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Navy 412 - Module 2

Module 2 - Relativism, Pluralism / Constitution
Case Study – “Our Values or Theirs”
Case Study – “USS VINCENNES – Sea of Lies?”
Relativism and Objectivism
Play “A Few Good Men”
a. Relativism:
i. Values are a reflection of attitudes and
prejudices of our society.
ii. At the extreme, values are a matter of opinion;
whatever is right for the individual is right.
iii. Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is nothing either
good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
b. Objectivism:
i. Values are objective truths
ii. Societies do not create values; they are not
invented. Instead they gain insight and
iii. Moral judgments are not revealing something about
ourselves or our society, but insight into the
moral nature of an act.
iv. Cite common values between cultures (e.g, the
Golden Rule)
c. So what is right and wrong?
i. Permissible vs. acceptable
ii. Permissible codes of conduct/laws determined by
1. Legal code
2. Global convergence on acceptable behavior
(e.g., human sacrifice, human bondage)
iii. Acceptable conduct differs – it may be legal to
do what I want to do, but is it right?
iv. Empathy and intellect
Killing for one’s country and ethics in the military
Constitutional Ethics
a. “To support and defend the Constitution of the United
States of America…”
b. Fear of standing armies and omnipotent military
civilian and military leaders
c. Most references to the military are imposition of
constraints. Constraints also serve as checks and
balances: POTUS, Congress, courts, and the Supreme Law
of the Land
i. POTUS: CINC. No military leader can contravene
POTUS’ direction
ii. Congress:
1. the power of the purse,
2. legislature of regulations (e.g., the UCMJ)
3. War Powers Act time limits on use of force
w/out Congressional approval
iii. Judiciary: not likely to intervene in military
affairs, but instead on legal rulings
iv. Supreme Law of the Land: Constitution, treaties,
POTUS proclamations or executive orders
acknowledging provisions of customary
international law.to defy or oppose execution of
Constitutional provisions.
v. Practical application of the Constitution – The 4
Principles of the Constitutional Paradigm
1. Hierarchy of Loyalties
a. Constitution – Mission – Service – Ship
or Command – Shipmate – Self.
Individuals may have others such as
family and God; the oath is still being
complied with as long as they don’t
interfere with the loyalties of the
2. Resolution of Conflicts: refers to externalgenerated conflicts, not internal. Must
first resolve conflicts and then act. Can’t
change the order.
3. Unresolvable Conflicts: find a different
line of work.
4. Withholding Loyalties of First Principle:
in event a lawful order is so offensive you
must stand up to it vice executing
principles 1-3. But following prerequisites
must be followed sequentially:
a. Issue must be in response to a
fundamental violation of justice such
as 1) foolish squandering of lives, 2)
continuation of patently unjust laws
that fundamentally diminish and demean
dignity of millions of Americans, 3)
deeply held views of the sanctity of
b. Try to change the law vice disobeying.
c. Must make your disobedience public
knowledge to so those in authority are
fully aware.
d. Person disobeying must be willing to
accept the full legal consequences of
the act.
d. The Principles and Constraints – Examples
i. Presidential: McArthur vs. Truman
ii. Congressional: Public Law 94-106 requiring
assignment of females at service academies. Oath
requires ZERO mental reservation or purpose of
evasion. Gender bias and discrimination is not
upholding the spirit or intent of the law, and
cane be considered tantamount to treason.
iii. Treaties and Customary International Law: Troop
execution of LT William Calley’s orders to murder
helpless old men, women, and children at My Lai
during the Viet Nam war.
iv. Use of Force: Gen Ray Davis, MOH recipient, wrote
an article espousing “No more Viet Nams” meaning
no more wars we don’t intend on winning. Sounds
logical…except wars are fought to achieve
political ends, and thus may fall short of
military victory.