Philanthropists, who decry the lash, ought to consider in what manner the good men, – the deserving, exemplary soldiers, – are to be protected; if no coercive measures are to be resorted to on purpose to prevent ruthless ruffians from insulting with impunity the temperate, the well-inclined, and the orderly-disposed, the good must be left to the mercy of the worthless; and I am glad to say, there are many good men in the ranks of the army…. The good soldier thanks you not for such philanthropy; the incorrigible laughs at your humanity, despises your clemency, and meditates only how to gratify his naturally vicious propensities.
– James Anton, Retrospects of a Military Life, 1841
Obviously, I’m no proponent of the lash. But how to deal with “worthless” people has been a perpetual challenge for military leaders. Some people improve drammatically with a firm rebuke and a little training. But a lot of people have no intention of improving, and their behavior can be a drain on, or even dangerous to their fellow servicemembers. It’s been a long search to find means of motivation that don’t require force. One advantage we have over the 1840s is a greater ability to remove from the organization those persons who cannot be motivated with anything other than force.