The top US nuclear commander General John Hyten said on 19 November 2017 while addressing international security forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.
Is it insubordination or a warning to the political leadership to desist from adventurism? Some may misread it as military highhandedness and some may consider it a plain speak that Generals responsible for the national security are supposed to do. Three issues that emerge clearly from the statement of US General are that a military commander should have the moral courage to say no to the unjust orders because military decisions must be taken by following laid down legal decision making process. Second, application of military power is last resort and indiscriminate use of this power is detrimental to the regional and global peace. Third, important issue that rises out of this statement is that violation of institutional mechanism of decision making process is bad in the eyes of law. Moreover, policies formed without a clear understanding of the fall out of a conflict will put citizens and soldiers under avoidable risk. Eric Wester wrote in Parameter in Summer 2007, that persistent ethical questions regarding pre-emption are directly linked to Just War theory, particularly when it comes to the standard of war as a “last resort. A general will be justified to say no to illegal orders if it does not fulfil the basic principle of use of military force for just cause.
The statement made by General John Hyten is applicable to the military leadership across the globe that Generals have a duty to say no to unjust orders. The moral and legal obligation of the military leadership is to the Constitution and not to the individuals. To say no to unjust orders generals do require moral courage and unquestionable loyalty to the nation.