duty, military ethics, obligation, particularism, scandal, virtue
Recently it has come to light that female members of the Marines and other branches of the military have been victims of a photo-sharing network, in which nude pictures of female service members were distributed in a wide-scale fashion without their consent. In some cases, this practice even involved targeting specific individuals for exploitation or harassment, encouraging others to track them down at their posts or residences, or suggesting that they should be sexually assaulted.
This is appalling behavior on any level, and treating anyone in such a way is shameful and immoral. It seems to me, however, that it is especially egregious that these actions have been perpetrated by service members against other service members. That is, the victims and instigators of this attack are supposed to be comrades in arms, bound together not only by common cause, but by brotherhood or sisterhood. More than anyone else, they have a duty to protect and uphold each other’s well-being, to fight for and with each other. The failure to uphold that standard makes this not only a violation of basic decency and regard for fellow humans, but a sin against martial virtue itself.
In a broader sense, one thing that Honor gets right about ethics is that we have attachments and duties toward certain people, beyond and above general considerations toward others. Whereas this sort of particularism is often seen as contrary to morality (which is supposed to depend upon impartiality), I would argue instead that upholding such personal bonds, obligations, and values is in fact a component of exercising virtue. We have special duties toward our families, friends, allies, and even certain causes, which form part of the conceptual and ontological grounding for traits such as loyalty, integrity, and even courage. I see this feature of honor-based ethics as one of its strengths, which is one reason why this scandal infecting the military is particularly disturbing.