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Military Virtues


  • Character development requires deliberate lifelong practice, for which Military Virtues provides insight and an action strategy.  Military Virtues provides a quick reference that belongs in every leader's unit development program.  Parameters, US Army War College
  • ...valuable guidance or reflection for military commanders at any level, a valuable resource for academic study.  Journal of Military Ethics
  • ...anyone interested in ethics is interested in examples of the application of ethical thinking, and here we have exactly that.  The Wavell Room
  • ...a treasure trove of real-world international cases of military moral dilemmas-and at times, outright moral failures-of enviable breadth and depth.  Strategy Bridge
  • An excellent compilation from which military commanders would benefit in the execution of their tasks in environments where the 'Rules of Engagement' in place is the first aspect examined when there are serious repercussions. Neville Taylor, RUSI - Victoria
  • The topics are timely, the analyses are helpful and thought provoking; in all, this is a fine volume. Professor John Kelsay, Florida State University


Up until now, there has been no extant book focusing on military virtues aimed at professionals. Like personnel in other professional organizations, service personnel at every stage of their careers need a complement of virtues (excellent traits) in order to navigate the stress, decisions, and temptations they face.


At a minimum, military professionals need to have a clear and working knowledge of the ethical decisions that underpin their profession in order to evaluate situations quickly. In the search for such clarity, this volume identifies 14 key virtues of the military professional and through opening commentaries and real world examples of those virtues in practice, it provides guidance for service personnel at every stage of their career.


Military Virtues is an outstanding contribution to the growing field of military ethics. It makes a compelling case for the revival of the classical emphasis on character - the seat of moral goodness. In that context it explores such generic leadership qualities that have the flavour of moral excellencies, such as integrity, justice or fairness, compassion and humility. They are the building-blocks of ‘good leadership and leadership for good’. Anyone who cares about the ethos of our unique Armed Services will read this pioneering book with interest and profit.

Professor John Adair, Chair of Leadership, United Nations.


The concept of “virtue” in the Aristotelian sense of “functional excellence” is widespread in the military. Indeed, much of military training follows precisely Aristotle's understanding of how virtues are developed through repetitive practice under supervision and coaching. This volume provides the most thorough and insightful analysis of a wide range of military virtues yet compiled. It skillfully balances examination of the conceptual understanding of these virtues with extremely helpful case studies which make the conceptual analysis concrete and clear. This book should be widely read and used for classroom discussions at all levels of professional military education.

Dr Martin L. Cook, Admiral Stockdale Professor of Professional Military Ethics (Emeritus), United States Naval War College.


Winston Churchill once said, "Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning".  After reading this volume, I realize how far I missed the mark focusing on Churchill’s most important virtue of courage while expecting to then easily learn the others.  Henley writes in Invictus, "I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my soul".  If a military leader and warrior wants to be "the Master of their Fate, the Captain of their soul" they need to also read about the other 13 virtues identified in this volume, review carefully the corresponding case studies of each and then strive to master not just one, not just two, but all 14.

Captain Mike Michel, Deputy Commandant for Leadership and Character Development, United States Naval Academy.


At a time of increasing domestic and international complexity and seemingly constant change, the role of ethical leadership has never been more important. This extremely timely and thought-provoking book allows us to re-examine our core virtues as leaders, to study and validate them and critically to ensure that they are not just empty words on a vision paper. The chapter on ‘Humility’ serves as a reminder of our ‘Serve to Lead’ heritage: leadership is about maximising the talents of all our people and putting them first in all things. By really understanding these virtues, inculcating them in all that we do and, by constant practice, making them dispositional we give ourselves the ‘ethical leadership armour’ to tackle the many difficult challenges that face us. Finally, clearly articulated in the ‘Courage’ chapter, unless we have the hard moral courage to do what is right all of our study of these virtues is meaningless. Hugely readable, fascinating and adept at drawing on both the successes and mistakes of our predecessors, it is a ‘must read’ for anyone involved in leadership in the military or commercial sector, from those at the ‘coal face’ to the board room.

Brigadier WSC Wright OBE, Commander Sandhurst Group (RMAS Gp).


410 Pages   I   Size 234 x 156 mm   I   Publication 1st May 2019     

Paperback ISBN: 978 1 912440 00 9  


Military Virtues

  • List of Figures. Notes on Contributors. Preface. Introduction: Military Values and Moral Relativism Professor Peter Olsthoorn; Virtues or Values Rev. Professor Philip McCormack MBE. 1. Justice: Overview Dr Edward T. Barrett (Col. USAF ret); Case Study 1: Doing a Deal with the Devil? Just Cause, David Richards and the Case of Op PALLISER Lt. Col. Thomas McDermott DSO (Australian Army); Case Study 2: Gender Equality as Fairness in the Military Institution Lt. Col. Kate Germano (USMC ret) and Dr David G. Smith. 2 Obedience: Overview Professor Jessica Wolfendale; Case Study 1: Strategic Dissent in the Military Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety and Professor Shannon E. French; Case Study 2: Should Service Personnel Refuse to Fight in Unjust Wars? Professor David Whetham. 3 Loyalty: Overview Professor David Whetham; Case Study 1: Levels of Loyalty: Country, Service, Mission, Troops Rev. Professor Philip McCormack MBE; Case Study 2: Good Loyalty and Bad Loyalty Dr Stephen Coleman. 4 Courage: Overview Professor Pauline Shanks Kaurin; Case Study 1: Courage in the Age of Technology Dr Peter Lee; Case Study 2: Moral Courage Lt. Col. Scott Cooper (USMC ret). 5 Wisdom: Overview Capt Rick Rubel (USN ret); Case Study 1: Wisdom and Judgement Capt Rick Rubel (USN ret); Case Study 2: Operational Wisdom: Aggressive Restraint in the Global War on Terror Col. Steven M. Kleinman (USAF ret).6 Honesty: Overview Col. James L. Cook; Case Study 1: Honesty and Deceit in War Mr Ian Fishback; Case Study 2: Cannibals, Gun-deckers and Good Idea Fairies: Structural Incentives to Deceive in the Military Professor Michael Skerker. 7 Integrity: Overview Mr Don Carrick; Case Study 1: Integrity, Institutions and the Banality of Complicity Dr Michael Robillard (Airborne Ranger ret); Case Study 2: Getting Away with Murder? The Limits of Integrity Mr Don Carrick. 8 Perseverance: Overview RADM Alan T. Baker (USN ret); Case Study 1: Perseverance, Leadership, and the 'We' Dr Michael Robillard (Airborne Ranger ret); Case Study 2: Thinking Beyond the Past: Nudging the Pentagon Toward the 21stCentury Col. Steven M. Kleinman (USAF ret). 9 Temperance: Overview Dr Stephen Deakin; Case Study 1: Temperance in Practice LCdr. Michael D. Good; Case Study 2: Unit Temperance and the Haditha Case Col. David M. Barnes (US Army). 10 Patience: Overview CDR Michael A. Flynn USN; Case Study 1: Patience Chaplain Rev. Dr Nikki Coleman RAAF; Case Study 2: Patience with Subordinates Col. James L. Cook. 11 Humility: Overview Professor Michael Skerker; Case Study 1: Humility Capt Rick Rubel (USN ret); Case Study 2: Humility: Lessons from the Context of Interrogation Mr Erik Phillips. 12 Compassion: Overview Rev. Professor Philip McCormack MBE; Case Study 1: Compassion toward Enemies Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler (USMC ret) and Professor Michael Skerker; Case Study 2: Compassion Professor Rafford M. Coleman. 13 Discipline: Overview Professor Paul Robinson; Case Study 1: The Necessity of Self Control and the Perils of Anger Brig Gen Benoit Royal (French Army ret); Case Study 2: Discipline of Violence SOC Daniel Luna and LTJG Max Goldwasser14 Professionalism: Overview Dr Daniel Lagacé-Roy and Dr Carl Jacob; Case Study: Professionalism Air Cdre John Thomas (RAF ret). Conclusion: AVM Johnny J. Stringer CBE RAF.

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