3

I've come across a military question which is so subtle that I think it has to be answered from a philosophical perspective, dealing with the meaning of "duty" and nuanced things like that.

In many militaries, the enlisted and officers take different oaths. In the US, the Oath of Enlistment is subtly different than that of the Oath of Commissioned Officers.

From what I can tell, it is generally accepted that these oaths do not end upon retirement. There are many proud veterans who consider themselves to be bound by these oaths still. So that is clear.

What I'm interested in is the effects of an enlisted individual being promoted into the officers corps. In such a case, they will have sworn to two oaths, which are different.

Does the officer's oath supplant the enlisted oath, ending its effects? Is the officer's oath considered to already contain everything in the enlisted oath? There's many philosophical arguments about the fact that the enlisted oath includes an agreement to follow the orders of the president while the officer's oath does not.

These seem like nuanced questions about duty, and I cannot find any regulatory documents on the topic, which suggests to me that this is a question for military philosophy. It strikes me as there should be some historical philosophical opinions on the topic. (And there's no military stack exchange)

  • 2
    Official site of the marines explains explicitly:"Why are the two oaths different and what does it mean that officers do not swear obedience to the president or higher ranking officers? This concept traces back to the intentions of the Founding Fathers...This ensures no single branch or person gains too much power and becomes corrupted. By swearing allegiance to a set of ideals and laws, our military is not bound by the orders of a single person, but are dedicated to the defense of the people and their way of life". So O overrides E, and the Constitution overrides both. – Conifold Jul 13 '18 at 4:34
  • There is no distinction in the UK, everyone swears allegiance to the Queen, except for Naval recruits; their allegiance is assumed because they are members of "Her Majesty's Naval Service." which is controlled (theoretically) by the Monarch, not parliament. – JeffUK Jul 13 '18 at 15:56
  • @Conifold Thank you for finding that. I used what you wrote to find the article you mentioned, and agree it's very useful for drawing the implication that O overrides E. – Cort Ammon Jul 13 '18 at 15:58
  • @JeffUK That's fascinating to me. I love little tiny differences between the way my country does things and how other countries do those things! – Cort Ammon Jul 13 '18 at 15:59
  • @Cort Ammon. I've deleted my answer because it misses the angle of your question. I'll think and see if I can come up with something that addresses your - perfectly interesting - concerns. – Geoffrey Thomas Jul 13 '18 at 22:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.