By Sidney Axinn
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Extra resources for A Moral Military
Had these individuals been sacrificed to the gods of agriculture so that the population of the island would not starve, would we approve of the morality? Is it morally justifiable to sacrifice a few individuals so that others, perhaps many others, may live? Suppose that Minyan Island had been attacked by the barbarians from the next island. Would it be moral to vote for a suicide squad to sail over and destroy the fleet of the enemy island? If their military and naval intelligence establishes that the only way to avoid defeat is to muster a suicide squad, is it moral to sacrifice some for the others?
For example, under the notion of a fair application of the same rules, can one individual kill the other? If successful, the other party, now dead, cannot personally retaliate. If this action takes place under rules and agreements that both sides follow, it can be called a fair fight. But there is another aspect of the view of a moral object that we have not yet considered. To hold that all humans are equal moral objects has both a negative and a positive implication. We have briefly considered the negative—the idea that we must not follow rules that do not equally apply to all parties.
But this limit still leaves choices of styles to individual judgment. The soldier who has sworn to or affirmed that he or she will obey the president and defend the Constitution must do so or violate the rule of universality. We cannot break promises and also seriously make promises: Promises would not exist under such principles. The soldier, however, must balance the risk of error in violating the promise to obey the president against the risk of error in violating the requirements of universal fairness if he or she obeys an unfair order.
A Moral Military by Sidney Axinn