August 15, 2004


I just watched A Few Good Men for the first time since I learned anything about the military. It's not sitting well with me. The moral dilemma is disconcerting, it's a lose-lose situation, and in the end I have no idea what I think. What do you do if you're a servicemember who's given an unlawful order? If you disobey, you may be punished. If you obey, you may be punished. That's a frightening dilemma. Sometimes there's what's right and what's right, and never the twain shall meet.

Posted by Sarah at August 15, 2004 09:29 PM

That's what gives the movie its power, Sarah. There are two stories being told concurrently: that of the Marines trapped by an unlawful order, and that of Danny McCaffrey, who grows to a full appreciation of his place as a lawyer and a Naval officer as a result of his involvement in the case.

Few stories have the moral power of this one.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at August 15, 2004 10:20 PM

Do sensitive, nuanced, morally complex situations only exist in Hollywood?

Posted by: rfidtag at August 16, 2004 03:05 AM

Been there, done that.
You don't obey it.

You stand there and get bitched out by your First Sargeant in front of your cohorts (civillian and military) and then you stand there and get bitched out by your commander.

In combat, however, I have no idea, I like to think I would refuse, unless it was the kind of thing that saved the life of my people. Hmmmm, now that I think of it, I don't see any ambiguity there either.

Now if you're lucky and you have a good supervisor he calls QA who calls the DCM (Deputy Charge of Maintenance) who comes down catches the tail end of the brow beating. He talks to QA, then talks to your supervisor, and you never hear anything at all after that.

Also, if you're lucky, you hear through the grapevine from a guy in the orderly room that the commander's door almost blew its hinges as the commander got bitched out for giving an order for an illegal repair.

Funny part is that we did eventually do the repair, but only because WE contacted depot and got both the procedure and permission for the repair.

Stacking of tolerances...


"We do the right thing because it is the right thing, not merely when it is convenient."
Ambassador D'Lenn, Babylon 5

Posted by: Kalroy at August 16, 2004 03:32 AM

This is precisely the problem we tried to dissect in teaching Honor and Ethics at USAFA. An officer is expected to make decisions based on right and wrong. I guess that's one reason some folks don't like the military. The person who refuses to obey an unlawful order may be punished by the person giving it, but that decision will be eventually reviewed. Someone giving an unlawful order is in far more trouble.

The mothers and fathers of this country entrust their children to military officers, and expect them to do what's right.

Posted by: Mike at August 16, 2004 02:29 PM