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How Do I Save My Honor?

War, Moral Integrity, and Principled Resignation

William F. Felice

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. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 240Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7425-6666-8 • Hardback • April 2009 • $69.00 • (£47.95)
978-0-7425-6667-5 • Paperback • August 2009 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
978-0-7425-6668-2 • eBook • August 2009 • $37.99 • (£24.95)
William F. Felice is professor of political science at Eckerd College.
Chapter 1: The Moral Obligations of Civil Servants and Soldiers
Chapter 2: Ethical Theory and War
Chapter 3: Staying-In: Colin Powell and Wayne White
Chapter 4: Getting-Out: Brady Kiesling, John Brown, and Ann Wright
Chapter 5: The Ethical Soldier: Ehren Watada and Aidan Delgado
Chapter 6: Britain: Resignations from the Blair Government
Chapter 7: Individual Moral Responsibility in a Time of War
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.
Human Rights Quarterly

[Felice's] 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.
Publishers Weekly

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.
St. Petersburg Times

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.
Perspectives on Politics

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.

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 Studies Review

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.
International Journal Of Intelligence Ethics

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.
Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University

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.
Joel H. Rosenthal, president, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

This book provides a brilliant journey through the ethical labyrinth of principled resignation in the face of political pressure, loyalty and war.
Anthony R. Brunello, Eckerd College

Presents a compelling argument in favor of an ethic of principled resignation

Draws on the author's extensive personal interviews

Analyzes the actions of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and State Department intelligence expert Wayne White, both of whom remained in the government despite reservations about the Iraq war

Assesses the decisions of Brady Kiesling, John Brown, and Ann Wright, the only members of the U.S. Foreign Service to resign from the government due to ethical disagreement with the war in Iraq

Traces the decisions of two soldiers, Ehren Watada and Aidan Delgado, to refuse to serve in Iraq

Considers the resignations of key members of the Blair government in Britain who resigned to protest the war in Iraq

Explores how theories of ethics can help to clarify these issues of personal responsibility in a time of war

Includes three historical case studies of public servants who struggled with the ethics of principled resignation: Secretary of State Williams Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and General Harold Johnson