In 1970 I took a World Military History course as part of freshman-year R.O.T.C. training. The first words out of our Captain's mouth were, "What is the objective of the military?"
We flopped around with answers such as: "To win wars," "Vanquish the enemy," and "To kill people."
Finally, the Captain answered his own question. With great pride he said, "The objective is not to make war but to preserve the peace."
Then we studied battles from prehistoric times through Vietnam.
[To read Brooke Allen's most recent column, visit: Take It or Leave It: Is it Fair to Expect Fairness?.]
On the last day of class, a student asked from the far back: "In view of the stated objective of the military, after all these years, what progress have you made?"
The Captain beamed. He said, "In just the first half of this century more people have died in all the world's wars than in the entire prior history of humankind. Almost no competing endeavor has such a track record."
From the back came these words, spoken slowly, "But I remind you that on the first day you said the objective is to preserve the peace and not to make war."
The Captain began to stammer as if to say something, but eventually said nothing. Then he turned a bit red and left the room. I have not seen him since.
What is our objective?
In 1982 I began working on my MBA in Finance. I recall my first professor saying something pithy about the objective of the Securities Industry. I can't remember the exact words, but I remember it striking me as both noble and sane. That was so long ago, and I've been working in the industry for far too long.
Help me out -- does our industry have a noble and sane objective? I can't remember.
In times of war it can be a good idea to create fake documents to be read by our enemies that will trick them regarding your true objectives. But our customers, our employees, our management, our investors, our loved ones and our citizens are not our enemies.
Please answer the following questions (Please post your answers anonymously because that way you can be honest. I will share some of the responses in a future column):