Podcast #16: Mick Mulroy, and Where Philosophy and Soldiering Intersect

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In this episode, we talk with Mick Mulroy about philosophy, soldiering, and where the two intersect.

Mick is the co-founder of Lobo Institute, a private firm consulting, advising, and teaching on current and future conflicts. Mulroy is a former United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, a retired Central Intelligence Agency Paramilitary Operations Officer, and United States Marine. In addition, he is a Senior Fellow for National Security and Defense Policy at the Middle East Institute, a member of the Board of Directors for Grassroots Reconciliation Group, and an ABC News National Security Analyst.

Link to Mick’s article:


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6 thoughts on Podcast #16: Mick Mulroy, and Where Philosophy and Soldiering Intersect

  1. Nora Sullivan says:

    You two are good together. That was proactive and powerful. I don’t know the military, but I think this makes a lot of sense.

  2. Ana Day says:

    Fantastic interview. I don’t know much about the military (or especially the paramilitary), but now I feel I do. And the story about the two friends brought me to tears. Not very stoic I know 🙂

  3. TR Black says:

    I spent 28 years in the US military, this is spot on. It is the unofficial philosophy now, why not make it official and teach it directly. It is part of our history. I am going to push for it.

  4. L. says:

    Clearly I have different expectations for an interview with someone from the military and how it intersects with stoicism. I wish a very different set of questions were asked such as how does a soldier use stoicism to guide the conflict he or she may be experiencing with respect to the often outrageously rationalized use of brutal hazing in the military? What does a soldier who is practicing stoicism do with the tension they are experiencing witnessing sexual harassment of a female soldier, done repeatedly and to the discredit of the woman involved? Where does a solider practicing stoicism find help when they come to realize the conflict the government sent them to fight in is in support of the oppressors and not the victims? What help does a soldier of stoicism have when faced with the decision of letting a comrade die or killing two innocent children? How does stoicism help one determine one’s role in complex, often tension filled situations that can happen daily in the military when it comes to women or gays or those less equipped mentally, physically or emotionally for service life; to abuses in power by officers and chains of command that have become corrupt? My brother was in the military and some of the stories he tells turn my stomach. If one has the opportunity to speak with someone in the military who has most likely witnessed some or all of the examples I listed above, what advice or guidance do they offer? Let’s ask questions that help someone truly navigate the wide array of tensions that are present in the military but often submitted to by most because, ‘that is the way it is’ and ‘that is how you get a long’ and to ‘shut up and cooperate’ is the way things are done. What does a stoic do when faced with that? And the truth, whether in the military or not, is that many kinds of abuses of power and harassment of the ‘lesser’ or ‘different’ among us, is common – what does stoicism offer that will allow us to face those realities with any kind of conviction, courage, reason or direction?

    • Will says:

      I’ll give it a try. If I may paraphrase your question, I think it amounts to, “how would a member of the military who practices Stoicism reconcile his sense of virtue with a required acquiescence to or participation in grave injustice?” I think the answer is that, if he were a perfect Stoic, he would not acquiesce to or participate in injustice, period, and whether or not he happened to be in the military would have no bearing on this behavior. This then begs the question, which is what I think you’re really getting at, of how someone who purports to be a Stoic can thrive within or even tolerate an organization which is so deeply and irreconcilably unjust. And for an organization that is so fundamentally unjust in the myriad ways you have described, I don’t think that any prosocial human could tolerate life in it. It certainly doesn’t fit the description of any military I have ever served in, although “the military” can mean a world of different things depending on service, specialty, unit, or even country. Have I seen or experienced the injustices you cite? Some, but not all, and with the exception of unjust wars, they have been punished severely once they came to light at the right level. Many of these are negative facets of human be behavior that most militaries actively fight against. As to unjust wars, that is a much deeper can of worms that I don’t think you came here to debate. The bottom line is that I suspect your view of life in “the military” is probably not wholly accurate or well-informed, and your purpose here is less to ask questions than it is to call out what you see as hypocrisy based on this view.
      As to the question of what a Stoic (soldier or otherwise) should do in the face of grave injustice—the answer is to do one’s duty. The Stoics, especially Epictetus, were firm believers in duty as defined by the roles one fulfills in society. Take the example of Hugh Johnson Jr and his intervention at My Lai—that is a man who did his duty. The hard part is identifying what role one is actually performing, and what duties are actually attendant to that role. This is why we need a sophisticated sense of morality, and there is no better education to that end than what can be found in philosophy. I hope that’s helpful.

  5. Terrance Black says:

    I spent decades in the military. This should happen. It should be the official philosophy because of the deep history, applicability, and the reasons laid out here. A
    nd thank you for sharing the story of those heroes. May they rest in peace. S/F

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