Your boss issues an order that you judge not just to be a matter of policy, but one that goes to the heart of the nature of the military profession and its moral obligations and norms you have sworn an oath to uphold. What do you do? Salute and execute even if it means undermining and damaging these norms and violating these moral obligations?
This is a recurring theme in the history of the U.S. military, such as with General Douglas MacArthur and President Harry S. Truman in 1951 and the with Joint Chiefs' initial resistance to allowing gays in the military under President Clinton in 1993. Recent commenters have opined that former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was insubordinate and disobedient in not immediately carrying out the President’s 21 November 2019 order (by tweet) to prevent the Naval Special Warfare community from stripping Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Gallagher’s warfare pin (Trident) during a standard warfare administrative review process following the chief’s conviction at court-martial. The argument goes, “If you disagree with a lawful order of the President, it’s either ‘Aye, aye, Sir,’ or resign.”
- Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 311.
- Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1957), 73.