The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) Resident Fellow Christopher Hill gave a paper at the 2013 McCain Conference at the United States Naval Academy held April 25-26, 2013 in Annapolis, Maryland. Along with the other visiting scholars at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, Professor Hill summed up his findings after a year’s seminar on the U.S. status as a great power, and on potential military ethics concerns at a time when the U.S. faces a number of difficult choices.

AHI Resident Fellow Chris Hill

While admitting the possibility of potential U.S. decline in the growing power of China and the continuing tension in the Middle East, Professor Hill struck an optimistic note. U.S. success, he argues, has been based on the maximization of human potential and efficiency through the ideals of freedom and equal protection. While other regions may boast better internal cohesion or the ability to make decisions and alter national policy quickly, in the end they will need to employ enlightenment tolerance and equality if they hope to supply their populations with the comforts of modernity. When they do so, they will change from strategic threats to long-term allies.

In terms of military ethics, Professor Hill suggests that the military take a leading role in finding ways to incentivize savings in the defense budgeting process, in order to strengthen the economy. He also suggests a course given through the ethics departments of the Service Academies on the functioning of the American system – its foundational documents, legislative process, and macroeconomic policy – to give future military leaders a better sense of how the U.S. actually works, and how its design has helped it to achieve hegemonic status.

The annual McCain Conference highlights different ethical challenges confronting the military. Previous conferences have examined issues such as just war theory in the modern world, and the use of drones as weapons. This year’s theme, The Ethical Dimensions of Extraordinary National Challenges, drew an impressive slate of keynote speakers, including Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Hedrick Smith and New York Times op-ed writer David Brooks, noted academics Charles Murray and Robert Lieber, former Under Secretary of Defense Michelle Flournoy, and former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullins.

Professor Hill has commuted to Annapolis this year as the USNA Class of 1962 Visiting Research Fellow.