Obedience is integral to the military, to society, and to communities. To bring individuals together to work cohesively and successfully towards a common goal, be it seizing an objective on the battlefield, creating an enduring political or social project, or simply running a local soup kitchen, obedience must be present. But how many of us, whether soldiers or civilians, ever stop to consider just what obedience is? Is obedience a core military virtue? Is it a core civilian virtue, and if so why? Why should soldiers or citizens be obedient? When should they be disobedient? And how might or should conflicting or overlapping obediences influence the conduct of modern American citizen-soldiers?
These questions are the driving force behind Pauline Shanks Kaurin
's nuanced, insightful meditation on the nature of obedience, On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for the Military, Citizenry, and Community
(Naval Institute Press, 2020). Dr. Kaurin convincingly argues that our current understanding of obedience is incomplete. While legal and pragmatic definitions abound, few have substantively addressed obedience's moral dimensions. Kaurin offers a welcome corrective to this oversight, forcefully advocating for the cultivation of "critical obedience" in the military, in civil society, and in our communities. An important work in the field of military ethics, On Obedience
provides a robust framework for thinking not only about our future as soldiers and citizens, but about how obedience, as a social and cultural factor, shaped our shared political and military past.
Pauline Shanks Kaurin holds a PhD in Philosophy from Temple University, with a specialization in military ethics, just war theory, and applied ethics. Currently, she is a Professor of Professional Military Ethics at the US Naval War College.