Military Ethics and Decision-Making


Nowadays, every field in the world is concerned with ethics. As such, many professors have embarked on teaching different students of various professions the need to act ethically and make ethical decisions in work dilemmas. Many United States universities, if not all, have introduced courses in ethics that are meant to teach all students of any field the concept of ethics now than ever before. Moreover, humans in their entire lives are vulnerable to involving themselves in unlawful acts, which threatens the lives of many citizens and those they serve. The concept of ethics is fundamental to every field ranging from various professional groups, such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, business managers, among other professionals, to nurture good behaviors. Generally, ethics codes define how workers and their bosses should behave or do tasks in a manner that do not put many lives at risk. Moreover, ethics also protects the lives and interests of vulnerable groups such as customers, civilians, and consumers against exploitation and abuse. Hence, managers alongside workers of an organization are guided by a set of rules and codes nurturing good behaviors among the employees and bosses in service delivery.

For this reason, the military sector in the past decades has embraced and appreciated the concept of ethics in its services. The United States military academies and educational centers have embraced ethics learning where military graduates are expected to learn ethical principles in preparation for their military service. As such, training schools in the United States now include at least one professional ethic course in which new professionals are subjected to the ethic codes governing their conduct as military officers. Although the perception of right and wrong differ in many practices, the nation calls upon the citizens to always act and do what is right. The military soldiers are expected to act according to the law requirement and in a manner that supports the US government besides following rules and making informed decisions. Officers are bound to acknowledge the complexity of quick ethical decision-making to surpass the dominating principle of personal or public happiness. This paper, therefore, highlights the complexities that influence ethical acting and the process of decision-making within a military system.

Complex Ethical Pressures in Military System

In the military setup, the everyday ethical pressures upon the military professionals arise due to set rules, goals, and situations that describe context and criteria as either wrong or right, and good or bad. Moreover, making decisions or taking action in this sector is usually crowded with issues. These emanating signals include rule-oriented obligations, goal-oriented aspirations, and situation-oriented demands from the general public and society (Moore, 2019). The military servants analyze the information and settle on which one merits priority.

Rule-Oriented Obligations

Rules generally form a benchmark and provide a primary criterion for ethical judgments. The questions about what to do and what is right or wrong govern many ethical decisions among citizens and military professionals. More than any other public worker, a military soldier lives under obligations that are aligned with an adamant base of order. Moreover, they have to show obedience to their allegiance to the country besides being guided by the morals set by the military sector (Moore, 2019). That is to say that the military soldiers and professionals have taken an oath and have sworn to guard the country’s territories and live according to the laws besides defending the constitution of the United States. The military soldiers are also obligated to obey constitutional procedures, civil law, and social and ethnics mores that govern the community. The central ethical pressures upon the military groups are formal mandates that include fidelity, integrity, respecting both public and private properties, and preserving life in the country’s territories (Olinover et al., 2021). Therefore, in military operations and decision-making, such norms and community pressures must be considered while making vital decisions concerning military services.

The idea of rule-oriented dates back to the dawn of western civilization. Notably, the Western Religion is an excellent example of such an obligation where the orthodox Jews in the Christian era were bound to live under complex conditional and unconditional laws as contained in the Mosaic Laws. These laws consisted of many injunctions, prohibitions, and obligations that restricted Jews from doing certain acts (Olinover et al., 2021). These laws clearly define what God wanted the Jews to do and those they should not do. The Mosaic laws were God’s life guidelines to human beings to do what is right and abandon what is considered unethical. This is analogous to modern ethical codes in many organizational settings where each employee is guided by rules that define their behaviors and conduct. As Christians laws define the respectful relationship with God, the moral codes or conduct of a company call each employee’s loyalty and integrity in carrying out tasks according to the laid down principles.

The rule-oriented approach to ethical procedures and theories builds a foundation and standards for determining right from wrong. Dilemma does exist when two obligations conflict; as such, Christians are subjected to choose from what they know is right. Moreover, military soldiers are also faced with difficult choices as they are expected to follow orders from their superiors while at the same time obeying the law that they pledged allegiance to. In addition, personal conscience also plays a vital role in ethical considerations. Our minds are tools that measure the gravity of a situation and allow decision-making that is considered right at that particular moment. The philosopher Immanuel Kant documented a method that helps determine the fundamental of obligations. He says that goodwill is the supreme principle governing ethical behaviors in most settings (Olinover et al., 2021). Moreover, his ideology also holds that actions must be done in the line of duty to promote ethical decisions and behaviors.

Kant’s ideology also presents the maxim of which is a categorical imperative. In simple terms, the phrase means binding without exception. Categorical imperative contains two vital expressions that pivot ethical decision-making in most life situations. The first entails the need to be loyal and act truthfully. For example, military managers and other leaders are expected to submit uncompromised reports with actual figures. Another expression is acting for humanitarian reasons. One’s actions and the decision should protect their interest and should be made in such a manner that protects other people’s rights and well-being (Gillespie, 2018). Moreover, decisions should strive to unite community members at all cost as this is the power that the community use to sustain itself.

Goal-Oriented Aspirations

Ethical actions and decisions are justified by citing laws and referring or measuring conduct towards specific goals and objectives. Unlike in rule-oriented, the central question in goal-oriented aspirations is what is perceived as good and the goals one should seek. In this category, the basics for determination for right and wrong are dictated by future consequences rather than historical benchmarks (Gillespie, 2018). As such, the decision and actions are measured by the ability to favor an organization’s anticipated goals and objectives. Several definitions for good actions have been put henceforth to guide leaders in making ethical decisions. Many philosophers, such as Kant, have defined good as men’s happiness. Furthermore, the principle of utility has been incorporated in the definition of happiness principle of ethics. As such, the expanded explanation encompasses the good for all individuals in the country rather than a few persons with power (Kim & Vandenberghe, 2020). A form of happiness that matches utilitarian standards implies the greatest good for a vast population.

Goal-oriented military professionals are combinations of actions and decisions that promote public good besides personal happiness. In military decision-making, the leaders must consider the national goals and the principal military objectives, including guarding the country against looming wars and external attacks. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the US military unit to assure national security regardless of the country’s condition. The management leaders in the military considered it ethical to defend the country and its allies even if the results led to unfortunate occurrences such as death and injuries (Olinover et al., 2021). The military language often is the accomplishment of the assigned mission; therefore, the respective leaders are obliged to provide modern tactics and training to military squads to enhance operations. On the individual side, doing the right thing and following stipulated codes gives a sense of job satisfaction, recognition, high ratings, promotions besides financial security. Furthermore, adhering to rules while on duty or services gives pride reflected in happy families and overall life fulfillment.

Situation-Oriented Decision

The situation-oriented decision-making originated from the 1960s when the moral of decision-making war redefined to incorporate the appropriateness to the situation where the decision or code is applied. Moreover, military decision-making and actions must fit and promote military activities towards particular goals and objectives (Morgan et al., 2020). In this sense, the military leaders and management team must analyze situations and, upon agreement, make decisions and actions that do not conflict. In addition, the different situation within military settings provides bases for determining whether an act is wrongfully or rightfully executed. Therefore, ethical judgments must be relative to the inherent circumstances. Situation-oriented decision-making holds that every environment is unique and calls for a different perspective on the right or wrong actions.

One primary limitation of a situation-oriented decision-making approach is its unusualness. This ideology is not geared toward day-to-day living activities besides having no game plan. However, making decisions surrounding situations also calls for law reference and consideration to help military leaders and managers develop an appropriate course of actions and decisions that favor people (Whetham, 2017). For example, a military soldier could steal or lie when shot behind enemy lines to survive and win the enemy’s trust. In a real sense, the admission rules or military rules, in general, do not tolerate lying or stealing. Moreover, situation ethics in its application is the number one enemy of systemization. Hence, it could turn into ethical anarchy with minimal checks and balances. Military leaders and management teams often find themselves in situations where rules and mission goals do not match the expected codes of conduct. As such, innovative leadership is a virtue that should be exhibited by both management and leading teams in dealing with such scenarios.

The Predominant Military Ethical Problems

The ethics theories are tools that enable military professionals to think more clearly and make the ethical decisions of their usual extreme interactions. Therefore, relating ethnic studies to predominant military ethical problems is essential to military leadership and management. Three areas conflicting with the military work are the community demands and expectations, integrity in which military officers are obliged to keep their pledge allegiance (Wolfendale, 2017). Moreover, career development should be in such manner that is under the set rules and standards that do not put those they serve in imminent danger.

The community needs are the most significant cause of prevailing military commanders’ problems and pressures. Society demands a lot from the military units. Making such decisions to make the community happy and alive is the most challenging task for many commanders and military management teams. The complexities in leading people pose a significant problem in making decisions that favor all community members. The community needs, frailties, and potentials need considerations, recognition, stroking, and encouragement. Some of the human problems that commanders should take while making decisions include religious conflicts, life-based problems such as abortion, incest, sexual deviance, gambling, and other issues that affect the wellbeing of society (Fotion & Elfstrom, 2020). The leadership quality that distinguishes commanders from other military officers is working with people. Therefore, the management team must work efficiently with military workers and American citizens to enable appropriate ethical decisions. Military leadership is today more than just giving orders, and the superiors depend, motivate, and trust the team in completing the assigned tasks. Moreover, commanders’ leadership is evaluated in terms of management and motivational skills.

Another source of the problem in military leadership is probably the expected integrity that the system calls of soldiers. For effective decision-making and course of action, the management leans on the officers’ data and, through analysis, develops strategies and programs based on the presented data. The military leaders and superiors need to present uncompromised data to the management team for ethical reasons. There is a gap between the ideal standard and the actual practices as military systems are concerned. Compromised data and reports mislead the management team in formulating laws and codes regarding a particular situation or issue. As such, leaders are encouraged to abide by the principles that guide reports submissions for effective military decision-making to better the society.

Career and honor are as well essential issues to discuss as military ethics and decisions are concerned. Sometimes, leaders get confused on whether to fully follow their career or build a respectful title in the community. However, the law demands that all leaders and professionals’ main concerns be their careers. Sometimes, personal excitements and ambitions cloud minds and make superiors or any public servant behave in an unethical way. For example, preoccupations with careers in military settings mislead military men to blindly follow irrelevant orders rather than constructive critics. Moreover, being preoccupied sometimes leads to covering commanders’ faults and welcoming compromised reports instead of holding debates to authenticate validity.

Abiding Ethical Principles

The primary purpose of the military is to defend and supports human values, existences and protects the US territories against external attacks. As such, the military professionals, leaders alongside managers are responsible for ensuring that unit laws and codes are followed for appropriate service delivery. In doing so, they are expected to conduct person-oriented leadership and continuous commitment towards the nation (Lóránd, 2017). Since military personnel and the system seek to serve and lead the citizens, soldiers, and sailors, they are entitled to make decisions that favor the general public rather than their interests. It is important to note that military men enter the service with unique personalities, motivations, interests, attitudes, and values, which must be filed to conform with the duties they are expected to do. Services men are normal human beings in uniforms. More than that, every day they risk their lives to protect their country. Many have wives, children, parents, hopes, and ambitions of excelling further. Therefore, many successful military leaders understand that they are dealing with whole beings and not mechanics. Hence, more favorable decisions must be considered as peoples’ lives are concerned.

The military code of ethics contains an article that emphasizes the importance and personal integrity and explanations of the responsibilities of various officers according to ranks. It has also been noticed that some offices or juniors break the rules and codes governing their behaviors to please their masters. Therefore, military leaders must act as an example and behave ethically to spread the message across their juniors in the workplace setting. Integrity is self-driven and is an essential virtue to a military professional who is responsible for citizens’ lives and properties. Military codes embrace the highest moral laws and act as benchmarks to promulgated philosophies to better human life and existence. This is done through promoting rightful deeds and restraining and handling wrongdoers to act as examples.

In the history of America, the moral concerns have been fractured; many citizens have no confidence in the military systems. For example, the moral quakes of Hiroshima, My Lai, and Watergate are real scenarios that shun citizens’ confidence in military systems and officers (Mileham, 2017). Since the military occupies a conducive position in the United States, they have the power to lead and initiate the reawakening of honesty and moral awareness in America. Research shows that through philosophy and the study of ethics, the military system can regain moral concerns and its commitments to the people of the United States.


There is an increasing demand for doing what is expected in the military sector. For this reason, military schools and centers have incorporated ethic learning and teachers where new military professionals undergo thorough training to master code to help shape their careers. Ethics education in the United States is today gaining popularity in military sectors and among other fields such as medicine, engineering among other fields upon which, if not restricted, could cause catastrophic damages to human lives. Among the identified ethical military pressures arises due to rules, community demands, goals, and the situation upon which the decision is to be made. Moreover, in making military decisions, the most common predominant problems that the military leader should consider while making decisions are the community demands, career development, and integrity.


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