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Military Training and Moral Agency

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Abstract

In Chapter 5 I argued that the military profession cannot claim a special permission to use torture even in cases of emergency. Torture is both illegal and immoral and the military cannot appeal to professional goals to justify its use. Yet military personnel are still obeying orders to torture. Why? The Captain Rockwood case suggested that there is an inconsistency in the military’s attitude towards obedience. Despite the legal and professional duty of military personnel to disobey illegal and immoral orders, such disobedience rarely occurs and when it does it is punished rather than encouraged. But this inconsistency could just be indicative of problems with the manifest illegality approach without reflecting any more fundamental problems within the military profession itself. Maybe all that is needed to address the problem of crimes of obedience is more stringent laws that better reflect the military’s professional ideals and the limits of military obedience. To decide whether this is the case we need to know more about the kind of obedience instilled in military personnel during their basic military training.

Keywords

  • Moral Agency
  • Military Personnel
  • Moral Disengagement
  • Military Training
  • Moral Psychology

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/9780230592803_7
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Notes

  1. Samuel Huntington, ‘The Military Mind: Conservative Realism of the Professional Military Ethic’, in Malham M. Wakin (ed.), War, Morality, and the Military Profession, 2nd edition (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1986 ), p. 52.

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  2. Anthony E. Hartle, Moral Issues in Military Decision Making, 2nd edition (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2004 ), pp. 40–1.

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  3. Jonathon Glover, Humanity. A Moral History of the Twentieth Century ( London: Pimlico, 1999 ), p. 36.

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  4. Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 ), p. 124.

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  5. Seymour Hersh, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib ( Melbourne: Allen Lane, 2004 ), p. 13.

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  6. Herbert C. Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton, Crimes of Obedience: Toward a Social Psychology of Authority and Responsibility ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989 ), p. 46.

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  7. Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View ( London: Tavistock Publications, 1974 ), p. 2.

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© 2007 Jessica Wolfendale

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Wolfendale, J. (2007). Military Training and Moral Agency. In: Torture and the Military Profession. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230592803_7

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