The Limits of Military Officers' Duty to Obey Civilian Orders: A Neo-Classical Perspective

The Limits of Military Officers' Duty to Obey Civilian Orders: A Neo-Classical Perspective
The Limits of Military Officers' Duty to Obey Civilian Orders: A Neo-Classical Perspective
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This monograph offers a neo-classically republican perspective on a perennial problem of civilian-military relations: limitations on military officers’ obligation to obey civilian authorities. All commentators agree that military officers are generally obliged—morally, professionally, and legally—to obey civilian orders, even as they agree that this rule of obedience must admit exceptions. Commentators tend to differ, however, on the basis and breadth of these exceptions.

Following Samuel Huntington’s classic analysis in The Soldier and the State, this monograph shows that disagreement about the breadth of the exceptions tends to assume that their moral, professional, and legal bases are incommensurable. The publication suggests, to the contrary, that all defensible exceptions to the rule of military obedience, like that rule, itself, derive from a single neo-classical, Huntingtonian standard (binding to civilian authorities and military officers, alike): the common good. This perspective promises to significantly reduce the range of disagreement over the limits of military obedience, both in theory and in practice.


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This monograph may appeal to military leaders and officers, corporate leaders, and those carrying out a mission for the common good. This work reviews the neo-classical and historical Huntingtonian standard that binds civilian authorities with military officers for the common good.  Readers will gain a deeper foundation of both the American constitutional law basis, and neo-classical political theory basis, for common good mission benefits.  Students researching materials in subjects such as neoclassical theory, political theory, global political economy, philosophy, laws of democracy, and constitutional law classes may be interested in this work as a supplemental text for writing essays and term papers.

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Defense Dept., Army, Strategic Studies Institute
  • Atkinson, Robert E. Jr.
Key Phrases:
  • Limits of Military Officers Duty to Obey Civilian Orders
  • Neo Classical Perspective
  • Huntington, Samuel P., Soldier and the State
  • Civil Supremacy Over the Military
  • Civil Military Relations
  • Military Ethics
  • Obedience (Law), Moral and Ethical Aspects
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