Obeying the law is a general moral obligation. Usually, laws are written from societal ethical codes; therefore the law can embody morality. Obeying the law usually implies the greatest good for the greatest number of people and therefore complies with Mill’s utilitarianism. Especially if the law reflects general morality or protects people from pain, such as the admonition against murder, utilitarian theorists would argue that obeying the law is a general moral obligation.
However, there are certain situations in which morality transcends the law. Utilitarian philosophy, such as that of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, can be applied to situations in which disobeying the law can be actually considered morally acceptable if the consequence is pleasure for a great number of people. Following orders is of the utmost importance in the military. Obedience is what enables the military to operate in an organized and effective manner which is clearly very important during challenging military situations.
While an individual can question the notion of obedience in daily life, this luxury is often not available in the military where the grand goals and aims require smooth internal functioning and hierarchical coordination. Indeed, many of the standards that would be frowned upon outside the military are essential to the work’s success within. For example, punishment is not deemed to be a positive occurrence in an average person’s life, whereas the military guide maintains that punishment strengthens one’s determination and discipline and enables a person to learn and fully take the importance of following orders in.
Not following orders is not an optional choice that recruits can make upon joining the army. The act of disobedience is considered to be an infractions and a person who placed himself in such a situation can find himself facing Article 15 charges. Thus, respect and obedience is of the utmost significance in the military as it helps maintain the internal structure and enables the military therefore to carry out its operations in confidence.
The importance of orders to the military become clearer when it is taken into account that Article 15 punishments are administered without a jury or judge. The military recognizes that respect for authority is what maintains order and prevents the eruption of chaos and is hence willing to set an example for all who might be tempted to oppose their leaders, by administering these punishments first hand without any judicial representatives. Furthermore, article 90 makes it clearly illegal to disobey an order by a military officer.