Military Virtues

Practical guidance for service personnel at every career stage


Michael Skerker, David Whetham and Don Carrick (Eds)­­­­

Howgate Publishing, UK    2019

Paperback   382pp   RRP $53.10


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, September 2019


This is a high-level work pitched mainly at professionals in military training institutions at all level, and unit and formation commanders. It is a big ask for junior officers to make the effort to avail themselves of the critical content of this very impressive work.

The CVs of the 36 contributors and the three editors coming from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France and the Netherlands illustrates the depth of command and academic experience that has been incorporated within Military Virtues. A brief Preface establishes a connection between ancient Greek philosophers and the current-day combatant, while the Introduction examines the relationship between military virtues and moral relativism, and virtues and values. Of the four time-proven virtues - courage, prudence (application of wisdom), temperance and justice – only courage has made it to the traditional lists of military virtues and values.

Military Virtues looks at the comprehensive interpretations of fourteen virtues – adding another ten to the original four listed above. A chapter is devoted to each virtue: opening with an Overview that is then followed by two Case Studies. There are unexpected inclusions in the case studies: gender equality (Justice), restraint in global war on terror (Wisdom), structural incentives to deceive in the military (Honesty), getting away with murder (Integrity), lessons from the context of interrogation (Humility), leaders are made, not born (Humility), the necessity of self-control and the perils of anger (Compassion), and the discipline of violence (Discipline). Events, such as the My Lai massacre of 1968 and the torture of prisoners in Iraq that have gained international notoriety have been included. Some of the case studies have been accompanied by footnotes and/or a comprehensive list of references.

The Conclusion looks at the risks of abandoning the virtues and resorting to a ‘gloves come off’ approach in countering terrorism and in doing so, sinking to the same level as the proponents of terrorism.

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.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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