The degree of obedience of a soldier

Thomas Basan, Canberra, May 24, 2024

Thank you for the article. Inevitably there would be a confrontation between the legal system, the tenants of mission command and the degree of obedience required of a soldier in a democracy.

As you pointed out the Nuremburg Trials rejected slavish obedience to orders as the reason for behaviours and actions. For the Germans each soldier is now obliged, continuously, to reassess their decisions, behaviour and actions on the constitutionality, legality and morality of their mission or task.

A soldier does so to avoid the abuses of human rights that have been repugnant features of the past. They call their model ‘Innere Fuehrung’ (innerguidance). While the German military legal system retains a disciplinary code, the emphasis is on ‘self-discipline’, using Fuehren mit Auftrag (lead by task) within the context of Innere Fuehrung. Essentially the Germans moved to a co-equal leadership model.

Justice Mossop’s decision restricts Australian service personnel to a master-slave model. Mossop hinges his judgement on ‘lawful’ orders, which he assumes are moral and ethical. He also rejects a higher service to either the community or God when personnel decide to execute an order or not.

The problem is Defence doctrine is reliant on mission command.

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