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A Reassessment of Duty and Commitment in the Military

Dr. Ibanga B. Ikpe

Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Philosophy

University of Botswana


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An important aspect of a soldier’s training relates to duty; duty to self, duty to comrades, duty to country, and duty to the profession. It is these cardinal duties that define professionalism in any military and it is these cardinal duties that are often lacking in a praetorian soldier. Although the military in general prides itself as honouring these duties both in armed engagements and in its relation to civil society, soldiers have often been found wanting when the need for social solidarity and humanism makes demands upon their conscience. In such situations, the ethos that should direct the soldier's actions appears blurred and the military founders in its responsibility to the vulnerable. It is in such situations that the perception of duty in the military becomes important, especially as the military becomes more involved in enforcing the will of the “international community” or some powerful sections of it. In this paper, I argue that whereas duty to self, duty to comrades and duty to country are properly understood by the military, duty to the profession is seemingly opaque. Thus, in a situation of conflict, a soldier’s duty to the profession is often overlooked. In view of the above I argue that humanity can only be protected from the instruments of violence that is at the command of the soldier if the soldier’s duty to the profession is adequately addressed. This does not only have implications for the concept of duty but also for the concept of obedience within the military. In view of this, I argue that duty to humanity legitimately overrides every other duty both within and outside the military and should legitimately direct human actions and emotions.


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