The US Navy, King David, and Bathsheba
The Stars and Stripes notes the US Navy has “sacked” 150 commanding officers over the last few years for misconduct. Of 80 instances over a five year period, half were for adultery, inappropriate relationships, harassment, or sexual assault. One of the solutions noted: Take a look at the Bible.
So how can the Navy abate this steady tide of offending COs? Perhaps by asking, “What would David do?”
That’s King David, he of Old Testament legend and famed for toppling the giant Goliath. But the all-powerful leader of ancient Israel is also known for a stunning moral lapse in which he sent one of his soldiers to certain death in order to possess the man’s wife, Bathsheba…
“The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders,” published in a business journal in 1993, asserts that the ethical failure of powerful leaders is often not the result of an individual’s low morals, but the byproduct of success…
The Navy has latched on to the Bathsheba Syndrome as one evil to fight in its battle against unethical and immoral conduct among its commanders:
The Bathsheba Syndrome is now integrated in the Navy War College’s ethics portion of the Major Command Course, a one-week program for officers going into O-6 command level, according to Martin L. Cook, an ethics professor at the college. The concept is also included in a course for junior officers — typically lieutenant commanders — who will likely have one more tour before assuming a command in a couple of years.
Vice Adm. James Wisecup, now the Naval Inspector General, was president of the War College until April 2011 and became so enthusiastic about the concept of Bathsheba Syndrome that he sent a copy of the article to Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations at the time, Cook said.
“Roughead liked it enough to send it to all of the flight officers in the Navy,” Cook said. “I think it’s continued to circulate at that level quite a bit.”
There are several takeaways: There is much one can learn from the Bible, even if one considers it a work of fiction, as some do. It would have been a fascinating survey to see who actually knew who Bathsheba was before reading the article — there’s almost certainly a generational gap in Biblical knowledge.
It is also notable the US military can instruct and give guidance with reference to the Bible (or the Torah) without endorsing religion. Tough for some people to fathom, sure, but true nonetheless.