Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Genealogy of Morals and Military Dissent

Since I've been on a bit of a CMR kick lately, I could hardly pass up this softball tossed by JFQ. A few others have commented thus far - specifically at Small Wars Journal and at Best Defense (I know, I'm not really keeping to my resolution. But Tom has had some interesting stuff as of late - credit given when due and all that.). But on to LtCol Milburn's morality-as-basis-of-dissent argument.

It's crap, pure and simple. Read the other links to get an in depth look at why. Morality is subjective to the holder of moral views. And there is no room in the uniformed military to impose one's personal views on the execution of his or her duties. The only true and accepted basis for not performing one's duties is the legality of the orders given to the officer. You know who uses those excerpts from the USMC War College survey to determine if they're going to do their job or not? The Pakistani military. And that works so well for that nation.

Could you imagine if the United States was suddenly confronted with imminent nuclear war (unlikely, sure), that the commander of STRATCOM came to the conclusion that nuclear war was immoral? Or a young battalion commander found homosexuality immoral, even though the repeal of DADT is coming? According to Milburn's topology, these officers are duty bound to disobey their orders in one way or another. That is unacceptable. If these officers disobey and duly relieved, or they resign, the legal orders given by the civilians who rightfully control the military will still be executed by someone else. After a delay due to the change in personnel. If these are life and death situations, that delay and subsequent disruption may make all the difference in the world.

(And as a side note, I find it odd that while Milburn disavows Huntington's standards of civ-mil relations, he takes Huntington's ideas of officership as a profession to such extremes.)

Officers do have a duty to voice dissent to their superiors, but once legal orders are issued a professional military officer has the obligation to execute those orders regardless of his or her personal moral views. That goes for jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Any change to these norms would represent a shattering of our CMR construct that is essential to maintain the Constitutional obligations of our military. I find LtCol Milburn's entire argument absurd and scary. Better to be read and promptly ignored.

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