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Morale in the Military

  • Date Submitted: 04/08/2010 04:08 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 42 
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Morale is an imprecise term. It is related to the moral qualities of the individual ( in earlier times it was often spelt ‘moral’) and may be defined, in the words of Irvin L. Child, as pertaining to an individual’s efforts to enhance the effectiveness of the group in accomplishing the task in hand’. This definition links the morale of the individual with that of the larger organization. The relationship between the two can be described as follows: unless the individual is reasonably content he will not willingly contribute to the unit. He might mutiny or desert, but is more likely simply to fail to work wholeheartedly towards the goals of the group.   Richard Watt wrote “Any army is but a flicker away from becoming an armed gang. The only thing that prevents this is military discipline, which is actually an incredibly flimsy institution, if its subjects but knew it.”   High group morale, or cohesion, is the product in large part of good morale experienced by members of that unit. The state of morale of a larger formation such as an army is the product of the cohesion of its constituent units. The possession by an individual of morale sufficiently high that a soldier is willing to engage in combat might be described as ‘fighting spirit’.

In his book On War, the 19th-century Prussian soldier and military philosopher Carl Philipp Gottlieb von Clausewitz   differentiated between professional armies which possess such attributes as discipline, experience, and skill, and non-professional armies which have ‘bravery, adaptability, stamina and enthusiasm’. He divided what we might call morale into two components, ‘mood’ and ‘spirit’, and warned that the two should never be confused. An army's mood is a transient thing, which can change day by day or even minute by minute depending on whether troops are hungry or well fed, warm or cold, and the like. An army with ‘true military spirit’ keeps ‘its cohesion under the most murderous fire’ and in defeat resists fears, both real...

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