On Refusing Orders, On Contemptuous Words

The short answer is: Don’t do it.

The medium answer is: You better have your ducks in a row.

There is a whole curriculum of ethics for how to resolve discrepancies between directions when you should feel that they (discrepancies) exist. It has been many years since ROTC sessions on military ethics, but allow me to share with you my resultant set of guideposts.

You are expected to hold a bias that an order is lawful

We have a duty to not carry out, and in some cases, to resist the implementation of unlawful orders. But in assessing an order as unlawful, you take on yourself the responsibility to defend your actions before the law. That is, if you feel strongly enough that an order is unlawful, then it only makes sense that you are comfortable with facing penalties in the event that you are wrong. You are expected to hold a bias that an order is lawful, and that only extraordinarily clear and pressing circumstances will allow you to depart from that presumption.

you took the paychecks, now take the walk

If ordered by your immediate superior to behead a puppy, the order comes from close aboard, the timeframe is short, the mission importance is nothing; your options are relatively wide. Note that if you are in a safehouse on the flanks of Takur Ghar and the puppy is about to give you away, have at it. Otherwise, this is an unlawful order. But if ordered to deploy on a schedule–advertised for months–in accordance with continuing direction from a President whom you feel is not somehow eligible to serve, your actions are tightly restricted. It is my opinion that the right time to refuse was earlier, and that by the time the order comes, there is no more ethical ground to stand on–you took the paychecks, so obviously you were not too concerned about it; now take the walk. This is why I thought that 1LT Ehren Watada and the more recent refuseniks are all wrong about refusing orders to deploy. Even if they are correct about the legality of various wars and so forth, by refusing the order, they explicitly challenge every level in the chain of command between themselves and the perceived source of the problem.

People will take care of this at the ballot box

I’ll be quite frank here in the interest of clarity. I don’t care for this President; which is fine–he doesn’t need me to care for him. I think he has enough bad wrong with him as evidenced by performance, that he should be removed. That is simply not going to happen, however–this Senate won’t even propose a budget. People will take care of this at the ballot box, and in the meanwhile fight a rearguard action against the numerous gleeful abuses of the Constitution. I am in no way compromised by remaining at my post contributing in some small way to the continuing readiness of the United States Navy in its big picture mission. And when the President was elected during my IA, I did not feel the need to come running home from Afghanistan.

So I have nothing nice to say about the man, and don’t feel I have to. I feel that he himself is in violation of his own oath and so forth, but the reasonable course, the most effective course, is to take a damage control mentality, hold on to what we still have, and work to restore that which has been lost.

These idiots refusing orders and giving interviews about it are part of the problem, not the solution. I said the ethics curriculum is taught, but it is obviously not always learned.

Finally, in making this point, I have glossed over the differences between the oath of enlistment and the oath of office. The differences are profound, (for example, the passage you cited above) but I have tried to stay on mostly commonly arguable territory, as of course officers are expected to include orders from a superior as part of their decision making, and enlisted have no small expectation to refuse or resist plainly unlawful orders.

None of which gets these order-refusing prima donnas off the hook for their stupidity. They knew the deal and they took the paychecks. The door was right there, but they didn’t walk until told to go to a hot place. Seems to me there’s a good case for charges of cowardice. See how they like that little bit of tradition.

Meanwhile, there’s the recent case of the Marine getting tossed for online postings which violate the UCMJ. He bagged on the COmmander-in-Chief in public, and issued statements about which orders he would and would not follow. The problem is that the way he did it was simply picking a fight with the entire chain of command. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Stein said his statement about Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan.

In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if it involved detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

AP article

I’m glad they’re juicing him. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about getting rid of a dictator, but this young man is in the wrong place to use public statements against the President. In following an oath, you must strive to satisfy all of it at once, not in pieces. In order to invalidate the “orders of the President and the officers appointed over me” clause, he would have to make the case (to himself, and certainly later to others) that every single officer in his chain of command was some combination of incompetent and unethical in order for him to be justified in being the first link to part from the chain.

An SOB in command is still in command, and this Marine lost sight of that

I don’t disagree with his opinion, but his facts are wrong. His position on unlawful orders is a bare minimum requirement, and has nothing to do with Obama. Even if his position on Obama’s eligibility is true, it still doesn’t make any orders he has received “unlawful”, and that’s where this whole thing falls apart. He never received any unlawful orders. We do not want a gang of individuals assessing minor and uncontroversial orders in the light of their opinion of the SOB who issued the order. An SOB in command is still in command, and this Marine lost sight of that. It is time for him to go. Meanwhile, once he’s a civilian-status veteran, I’ll be glad to see him calling it like it is.

A little more willingness to hold people accountable earlier on could have saved us this trouble now.

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