Comparative Analysis Of A Few Good Men

1478 words - 6 pages

The motion picture A Few Good Men challenges the question of why Marines obey their superiors’ orders without hesitation. The film illustrates a story about two Marines, Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson and Private First Class Louden Downey charged for the murder of Private First Class William T. Santiago. Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, who is known to be lackadaisical and originally considers offering a plea bargain in order to curtail Dawson’s and Downey’s sentence, finds himself fighting for the freedom of the Marines; their argument: they simply followed the orders given for a “Code Red”. The question of why people follow any order given has attracted much speculation from the world of psychology. Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, conducted an experiment in which randomly selected students were asked to deliver “shocks” to an unknown subject when he or she answered a question wrong. In his article, “The Perils of Obedience”, Milgram concludes anyone will follow an order with the proviso that it is given by an authoritative figure. Two more psychologists that have been attracted to the question of obedience are Herbert C. Kelman, a professor at Harvard University, and V. Lee Hamilton, a professor at the University of Maryland. In their piece, Kelman and Hamilton discuss the possibilities of why the soldiers of Charlie Company slaughtered innocent old men, women, and children. The Marines from the film obeyed the ordered “Code Red” because of how they were trained, the circumstances that were presented in Guantanamo Bay, and they were simply performing their job.
The question of why these Marines obeyed the “Code Red” may be answered by Stanley Milgram’s conclusions from his experiment on obedience. When asked by Kaffee, while in the police station, why they participated in the “Code Red”, Dawson answered by saying they were ordered to haze Santiago to train him. This leads Kaffee to defend his clients on the basis on which they simply followed orders from a higher ranking officer, Colonel Jessup (Reiner). According to Milgram’s experiments, even normal, harmless people are able to inflict pain on another individual. The military is based on a chain of command, the Colonel at the top, Privates at the bottom, and everyone else in between. Milgram argues that, when in problematic circumstances, people are proud of doing a good job for their authority (Milgram 221). In other words, they want to obey the orders given in order to please the person holding authority. Could this explain why Dawson and Downey executed the “Code Red”? This is precisely similar to the argument Kelman and Hamilton present in their article “The My Lai Massacre: A Military Crime of Obedience”. According to these authors, “American military law assumes that the subordinate is inclined to follow orders…” (Kelman, Hamilton 270). The soldiers in My Lai, although possibly interpreting the orders differently than intended, ultimately did what their commanding officer ordered....

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