resistance to injustice and other disorders is increasingly “dimmed down.”

I have also witnessed – by personal, direct involvement – how little intellectual and moral resistance there now is within the military, against our creeping and technocratic neo-Praetorianism in support of our regional military Proconsuls and their civilian masters (both inside and outside of the government). Our military culture is altogether inattentive to an arguably unconstitutional abuse of power; and also to our myopically “un-strategic” and thoroughly irrational involvement in unjust aggressive wars (like Iraq), while we are concurrently and centrifugally over-extended elsewhere throughout the world, and “strutting to our confusion.”

The common good of the United States would be greatly furthered, I believe, if there were even just one “ferociously honest” man like Israel Shamir within the U.S. military. This former Israeli commando and immigrant from the former Soviet Union gives many unflinching “reports from reality,” which are not easily found in other sources. The reader of this essay will certainly know what I mean if he will only read Shamir’s recently published collection of essays entitled Flowers of Galilee.[3]

In his candid book, Israel Shamir gives more and deeper cultural and strategic intelligence about Israel than one will find in all of CIA’s unclassified translations, available from its gifted, but sometimes overly selective (or self-censoring), Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). Like the now-deceased Israeli writer and “secular humanist” Israel Shahak – but, I think, even more profoundly so – Israel Shamir is truthful and candid in his manifold analyses and presentation of hard facts, many of which are essentially unknown in the West unless one reads Hebrew.

What Israel Shamir writes gives not only much “ground truth” about Israel and its strategic operations and deceptions, but also larger reports about the “political action of Jewish forces” in the wider world, and keenly vivid “cautionary tales” plus even deeper “parables” – all of which will aid our indispensable knowledge of reality and give good grounds for the United States’ strategic “course-correction” in the Middle East and at home.

Israel Shamir’s work would be a great example to our own military and intelligence officers. For it has been my constant experience over the years – even as a professor at military colleges and academies, strategic institutes, and universities – that our military and intelligence officers are not formed to grasp, nor even to desire, a deeper cultural and strategic intelligence about foreign countries. That kind of intelligence (hence understanding) is too often depreciated and considered as “soft intelligence” rather than “hard” or “quantifiable” intelligence. As a result, and as we become increasingly secularized as a nation, we cannot easily take the measure of foreign religious cultures or gauge the importance of religious world-views such as Zionism and Islam.

Furthermore, because much of cultural-strategic intelligence can be reliably derived from unclassified open sources or OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), it is often thought to be too vague and untrustworthy compared to, say, MASINT (Measurement and Signatures Intelligence) or SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) or covert-clandestine HUMINT (Human Intelligence).

Properly conceived and patiently conducted “cultural and strategic intelligence” would, however, illuminate the moral, religious, and deep-cultural factors of foreign strategy and grand strategy. It further reveals another country’s own strategic culture (as well as its political culture). For example, in the case of mainland China, one is thereby made more sensitive to Chinese perceptions of its own vulnerable geography and its important “strategic thresholds,” and, therefore, its own historical reluctance to have a large blue-water navy.

Moreover, because the U.S. State Department has never, as an institution, had any larger “regional strategies” or “regional orientations” of its foreign policy – as distinct from its focus on policies and strategies designed for individual countries, and to be conducted by our individual resident Embassies (or “country teams”) – the U.S. military is placed in an awkward situation, which may even involve it in Constitutional difficulties and illegalities. The senior military officers of major regional combatant commands – such as Central Command  (CENTCOM) or Pacific Command (PACOM) – must now act as if by default as Regional Proconsuls, as was the case in imperial Rome, thereby producing many moral difficulties for our purportedly democratic military culture, and its proper subordination to civilian leadership in foreign policy. These senior officers, in their effective role as Proconsuls, appear to be forming, as well as implementing, foreign policy – not an easy mission for a traditional military officer in our culture.

For example, let us consider the case of Dennis Blair. Just before Admiral Blair retired from active duty as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command (a position now known simply as Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, or CDRUSPACOM), I asked him a question after his strategic luncheon talk at Fort Lesley McNair in Washington D.C., at our National Defense University (NDU). In its essence, my question went something like this:

To what extent, Admiral Blair, must you effectively act as a Regional Proconsul in the Pacific because our State Department has no coordinated policy and strategy for the region as a whole? And to what extent are your larger political and grand-strategic missions compromising your role as a military officer under the requirements of our Constitution, and in light of our traditional civil-military relations and customs of proper subordination?

In response to this question, the audience, as well as the gracious Admiral, gasped. The audience then nervously laughed aloud (especially one of Admiral Blair’s own classmates from the U.S. Naval Academy – an energetic Marine Major General who was also sitting in the audience)! Admiral Blair then took a deep breath and said: “How can I give you a good answer to your serious question – a truthful answer that you deserve – without getting myself into trouble?” (His initial response and candor with me produced even more pervasive laughter in the room!)

What is important in this context, however, is that our Regional Combatant Commanders (former “CINC”s and now simply “Commanders”) and our larger global Functional Unified Commanders (such as our U.S. Special Operations Command – USSOCOM) actually have not just military-strategic but higher grand-strategic missions.

But my deeper argument is that our gradated military educational system – from our formation as cadets up to our higher education at the National Defense University – does not prepare officers for such long-range and culturally sensitive missions, much less clarify the deeper legal and political and Constitutional issues. These issues are illustrated by the case of the recently established “homeland command” (formally known as U.S. Northern Command, or USNORTHCOM) with its domestic as well as Canadian missions, and an altogether ambiguous area of responsibility  within the U.S. – and consequent, but very sensitive, intelligence requirements!

If our military education and deeper-rooted military culture properly prepared our officers to think in these larger, grand-strategic terms, they would now also be much more acutely sensitive to, and discerning of, the moral factors of modern war (and “terrorism”), including the cultural and religious factors of strategy, which are always involved when we are intimately working with other (and often quite alien) civilizations.

In this context we should be reminded of the far-sightedness of Lieutenant General Sam V. Wilson. In 1969 and ’70, when he was still a colonel and a formative leader as well, he saw (and said) what was needed in the strategic and cultural formation of U.S. military officers. He was, however (I regret to say), insufficiently appreciated or understood at the time.

Having had many diverse experiences abroad, Colonel Wilson long ago realized that the U.S. military needed a cadre of officers who could take the larger (and nuanced) measure of foreign military cultures as well as the strategic factors and cultural events of moment in the world. He wanted U.S. military officers to be able to understand foreign strategic and military cultures on their own terms and in the longer light of their own histories and geographies. He knew, as in the case of Turkey and the Turkish General Staff, that some foreign militaries had their own uniquely differentiated and distributed roles within their own societies, and which were in sharp contrast to the roles of a military officer within our own society and traditions. He knew that – for the common good of the United States – we needed to understand these often radically different and even incommensurable military traditions.

He also saw that we needed officers who were truly competent in strategic foreign languages (e.g., Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, etc.) and who were desirous and capable of savoring foreign cultures and their histories as a whole – and not just their military institutions and their conduct in war: that is to say, to understand their literature and philosophy and world-view, and their resonant cultural symbols and aspirations. Yet Colonel Wilson realized that such officers should also be more than well-educated and deep-thinking “foreign area officers,” which were then being formed in our Foreign Area Special Training (FAST) Program. He foresaw that we also needed officers who could intelligently connect different regions of the world and take a longer view of the whole – to understand, for example, “Soviet revolutionary warfare” as a form of “total war,” whereby even peace was strategically considered and employed as “an instrument of revolution” (as Major General J.F.C. Fuller also very well understood), and to understand the long-range strategic and religious operations of historic and modern Islamic civilization, in contrast to the strategic cultures of Great Britain, China, and Israel, and their uniquely long-range aspirations.

Colonel Wilson’s personally designed and implemented strategic-cultural program was called the Military Assistance Overseas Program (MAOP). The initial formation of officers in this program was a six-month course for colonels and lieutenant colonels – and their Navy equivalents – at the Special Warfare Center. (Colonel Wilson had assigned me to be an instructor in this new program, and head of the East-Asian Seminar. He also permitted me, because of my experience with several foreign militaries, to attend the course and receive the diploma by way of special exception, because I was then only a captain in our Army Special Forces.)

Originally, Colonel Wilson wanted to have the whole program, with its strategic courses, in Washington, D.C., and to be part of the National Interdepartmental Seminar for long-range strategic and cultural education, which then included the State Department and the Intelligence Community. However, in 1969 – during the Vietnam War – Sam Wilson’s important ideas were suspect and frowned upon. They were, indeed, too politically sensitive, even before the development of “the emerging American imperium.”

Despite support from thoughtful political leaders, Colonel Wilson’s plan to have the school in Washington was finally rejected because too many people saw that he was – or could easily be perceived to be – forming “men on white horseback,” i.e., ambitious military officers who would potentially encroach upon, if not actually usurp, the super-ordinate role of their “civilian political masters.”

Had Sam V. Wilson been more influential, we would not now, as a nation, have such a passive and unthinking military, or such an invertebrate military culture, or such a shortsighted strategic culture. And our military would be much more intelligently resistant to our neoconservative and pro-imperial civilian masters.

By way of contrast, the American military culture was to be, I regret to say, much more formatively influenced by John Dewey’s “pragmatic education,” in combination with the Frankfurt School’s “critical theory” and subtle anti-authoritarian “re-education.” Our traditional military culture was to be more and more uprooted and cut off from its Christian roots, and thereby more and more secularized, re-paganized, and neo-Machiavellianized. This gradually transformed military culture is now conspicuously acquiescent to its neo-Machiavellian, civilian masters and mentors (like Michael Ledeen), in unthinking support of the growing American imperium and of the grand-strategy of the “greater Israel” (Eretz Israel) not only in the Middle East but throughout the world. Our military officers, in my experience, no longer know, nor reflect upon, nor respectfully consider the criteria and standards of just war, as revealed in the long, articulate tradition of Western Christian civilization. It is now their usual orientation and preference to think and speak in terms of a vague and unspecified “preventive war” or a war of “anticipatory self-defense,” both of which concepts are, too often, Orwellian “Newspeak” for the reality of a war of aggression – the only specific offense for which the German officers were brought to trial at Nuremberg in 1945.


Robert Hickson, USA (ret.), Ph.D.

Robert Hickson, USA (ret.), Ph.D., is a 1964 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, and Vietnam War veteran. Following his retirement he served for many years in the intelligence and special-operations communities in varying capacities. His degree is in comparative literature and classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and he is a founding faculty member of Christendom College. Hickson has held professorships at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Joint Special Operations University at U.S. Special Operations Command, the John. F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and the Joint Military Intelligence College.


[1] My emphasis added, along with my suggestive insertions in brackets.

[2] New York: Basic Books, 2000, 539 pages.

[3] Tempe, Az.: Dandelion Books, 2004, 308 pages.