Toner discusses how the uniqueness of the military profession creates a set of expectations of the warfighter during military operations. How they should engage with enemy combatants and noncombatants, and the codes and traditions that history has shaped for them. Societies develop cultures through shared experiences, and those cultures develop norms that manifest in specific ways for its warfighters; the ethics that they must follow or be judged to have violated.
It is from the way that militaries that develop their codes and ethics that businesses can learn to adapt. Since the consequences of warfare are naturally more severe than that of business ventures, businesses can still suffer from unethical behavior. Learning the ways in which warriors shape their traditions so that its people can act as moral agents under the extreme duress of combat, can also be taught to your people.
Toner will cover what makes the military profession different from that of others. He will discuss the nature of the United States Military and its government. How to train ethical responses into your people and how to shape their educational curriculum. It is a quick and easy read, and its greatest value is in how to assess ethical quandaries and act accordingly. Perfect for decision-makers.
He identities that social norms are for the betterment of society, and ethics becomes a tool to ensure that individual and group behavior don't work against them. He states, "As a moral philosophy, ethics is about trying to separate right from wrong, honor from shame, virtue from vice."
Ethics is used to harm those that work against the whole, and since humans are social creatures, we desire to fall in line lest we damage our reputation and socially ostracize ourselves. We feel it is "right" to support a norm, while it is "wrong" to violate it. We feel it is "honorable" to act at your own expense, while it is "shameful" to do it at the expense of others. We feel it is "virtuous" to impose self-control and reason behind our actions, while it is "vicious" to act uncontrollably or unreasonably. It is understandable that social creatures, like humans, would evolve to develop socially beneficial paradigms like this, as the collective effort to follow norms through an informal application of ethics provides an overall positive outcome to the advancement of societies.
That being said, Toner identifies four sources of ethics that we use to judge the action of others. "It is important to note that ethical conduct normally is based upon a wise blending of customs, rules, outcomes, and circumstances. Blindly following the dictates of one source alone can lead to trouble." Whether an action is ethical or not is difficult to determine due to the many variables that go into the decision to act. With these four categories, we have a process to determine whether specific actions we could take are ethical by themselves.