My Lai Obedience

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Obedience at My Lai War is never a pleasant event. However, there are times during war when something truly tragic and miserable happens. This was the case for the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. A platoon called Charlie Company in Vietnam was getting attacked by guerrilla booby traps and snipers in the area (Kelman & Hamilton, 1989). They started getting frustrated from an enemy they couldn't see or fight. On March 16, 1968, the platoon was given orders from Lieutenant Colonel Barker to "search and destroy" the village of My Lai (Kelman & Hamilton, 1989). Going in to the mission, the soldiers expected hostile fire, however, the village was filled with innocent civilians (old men, women, and children) (article or class). The soldiers…show more content…
It is more difficult to decide the best way to go in a stressful or pressured situation when the situation is unclear or ambiguous. The person may not know what they are supposed to do in an uncertain circumstance, or they might not be sure if what they are supposed to do is the best option. When someone is uncertain about a situation, they tend to look for help and guidance from someone who they see has expertise or authority (Nelson, class lecture, 2018). Since they cannot rely on their own intuitions, they rely more heavily on an authoritative figure that they trust. An example in the famous Milgram study would be when the subject giving the shocks would get worried about the condition of the man receiving the shocks and would look to the experimenter to see if he should stop giving the shocks or keep going (Nelson, class lecture, 2018). The components leading to the My Lai massacre were filled with ambiguity. To start, the soldiers in Charlie Company were young and relatively inexperienced. The "Remember My Lai" video described that the soldiers lacked combat experience, and the average age of the group was 20 years old (Remember My Lai, 1989). It could be argued that those young men were not mentally prepared for the My Lai situation. Another source of ambiguity was the perception of the enemy. Varnado Simpson, a rifleman, stated that he "couldn't distinguish between the enemy," (Remember My Lai, 1989). To the American soldiers, all the Vietnamese people looked the same to them. They could not determine which were their enemy and which were not. This made the situation even more unclear. These factors of uncertainty, as well as others, cause the soldiers to succumb more heavily to obedience to malevolent authority. Since the soldiers were so young and fresh, they had relatively no experience that they could rely on to make the right decisions. They were never
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