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Many military officers believe that they morally ought to obey legal orders to fight even in unjust wars: they have a moral obligation to exercise indiscriminate obedience to legal orders to fight. I argue that officers should not be required to exercise indiscriminate obedience: certain theistic commitments to which many citizens and officers adhere prohibit indiscriminate obedience to legal orders to fight. This theistic argument constitutes adequate reason not to require officers to exercise indiscriminate obedience. However, this raises a further question: namely, whether it is appropriate to rely on such a theistic argument when shaping the moral requirements of military officership. I argue that citizens and officers have good reason to make public decisions solely on religious grounds and so are free to follow my theistic argument when shaping the requirements of military officership.

Keywords: doctrine of restraint; just war tradition; religion and politics; religion and the military; selective conscientious objection

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: United States Naval Academy

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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