Toner (2003, p.1), in discussing military ethics, established a main thesis:
“… military ethics deals with us learning what is good and true, and then we have the courage to do and be what we should do and what we should be, because military ethics does not deal with its successes or failures or it does not deal with its virtues or vices: military ethics deals with our military heritage and history and deals with our responsibility to be men and women of character.”
Thus, military ethics is based on three infinitives, that is, the “duty” in the sense that the military is indebted to something; the “ordering” in the sense of establishing a hierarchy; and “duty” with the sense of being the obligated individual.
In this judgment, it is first necessary to understand that the proper existence of military ethics is tied to the concept of being obligated. That is, if the individual has the exact notion why he is, and of which he is has the obligation, he will then be able to recognize the existence of obligation, duty and responsibility, which will lead him to moral thought as well as to ethical reasoning.
Here the individual has the exact notion that, like all his other alike, he has an understanding of moral debt to other individuals, with moral limits that sets him apart from an immature child, which has no limits and minimal sense of responsibility.
The second concept worked is to “order”, which in this case does not refer to the action of the superior in front of his subordinate. Here what is portrayed is the hierarchy of values; ethical priorities; and moral structuring. Assuming a soldier faced with a simple dilemma between defending an interest in his military organization, to the detriment of an interest of his institution. Interests that, although theoretically convergent, at that moment were simultaneous and dissonant. Would it be right for the soldier to omit information or even lie to secure that interest in the military organization? Certainly not.
Here arises the need for a solid, and above all sensible, order in which the sense of ordination of the individual would be in focus and, according to which, the interests of the State would be priorities and would even precede the institutional ones; the latter, in turn, would be preceding the organizational ones and so on. Although such a situation may be considered rare, it certainly is not, and not infrequently the individual is faced with an ethical dilemma of distinct interests and is forced to decide according to ethical priority.
The third concept refers to “duty”, now in the sense that the individual has an obligation to do. The issue addressed here, which is often presented, consists of a tension between military authority orders and the demands of ethical command.
That is, respect for hierarchy and military discipline requires obedience to the orders and prompt intellectual discipline of the individual. It occurs that these can sometimes be in disagreement with the consciousness of this individual. The power and authority of the positive norm (what is) is contrary to the ethical, or to what the natural law says.
It does not seem necessary to approach theological or philosophical referential. In fact, the question may even seem complex, but the military man who practices reprehensible action in compliance with the order of a superior will only have an acceptable defense if, in the face of this action, he did not know or could not reasonably suppose that the order was morally illegal, natural standard. In this case, proper military ethics are related not only to what is being ordered, but also to what should be done.
To stagger the three concepts mentioned, that is, “duty” (obligation commitment); “ordering” (moral structure); and “responsibility” (obligation), three other knowledge appear. They are the “rules”; the “results” and the “reality”.
The first one refers to the rules. It is interesting to note that the rules are proper presuppositions of ethics. The teaching of rules constitutes shortcuts to the moral disciplines of training children and young people, including the military. But it should be said that the rules, while very important and virtuous, should not be the sole foundations for the creation of military ethics, since they do not construct a “logical moral tree.”
A second knowledge refers to the “result”. According to Toner (2003), the more experienced the military, the greater the tendency towards pragmatism. That is, higher ranking militaries tend to be utilitarian. In this case, the “result” is the most relevant question and the consequence. But here is another aspect that deserves comment.
In attributing value to the “result,” one can imagine that the expression “the ends justify the means” is correct. Obviously, when discussing ethics, such a situation cannot be considered admissible, where even beneficial purposes can justify any means of attaining them. The example that shows the question is the question of whether winning the battle at any cost would justify the injured or the number of deaths.