War, Morality, and the Military Profession

By Malham M. Wakin | Go to book overview

12 Loyalty, Honor, and the Modern Military

Michael O. Wheeler

In this article, Michael Wheeler focuses on the concept of loyalty, particularly as it is relevant to the military profession. He analyzes the standard perception of military obedience, opting for "reflective" rather than "unquestioning" obedience in the military and pointing up the role that loyalty must play in military discipline. He suggests that loyalty, to be effective in the long term, must be inspired by trust rather than fear, and that trust is given to the person who possesses a clearly consistent moral integrity.

—M.M.W.

Like many other abstractions, loyalty is an often confusing, much abused concept. It has been employed by different people in different ages to mean a host of different things. For instance, author Hannah Arendt has written in her highly acclaimed work The Origins of Totalitarianism that "Himmler's ingenious watchword for his SS men [was] 'My honor is my loyalty.'" 1 Himmler's use of "loyalty" was intended to convey a certain idea to his listeners. Unfortunately, one finds much the same distorted idea in contemporary U.S. society— the notion of the dedicated military professional as one who gives his unthinking consent to all orders issued to him, whose very honor is a function of his unquestioning obedience.

Upon examination, it becomes apparent that this view of the military man is troubling to professional military officers as well as to civilian critics of the stereotyped "military mind." To quote Colonel Malham M. Wakin of the United States Air Force Academy faculty:

Reprinted from Air University Review, vol. 24, no. 4 ( May-June 1973) by permission.

-171-

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War, Morality, and the Military Profession
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • About the Book and Editor v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiii
  • Part 1 Ethics and the Military Profession 1
  • Introduction to Part 1 3
  • Notes 8
  • 1: The World of Epictetus: Reflections on Survival and Leadership 10
  • 2: Officership as a Profession 23
  • Notes 33
  • 3: The Military Mind: Conservative Realism of the Professional Military Ethic 35
  • Notes 52
  • 4: The Future of the Military Profession 57
  • Notes 78
  • 5: Society and the Soldier: 1914-18 80
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Today and Tomorrow 90
  • Notes 102
  • 7: The Military in the Service of the State 104
  • Notes 120
  • 8: The Professions Under Siege 121
  • 9: The Shame of the Professions 134
  • 10: Duty, Honor, Country: Practice and Precept 140
  • Notes 155
  • 11: Conflicting Loyalties and the American Military Ethic 157
  • Notes 169
  • 12: Loyalty, Honor, and the Modern Military 171
  • Notes 178
  • 13: Integrity 180
  • 14: The Ethics of Leadership I 181
  • Notes 198
  • 15: The Ethics of Leadership II 200
  • Part 2 War and Morality 217
  • Introduction to Part 2 219
  • Notes 225
  • 16: Just and Unjust Wars 226
  • Notes 237
  • 17: The Just War and Non-Violence Positions 239
  • Notes 254
  • 18: Just-War Theories: The Bases, Interrelations, Priorities, and Functions of Their Criteria 256
  • Notes 272
  • 19: Pacifism: Some Philosophical Considerations 277
  • 20: War and Murder 284
  • Notes 296
  • 21: War and Massacre 297
  • Notes 314
  • 22: On the Morality of War: A Preliminary Inquiry 317
  • Notes 338
  • 23: The Killing of the Innocent 341
  • Notes 359
  • 24: War Crimes 365
  • Notes 378
  • 25: Superior Orders and Reprisals 380
  • Notes 389
  • 26: The Laws of War 391
  • Notes 407
  • Selected Bibliography 409
  • 27: On the Morality of Chemical/Biological War 410
  • Notes 422
  • 28: Supreme Emergency 425
  • Notes 442
  • 29: Some Paradoxes of Deterrence 444
  • Notes 460
  • 30: On Nuclear War and Nuclear Deterrence 463
  • Notes 483
  • 31: Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age 487
  • Notes 497
  • 32: On Nuclear Morality 499
  • Notes 508
  • 33: The Moral Case for the Strategic Defense Initiative 509
  • Notes 515
  • The Contributors 517
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