We think of a soldierÕs honor in terms of military discipline and service to a cause.
But William FeliceÕs book How Do I Save My Honor? focuses on the times when refusing to serve might be the honorable thing to do.
Felice, a professor of political science at Eckerd College, examines the moral responsibilities not only of soldiers but of government officials during times of war. Although he devotes some space to the conduct of soldiers in the field, he is less concerned with the shooters at My Lai or the jailers of Abu Ghraib than he is with the people who give them their orders and shape the policy behind those orders.
Much of the book focuses on the current war in Iraq, from FeliceÕs interview about its moral ambiguities with utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer to an analysis of the actions of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in the selling of the war.
But Felice places the concept of resignation to protest a war policy in historical context with case studies of men who did just that. William Jennings Bryan, secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson, resigned to protest the nationÕs entry into World War I. Cyrus Vance, Jimmy CarterÕs secretary of state, resigned in 1980 when military leaders did an end run around Vance to persuade Carter to undertake Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrous attempt to rescue 53 American hostages being held in Tehran.
Felice looks at the resignations of several members of Tony BlairÕs government over Iraq Ñ as well as the decision by U.S. State Department intelligence expert Wayne White to stay on in the Bush administration and work against the war from within. How Do I Save My Honor? is a challenging, thoughtful look at a highly complex question.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435. She blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.
How Do I Save My Honor? War, Moral Integrity and Principled Resignation
By William F. Felice
Rowman & Littlefield, 240 pages, $29.95
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Meet the author
William Felice will be interviewed by St. Petersburg Times book editor Colette Bancroft at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Fox Hall at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg; free.
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William Felice will be a featured author at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 24 on the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.