I've been reading James Reston Jr.'s Sherman's Last March and Vietnam
. The following passage about Major John Brinsfield, the man who taught ethics at West Point in the early eighties, caught my eye.
For in the course of the day we spent together, Major Brinsfield emerged as something of an ethical mole within the stony ramparts of Thayer Hall, an advocate of nuclear freeze, a soldier who believes there can be no such thing as "rules of conduct" in modern warfare, and to whom the modern battlefield is akin to a microwave oven. He spoke in the most disarming fashion about America losing the Vietnam war because its conduct on the battlefield was contrary to the values of American society, and therefore lost the support of the people. These are thoughts for which I believed the walls of Thayer Hall would have very big ears. But the major spoke them unperturbed and felt that so long as his research was solid, he was safe in embracing such ideas. It would not occur to me until later that perhaps Brinsfield's ideas were tolerated because they weren't taken seriously. Moral scruples were not on the minds of military scholars ten years after Vietnam. Rather, they were hallucinating about what American firepower might have done to win in Vietnam, had it not been so constrained by civilian meddlers.
Biased? Certainly. Still, I think it offers a clue about Abu Ghraib.