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Thread: Battlefield Ethics

  1. #1
    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default Battlefield Ethics

    On 4 May 2007 the Department of Defense released key findings from the latest Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT-IV) survey, the fourth in a series of studies since 2003 to assess the mental health and well-being of the deployed forces serving in Iraq... More than 1,300 Soldiers and nearly 450 Marines were surveyed. The commanding general of Multinational Force, Iraq, also requested a first-ever study of battlefield ethics with the participation of soldiers and Marines currently involved in combat operations.

    http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/...eleaseid=10824

    The significant findings include:

    * Soldiers who deployed longer (greater than six months) or had deployed multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue.
    * Approximately 10 percent of Soldiers reported mistreating non-combatants or damaging their property when it was not necessary.
    * Less than half of Soldiers and Marines would report a team member for unethical behavior.
    * More than one-third of all Soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or Marine.
    * The 2006 adjusted rate of suicides per 100,000 Soldiers was 17.3 Soldiers, lower than the 19.9 rate reported in 2005, however higher than the Army average of 11.6 per 100,000 soldiers. However, there are important demographic differences between these two Soldier populations that make direct comparisons problematic.
    * Soldiers experienced mental health problems at a higher rate than Marines.
    * Deployment length was directly linked to morale problems in the Army.
    * Leadership is key to maintaining Soldier and Marine mental health.
    * Both Soldiers and Marines reported at relatively high rates – 62 and 66 percent, respectively – that they knew someone seriously injured or killed, or that a member of their team had become a casualty.
    The full report with annexes can be downloaded at the link below:

    http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/new...iv/mhat-iv.cfm

  2. #2
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Washington Post

    5 May Washington Post - Troops at Odds With Ethics Standards by Thomas E. Ricks and Ann Scott Tyson.

    More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.

    In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated...

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    Default Torture works ... or does it?

    There is a major debate about the efficacy of torture as a means of gathering information. Some argue that the person tortured will tell his interrogators whatever he thinks they want to hear just to stop the pain. Others say that it brings real and useful intelligence in a timely fashion. In the middle are those who say that "enhanced interrogation" produced intelligence can be useful but must be treated with great care in separating the wheat from the chaff. The Algerian War, particularly the Battle of Algiers, proves conclusively, to me at least, that torture can be tactically successful.

    But it was the use of torture that cost the French their legitimacy at home and internationally. That, alone was the most critical factor in their losing the war. For all its tactical utility, torture lead directly to strategic failure. That, I think, is the lesson that must be taught throughout our military and civilian agencies. Nothing has hurt our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan so much as Abu Ghraib, the perception of mistratment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and the allegations of torture in secret CIA prisons. Whether the allegations are true or false - truth and falsity vary among these different situations - they have cost us dearly in the battles of the information war.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Tenet and Torture

    John,

    Where this debate draws fuel is when you get a "suit" like George Tenet describing himself as a "shadow warrior" and arguing that "rough treatment" was OK. I amreaing his book and it is a painful read. More to follow later.

    Best

    Tom

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    Default Tenet

    Tom--

    Part of my comment was provoked by the Tenet interviews.

    Cheers

    John

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    Having participated in a couple of these surveys, I'd like to see the questions. One of the weak points of them, like the question about using torture if it meant saving a buddy, can be because the question provides those surveyed with a sense of certainty. I imagine it reads something along the lines of: "Would you allow torture if it meant that information was produced that could save the life of another serviceman?" There is that degree of certainty in the question which would in turn make a lot of people respond with a resounding,"Hell yes!"

    If it was worded just a bit differently, the replies could vary widely. I've looked through the 89-page product, but couldn't find the survey questions.
    Last edited by jcustis; 05-06-2007 at 02:14 AM. Reason: omitted reference to "24" and looked deeper.

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    Let's not start yet another torture thread, and keep this to discussion of the MHAT study.

    The subject of the ethics and efficacy of torture in interrogation has been discussed before on SWC, in varying contexts, here, here and here.

    Please review existing discussion and debate on the subject before chiming in. Original commentary and thought regarding this issue is very welcome, but this post is all about avoiding rehashing the same thing over and over again.

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    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default Reaction to Battlefield Ethics

    It is interesting to do a web search and see how this story is reported by the various news outlets --with their headlines and emphasis:

    Long tours in Iraq may be minefield for mental health
    Los Angeles Times

    Mental Health Survey Shows Troops Need More Time at Home
    U.S. News & World Report

    10% of US soldiers in Iraq reported mistreating civilians
    The Muslim News, UK

    Many troops in Iraq lack ethics, US finds
    International Herald Tribune

    Study: Anxiety, depression, acute stress in combat troops
    CNN.com

    Pentagon studies ethical dilemmas faced in Iraq
    CNN International

    Many US soldiers endorse torture
    Washington Times

    “Most US soldiers won’t report civilian killings, torture”
    Aljazeera.com

    DOD survey finds ethical struggle in war
    Stars and Stripes

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Interesting similarity between the Washington Times' title for the article and al Jazeera's.

    SFC W
    Last edited by Uboat509; 05-06-2007 at 11:49 PM.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Article Similarities (and Ethical Standards) ?

    Uboat,
    Exactly. Right up to the extremely disgusting (full of Sierra) end where the link for General Sir Michael Rose states

    General Sir Michael Rose, who commanded UN forces in Bosnia, urged the U.S. and its allies to "admit defeat" and stop fighting "a hopeless war" in Iraq, according to the BBC's Newsnight program.

    Sir Michael also said it was time for foreign troops to leave Iraq and go back home.

    "It is the soldiers who have been telling me from the frontline that the war they have been fighting is a hopeless war, that they cannot possibly win it and the sooner we start talking politics and not military solutions, the sooner they will come home and their lives will be preserved."

    Asked if that meant admitting defeat, the general replied: "Of course we have to admit defeat. The British admitted defeat in North America and the catastrophes that were predicted at the time never happened.”

    "The catastrophes that were predicted after Vietnam never happened. The same thing will occur after we leave Iraq," he added.
    It is a medical issue here

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    Default

    I've given the report itself a quick look. its interesting how the focus has been on some of the specific answers to questions and not the overall findings of the report.
    From what I saw of the central findings, longer tours and more combat equalled, on average, more mental health problems. I believe that there also seemed to be a connection between the same characteristics of combat/tour length and increased the propensity for ethics violations.
    I think that this report highlights an operational dilemma for COIN and other similar operations. There is always a refrain that forces need to be engaged longer in these types of operations so that they can really learn and understand the culture, environment, etc. This argues for lengthening unit deployments. The flip side, however, seems to be that longer commitment has the downside of greater "moral fatigue" and thus threatens to undercut the very advantages of prolonged engagement--which argues for shorter deployments. There's probably a sweet spot in there and its probably different based on the duties associated.
    COIN is naturally morally degrading to the force. Outside of just the torture argument, without strong leadership attention, a force that is continually engaged in COIN is likely to slip down to the level of the foe wrt consideration of civilian casualties, etc.
    One of the interesting findings is that transition team personnel tend to fair relatively better than their brigade combat team counterparts. I wonder if that's due to the level and character of their engagement with Iraqis--they are apt to develop a greater, less sterotyped regard for the people (people as in the Iraqi population) that they are fighting for.
    The classic "men in combat" discussions emphasize that the troops really fight for one another, not for the stated national causes. In COIN, if taken to an extreme, this can be counterproductive to the mission itself. The bond of brotherhood can become more important than protecting, or considering, civilian lives. I would venture that the closer a unit operates within the community and with Iraqi forces, the more chance that those elements (population and allies) will be considered closer to the scope of the brotherhood to be treated with a similar emotional bond.

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    Phil,

    Great post. Your analysis/thoughts about how our advisors respond to lengthy deployments is interesting and, although I don't have statistical data to back it, makes perfect sense to me. Most advisors have a much greater sense of accomplishment, close relations with Iraqis and can most likely grasp the mission better than your average Soldier or Marine that spends the better part of his deployment (be this 7 months or a year or now 15 months) commuting to work, especially over the past few years.

    Here's the major problem I see with all the findings and conclusions drawn from the survey: for the better part of 3-4 years, our forces had almost zero relationship with the Iraqi people and, although it's tough to admit, spent their deployments in survival mode. By this I mean, lived in a FOB outside of town, patrolled into the town, generally in vehicles, sometimes getting hit by IEDs, and then returned to their fortress FOB later in the day, leaving most concerns WRT Iraqis until tomorrow or a few days later (I know there were exceptions). Because we operated in this manner at the tactical level, in a way, it's understandable, although unfortunate, that many Marines/Soldiers don't have a strong bond or sense of partnership with the Iraqis.

    Further, for the first few years of this war COIN wasn't part of most of our formal school POIs and Marines/Soldiers weren't forced to expand the way they think about and understand the culture of their environment. We've gotten so much better in these areas in the past year alone.

    Although we can't go back in time, so much of me thinks the results of the survey would have been very different had we been executing the new strategy since 2003.
    Last edited by Maximus; 05-08-2007 at 05:29 AM.

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    Default Wide Latitude....No Longitude?

    I would agree with the previous post that a COIN mentality would generate a much different data set given the cultural exchange that is occuring. I doubt there will be any follow up/longitudinal studies, however it would behoove some enterprising staffer of General P. to conduct this survey specifically in units that have some proven COIN time under their belts - a couple hundred randomly assigned, identical surveys, with manila envelopes that could be sealed and put in a collection box anonymously should do the trick nicely to show a distinct pattern, worthy of further pursuit. If my hunch as a civilian is correct, that there is some friction between traditionalists and COIN, this could be a nice feather in the cap, or ammo in the pouch perhaps, for the COIN side of things.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Goesh,

    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    I would agree with the previous post that a COIN mentality would generate a much different data set given the cultural exchange that is occuring. I doubt there will be any follow up/longitudinal studies, however it would behoove some enterprising staffer of General P. to conduct this survey specifically in units that have some proven COIN time under their belts - a couple hundred randomly assigned, identical surveys, with manila envelopes that could be sealed and put in a collection box anonymously should do the trick nicely to show a distinct pattern, worthy of further pursuit. If my hunch as a civilian is correct, that there is some friction between traditionalists and COIN, this could be a nice feather in the cap, or ammo in the pouch perhaps, for the COIN side of things.
    I suspect you are right about the differences, and a follow up study would be worthwhile. Personally, I'm hoping that the raw data set will be released.

    On another note, I find it fascination that the discussion of "ethics" is based solely on behaviour that can be counted. On my, admittedly surface, skimming of the report, nowhere do I see any solid process linkages between the behavioural rules, the processes behind the rules and mental health.

    I see a lot of emphasis on reactive strategies to mental health situations (e.g. anger management training) but no linking of that to ethical processes either. I'll admit I am unfamiliar with the specifics of these particular training sessions, so maybe that is included in them - maybe someone who is familiar could comment?

    Having said that, I should also note that I do have a fair bit of experience with counselling over the past 20 years (both career counselling and "pastoral" counselling). My experience has been that any successful counselling always involves placing behaviour into a general ethical and psychological context - i.e. a set of "operational rules of reality". It has also been my experience that counselling based on behavioural rules only tends to fall flat on its face the first time there is any confusion over the application of the behavioural rules comes up.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
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    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Well,

    Hasn't Insurgency/Counter-Insurgency been described as nasty dirty wars in the past? Soldiers and Marines have varying defintions of mistreatment and serious injuries. Marc, you are not going to see the raw data on this.

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    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default MHAT-IV Briefing Slides

    The MHAT-IV briefing slides to the Commandant of the Marine Corps can be found at the following sites:

    http://www.militarytimes.com/static/...tiv18apr07.pdf

    http://www.iava.org/documents/MHATIV...Commandant.ppt

    Interesting data...

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Jimbo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Hasn't Insurgency/Counter-Insurgency been described as nasty dirty wars in the past? Soldiers and Marines have varying defintions of mistreatment and serious injuries. Marc, you are not going to see the raw data on this.
    I know . Let's just say I would be a lot more confident about their findings if I could get a look at the raw data. And, also, my comments about their definition of "ethics" still stand .

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Jack View Post
    The MHAT-IV briefing slides to the Commandant of the Marine Corps can be found at the following sites:

    http://www.militarytimes.com/static/...tiv18apr07.pdf

    http://www.iava.org/documents/MHATIV...Commandant.ppt

    Interesting data...
    Somewhat, but most of it is in the main report. I certainly didn't see anything in the briefing about the role of chaplains, and I would have liked to. Then again, this is one of the limitations of the type of research they are doing - you can't really probe things or find out something you didn't already think about. For example, while there is some good data on "ethics" and NCOs, I didn't see anything that actually dug into this - only surface numbers. Why is there a difference? What are the characteristics of the NCOs that are limiting ethical breaches? How can those characteristics be translated into training programs? That sort of stuff.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Full report and appendices at this link.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Full report and appendices at this link.
    Hi Tequila, thans, that's the one I'm working off of - I downloaded the full report and all the appendices - I just haven't had the time to go through it all yet .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
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    Carleton University
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    Default US Soldiers captured and ethics

    I'd like to see how the ethics debate deals with this issue. AlQeada in Iraq says they have 3 US Soldiers. Is there doubt in anyones mind reading here of the fate these youngmen face? What do you think the reaction of their fellow soldiers will be?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070513/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

    The fact that US and other 'civilized' militaries play by rules and that insurgents/guerillas/bandits or what ever you call them do not is the basis for all of the debate on ethics.

    So long as captured uniformed troops are paraded on TV, beheaded on camera, tortured in the most sadistic ways there will be an ethics issue. Try controlling the vengeance desire of your men when their best friend was just treated worse than a cow in the slaughter house. Further their can be no surrender at any time, a US serviceman or woman cannot under any circumstances surrender. The last serviceman captured and returned alive was the SF Pilot in Somalia back in the Blackhawk Down episode. And that only because he was captured by a 'business' oriented individual.

    -T

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