View Full Version : The Military and Ethics (catch all)

02-17-2006, 07:37 PM
Moderator's Note

Prompted by a Defence-in-Depth article (part of Kings Wars Studies) pointing to:http://militaryethics.uk/en/ and the courses on offer - including a free MOOC I have looked at the collection of threads on PME and Ethics generally, so some merging comes shortly.:wry: (Ends).

Sent along via e-mail by LtGen Paul Van Riper (USMC Ret.) FYI....

Emerging Doctrine and the Ethics of Warfare (http://www.usafa.af.mil/jscope/JSCOPE06/Challans06.html).

Dr. Tim Challans

School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS)

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Military doctrines are often expressions of current practices. A doctrine will attempt to codify the practice, giving it a vocabulary and a set of concepts in order to help indoctrinate the practitioner more fully into abiding by that particular practice. The alignment of doctrine with the military’s training and practice makes doctrine very important, and this important doctrine business continues to grow, influencing in turn our training and practice. The joint world of the American military is articulating a doctrine that describes its current practice, and this doctrine is gaining momentum at such a rate that we will hardly notice when its unofficial status becomes official. This doctrine is referred to as the effects-based approach (EBA), and operations within this approach are called effects-based operations (EBO). As I intimated up front, we have been training and practicing along these lines for some time. The doctrine is going to formalize what we have developed informally. More and more commanders and headquarters across the services are adopting the language of this doctrine; the doctrine writers are working hard so that our doctrinal literature can keep pace with the development. I want to offer a critique of EBA by starting with my most important claim. The effects-based approach is morally bereft, and our moral challenges will only increase as we continue to embrace this doctrine. EBA lacks any moral quality because it fails in every sense as a theory. The theory of the effects-based approach rests on several mistakes, and I will deal with them in turn. EBA rests on metaphysical, epistemological, and logical mistakes. We should expect mostly mistakes as a result of a practice resting on a mistaken theory, for only by accident and not by design could anything good come out of it...

...Well, the first mistake that EBA rests on is a metaphysical mistake because of the way it handles the topic of causation. The mistake is very simple to explain. Philosophers who deal with the topic of causation think of cause and effect as being operative in the physical world, the mechanical world, the world of solid objects that abide by the laws of physics. Within the effects-based approach, the military is attempting to cause effects outside the realm of the physical world; they are trying to bring effects about in the realm of human activity. Causation is not the proper concept when dealing with human activity. A more proper topic of study than causal theory when dealing with human activity is the topic of a theory of action. Action theory recognizes that the mental realm falls outside the normal physical realm of cause and effect. One simply cannot cause another person to act a certain way; people act for reasons, not causes...

...The second problem discussed here is closely associated with the first. This problem has to do with the nature of knowledge, so it is an epistemological problem, how we can know this chain of causes and effects. There are numerous doctrinal manuals available, many on the web, that lay out a program with which to conduct operations according to the effects-based approach. One such manual is Pamphlet 4 from the Joint Warfighting Center.[2] This pamphlet is representative of the doctrinal cementing of the effects-based approach. It lays out the framework that attempts nothing less than a science. The language of cause and effect suffuses the doctrine. Even Francis Bacon is quoted in the front pages, “For knowledge itself is power.” Important in this so-called scientific approach is the establishment of what they refer to as an operational net assessment (ONA). The ONA is an ostensibly elaborate analysis of the system and all of its parts. And they recognize that we are not dealing with a single system, but a system of systems, so the language of systems engineering makes its way into the concept. A database is constructed that highlights linkages of sets of effect—node—action—resource (ENAR). And through this complex and bewildering array of causes and effects that identify nodes (that become targets) and resources (that become units and capabilities planned to service those targets), the military can bring about the effects it wants through causal means. While this may seem natural to some military minds, few are asking about the hubris required to think we can actually know how a real system works in the real world based on such a reductionist representation, as elaborate as it may appear. The assignment of what becomes a node, for example, is more arbitrary than not, usually chosen because they may be more tangible and therefore potentially more serviceable as a target. In other words, we reify entities in the framework (nodes, actions, effects, etc.) on the basis that we know something about them when in fact they will not exist in the real world in the manner in which we have assigned them ontological status...

...The next problem I will deal with is a logical problem, because it has to do with the way we think about time. It is connected to the metaphysical problems as well as the epistemological problems, but it is worthy of its own treatment. The effects-based approach presumes that final causes are operative; the system takes for granted a teleological view of science. While final causes were present in scientific thinking since Aristotle and existed throughout scientific communities influenced by Scholastic teachings, the modern era of scientific thinking abandons the notion of final causes and thinks in terms of efficient causes. By starting with the desired effect and moving through a backward-planning process, military planners and commanders actually employ teleology to their approach, which renders an allegedly scientific EBA to be actually unscientific. The effects they want to bring about in the future actually influence and have purported causal efficacy to events that occur temporarily prior to the desired effects. In other words, the future is helping to cause the past (or the present). This is a mistaken view of what really takes place in the real world, but it is a logical mistake as well. It is similar to and related to the mistakes that behavioral science rests upon....

...There is hope, though. An alternative to the effects-based approach is emerging in some circles. That alternative is called systemic operational design (SOD). The current chief advocates of SOD work at the think tank known as OTRI, the Operational Theory Research Institute as well as some at the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). SOD is very much more philosophically sophisticated than EBA, and has its roots in modern science and philosophy. EBA remains medieval and pseudo-scientific. The advocates of SOD at OTRI are Israelis (retired generals, philosophers, scientists—a real think-tank that privileges free inquiry) who were motivated by the hard-earned realization that the current situation they face will not be solved by force....

02-19-2006, 03:17 AM
An excellent piece. Emergence is goig to be a critical concept for understanding how to strategically adapt to chaotic environments composed of dynamic, interacting and evolving scale-free networks and modular networks

02-19-2006, 03:27 AM
Military doctrines are often expressions of current practices.

I would offer that this is often not the case, especially on today's battlefield. By the time the practice is codified, given a vocabulary and a set of concepts, it is often OBE. Many times this is forced by an adapting enemy that has no need for doctrine.

05-04-2006, 12:13 PM
Just found this site - Military Ethics Virtual Library (http://www.military-ethics.org/).

10-31-2007, 08:28 PM
I just received an official (military) request for points of contact info on those working on issues regarding the training and education of professional militaries to manage the ethical challenges of contemporary operations and future conflict.

Please PM or e-mail me (Dave D.) with any information along these lines and I will forward on.

Thanks much,


Brian Hanley
10-31-2007, 11:12 PM
Based on my observations, while it isn't direct, the problem of what I have termed "development bandits" is a significant negative impact on rebuilding efforts, etcetera. These are Westerners who enter into a "gatekeeper economy" position. Note that the Middle East with its legacy of Ottoman Empire governance has operated by gatekeepers for at least 500 years.

This has two significant impacts on in-country operations.

1. I am not personally aware of any military personnel that have put themselves in such positions. However, I am aware of some from the aid/NGO community. I think military commanders should provide for scrutinizing them and keeping ears to the ground to find them. Such scrutiny has a limited set of parameters and can winnow targets to a quite small number that is reasonable to track.

A. To make money they need to put themselves in a position to allocate funds. At a low level of graft they will become contract administrators, allocating contracts in-country. At a high level they will get themselves into a high position at a bank funded by the World Bank. (I have seen both.) They may even manage to start a bank using WB money with in-country personnel. At the highest level they will make connections to the president and governors.

B. High level corrupt relationships have quid pro quos on both sides. The government can use the banks to conduct covert foriegn policy and raise funds through illegal arms sales. (Note that banks are a required and integral part of any major insurgency.) For instance, a government may (as Iran is now in Iraq) make efforts to keep a threat busy across a border. (Until recently, Shevardnadze did this quite successfully with Russian in Chechnya. The president and close coterie can use such deals (and drug deal money) to raise money for themselves and hold the money outside their country. (Thus strengthening their power base.) Governments can also use such relationships to reward favored personnel (such as soldiers who save their lives) with multi-million dollar loans for business startups or pure theft.
For the Westerners, while they enter into a potientially quite deadly game because they make themselves a security hazard for the network they get in bed with, the lure is money. They collect their money in three primary ways: a.) Kickbacks for loans written. Typical rates are 10%-20% of loan amount. b.) Rakeoff payments for handling black money transfers for weapons and drugs. Usually, the bulk of this is supposed to go to people in the government, typically department of the interior or something similar.
c.) Theft of funds from black money transfers prior to telling the government about it. (In one case I received a report an individual had made their last deal prior to leaving the country without notifying the department of the interior minister in order to net out the whole amount.)

This is an ethical situation that officers can make a difference with. While most NGO personnel are fine, a critical few are not. Insurgencies can also make efforts to recruit such people, although I have not seen that directly myself.
If in-country personnel make extra efforts to watch for such people and exert jurisdiction where they can, this will help their redevelopment and occupation efforts. If they cannot get jurisdiction, handing over such information to CIA, MI5 or Interpol would be appropriate. Venue can be a serious problem in such situations.

2. Related to this is a problem endemic in the middleast and central asia - anywhere that has lived under oppression and gatekeeper economics for long periods. In country hires that specialize in understanding what the invader wants to hear in order to get a position to extract tribute are a problem. For instance, in Afghanistan, it would be expected that in-country persons who had worked with the Soviets would also work pretty well with the USA. But thinking that because they are easy for our people to work with means they are doing the right thing or acting in what we could consider an ethical manner would be very wrong. They won't be doing that. It is often the more difficult to work with (for a boss) that are the more honest.

10-31-2007, 11:20 PM
... have two solid leads on POC's so far. Keep them coming...

SWJ Blog
08-14-2012, 03:42 AM
The Role of Ethics in the 21st Century Joint Force (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-role-of-ethics-in-the-21st-century-joint-force)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-role-of-ethics-in-the-21st-century-joint-force) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
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SWJ Blog
02-06-2013, 09:10 AM
US Security Force Assistance in Africa: Human Rights, Ethics Training a Must (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/us-security-force-assistance-in-africa-human-rights-ethics-training-a-must)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/us-security-force-assistance-in-africa-human-rights-ethics-training-a-must) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
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SWJ Blog
04-01-2014, 02:23 AM
Professional Military Ethics Monograph Series (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/professional-military-ethics-monograph-series)

Entry Excerpt:

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SWJ Blog
11-04-2014, 02:19 PM
The Military and Academic Ethics: Mixed Messages (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/the-military-and-academic-ethics-mixed-messages)

Entry Excerpt:

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SWJ Blog
09-01-2015, 11:43 PM
Soldiers in Dark Times: Military Education, Ethics, and Political Science (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/soldiers-in-dark-times-military-education-ethics-and-political-science)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/soldiers-in-dark-times-military-education-ethics-and-political-science) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
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01-02-2017, 11:29 AM
Prompted by a Defence-in-Depth article (part of Kings Wars Studies) pointing to:http://militaryethics.uk/en/ and the courses on offer - including a free MOOC I have looked at the collection of threads on PME and Ethics generally, so some merging comes shortly.:wry:

The article opens with:
Globally, there is a growing acknowledgment that military ethics and a genuine, deep appreciation of human rights issues is a crucial component of the education of every service member, wherever they may serve. There is a clear linkage between ethical behaviour within armed forces and their conduct on operations. Fostering ethical awareness and moral decision-making in military personnel is a proven way of reducing unnecessary harm and suffering in conflict situations. It would seem obvious that there is substantial benefit for everyone in making tools to make this happen available as widely as possible.

(A "taster" of the questions asked) Questions are generally open ended and encourage people to think about key issues that may arise in a military setting. For example:

Is it ever acceptable to challenge an order from a superior?
Is necessity ever a reason to break the laws of war?
Can soldiers refuse to serve if they disagree with their government’s decisions?