President Trump’s desire to pardon American war criminals confuses everyone. How did these patriots become killers? Was it the stress of war? In most cases they suffer from a mental illness they had before they joined the military, which is why they joined the military.
The problem with sociopaths is never discussed within the US military because it is not understood. Sociopaths have a mental condition in which death and destruction excites them rather than causing depression.
It is a common mental illness and most all sociopaths live normal lives keeping their violent impulses under control; others become serial killers.
Many seek occupations that allow a socially acceptable chance to vent their rage. This is why police departments keep an eye on rookie cops who seem enthusiastic about “kicking some butt.” Many rookie cops are fired for bad temperament, often after shooting someone for no reason. Police departments do not try to retrain them knowing that sociopathic behavior is difficult to control.
Sociopaths are attracted to military service as well, wanting to serve in infantry units where they can see violent action. While most infantrymen are motivated by the excitement of combat and the accomplishment of the mission, sociopaths are motivated by the chance to cause death and destruction.
They can be identified by the wild-eyed excitement they show when talking of how they plan to kill the enemy. Another sign is a love of knives and violent movies. This behavior is usually dismissed as dark humor or enthusiasm, but it may be sign of trouble. Sociopathic behavior is depicted in the movie “The Dirty Dozen.”
While sociopaths are often excellent soldiers, they are dangerous if they lose control. Officers and NCOs must be aware of this mental illness and take note of soldiers who demonstrate sociopathic tendencies.
Before a unit enters combat, suspected sociopaths need counseling to let them know they demonstrate sociopathic tendencies and that they must keep those urges in check.
They should be warned that if they show any sign of losing control by harming prisoners or civilians, they will be transferred to a rear area unit. They are likely to be shocked by such a warning, and thus keep their demons in check.
However, many sociopaths are unable to retain control and commit vicious war crimes. Officers will not be confused about what triggered this odd behavior if they understand this mental illness. This does not excuse such behavior, it merely explains it.
Hopefully, such incidents can be prevented by identifying sociopathic behavior beforehand and taking steps to deal with this mental illness. Given that some 2% of the general population shows sociopathic tendencies, and a volunteer military attracts a much higher percentage, keeping sociopaths in check is a major leadership challenge.
Carlton Meyer is a retired US Marines Lt.