Ethics for Military Profession

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An inescapable sense of materialism and self-gratification prevails in contemporary western society. The result of which is to experience difficulty when defining moral conduct as an individual, or within an organisation. The foundation of successful conduct by members of the military profession is a codified set of ethical standards. A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards (Australian Professional Standards Council, 2018). This group is recognised by the public to possess special knowledge and skills, derived from research, education, and training at a high level (Manuel, 1981).

Professionals are prepared to apply their knowledge, and exercise their skills, to meet the interests of their clients. Members who undertake the calling of military service enter the profession of arms, a service widely regarded recognised by wider society as crucial and necessary. From an Australian context, entering service requires a degree of education, possession of adequate physical fitness, good performance in psychometric evaluations, and swearing to uphold one’s duties in the interests of their client, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and by way of extension, the people of Australia.

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Ethics are necessary for the military profession as it provides a framework for fulfilling their obligations to their clients, and humanity at large. Ethics is largely subjective and heavily influenced by society. Historically speaking, the concept of chastity was deemed a virtuous quality by Western civilisation. However, as secularist thought and liberalism are given rise, moral expectations are expected to change. So too must the standards expected of members within the military profession, as the need to adapt to change arises. Differentiation between the changing character of war, and its continuous nature, as highlighted by Clausewitz (On War, 1832), serves as context for the profession of arms, and distinguishes leadership and command, sustainment, and planning as distinct from their civilian equivalents (Australian Army doctrine).

A degree of manoeuvrability in ‘ethical correctness’ must exist, otherwise conflict at the individual and organisational scale is guaranteed. Such manoeuvrability shouldn’t be at the detriment to wider society, as leeway cannot be awarded to military professionals when their actions are deemed immoral or crimes against humanity. The Nuremberg Principles, formulated by the United Nations upon conclusion of World War II in 1945, state that the mere fact a person acted on the order of a superior, does not relieve them of responsibility under international law. As such, the importance of an ethical framework for the military profession cannot be stressed enough, as it ensures the service of military professionals exceeds their client’s expectations, whilst operating in accordance to the standards defined by international law.

For the military profession, the ends can never justify unethical means. As sworn custodians of legalised violence, absolving oneself from the consequences of one’s actions is an easy feat in the absence of an ethical framework. The effects of which would erode esprit de corps and blur the distinction between a military professional and mercenary. Greater understanding of the military profession is required, especially when evaluating whether designated ethical standards comply with those of the society in which they are sworn to serve.

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Ethics for Military Profession. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
“Ethics for Military Profession.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Ethics for Military Profession. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 May 2024].
Ethics for Military Profession [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 May 18]. Available from:

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