As citizens of the United States of America we are all governed by a certain set of rules. These laws are set forth by our elected officials. These laws deal with almost all aspects of life including morally wrong actions such as murder and theft. However, these laws do not govern many other moral choices such as adultery. As members of the United States Armed Forces, we are also regulated by an additional set of rules. We must abide by the sanctions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Unlike our state laws, the UCMJ does have articles that address the subject of adultery. The UCMJ articles that now pertain to adulterous actions are very strict and limit personal choice. These articles should be reviewed and changed so that the law is clearer and so that there is one standard, which has fewer repercussions.
On the other hand, some people believe that military personnel should be held to a higher standard. These people believe that adulterous relationships disrupt the “good order and discipline in the armed forces” (UCMJ 1). Proponents of the UCMJ law against adulterous relationships argue that adultery is morally wrong. They also believe that it goes against everything that the military stands for and that a soldiers “conduct is a direct reflection of each and every member of” the United States Armed Forces (Benin 31). Just as Rene Descartes said, “To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they think” (Benin 32). Civilian citizens definitely draw conclusions about the military from what they see and hear in the media rather than from listening to what the person involved has to say. And many people believe that adultery is wrong in any case. They also consider it a breach of disciple, integrity, loyalty, and perhaps most importantly, honor. The United States Armed Forces is based on the principles oh honor. “Honor is a strict adherence to the military standards of conduct…lying, cheating, stealing, and deceit are forms of behavior that will not be tolerated” (Benin 32). Adultery is grave action that includes three of these four forms of behavior. It is the epitome of “breaking a promise,” and “deceiving someone” because of the serious commitments made within a marriage (Wasserstrom 192). The breaking of a promise and deception are what make adultery morally wrong (Wasserstrom 192-3).
Some opponents of adultery use “the Principle of Utility” as a basis for their views. “This principle requires that whenever we have a choice between alternative actions or social policies, we must choose the one that has best overall consequences for everyone concerned” (Rachels 97). The opponents of adultery believe that adultery does more damage than good. It does harm to the person being deceived, and in the military, it can “disrupt moral and functioning in a military unit” (Capitol 1). In the adultery case of 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn USAF, the first female B-52 bomber pilot, the functioning of her military unit was definitely disrupted. Lt. Flinn lied “about an affair she had with the husband of an enlisted woman” (Capitol 2). “Lt. Flinn was charged with fraternization, disobeying a direct order, lying, conduct unbecoming to an officer, and she was charged with adultery. If you add up all the charges, they come back again to activities, alleged activities, that compromise good order and discipline” (Double 2). She compromised the honor and integrity of the United States Air Force, herself, of the enlisted woman, with whose husband she slept with. In this example, Utilitarianism disapproves of Lt. Flinn’s actions because her choice did not produce the best consequences for everyone concerned.
On the other hand, many people believe that personal choices, such as sexual ethics, should not be governed within the military. According to a recent poll, taken by the Gallup Organization-Princeton, “the public is not convinced that extramarital sex should be subject to punishment within the military” (Gallup 1). According to the Gallup poll, about 49 percent of Americans believe that there should be “no prohibitions on adultery” in the military (Gallup 3). They believe that adultery, whether morally wrong or right, should be an individual’s personal choice. Many proponents of adultery use the Natural Law theory to back their claim. Natural Law theory, also described as the “Natural Order of Things,” says, “the ‘laws of nature’ specify how things ought to be as well as describing how things are” (Rachels 6). Supporters of Natural Law theory believe that if “god” had intended for humans to be monogamous, he would not have given us urges to explore sexual relations with partners other than those we are married to. It is only natural for humans to act on these urges and fill these desires.
There are also people that do not disagree fully with the laws now in place. These people think that there should be one set rule that takes a definite stance on the topic of adultery. Each branch of the service must abide by the rules set forth in the UCMJ but each service also has its own set of bylaws that address the subject. For example, in the Coast Guard, officers and enlisted personnel are not allowed to have any relations outside of a professional one. While the Army does not have any rules which restrict officer and enlisted relations, as long as the two parties are not in the same chain of command (New 2). Many people believe that this situation may be creating a double standard for military personnel involved in adulterous situations. In the past few years, a few situations have arose that deal with adultery in the military. The first case involved Army Major General John Longhouser, the commanding general of the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. After the allegations were brought to him he admitted “he had had an adulterous relationship with a civilian while he was separated with his wife five years ago” (Double 2). As a result, he was retired at reduced rank. Another instance of adultery in the military was brought to light when Air Force General Joseph Ralston, a candidate for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted to an affair with a civilian fifteen years ago (Double 2). Unlike Major General Longhouser, General Ralston was not asked to retire; instead General Ralston was named as Defense Secretary William Cohen’s first choice for the staff position. The third case deals with Lt. Flinn. Lt. Flinn was not given a promotion, she was not asked to retire, she was given a dishonorable discharge form the military. Many people, including myself believe that this is a double standard. Even the highest-ranking officers should be held to the same standards as a junior enlisted person. An admiral or a general should be held to even higher standards because they are the main representation of the Armed Forces. They are the people that are in the media and in the spotlight in times of crisis. They are the people that the recruits look up to and aspire to be. I do not believe that the UCMJ laws against adultery should be eliminated, but I do believe that they should be changed as to set a standard for the entire Armed Forces. These rules should be abided by and if they are breached, there should be similar consequences for everyone.