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American Soldiers as Deontologists

The fundamental aspect of being a soldier is the acceptance and willingness to follow all the rules given by one’s superiors. The power hierarchy is, thus, very important in the military and army bases. Due to this, soldiers usually experience personal battles regarding whether to take an order as expected or whether to use their ethics to make decisions. This essay aims to determine whether soldiers are morally right when making decisions based on their duties. The paper will show that the United States soldiers are good deontologists, as they always act in the best interest of the army and the United States government. However, this does not make them moral, as the categorical imperative theory states.

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Deontology is a normative ethical theory, which states that morality should be judged based on the duties of an individual. Therefore, if someone acts due to the duty or role they have, then the person is moral. For a soldier, deontology offers the easiest and best way of making decisions while on the battlefield. For example, if a soldier kills other soldiers to win the battle and to prevent enemy soldiers from killing him and his army, then this soldier is doing his duty and his actions are moral. Despite the loyal following of orders and always acting upon one’s duty, the concept of categorical imperative shows how wrong it is for one to judge morality based on duty.

There are three maxims in categorical imperative that can be cited in an attempt to prove that soldiers may be good deontologists, but this does not make them moral. The categorical imperative states that people have a ‘factor’ that will always tell them what to do, despite their wishes. For example, imagine the case of a thief stealing to feed his family. The thief may understand that the action is wrong; however, the ‘factors’, which are poverty and hunger, force him to steal. In the case of a soldier, the duties and roles assigned are the ‘factors’ that control the soldier’s decisions.

The first maxim in the categorical imperative is the universal principle. The principle states that morally right actions are those that can be applied to everyone, every time. However, some soldiers refuse to follow the rules required in their roles due to this universal principle. It means that the soldiers can also agree to be killed so that they do not kill other soldiers. The second maxim is the human dignity principle, which states that people should not be used as a means to an end. Indeed, soldiers are a means to an end; they are usable and disposable. Moreover, the long history of war has taught the society that soldiers are replaceable. This sad fact goes against human dignity, as no one should be used as a means to an end. Finally, the autonomy principle states that people should not accept laws that they cannot support. Thus, if the soldier’s ethics go against the roles and duties designated, then the soldier has the right to refuse his duties.

In conclusion, soldiers are good deontologists when they allow the army to use them, kill enemy soldiers, and lie to gather intelligence. The soldiers do their duties as soldiers in every aspect. However, this does not make them morally right. The categorical imperative theory gives three factors that have to be considered when analyzing an individual’s duty. These three maxims are the universal principle, the human dignity principle, and the autonomy principle.

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