Monday, November 28, 2005

Why Can't You Learn to Be Less Moral?

Goldbricker has a really haunting post on Col. Ted Westhusing, a military ethicist who volunteered to go to Iraq. Westhusing was found dead with a single bullet to his head. His farewell note asks: "How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?" This is from a man who wrote a 352-page dissertation on honor and war.

From the L.A. Times, here is what a psychologist had to say about Westhusing:

A psychologist reviewed Westhusing's e-mails and interviewed colleagues. She concluded that the anonymous letter had been the "most difficult and probably most painful stressor."

She said that Westhusing had placed too much pressure on himself to succeed and that he was unusually rigid in his thinking. Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.

"Despite his intelligence, his ability to grasp the idea that profit is an important goal for people working in the private sector was surprisingly limited," wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach. "He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses."

So what exactly is the line between moral and mad?