Great post from both Jon Reading and George Ledyard...as well as a few others too!
Where to start? Not sure, but a few thoughts come to mind based on my experiences, military of course.
In my community, a smaller subset of the military, we talk about sheeps and wolves. Overly simplified of course, but I think for the most part this is true. You can divide most people into two categories, sheeps and wolves. I was on a subway train once and a lady got her arm stuck in the door. I am a wolf, I had to get up, walk past several abled body males that could help that were standing there not doing anything processing her plight. They were sheep.
Wolves take action, sheep follow the herd. I think we are training to be wolves in budo. That doesn't mean we aimlessly prey on the weak and helpless as you might think, but wolves are out there, watching, acting on their own accord, making things happen. Sheep, well they follow the herd and keep their head down and eat grass. Staying in the herd is safety for them. A small border collie is all that is needed to keep them in check. They don't question the herd or their situation, they keep there head down and eat.
So, I think the first question you have to ask yourself is are you a sheep or are you a wolf? That is, do you determine your own actions or do you rely on the herd for safety..
In the military application, wolves and sheep are the focus. In the civilian world, we strive to be the sheepdog. Not quite wolves but definitely not defenseless sheep unaware. The sheepdog is ever vigilant and watches over the flock. In the case of civilian life, the size of your flock or herd varies. When I am on the job, I am watching the wolf packs and protecting them from each other. When I am out with my family, they are my primary concern. I will always stop and help someone change a tire, or pull them out of the mud, when on my own, or maybe with my wife even, who is also an officer. When I have the kids though, sorry folks, I can't take the chance of a set-up with those who can't protect themselves. My wife can say, "I don't think we should stop this time, or don't get out of the car honey." I respect her intuition. Being a sheepdog means not taking the flock into dangerous territory.
I think Aikido is more the sheepdog mentality. You have the option to try and fight off wolves, or steer the flock as to avoid them. The decisions you make determine how long your career will be. Yes there is a lot to be said about getting a wolf to watch the sheep, if you can keep that wolf from eating the sheep. The wolf will be very capable of fighting other wolves one on one, but what of the flock while the wolf is preoccupied?
A sheep dog must always be able to determine when a sheep has wandered off, and keep it near. If it wanders too far, and the sheepdog has to make a decision to protect the one or the remaining herd, the one is SOL. It is the same in human terms when dealing with a fellow man who has strayed too far from safety and is being devoured. The sheep dog may not want to leave the safety of the flock because of what he has there to protect. I like a quote from Mel Gibson in the movie "The Patriot". He said, "I'm a father, I don't have the luxury of principles." We can agree, we would do what we can to help someone in distress. It doesn't make you bad person, or warrior to weigh all your obligations before stepping in harms way to help a stranger. The military model doesn't really cross over, into civilian life. Neither does the LEO model. By being professionals, we have already made a contract to intercede with what ever we encounter in the course of our duties. Once we are in the civilian realm, our internal call to duty drives us to intercede. That's why we have stories of people who survived in Iraq or Afghanistan, only to be cut down or shot in the parking lot of a pub or bar.
One of the first things I learned on the job was, "Even a coward can kill" Most often it is a coward who has a weapon and will use it out of fear, whether he created the circumstances or not. Here in The US there is an ever growing segment of young men, who sincerely believe, they can say whatever they want and not have any repercussions for doing so. These are the guys who will carry a knife or gun to protect themselves, when their mouth over runs their ability to back it up.