How Do I Save My Honor?: War, Moral Integrity, and Principled Resignation

How Do I Save My Honor?: War, Moral Integrity, and Principled Resignation

by William F. Felice
     
 

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How Do I Save My Honor? is a powerful exploration of individual moral responsibility in a time of war. When people decide that the actions of their government have violated basic norms of ethics and justice, what are they to do? Are there degrees of moral responsibility that public officials, soldiers, and private citizens bear for unethical actions of their leaders

Overview

How Do I Save My Honor? is a powerful exploration of individual moral responsibility in a time of war. When people decide that the actions of their government have violated basic norms of ethics and justice, what are they to do? Are there degrees of moral responsibility that public officials, soldiers, and private citizens bear for unethical actions of their leaders and government? William F. Felice considers these central ethical questions through the compelling stories of individuals in the U.S. and British government and military who struggled to protect their moral integrity during the Iraq war and occupation. Some came to the difficult conclusion that resignation from their post was necessary to maintain their responsibility to the truth and to uphold their honor. Others decided to work from within to try to correct what they perceived as misguided policies. Examining the struggles of these contemporary men and women, as well as of historical figures facing similar dilemmas, William Felice weighs the profound difficulties of overcoming the intense pressures of misguided loyalty, patriotism, and groupthink that predominate during war.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

That iconic Bush administration dilemma-how should military or State Department functionaries have registered their opposition to the Iraq War?-is mulled over in this philosophical treatise-cum-antiwar manifesto. Taking Colin Powell as an object lesson, political scientist Felice leans toward "principled resignation" rather than working within government to change policy as the more honorable and effective response for government officials charged with prosecuting a war they thought was wrong. His scholarly backdrop cites just war theory, philosophers from Aristotle to Kant and Thoreau, and his own interview with ethicist Peter Singer, but he relies on case studies of American and British officials and soldiers who resigned, or refused to fight, to carry the argument. Through their rambling statements, the author rehashes a substantive brief against war and its justifications, and hammers home high-minded verities about ordinary citizens' duty to resist unjust wars. The book seems aimed at a limited audience that is both convinced of the war's immorality and positioned to derail, not just deplore it. Other readers may find it less than incisive. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Human Rights Quarterly
Felice's book represents a clear, committed, even passionate cry for moral integrity, particularly with respect to the public right to know in instances of war, belligerence, or states of emergency. His analysis refers to a range of philosophical approaches including realism, utilitarian consequentialism, and deontological theories of reason and right. He stresses the importance of moral obligation in all circumstances involving hierarchical command, combat, and war. His reflections on deontology and human rights, civil disobedience, and Machiavellian notions, and 'dirty hands' provide useful guideposts toward a deeper philosophical understanding of the central issues at play. . . . Felice has written a clear and well argued presentation that outlines the costs to a democratic polity for a dishonorable loyalty and the need for deliberative politics that is renewed by the honor of moral integrity expressed through principles of resignation in protest.
March 2010 Choice
This analysis makes an important contribution to the literature on international ethics, providing both a philosophical exploration of wartime moral obligations and illustrations of how individuals have sought to address incompatible moral claims. . . . Recommended.
St. Petersburg Times
We think of a soldier's honor in terms of military discipline and service to a cause. But William Felice's book How Do I Save My Honor? focuses on the times when refusing to serve might be the honorable thing to do. . . . A challenging, thoughtful look at a highly complex question.
Perspectives On Politics
Weighty and informative. . . . Among How Do I Save My Honor?’s most compelling arguments is the author’s juxtaposition of Powell’s post-Vietnam vow to resist half-baked, poorly understood, and insufficiently supported reasons for war with his role in facilitating the 2003 invasion of Iraq as secretary of state. . . . Political scientists, military professionals, and citizens would do well to discuss, debate, and reflect on the validity of Felice’s blistering critique of Powell’s distinction between 'ethical' and 'policy' reservations. . . . [A] serious book . . . [that] deserves the attention of political scientists and, especially, military professionals.
International Studies Review
Felice's analysis draws our attention to an individual-level morality—virtue and moral integrity—as opposed to concepts such as rules, rights or duties which demarcate the general structure of the moral world. Chapter 3, 'Ethical Theory and War,' articulates the limits of this world in an exposition of admirable clarity.
International Journal Of Intelligence Ethics
William F. Felice . . . makes a powerful, persuasive, and at times quite poignant case. . . . Should we wish to avoid further fiascos, we would be wise to consider Felice’s counsel to cultivate an ethic of principled resignation, one that would lower if not eliminate entirely the costs of exit and voice in our nation’s government and military, most especially during time of war.
Fall 2009 Human Rights Quarterly
Felice's book represents a clear, committed, even passionate cry for moral integrity, particularly with respect to the public right to know in instances of war, belligerence, or states of emergency. His analysis refers to a range of philosophical approaches including realism, utilitarian consequentialism, and deontological theories of reason and right. He stresses the importance of moral obligation in all circumstances involving hierarchical command, combat, and war. His reflections on deontology and human rights, civil disobedience, and Machiavellian notions, and 'dirty hands' provide useful guideposts toward a deeper philosophical understanding of the central issues at play. . . . Felice has written a clear and well argued presentation that outlines the costs to a democratic polity for a dishonorable loyalty and the need for deliberative politics that is renewed by the honor of moral integrity expressed through principles of resignation in protest.
Richard Falk
A fascinating and urgently needed exploration of moral responsibility in wartime, focusing on the complex realities and demands since 9/11. This engagingly written and well-researched study challenges each of us to honor our better selves.
Joel H. Rosenthal
Felice has written the most important moral analysis yet of the Bush-Blair years. He exposes the limits of those who argue from 'moral certainty' and recovers the deeply held democratic principle of 'loyal opposition.' I hope every young and aspiring leader will read this book and ponder its lessons.
Perspectives on Politics
Weighty and informative. . . . Among How Do I Save My Honor?’s most compelling arguments is the author’s juxtaposition of Powell’s post-Vietnam vow to resist half-baked, poorly understood, and insufficiently supported reasons for war with his role in facilitating the 2003 invasion of Iraq as secretary of state. . . . Political scientists, military professionals, and citizens would do well to discuss, debate, and reflect on the validity of Felice’s blistering critique of Powell’s distinction between 'ethical' and 'policy' reservations. . . . [A] serious book . . . [that] deserves the attention of political scientists and, especially, military professionals.
March 2010 CHOICE
This analysis makes an important contribution to the literature on international ethics, providing both a philosophical exploration of wartime moral obligations and illustrations of how individuals have sought to address incompatible moral claims. . . . Recommended.
Anthony R. Brunello
This book provides a brilliant journey through the ethical labyrinth of principled resignation in the face of political pressure, loyalty and war.
CHOICE
This analysis makes an important contribution to the literature on international ethics, providing both a philosophical exploration of wartime moral obligations and illustrations of how individuals have sought to address incompatible moral claims. . . . Recommended.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780742566682
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
08/16/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
File size:
312 KB

What People are saying about this

Joel H. Rosenthal
Felice has written the most important moral analysis yet of the Bush-Blair years. He exposes the limits of those who argue from 'moral certainty' and recovers the deeply held democratic principle of 'loyal opposition.' I hope every young and aspiring leader will read this book and ponder its lessons.
Richard Falk
A fascinating and urgently needed exploration of moral responsibility in wartime, focusing on the complex realities and demands since 9/11. This engagingly written and well-researched study challenges each of us to honor our better selves.
Anthony R. Brunello
This book provides a brilliant journey through the ethical labyrinth of principled resignation in the face of political pressure, loyalty and war.

Meet the Author

William F. Felice is professor of political science at Eckerd College.

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