Once you’ve become a general in the U.S. Military, it’s pretty hard to lose your job. You really have to mess up. And when the leaders in today’s armed forces are fired it’s not because of poor military strategy, adverse battle outcomes or poor morale. No, according to an AP article entitled “Sex is major reason military commanders are fired,” the number one reason that generals are booted off the force is—well, the answer is in the headline, isn’t it? The types of problematic sexual behavior include “Sodomy, adultery, pornography, and more.”
The article goes on to pose all kinds of theories about why this is so problematic now, and whether it reflects some great shift in the morals of our military leaders, or perhaps our country overall. Moreover, it quotes a number of military experts who all ponder the question of how, and why, this has happened over the last decade. They all want an answer to the question of how to stop this growing trend.
I have a question of my own. Do the reporters, military experts and officials of the armed forces really think this is a growing trend? I sure don’t. Okay, I’ll grant you that getting booted from military command for adultery may be new, but I believe that military commanders have been engaging in adultery since the first epaulet was ever pinned on a shoulder. The collapse of morals is not some new phenomenon that army psychologists must battle with; the only difference between then and now is that 1) now the generals are getting caught and 2) the military has taken action against them instead of ignoring it.
As the CIA scandal involving General Petraeus and his biographer demonstrates, the Internet is one of the reasons why keeping affairs private is so darned difficult. These days, most affairs leave an electronic trail that can be traced back to the first days the parties met, and ensnare military leaders in nets they cannot extricate themselves from. After that, what choice does the central command have but to boot them?
So, what response does the military have? According to the article, “ethics training,” is a big part of the solution. Maybe. But do you really believe that the military commanders don’t know the difference between right and wrong? I think a better part of the answer ought to be in marriage education. These guys (and most, if not all, of them are guys) have high-pressure jobs, are often away from home, and may be in a phase of their marriages when sex isn’t (how do I put this…) as forthcoming as it had been when they were dating. Teaching both the commanders and their spouses how to keep excitement alive in marriage, how to foster good connections and maintain a passionate bond—even when they are apart—will probably do as much for cutting down on affairs as a lecture about good versus bad.
Infidelity is a bad act that sometimes is engaged in by a good person. Helping individuals to learn how to enact appropriate boundaries in non-marital relationships, and helping couples learn how to work together to support each other in monogamy, is a good investment for any marriage, and for our country.