In the last chapter I argued for an alternate conception of military ethics based upon David Hume's sympathy principle, adopting his general point of view; now I examine how this alternate view might be applied in practical terms. Virtually every list of military virtues or ideas on honor includes some reference to the idea of loyalty. Loyalty is included in the Soldier's Guide on a list of what men expect from their leaders, listed in FM 22-100 (a guide on military leadership) under military virtues and virtues of leaders in particular and is perhaps the one virtue most closely associated with the military. Our collective image of the soldier is of one who wears the symbols of our nation, swears to defend them, with his life if necessary, and follows the orders of his commanders in carrying out his duties. Despite the importance of loyalty, not just in military situations, there is little in depth philosophical writing on the subject. Since loyalty is so central to military honor, it is important to carefully examine loyalty, especially in the military ethos, and see how the arguments I have made in the last three chapters hold up in actual situations.
However, loyalty is a broad subject so I approach the discussion in three steps. First, it will be necessary to be clear on what is meant by loyalty and why it is important, especially in the military setting. To this end, I argue that Michael Wheeler's definition of loyalty as inspired by trust and integrity gives us a good foundation for understanding loyalty as it pertains to the soldier. Second, I look at various ways that loyalty might fit into a larger moral system. Some argue that loyalty requires the agent to be partial (to the object of the loyalty), while morality requires the agent to be impartial. Given this apparent contradiction, how can loyalty be a central virtue in any moral system? In particular, I discuss two attempts to deal with this problem and ideas they might generate for fitting loyalty into the larger context of military honor. Third, having resolved some of these issues, I discuss how we might go about teaching and inculcating this virtue.
I use this third point to conclude the argument begun in Chapter 1 that military ethics which appeal to the standard ethical theories (Utilitarianism, Kantian autonomous willing agents or Hobbesian agents morally motivated by fear and enlightened self-interest) fail because they could not consistently allow loyalty as a virtue. The alternate military ethic I present allows us to resolve the problems raised by the first two points, and provides a framework to work out the third issue — the teaching of loyalty. I argue that while this approach is philosophically alternate (to the majority of views), it is largely in place in the military already. What we need to do is to pay attention to the priorities this alternate view highlights to produce a better philosophical understanding of loyalty: one that is more consistent with and applicable to the military ethos. Additionally, this alternate conception has some more pragmatic advantages; it provides help with practical concerns like teaching loyalty (and other parts of military honor) in a way that is not at odds with the other kinds of training in military life.
To begin, it is critical to take a careful look at loyalty, particularly why it is of central importance to the military ethic. There is nothing mysterious about the idea of loyalty: dogs are loyal, good friends and spouse are valued if they are loyal, one is to be loyal to one's company, school or country. In a simple sense, to be loyal means that you 'stand by' the object of loyalty, that you consider the claims of obligation related to that object of loyalty to outweigh other claims — whether your own or from other sources. A loyal friend is one who considers the needs and claims of their friend as more important, primary or valuable than other considerations like personal gain, comfort, demands of an authority or dictates of religion or morality. For example, loyalty to other Christians means that you see the moral obligation you bear towards them as more important than your personal comfort or adherence to the law.
Immediately we run into the bad reputation that loyalty has acquired due to the associations of the virtue of loyalty with authoritarian figures: loyalty means blind obedience without rational reflection or consideration of your own feelings or moral requirements. Numerous examples comes to mind: blind obedience to totalitarian figures like Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini, unquestioning obedience to parents or family (Mafia or other criminal 'gangs', for instance) or the soldier 'simply following orders.' This seems to be the view of David Hume in the Treatise on Human Nature when he asserts the following regarding political loyalty:
What does this mean for loyalty in the military community? A good place to start is The Soldiers Guide (FM 21-13), which is designed to orient the new recruit to the military community and begin to foster the military ethos.
The second pillar of loyalty in the military ethos is teamwork, esprit de corps or unit cohesion. The soldier owes loyalty to his superiors, but he also owes his loyalty to the members of his unit, to his fellow soldiers. This is a central part of the military identity and critical to military effectiveness. When asked what helped them when the going got rough, the overwhelming answer cited by the guide (as well as numerous psychological studies) is that they 'didn't want to let the other men down.'4 The guide goes onto stress this critical aspect of military life:
In addition to being a member of a unit, the soldier is part of the larger military community. We can see how these two pillars of loyalty come together in the oath, Code of Conduct and Soldiers Creed. First, the Oath (either the commissioning oath or another oath of office given at induction ceremonies) makes clear to the soldier that his life has changed and that he has taken up a new position and way of life. According to the Soldier's Guide,
This point is even more clear in the Soldier's Creed:
This communal concern becomes even more important in the event that the unit is taken prisoner. The Code of Conduct is clear that the values, discipline and ideals of the military must be maintained at all times — even if it means the death of the solder. In the sections detailing procedures to be followed when taken prisoner by the enemy, the Code of Conduct reads:
These statements by the military on the importance of loyalty to the military organization and ethos give us some insight on why loyalty is so important. The military must function as a coherent and disciplined team. This is only possible if the soldiers can rely on one another for support, only if the commanders can rely on their soldiers to do what they are told, and only if the soldiers can rely on the superior officers in the same way. Simply put: without loyalty, the military cannot function efficiently. This makes the military different from other organizations, where moral concerns may not have the same kind of bearing upon how the organizations functions. Sir John Winthrop Hackett pointed out that a man could be thoroughly corrupt in many ways and still be very good in a variety of pursuits, but "What the bad man cannot be is a good soldier, sailor of airman."9
Now we have a better understanding of why loyalty is so important and valued in the military context, but, at best, we only have a sketchy of idea of what loyalty is and how we mean to use the word to apply in the military context. To remedy this problem, I want to look at Michael Wheeler's account of loyalty, which gives us a good way to conceptualize the idea of loyalty for our purposes of Sections II and III. In his essay "Loyalty, Honor and the Modern Military," Wheeler argues that for loyalty to be effective and meaningful in the long run, it must be inspired by trust and not fear.10 How is this trust generated? According to Wheeler, we trust or are inspired to trust by persons who exhibit integrity.
Why is this loyalty not inspired or generated by fear? Wheeler maintains that the sort of loyalty which is a part of military honor is not the unquestioning, non-rational obedience (blind obedience) to every whim or order of the object of loyalty we sometimes associate with the idea. Is not this exactly the loyalty which is required in battle situations, where there is no time for a democratic discussion? This unquestioning sort of loyalty, however, leads to very tragic consequences; it was clearly the sort of loyalty which generated the immorality associated with the Holocaust and any number of war crimes (like My Lai) — " I was only following orders." Some degree of loyalty is obviously necessary and beneficial for an effective military, especially the sort of loyalty which promotes discipline, an important military virtue. Nevertheless, Wheeler suggests that this loyalty need not be inspired by fear to be an effective and useful military virtue.
Besides the immoral and distasteful actions that such loyalty can and does generate, Wheeler has other concerns about loyalty inspired by fear. Machiavelli argued in The Prince that a prince need not be loved by those he wished to lead, fear would suffice. Rousseau, however, realized that the fatal flaw in this argument is that such loyalty will suffice only; it may suffice, but it is a weak (and perhaps unreliable) form of loyalty. Remove the source of the fear or the fear itself and you also remove all grounds for loyalty and obedience. Therefore, the loyalty required by military honor must be more than a function of fear, since such an account cannot explain the actions that soldiers will perform to help or save a person, commander or comrade, for whom they have loyalty — to the point of sacrificing their own lives and interests.
Combat psychiatry studies seem to bear out the conclusion that the fear hypothesis is inadequate to explain why soldiers perform as they do under stress. In a study of soldiers and officers in the Israeli Defense Force (1974), what the soldiers and officers listed as the most frightening aspects of battle were not fear of death or injury.11 These studies are supported by similar results by Gabriel and Savage (1978), and well as Beaumont and Synder (1980), which all fail to cite fear as a significant influence on combat effectiveness. What these studies highlight is not that soldiers are unafraid of combat (which is untrue), but that it is not at the top of the list as to what the soldier is concerned with and what motivates him to action.
What inspires the preferable kind of loyalty? According to Wheeler, loyalty is a function of trust.12 Without trust a person may be able to momentarily compel compliance to orders or wishes, but this compliance is not the same as loyalty. This is born out by Army Field Manual 22-100, a training manual on military leadership: the essence of leadership is to get the men to do what you want them to do voluntarily, without having to resort to force or threats. In other words, get them to want to do it.13 The idea is that if the men trust their commander, they will be loyal. Why? Trust generates sentiments of pleasure, sympathy, empathy, affection etc. which predispose us to take the leader's sentiments, desires, aims etc. as our own. When that happens, there is a motivation for acting that, unlike fear, can remain potent even when the commander is not watching every move of the soldier.
This view is supported by the reading of Hume discussed in Chapter 3, but is there any reason to think this reading translates to reality on the battlefield? It most definitely does. In numerous studies of both American Vietnam performance and Israeli performance during the Arab-Israeli and Lebanon Wars, the evidence indicates that it is leadership and trust in the leader and one's comrades that makes the difference in combat effectiveness. What Belenky, Noy and Solomon (1981) found with Israeli soldiers was that company morale was highly correlated with personal morale and that high levels of both were correlated with good combat effectiveness. Personal morale was most influenced (in order) by trust in company commander, confidence in personal soldiering skills, feelings about legitimacy of the war, trust in weapons, trust in self, confidence in comrades, unit cohesiveness and quality of relationship with command.14 They also found that trust in the commander could and did hold a company and their combat effectiveness together, even when the other factors faltered or were undermined. This is consistent with Gabriel and Savage (1978) who found that the principle cause of reduced combat effectiveness in Vietnam was lack of good and coherent leadership.
If loyalty is generated by trust, how then do we come to trust someone? Wheeler argues that trust is usually given if we perceive integrity in the object of trust. Wheeler acknowledges critique and questioning can be an important part of loyalty, but insists that agents respond to integrity in their leaders and this is what inspires loyalty. This happens because we, as agents, reflect upon the integrity of the person before us and our recognition of the importance and value, both to ourselves and others, of this integrity generates a certain positive sentiment: trust. This trust is absolutely crucial to notions of loyalty, as well as other military character traits, because "...This trust can serve to close the gap between the values of the soldier and his commander, for trust creates a sympathetic attitude and propensity to obey."15 Due to trust, the soldier is able to enter into the sentiments of the commander, who is then able to get men to do what is necessary without having to resort to force or fear. Trust is the very essence of what is required for military leadership. This is inspired by integrity, the moral stance taken up when the soldier takes the military oath.
Are Hume and Wheeler right that the soldier responds to the integrity that he sees in his commander, or as Hobbes might argue, is he really responding to the fear he has that the commander can harm him? In a separate study of 300 Israeli soldiers Belenky, Noy and Solomon (1981) found that trust in the commander depended largely upon his perceived professional competence, and to a lesser extent upon credibility and perception of caring.16 Professional competence was determined to be the primary factor in combat, but professional competence and credibility were shown to be more important than the third. The personal example of the commander was crucial in the trust that the men had for their commander, underlining Wheeler' and Hume's assertions that we respond to integrity in others and that it forms the foundation of trust.
In the example of General Marshall (which Wheeler cites in his essay), we have an example of a man who was generally acknowledged as both an individual and military leader of great integrity. When I reflect, as one of his soldiers, upon this integrity, his reputation for integrity and the evidence that I have for this, a positive sentiment is generated within me. This favorable sentiment gives rise to a predisposition to trust this man. This sentiment of trust, in turn, strengthens my original sentiment about his integrity, particularly when I find reason that my trust is warranted. For example, when I fight under General Marshall in the field and find, that in addition to being a competent general, he refuses to sacrifice his men for unwarranted gains. My trust is also reinforced because I see that he recognizes the moral worth of myself, as well as the other soldiers. This trust in turn inspires loyalty towards him, as well as allegiance, fidelity and other qualities based on this sentiment, because I take on his projects, aims and desires as my own. The reason that I am motivated to do this is pleasurable sentiments generated when I reflect upon the integrity this man has, and because I trust in him and the worthiness of these things.
Wheeler's analysis is helpful because it gives a much clearer notion of trust and one that is better able to answer the concerns about blind obedience raised earlier. If loyalty is based upon trust, then it is something that needs to develop over time; it is given out of respect to begin with, later becomes habitual, and eventually is given from a position of trust where the agent is responding to the integrity of the person. This makes loyalty much more complex that it looked at first, and highlights the fact that there can be different kinds and levels of loyalty. I do not wish to suggest that all kinds of loyalty are of the kind Wheeler highlights, but the ideal of loyalty that the military strives for seems consistent with Wheeler's description. Obviously, this sort of loyalty is not achieved instantaneously; there must be intervening stages of loyalty which can (but do not always) lead to the more ideal form of loyalty. It is this conception of loyalty that I discuss in the next two sections, recognizing that there are other stages and types of loyalty which may fall sort of some of the claims I make for Wheeler's version of loyalty.
I want to examine how loyalty, as I have described it in the last section, fits into a larger moral framework and interacts with other moral traits or virtues. Towards this end, I look at two important contributions to the admittedly small literature on loyalty and larger ethical concerns. First, I will look at the contemporary view of George Fletcher, who argues that loyalties derive from the historicity of self; he raises concerns about whether loyalty, which he sees as demanding partiality, can be reconciled with impartial moralities like Kant's and Utilitarianism. Second, I take a closer look at the older view of Josiah Royce, who makes the argument that loyalty is social; he thinks that loyalty can be reconciled with an impartial morality by insisting that we respect loyalty wherever we find it, even if we disagree with the object of loyalty and the actions generated. I argue that there are problems with both of these approaches, but Royce gives us some valuable help in his insistence that loyal is a social phenomenon — something that he appears to overlook (as does Fletcher) in fitting loyalty into his larger moral framework. I then suggest how some of the concerns over how to reconcile partiality (loyalty) and impartiality (moral system) can be resolved if we reassess our conception of morality to take into account Royce's (and Hume's) concern with the social aspects of morality and in particular, how it gets applied in the military context.
George Fletcher, in his book Loyalty: An Essay in the Morality of Relationships, examines the notion of loyalty mainly from the legal and political point view, being concerned with the problems that competing loyalties create in the legal and political arena. While this kind of loyalty is not exactly what we have been concerned with so far, his analysis is helpful in what it reveals in the current thinking about loyalty in general. Fletcher begins with his central claim that loyalties are rooted in a historical understanding of the self. Following Aristotle, Fletcher claims that friendship and other forms of loyal bonding presuppose relationships rooted in shared histories.17 Loyalties, he argues, grow up as a result of communal projects and shared life experiences. What makes loyalty unique is that the question of loyalty arises in regard to a particular relationship, not in abstract or general terms. We speak of having a loyal duty to a particular person, unit, country, ethnic group or religious denomination; we generally do not speak of loyalty in general but in reference to particular objects.
The idea of the historical self is central for Fletcher in how these particular relationships grow up and evolve. He is skeptical of the notion, particularly espoused by Josiah Royce, that we can somehow choose and endorse certain loyalties and avoid others. Fletcher insists that we must understand ourselves as largely constructions of our historical circumstances, over which we have little, if any, control. We cannot choose the family, country, ethnic or religious group we are born into, and consequently, we will have been trained and inculcated with the loyalties of these people long before we are of an age to choose. Naturally, when we become of age we can choose to jettison some of these loyalties, but it is rare that we do so. Most people eventually carry on the values, ethnic and religious sympathies of their families and friends and usually remain loyal to the ties of family, region and ethnicity.
This leads us to the second characteristic Fletcher sees as distinguishing loyalty from other moral claims: the notion of partiality. Loyalty, by definition, generates an interest, partiality or association with the object of the loyalty rather than the competitors. Fletcher insists that this is not a logical, rational choice that we make having examined the evidence, but a preference, thereby making loyalty a value of partiality.
This very fact seems, according to Fletcher, to put loyalty into direct conflict with the two dominant moral views of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Kant and Utilitarianism (Mill and Bentham). The hallmark of loyalty seems to be that it asks us to be partial to some people (but not others)on the basis of a shared history or common life experience. The hallmark of these moral theories is that they demand that we be impartial and apply moral principles to everyone equally, regardless of preferences and partialities. The rest of Fletcher's discussion is devoted to trying to give an answer as to how we might balance these contradictions, or at least reconcile them to some extent. In the end, he distills his conception of loyalty into three main elements:
While it might be tempting to criticize Fletcher for being short on conclusions and concrete answers to how to reconcile partiality in the form of loyalty with the impartial ethical tradition, he does raise a good point about the two main ethical traditions. It does seem clear that in their usual incarnations neither Kantian ethics nor Utilitarianism can easily claim loyalty as one of the core virtues that the Categorical Imperative or the Principle of Utility could consistently endorse. Both of these principles focus on impartiality and universality which, to be consistent, must effectively silence particular appeals to specific loyalties and objects of loyalty as morally relevant. Appeals to loyalty are, according to Fletcher, partial and individual; these principles are supposed to be impartial and universal, transcending the particularities of individual situations.
One solution might be to recognize that Kantian ethics or Utilitarianism (or our commitment to them) is one of our many loyalties, informed by the historical self, recognized as a duty and reinforced by ritual. It could be argued that our intellectual history, with its critique of the sense and emphasis on rationality (Plato, Descartes, Kant etc.) naturally commits us to this kind of ethical view, or least raises the odds of this commitment considerably. However, if a commitment to an impartial ethics is one of our loyalties, then it seems Fletcher's strategy is bound to fail. On this scenario, the impartial ethical claims should be on relatively equal terms with our other loyalties (to country, to my mother or to the Lutheran Church). Rather than fitting loyalty into the constraints of Kantian ethics or Utilitarianism, loyalty becomes a large way to talk about our preferences and partialities, with impartial ethics being one of them.
This is hardly a novel suggestion, of course, and it faces some stiff criticism by a large tradition (including Fletcher and Royce) that sees ethics as transcending the partialities and preferences of loyalty, and providing an objective way to decide among them. Let it suffice to say that in such a system loyalty cannot be taken seriously as a moral category or virtue, because it will always be seem inferior to the transcendental project of ethical theories like Utilitarianism. Loyalty, it would seem, must always submit to the demands and requirements of the impartial, universal ethic. This fact seems to create some serious problems, as I have already highlighted in Chapter 1, for using these kinds of ethical theories as a basis for military ethics, since loyalty is taken very seriously as a moral virtue — perhaps even as the moral virtue.
However, it is unwise to be hasty and simply dismiss the idea that partiality and impartiality could somehow be reconciled along the lines Fletcher suggests. Oddly enough, Fletcher summarily dismisses the view of Josiah Royce, who attempts to do just that: he incorporates loyalty into a version of Kantian ethics. I want to take a closer look at Royce's view to see if it is possible to do this, or whether we are better off taking seriously my earlier suggestion of putting impartial ethics and loyalty on equal terms — at least in the military context.
Royce, in the Philosophy of Loyalty, claims loyalty as the central moral principle under which all other moral concerns can be systematized, because he sees loyalty (in its proper definition) as the fulfillment of the whole moral law. " You can truthfully centre your entire moral world about a rational conception of loyalty. Justice, charity, industry wisdom, spirituality, are all definable in terms of enlightened loyalty."20 How, then, does Royce define loyalty? Simply put, he argues that loyalty has three elements: 1) a cause to which one is devoted, 2) the person 'willingly' and 'thoroughly' devotes himself to this cause and 3) the person expressing this devotion in a 'sustained and practical' way.21
Royce stresses that loyalty is never a mere emotion; emotional states may accompany loyalty, but they do not constitute it. Loyalty without self-control with impossible because it is the cause, not personal impulses, that give a sense of direction and focus.
A major element in Royce's view of loyalty is that loyalty is social. Here he parts company somewhat with the Kantian ideal of the moral agent, as autonomously willing individuals, in insisting that left to our own impulses and ideas we can never find out what our will is. That leaves us with the obvious question: Where do we discover our projects, if not from our own devices? Royce argues that this is where social aspects come into the picture. The social forces into which we live our lives provide us with numerous models and suggestions around which we might organize a plan of life. The social activities we participate in, largely by imitation, help us organize and focus our passions and impulses and focus all this chaotic energy into some kind of order. However, we do not merely imitate other people. As we grow in the social order, we become aware of our personal preferences, talents and ideas, and we learn to utilize the social as a means for us to express these in an coherent manner. It is at this point that we can truly discover our own will.22
Therefore, it is loyalty, as the expression of commitment to one of these social forces, that solves the problem raised by own inability to know and find out our own will. "Loyalty, then, fixes our attention upon some one cause, bids us to look without ourselves to see what this unified cause is, shows us thus some plan of actions, and then says to us 'In this cause is your life, your will, your opportunity, your fulfillment."23 However, one might raise the objection here that you are not really choosing your plan of life or exerting your will in any significant way: the social forces are doing it for you. Perhaps you might choose among the options offered to you, but which choices you have will be decided by the social forces into which you are born and educated. In addition, one could argue that once you choose your object of loyalty, your cause, it is the cause which tells you what to do, what values and actions are important. Once you join the 'club', you cease to be autonomous or to exercise your will in any significant manner.
In answer to these kinds of objection, Royce looks at the Samurai tradition in Japanese culture. Here is exactly the kind of thing the objector seems to have in mind, since the Samurai are admired by many for absolute obedience and loyalty to their nation — frequently and unquestionably to the point of death. However, Royce goes beyond the stereotype to show that while the Samurai are fiercely loyal and obedient, that does not entail that they were slaves or exercised no will of their own.
Royce argues that the social life is necessary for a full moral life. He acknowledges that one could choose to be loyal to nothing, but insists that ". . . your assertion of moral independence will remain but an empty proclaiming of a moral sovereignty over your life, without any definite life over which to be sovereign."25 In the end, you can choose to lead an 'independent' life, but Royce insists the social order will 'crush' you; your independence dies with you, but the loyal man's cause lives on after his death. He wants to make it clear that we have no content, plans or purposes that are not in some way socially derived and/or defined. As a result the " . . . only way to be practically autonomous is to be freely loyal."26
This brings us to the central explanation of how Royce sees loyalty as fitting in which a larger moral system. Royce argues that we should be loyal to loyalty, wherever we find it: ". . . so choose and so serve your individual cause as to secure thereby the greatest possible increase of loyalty among men. More briefly: In choosing and in serving the cause to which you are to be loyal, be, in any case, loyal to loyalty."27 We may object to the particular cause that our neighbor chooses to endorse, but we ought to respect the spirit of loyalty wherever we come across it. Consequently, all of our moral duties are special instances and circumstances of loyalty to loyalty: to be moral, respect loyalty wherever you see it.
Thus, we have the ultimate incorporation of loyalty into an impartial system of ethics: what was once partial and based upon preference now becomes the criterion for autonomous agency, and is turned into a new categorical imperative upon which we can base a system of objective and impartial ethics. By turning our loyalties into something that we make an autonomous choice about, as well as something we universally respect in others, Royce has avoided the principle dilemma that Fletcher faces: how do we resolve the partiality of loyalty with the impartiality and universality of the two major ethical theories? Royce has more or less eliminated the partiality and particularity of loyalty as a virtue; it is no longer tied to the history and circumstances under which each tie of loyalty evolves, but is a general virtue that applies regardless of how the individual relationship of loyalty comes about.
At this point, it might serve to raise the question of why partiality is so troubling to Fletcher and Royce, to the point that Royce attempts to remove the partiality from loyalty. This concern reflects a certain understanding of the relation between the individual and ethical theory. On the standard kind of accounts of Kant and Utilitarianism, partiality is seen as irrational, contingent and highly variable, lacking the kind of necessity and universality that is required for the objectivity sought after in moral matters. To be partial, it would seem, means to prefer someone else's view for no particular reasons and you might not prefer them tomorrow or next week. However, if we take seriously the historicity of self and its role in loyalty as advocated by Fletcher, then we have to rethink this characterization of partiality, and also reassess whether it really creates the problems feared.
Let us assume that we have particular loyalties and that Fletcher is largely right that they are a result of shared histories and life experiences. What does this mean? Does it mean that I have no rational reasons for preferring Grandma's life over a stranger's? Does it mean that I might be loyal to my nation today and change my mind, that it is purely contingent and therefore, subject to change? Simply because we do not have reasons that might be justified by appeal to a universal moral theory like Kant's, it does not follow that I have no reasons, no justification at all for my loyalties. Fletcher misses the implication of his own argument. The reasons I have may not be rational (in his sense), but they are still reasons. The fact that they are based in common experiences and shared histories does not make it any less a reason for my loyalty, even if they are a different kind of reasons from the ones Fletcher and others seem to think are required by moral theory.
Partiality is not as irrational and haphazard as it appears on the surface. I have many of reasons for my partiality to Grandma, and because they are based in elements central to my identity and self conception (family ties, history, shared experiences), it is highly unlikely that this partiality will change at a mere whim. It is extremely likely that I will remain loyal to Grandma for the duration of my life, that I will continue to see her as more important than an ethical principle. This hardly makes my loyalty unreliable or undependable as Kant worries that morality derived from sentiment and passion (which are clearly at work here) will be. In fact, it may turn out that these partialities are more constant and less likely to change; the justification (histories, common experiences) are largely in past and do not change in the way that ethical principle might need to be revised in the face of new facts.
What is the problem then? The problem is that these loyalties refuse to recognize the supremacy of the ethical principle, which is necessary if you are going to construct an ethical theory where principles arbitrate all disputes and dictate what is moral and what is not. From this perspective, we have ethical action justified by reference to personal reasons which cannot be universalized, which cannot be applied to everyone because they have particular reference to that person and the circumstances in which the loyalty developed and is sustained. It is in these facts, and not the partiality per se, where the concern lies for Fletcher and Royce. To have an impartial and universal morality, everyone must agree to submit to the supremacy of the ethical principle. This appears also to entail submitting these partialities to the domain of the ethical principle, where their claims will likely be rejected as authoritative.
The second concern with Royce's view is his commitment to impartial and universal ethics. Provided you are willing to subscribe to the transcendental nature of ethics, that ethics must overcome emotion and passion and give an objective standard for deciding what to do, Royce's view seems to be exactly what is needed to tame the partiality of loyalty. If you agree with the above, you must either subdue loyalty under impartial ethics, or remove the aspects of loyalty that were troublesome. Fletcher was interested in doing the first, and in a sense, Royce does both.
However, in doing so he has removed from loyalty the very thing that made it loyalty, and as such a desirable virtue. The whole point of loyalty is that the moral obligation is generated regardless of rational reasons, universal considerations or character traits that would lead us to other kinds of moral approval or obligation. Loyalty is valued, particularly in the military setting, because it creates bonds that are particular and specialized relative to a particular shared history, situation or context. When you remove this particularity, you remove the moral essence and value of loyalty and it becomes (turning Royce's view on its head) just another species of universal and general moral obligation.
Royce's view suffers from the same malady that many of the views I discussed in Chapter 1 did: he assumes that the standard picture for the moral agent is some version of the autonomously willing agent. However, this ignores certain crucial aspects of morality. Royce, himself, acknowledges the crucial role that the social aspects play in morality, but misses the point because he believes that individualism still must predominate over the social, which he sees as largely a background influence. He misses what Hume points out: the social aspects create the moral obligations and form the way in which these moral obligations and relationships must be carried out and lived. Loyalty must exist within the web of social connections and commitments and derives its moral force from these connections, not in spite of them.
The soldier's loyalty to his commanding officer is essentially different from his loyalty to his country because it grows up and evolves in different situations and relations. His loyalty to his commander grows up in a strictly defined power relationship where the commander has a mentoring role, life and death power over the soldier and is trying to inculcate specific talents, abilities and values in this soldier; this work occurs in the context of a unit, and while sharing some things with the other soldiers, is highly individual to his job within the unit and relationship within the chain of command. The soldier's loyalty to his country evolves over a much longer period of time, in a general way as a civilian citizen, and then in more specific was as a soldier-citizen with duties to protect and sacrifice for that nation. To suggest that the critical element in these loyalties is the choice of the solider as an autonomous moral agent seriously misrepresents the importance of the social forces involved, including how the soldier reacts to and internalizes these social forces.
Of course, I am not suggesting that choice is not important to loyalty. What I am suggesting is the order of priority or perspective is misguided. Rather than starting with the individual and trying to figure out how he operates as an autonomous agent in an impartial ethical system, I suggest that we start by questioning the assumption of the autonomous ethical agent as the starting point. The question of loyalty creates serious problems for the traditional way we have looked at military ethics, and this should suggest that some reorientation is needed.
This is where Royce's (as well as Hume's) emphasis on the social is valuable for military ethics. First, Royce acknowledges that it is the social, and not our own rationality, that gives us focus and inspiration about the kinds of things that we might be loyal to, about the kind of plan we might use to organize our life. We must understand that the military context is not incidental or separate from the moral concerns of the soldier, but provides the preconditions and determinations inside of which any successful account of military honor must operate. Second, Royce's account of the social demonstrates it is the social which gives value to the moral life; without it we might have projects, ideas and concerns but it is difficult to say what they really mean or what value the might have both for our lifetime and beyond. Royce is clear that our attempts to be totally autonomous are in some sense in vain. The only way to be truly autonomous is be loyal to something, to embrace some cause, to participate in the social life of morality.
Finally, Royce's view is invaluable because it provides a convincing argument that we can have a meaningful. moral sense of loyalty which does not reduce to blind obedience. Early in Section II raised the counter-argument that loyalty really involves no choice; it is having someone else tell you what to do. While Royce and I certainly disagree over the extent to which we might choose our loyalties, Royce's view gives us a working blue print for thinking about loyalty in a way that runs a balance between strident autonomy and mindless social obedience. This is a balance that is critical to the military, particularly one that operates in a democratic society. Soldiers must have the social context as the organizing principle and source of their moral decisions, but they also must be able to make decisions about how the code works or what is required on their own and to take responsibility for these judgments within the social context.
Loyalty is social, which does not mean it is partial in the sense of being whim or biased, and therefore, is historical. It grows up in a social context with particular historical situations and is heavily influenced by habituation, ritual, custom and tradition which all serve to reinforce the bonds and communal aspect of the loyalty relationship. The individuals can operate both independently and within the context of their social setting, in a way that can give value and meaning to both the worlds that they inhabit. We can have independent moral judgment and meaningful social organization (both of which are necessary to the military), but we do not have to commit ourselves to an impartial and universal ethic that requires the taming of loyalty. If we reorder the priorities and start with the social context as the basis and resource for moral judgment, we can still generate a general moral account that gives the sense of objectivity and stability required, without having to ignore the partialities that are integral to a soldier's identify and morality.
Given the importance of the social aspects to loyalty, how are we to teach loyalty? The ideas I have laid out in the last two sections have cleared up some of the concerns with loyalty as a moral category, and the way is now cleared to discuss the practicalities of how this might be done in the military context. In this section, I want to revisit some of Josiah Royce's comments on how loyalty might be taught and look at how the military actually teaches morality, to make some suggestions about what seems to work well and what might, from a Humean perspective, be done to facilitate some changes taking into account my arguments about loyalty. I believe that the principle obstacle to effectively teaching virtues, especially loyalty, in the military setting arise from two misconceptions 1) a misunderstanding of the military situation itself and of the actual roles these virtues play, which leads into 2) a mistaken assumption that the impartial ethical models used in philosophical discourse can somehow be adapted to the military context with a few tweaks here and there. Looking at how loyalty is and should be taught will reveal much about these two problems, and will demonstrate that we need to re-examine them both.
Royce believes that the central part of teaching people to be loyal and to value loyalty lies in training ourselves to observe examples of loyalty around us, regardless of whether we can endorse the object of loyalty as valuable. We must train ourselves to enjoy and respect the loyalty of others, even those engaged upon the opposite side as ourselves, because we are all engaged in the universal cause of loyalty.28 From a military standpoint, this makes sense. In thinking about military honor, the ideal is two equal soldiers matching wits and arms on the battlefield. One will win and one will lose, but many of the laws and customs that later became the Law of Warfare evolved from an understanding of war as a gentleman's endeavor. There was a certain respect for the enemy, as you were bonded by a common vocation (soldiering) and certain values that were implicitly understood to be a part of that vocation. A soldier can greatly admire and respect the intellect or skill of a fellow soldier, understanding that they are practicing a common craft. (Witness to this is General Patton's admiration for the tank warfare tactics of General Rommel during World War II.)
Royce goes on to suggest several strategies he thinks will be helpful in teaching loyalty, especially to the young.29 First, he suggests that we help them to develop and keep alert their physical and mental capacities, which Royce thinks are necessary for the exercise of loyalty. Second, we should give them opportunities to be loyal, minimize situations where loyalties might come into conflict and give them social exposure to the value and importance of loyalty. Finally, we should demonstrate to them that loyalty is the best of human goods, with loyalty to loyalty as the most important of all loyalties. The main way Royce sees this happening is first, through the family and then, through the nation and various other social organizations. It seems then that loyalty is to be taught by a combination of example, exposure to and opportunities to practice loyalty, as well as by being told about the value of loyalty, especially loyalty to loyalty.
For Royce, one of the most critical ways that these three things might be accomplished is through the symbolization of loyalty via various rituals, many times of the course of one's life. Even one unfamiliar with the military can understand the importance and value of Royce's insight here. Military life is one continual ritual where the loyalties to commander, fellow soldiers, unit, military branch and nation are played out, symbolized and inculcated over and over again. From the first day of basic training, to the daily rituals of military life (drilling, inspections, physical training, unit briefings, recreation activities), to the clothes worn, the lifestyle adopted and the kind of attitudes fostered, everything that is done in the military is some version of loyalty practice. Soldiers are given opportunities to practice being loyal to their commander by following orders, to their unit by functioning better than other units in competition or war drills, and to their nation and military branch by becoming a good representative when out in public or on active duty.
Crucial to the teaching of loyalty in the military are these ideas of habituation, custom and ritual and these ideas are carried over into the training manual for officers on military leadership. The manual (Military Professionalism TC-22-9-2) which teaches the moral standards of military honor and ethics, stresses that this is about practice, and not theory: "In this class, we will not engage in any abstract philosophical study. Military professional ethics deals with making day to day practical decisions in the context of our professional environment.... and consistent with our own vales and the values of the profession."30 Because of this, the approach used is a case study approach. The students may have a short informational session on what the values of the military are, what the responsibilities of leadership are or the law of war, and then they break into groups to discuss and try to assess what they ought to do in the particular situation.
On the face of things this looks like the normal kind of ethical reasoning advocated by the two major ethical theories, but when we look closer we find a much looser definition of ethical reasoning. In discussing the goals of this kinds of ethical training, the following goals are listed (in this order): "understanding of values, logical and consistent reasoning, raising ethical sensitivity, better informed and arrived at conclusions, mature reflectiveness, diverse perspectives and positive impact."31 One of the crucial elements of this training is that the soldiers brainstorm as many possible solutions as possible, and then collectively try to decide which one is most consistent with their values and the military ethic (understanding that others may not agree with you and that you may not agree with the final verdict). The manual stresses that there may be differences in how people look at situations and stresses the importance of getting the soldiers to think about values and practice this kind of reasoning, rather than coming up with the 'right' answer to the problem.
How do they do this? After all, even in the military, there are some things that are ethically unacceptable, some actions that are better than others. The emphasis is one discussion and generating ideas, rather than trying to figure out how a particular ethical rule might apply to the situation. The manual advises that the students start with the situation (case study), isolate the ethical issues, relevant consideration and generate some possibilities and make the decision on the basis of what is most consistent with the law, core values (of the military). the mission objectives and the military culture/ethos. Notice that this is quite different from the standard way of looking that ethical issues when it comes to the two predominant traditions. Both these traditions boil down to starting with the general rule(s) as the given, and then applying them to the situations, while the military approach looks at the military context as the given and looks at a host of considerations other than the 'rules.' (Which is important since there is no Categorical Imperative or Principle of Utility here: there is a host of rules which may contradict one another.)
What are these considerations that the soldiers are supposed to use in their ethical reasoning? Some of the ethical considerations list include: Can it be universalized? Does it violate a trust? Does it infringe on respect for others? What are motivations? What are the relevant personal beliefs/feelings? Are you operating from impartiality or self-interest/selfishness? What might be the consequences? Does it abuse the public trust? Does it violate oaths? regulations? direct orders?32 While it is clear that the universality and impartiality required by Kantian ethics and Utilitarianism are listed as important, they are not the only considerations. In fact, they are only a couple out of many other considerations, including the personal feelings and beliefs of the person deciding, as well as consequences, reputation of the person involved and the reputation or affect on the unit, country or other institution. The notion of violating some trust often figures prominently in these lists since it figures dominantly in the sense of military honor.
In this training, the values are generated not by appeal to universal law, but from the soldiers who have to decide which values or considerations are most important from within the context of the military ethos. These ethical kinds of decisions are not reinforced by rationality (although rationality is certainly important), but are reinforced by shared sentiment, sympathy and the common needs and interests of the military community, of which the soldiers are a part, which they support and from which draw their support. In short, the kind of ethical practices being taught here are those of a social ethic where decisions are made in consultation with others, considering a wide range of perspectives, and where the ultimate trump card is the sense of military honor or tradition. This is a far cry from the traditional autonomous willing agent of impartial ethics, who deliberately tries to avoid having to consider such things by focusing on an 'objective' principle or standpoint which allows him to 'rise above' these considerations.
This seems to leave us with a paradox: if the impartial ethical tradition is correct, then the military is going about this all wrong; if the military is correct then the impartial ethical tradition, which claims to make universally true moral statements, is irrelevant to some critical moral issues and concerns. I want to suggest that, at least in the case of the military context, the impartial ethical tradition has missed the boat. In criticizing some philosophical attempts to examine loyalty, I stressed that by taking out or taming partiality and sentiment, everything that made loyalty valuable was also removed or rendered ineffective. The above discussion bears out this point with respect to how military honor is taught. Sentiment and a sense of shared tradition, community and values is central to military ethics and military ethics cannot survive without them. What sustains the military ethic is not abstract principles but habituation, custom and shared ritual, all of which are based in and expressly appeal to sentiment.
In looking at how military ethics is taught, we must look at our partialities from another point of view (as well as looking at other partialities from our view) and figure out, in a social setting, what is the most consistent with the military ethos, not just what the rules or principles dictate. We must consider the rules and principle alongside the sentiment, military ethos, tradition and web of social relationships that distinguish he military from other institutions.
One important aspect of this training needing more attention is the importance of the oath to creating a new moral situation. We can create fertile ground for loyalty and the other military virtues if we focus how the oath ushers in a new kind of moral life for the soldier, and spend some time on what that means and exactly how it changes the moral life they will lead. The oath combines the private and social in a way that is distinctive of the military, and truly central to understanding what this means in moral terms. This will provide the soldiers with the tools that they need to deal with conflicting loyalties, to recognize loyalties and commitments in terms of their sentiments, and not just ignore them as irrelevant to moral considerations or to be oppressed. For example, the fear of failing in the eyes of one's comrades turns out to be a critical moral consideration in leadership and in esprit de corps (which turns out to be crucial in combat performance) and should not be ignored because our moral reasoning recognizes no role for the sentiments. The good solder, remembering Nietzsche, is not one with no fear, no passions, but is one who can control his fear, can harness the energy of his passions to do what he commands.
Naturally, there will be objections that can be raised against what I am suggesting here. The major one might come from the military itself. If we grant all you have said, how do we know that this will work, that it will efficiently produce soldiers that are more moral. After all, that really should be the main consideration here. I am proposing a different way to think about military ethics, and such an alternative is pointless if it is not practical. However, much of what I have said, particularly regarding the social aspects of morality (in particular loyalty), the sentiment and the role of habituation and custom are largely recognized in the way that the military already trains its soldiers. What I am suggesting is more explicit attention be paid to the aspects highlighted, which have long been thought to be inconstant with military ethos and went against the prevailing philosophical winds. On the contrary, this approach allows us to have loyal soldiers who can make intelligent decisions (avoiding the mindless obedience problem) which are appropriate to the military context, with the added advantage that the ethical training and processes they have learned can be applied in other ways.
This approach also acknowledges the critical issue of motivation. Every commander knows that he can tell his soldiers what is right and wrong, what to do and what not to do, but ultimately it will boil down to whether he has motivated them to act properly. The military definition of leadership is to get your men to want to do what you ask; then you will not have to force them to do it. By acknowledging the role that sentiments and other social aspects play in morality, it will be easier to provide that motivation, by way of inculcated common values and customs that can be appealed to as part of the ethical reasoning process taught and learned in the military setting.
Fine. But are not you really suggesting that we have our Marines 'get in touch without their feelings?' Is it really consistent with the military character, especially the strong individual of Nietzsche's' warrior ethic, to be morally sensitive? I would have to say 'yes' on both accounts. The dominant ethical traditions have tried to suggest that we can made good ethical decisions in a vacuum, without considering the emotion states of others or even of ourselves: all we need to do is find the universal moral principle and apply it correctly. I would suggest that My Lai happened, not because Calley incorrectly applied a moral principle or failed to locate the correct moral principle, but because he was not sensitive to the moral ramifications and implications of what he was about to order. In the military culture, men and women are trained to kill the enemy. There is no way around it. Given the life and death power they have over civilians and fellow soldiers alike, I cannot think of anything more critical to balance the strength and toughness needed in war than some moral sensitivity.
Our soldiers should be trained to be able to pick out the moral aspects of a situation, be able to see the situations from a variety of perspectives, to gather ideas from others (utilizing Hume's sympathy principle and General Point of View), and use all of this to come to a moral decision in the context of the military ethos. The more practice the soldiers have with this, the more it will become second nature to them. The point of drilling and practicing combat maneuvers is so that the soldier can respond quickly in combat, why should morality be any different? Soldiers need their moral practice just as they need practice in marching, cleaning a weapon, carrying out orders or setting up camp. In combat, the lives of the soldier and his unit are at stake; in the moral situations faced by soldiers, these lives, as well as the lives of many others may well hang in the balance. Surely, this warrants some serious consideration, even if we have to reorient at bit to do it.
In this chapter, I have used loyalty to demonstrate some of the practical advantages of my alternate conception of military honor based on Nietzsche's ideals of war and the warrior, balanced by Hume's general moral accounts, where reason and sentiment are intertwined with the social context to produce a moral perspective. I suggested that Wheeler's understanding of loyalty, as crucially connected with trust, provides us a good foundation for understanding loyalty in he military especially. I also suggested that Fletcher's emphasis on loyalty, as generated by the historical self, and Royce's emphasis on the social are useful in thinking about how loyalty fits in with other moral concerns. We need not commit ourselves to the impartial and universal ethics, found problematic in Chapter 1, in order to gain the kind of stability and objectivity that moral accounts and judgments require to be useful. Finally, I suggested some ways that Hume's moral perspective might be practically incorporated in the teaching of loyalty in the military, showing how many of the elements I highlighted are already in embryonic form. All that is really necessary is a reordering of how we think of military morality: we must see it as internal and integrated with the social context instead of something to be imposed from the outside.
1. David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature, ed. P.H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 562.
2. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), p. 9.
3. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), pp. 131-3.
4. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), pp. 48, 79. See also Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978), pp. 8, 94.
5. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), p. 48.
6. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), p. 117.
7. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 1961), pp. 125-6. See also Sidney Axinn's discussion of this topic in A Moral Military, pp. 48-9.
8. US Army, The Soldier's Guide (Washington DC.: Department of the Army, 1961), pp. 121-5.
9. Sir John Winthrop Hackett, "The Military in Service of the State" in War, Morality and the Military Profession, ed. Malham M. Wakin (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986), p. 119.
10. Michael O. Wheeler, "Loyalty, Honor and the Modern Military" in War, Morality and the Military Profession, ed. Malham M. Wakin (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986), pp. 171-179.
11. Ben Shalit, The Psychology of Conflict and Combat, (New York: Praeger, 1988), pp. 11, 25.
12. Michael O. Wheeler, "Loyalty, Honor and the Modern Military" in War, Morality and the Military Professi