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By Geoff Metcalf

October 10, 2007

�Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.� - Douglas Adams

In July I wrote about the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and �ethical warriors�. It strikes me that Blackwater (and all private contractors working in Iraq and elsewhere for various government agencies) could, should and would benefit from embracing the same training for their operators the Marines have integrated into their MCMAP.

Frankly, Blackwater is getting a bad rap from the gaggle of �usual suspects�. The State Department has announced a new set of �procedures� that will allow for closer monitoring security guards assigned to escort U.S. diplomats in Baghdad.

Blackwater has routinely (and rightly) declined media requests for comments about its operations. Candidly it would foolish to report to the bad guys how an organization prevents them from doing bad stuff.

The U.S. mission in Iraq relies on Blackwater to provide security for diplomats and other VIPs. Notwithstanding Rep. Henry Waxman�s political posturing and name calling (he called Blackwater �cowboys� who act recklessly); Blackwater maintains a 100% success rate for protecting VIPs and has lost about three dozen operators.

Private contractors provide a valuable and necessary role and historically they are not a GOP anomaly. Colonel Gerald Schumacher in his book �A Bloody Business� observed that,

  • The Greeks used mercenaries after the death of Alexander the Great.
  • �In 755, the Chinese T�ang Dynasty was nearly overthrown by mercenaries.�
  • England used Flemish mercenaries for decades in the 12th century.
  • In the 16th century the Pope used more than 15,000 Swiss.
  • In the Revolutionary War Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson used mercenaries for oversea intelligence operations.
  • The British hired more than 30,000 mercs to fight the colonists.
  • Air America had its roots in pre-World War II days and stayed busy throughout Vietnam.

Schumacher notes that in the first Gulf conflict, �one in fifty personnel �in country� were American contractors.� In the second Saddam dust up, �that number rose to one in fifteen.�

Meanwhile, it is counterintuitive that the U.S. military continues to put out rules of engagement that are �dangerous and could cause U.S. soldiers to get killed.� Gen. David H. Petraeus, previously expressed concerns that soldiers fighting insurgents and terrorists do not have clear guidance on the use of force.� The �ethical warrior� model that the Marines are teaching seems to be a needed solution to a ubiquitous challenge.

Former Marine Corps Commandant Charles Krulak once told me, �Integrity becomes a way of life�it must be woven into the very fabric of our soul�

Jack Hoban is a former active duty Marine Captain and �subject matter expert� for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). Jack touched on the �Ethical Warrior� challenge in a Human Events piece.

�The U.S. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is�an ethics-based combat program consisting of three main elements: (1) character (Ethical Warrior training), (2) mental (military skills and mindset training), and (3) Physical (martial arts and combat conditioning).� Interestingly, �the Ethical Warrior Training is considered to be the core of the program.�

Once upon a time, when Special Forces troops were primarily tasked with teaching and advising indigenous insurgents, a lot of time and attention was devoted to establishing rapport and acclimating to local customs and culture. What Hoban would call �Life Value� stuff.

Soldiers must never hesitate in that split second of shoot-don�t shoot. The �instinct,� the �feeling,� the understanding of the situation at that moment must be inculcated into the essence of warrior. If the ethical warriorship has been properly taught, the troop will know when to shoot and not shoot. Hesitation can and will get people killed.

The Marines seem to be doing something very right; and the MCMAP apparently is their vehicle for clarifying and teaching Warrior Ethics. This is a difficult concept but if something works, it should be embraced.

From a practical (in the wake of the bad PR) and strategic (in quieting the Waxman posturers) sense, any and all private contractors should be exposed to the �ethical warrior� model. Congress should make it a requirement of future RFPs.

I think I finally understand how the Marines have been able to blend the spirit of �The Ethical Warrior� with the spirit of the bayonet (�Kill, kill, kill). It is the moral clarity that comes from the training with which they are inculcated.

What the Marines are being taught is not moral clarity, but the end product IS moral clarity. That is a very powerful gift and something that could and should be a requirement for uniformed services in combat and for any and all private contractors.

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Here is an opportunity for Blackwater and other private contractors to take the lead and silence their detractors. Embracing �ethical warriorship� not only would improve the quality of their operators, it would also be good business.

� 2007 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's

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The Marines seem to be doing something very right; and the MCMAP apparently is their vehicle for clarifying and teaching Warrior Ethics. This is a difficult concept but if something works, it should be embraced.