By Andrew R. Milburn

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew R. Milburn, USMC, is assigned to Special Operations Command, Europe, Future Operations (J3).

There are circumstances under which a military officer is not only justified but also obligated to disobey a legal order. In supporting this assertion, I discuss where the tipping point lies between the military officer’s customary obligation to obey and his moral obligation to dissent. This topic defies black-and-white specificity but is nevertheless fundamental to an understanding of the military professional’s role in the execution of policy. It involves complex issues—among them, the question of balance between strategy and policy, and between military leaders and their civilian masters.

Any member of the military has a commonly understood obligation to disobey an illegal order; such cases are not controversial and therefore do not fall within the purview of this article. Instead, the focus is on orders that present military professionals with moral dilemmas, decisions wherein the needs of the institution appear to weigh on both sides of the equation. Whether the issuer of the order is a superior officer or a civilian leader, the same principles apply. However, because issues at the strategic level of decisionmaking have greater consequences and raise wider issues, I focus on dissent at this level.

In the face of such a dilemma, the military professional must make a decision, which cannot simply owe its justification to the principle of obedience, and must take responsibility for that decision. But when and on what grounds should the officer dissent? And how should he do so? I offer three propositions:

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  • Interesting how john kerry, jane fonda and all of the blame America first types accused the American Military of civilian atrocities overseas, and now that's exactly what they do overseas and and have done here... hmm, the military in general has a huge problem, it is a robotic mentality that just does what the "queen" says.

  • Jane and Ralph, an order by the president to shoot peaceful innocent civilians would be illegal and immoral on its face and any good officer would have to disobey such a order.

  • When I was in the service we were taught that we were to obey all LAWFUL orders. However, and it was a BIG however, if any order violated the Constitution, laws, regulations, or what the common person would consider proper MORALITY, then the order was ILLEGAL and must NOT be obeyed. As a matter of fact, we were taught that to obey an illegal or immoral order was to commit a UCMJ offense.

    Here LTC Milburn does take it to another level. He asks, should one ever disobey a LEGAL order? His answer is yes under special circumstances and he supports his argument well.

  • So if Obama ordered our military to turn on civilians and shoot them they should be within their moral rights to disobey the order, on the grounds that they took an oath to defend us. I would hope they would turn on him and take him down instead and then claim he got into the cross fire.

  • I enjoyed the article. Twice during my career I disobeyed an order, but, survived because higher ups supported me. The only problem I have with the article it presupposes that the officers have the morals to say NO. In todays military too many of the leaders are only concerned with their careers. Too many willing to say, "Yes Sir. Yes Sir. Three bags full." All are products of our liberal school systems.
  • Ralph... I salute You!4086334885?profile=original

  • unbelievable ...... that is about all I can say.

    The rapidity of a totalitarian government has definitely arrived.

  • This is bull crap! We should take our stripes and bars and mail them in. 

  • just went in again its 20 down it starts blackmail like i posted others are getting it??

  • yes i just went in there u have to scroll down i just saw it again posted in facebook so you must be going by it i will check again if its there


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