It is normal for military commanders to be relieved of duty for losing the “trust and confidence” of their superiors. Civilian leaders have relieved commanders over public disputes before — as was the case in 2010 for the commanding general of the war in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal.
Here’s what’s unusual in this case: As military ethicist Pauline Shanks Kaurin has argued, members of the military are subject to multiple, sometimes competing, loyalties. Unlike most cases of poor judgment or policy disagreement, this case involves an officer who believed he had to choose between loyalty to his people and loyalty to the rules of his organization. The military leadership appears to be saying Crozier showed poor judgment in privileging his loyalty to his people over loyalty to the institution.