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Old 11-07-2010   #41
Bob Underwood
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For moving this discussion quickly beyond a theological exposition of Huntington et al. I don't want to suggest that there's nothing useful there, but we need to get a sense of what our problem is before we go looking for answers.

But, your answers seem curious to me for a couple reasons:
First, you say that:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Once someone volunteers for that professional force and signs the contract without coercion, they lose all right to object to being told to do what they voluntarily took on. I think that means if you sign on, you're stuck. Don't want to be stuck -- seek other employment. Because it's a job, it's a trade, not a profession. Did I mention that entrance is not mandatory? Since it's not, the old saw 'be careful what you want, you may get it' applies.
There might be a few problems here. For one, no one has a right to volunteer for or be obligated to do something that is morally wrong in the first place. On the other side of this, no one has a right to contract another person to do something morally wrong as well. Basically, this means that a contract for murder, rape, robbing, beating kids etc. has no obligatory force on either party. If we are going to take on the problem of selective contentious objection(SCO) as a profession, we need something better than this. The SCO's objection will be a moral claim so we need to be able to tell them why the action is moral - otherwise, we should not be surprised that the contract fails to motivate them.

Your second observation seems better to me.

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
If given a mission they do not believe is lawful or that is consistent with their values they may resign if possible or take the punishment prescribed for failure to follow orders or violation of their contract. Hopefully without whining about it in either case.

One always has choices.
However, I don't see the choices as quite so freeing. What do we think should be the prescribed punishments for someone doing what they think is, ex hypothesi, moral? According to the case at hand, they are choosing the harder right over the easier wrong. Also, the problem above still looms. How can I be in violation of a contract that has no moral or legal grounds?

Regards,
Bob
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Old 11-07-2010   #42
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Default Selective contentious objection

We might want to define what each of us means by "selective conscientious objection". I'll start by reference to Conscientious objector - Wiki and its sub-topic, Selective conscientious objection - Wiki.

To keep things simpler, I'll posit an all-volunteer force and that the service person was not hussled (a great legal term) into the contract and had no firm conscientious objections when he or she entered into the contract.

I'd present three examples (all post-entry "conversions" to eliminate issues of fraud by the service member):

1. Conversion to complete pacifism - joins the American Friends Service Committee and wouldn't raise a finger in violence to defend himself or others from great bodily harm.

2. Conversion to pacifism re: a particular war - this is the situation presented in the Wiki subtopic re: "Selective conscientious objection" (basically, "hell no, I won't go [there].")

3. Conversion to pacifism re: a particular form of warfare - e.g., service member willingly participates in air operations involving conventional ordinances; but refuses an order to perform the preliminary arming sequence on a nuclear device.

Leaving aside the strict legalisms for the moment, should all of these cases be treated the same ?

Regards

Mike
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Old 11-07-2010   #43
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Default Quasi legal and semi moral contracts abound...

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For one, no one has a right to volunteer for or be obligated to do something that is morally wrong in the first place.
That's a rather sweeping statement and it raises several questions. Says who? Who enforces that? Who determines what is 'right?' My version of morals say that they are very much an individual construct and I have no right to impose mine on you nor do you have a right to impose yours on me.

Thus if the governmental system says the issue is legal and moral and one disagrees, that is ones right. However, that disagreement does not automatically contravene the legality (or the morality in the eyes of that government) of the law that established the contract.
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On the other side of this, no one has a right to contract another person to do something morally wrong as well.
The same questions apply.
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Basically, this means that a contract for murder, rape, robbing, beating kids etc. has no obligatory force on either party.
It may have no legally binding obligatory force but it could have a morally (or immorally, dependent upon how one views such concepts as honor) binding force.

That not withstanding, the issue is not generally acknowledged criminal actions, it is the legal right granted by the People to the State to use force. That has been adjudged over the years by the majority of people in most nations and certainly including this one to be moral and, with some contraints, legal. Assuming those constraints are properly addressed and / or negated, then the contract in service of that usage is legal, period. Whether or not it is moral is an individual determination. The preponderance of evidence in this country today is is that most people assess it and the recruiting or selection of people willing -- not forced -- to accept those terms as morally acceptable (I'll insert a reminder here that a draft or conscription totally changes the rules...).
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If we are going to take on the problem of selective contentious objection(SCO) as a profession, we need something better than this. The SCO's objection will be a moral claim so we need to be able to tell them why the action is moral - otherwise, we should not be surprised that the contract fails to motivate them.
Again, morality is an individual construct. Nations do not, cannot, have morals -- if they are to act 'morally' then it is in the terms of the various beholders and thus, obviously, some may not agree with the presumed correct "morality" of an issue. If one accepts a "moral" norm (some people do, some do not...) then one would presume that nations laws were crafted in "moral" terms and should account for such contingencies.

The purpose of a contract is to obligate two parties to do certain things. Generally a quid pro quo situation exists. No contract of which I am aware is intended to "motivate" anyone -- motivation, like morality is an individual thing -- so whether a given contract motivates anyone should not be a question. Whether it is legal is a valid question. Whether, in a democratic society, it is morally acceptable to the majority of the people, is also valid. Whether it is moral to an individual or small group of them is immaterial.
Quote:
However, I don't see the choices as quite so freeing. What do we think should be the prescribed punishments for someone doing what they think is, ex hypothesi, moral? According to the case at hand, they are choosing the harder right over the easier wrong. Also, the problem above still looms. How can I be in violation of a contract that has no moral or legal grounds?
What case at hand? To my knowledge, no exemplary case exists in this thread. If you're using the blanket SCO postion as an example, whether the "harder right" is in fact right or even exists is not a given.

IMO, if a "moral" objection to an assignment (combat or not) is raised and is proven valid on the merits and corroborative testimony, I'd just discharge the individual (with an obligation to collect any funds not recouped). If, OTOH, it was not proven then they'd have the option of complying or receiving punishment as the modified UCMJ and a Court Martial direct.

One can be in violation of a contract that one deems to have no moral or legal grounds to ones hearts content. However, if that contract is deemed moral and legal by the people, legislature and courts of a democratic society, I'm doubtful ones opinion will count for much.

If one signed that contract on own volition, regardless of one's perception of its contents, one has accepted an obligation to comply with its terms. If one decides later that those terms are onerous or that one does not wish to comply with any or all of those terms, one has options. One can do it anyway, protesting mightily; If allowed, one can resign forfeiting all future benefits and paying any contractual debt incurred and not met; One can refuse to comply and take the contractually stipulated penalty for so doing. Either way as I said, hopefully without whining.

It is not the job of the Armed Forces in this nation to tell anyone why a given action is "moral." That is the job of the elected civilian leadership (not that they won't try to sluff it ). That is dipping into the realm of strong personal opinions and that is no place for a large unwieldy bureaucracy to try to go. Particularly not one whose very existence is itself broadly immoral in the minds of a number of the citizens it serves...

I also suggest that we as a profession do NOT need to take on the issue of Conscientious Objection other than to determine and prescribe procedures for dealing with those who elect to so object. What constitutes that objection, and all the various ramifications surrounding it are matters of national political policy. They are not and should not be military policy. The comment in the paragraph just above applies; the 'military' solution will always be suspect in the eyes of many. Our penchant for messing around in the political milieu invariably brings big problems. We ought to quit doing that...
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Old 11-07-2010   #44
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Speaking of the Profession of Arms, the Army-speak that has creeped into our doctrinal writings over the last 20 years drives me up the wall. Soldiers should be plain-speaking guys who say what they mean and mean what they say, without words like "optimizing, " "integrating," "leveraging," and so on. Strunk and White's Elements of Style should be our guide for effective writing. The cerebral bl*w job graphics that accompany Army-speak publications and PowerPoint presentations don't help at all, they only make things worse. Even before this Army-speak came along 20 years ago the overuse of acronyms had gotten way out of hand. We should communicate in a way thal allows the maximum number of people to understand what it is we're saying.
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Old 11-08-2010   #45
Bob Underwood
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Pete, I agree. Jargon inhibits our discourse both internally and externally. Hopefully what follows is plain spoken and clear.

Mike, I have in mind the second and third cases that seem related. Such people would have no principled objection to violence as such (that would be the pacifist in Case 1). They would only object to using it on certain people (case 2) and in certain ways (case 3).

The problem is that professionals traditionally enjoy autonomy in practice. Namely, they generally get to decide when, where, how and on whom to practice their expertise. Most would fear this level of freedom granted to our profession. So the question is: how much should we have? Can we afford this sort of autonomy?

The problem with our profession is that rights are at stake. If we fail to do our job, those we protect will lose rights (life, liberty, political community etc.). However, if we do our job incorrectly, act on the wrong people or in the wrong way, rights are lost as well. This is what makes morality appropriate to the conversation.

This brings me to Ken, and Iím unsure what to make of the discussion so hereís what I offer in reply:

First:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
That's a rather sweeping statement and it raises several questions. Says who? Who enforces that? Who determines what is 'right?' My version of morals say that they are very much an individual construct and I have no right to impose mine on you nor do you have a right to impose yours on me.
Two things here: My point doesnít necessarily depend on what is right and wrong. Whatever you suppose is right, you generally agree that you canít be obligated to do wrong. Also, this statement seems inconsistent with your earlier claims. I take you to think it wrong to make a contract and then renege. So what would you say if I told you my version of morality tells me ďdonít keep contractsĒ? If you think its wrong to break contracts, thatís fine, but such claims impose morality across individual constructs.

Second:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
That not withstanding, the issue is not generally acknowledged criminal actions, it is the legal right granted by the People to the State to use force. That has been adjudged over the years by the majority of people in most nations and certainly including this one to be moral and, with some contraints, legal. Assuming those constraints are properly addressed and / or negated, then the contract in service of that usage is legal, period. Ö. Again, morality is an individual construct. Nations do not, cannot, have morals -- if they are to act 'morally' then it is in the terms of the various beholders and thus, obviously, some may not agree with the presumed correct "morality" of an issue. If one accepts a "moral" norm (some people do, some do not...) then one would presume that nations laws were crafted in "moral" terms and should account for such contingencies.
Here I cut parts of the quote together and donít mean to do so unfairly. But, the issue is generally acknowledged criminal actions. Illegal wars are criminal, and widely thought to be so. The point holds if we extend this to moral terms as well. There is a long and well-established acknowledgement that unjust international attacks are moral wrongs in the strongest sense. What is widely accepted is the right to use defensive force. It might be true that nations do not have morals in the way individuals do. However, this does not mean that morality should not or cannot apply to state/national action. People take such actions, these actions affect people, and are meant to benefit still other people. These are moral issues.

Some common ground:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
IMO, if a "moral" objection to an assignment (combat or not) is raised and is proven valid on the merits and corroborative testimony, I'd just discharge the individual (with an obligation to collect any funds not recouped). If, OTOH, it was not proven then they'd have the option of complying or receiving punishment as the modified UCMJ and a Court Martial direct.
I think there is something here worth talking about. However, this would be a significant departure from current policy. Does this mean the Army, National Command authority, or other agency have an obligation to tell its professionals on the merits and with corroborative testimony that the combat assignment is legal and moral? I think it might.

Parting shot:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
It is not the job of the Armed Forces in this nation to tell anyone why a given action is "moral." That is the job of the elected civilian leadership (not that they won't try to sluff it ). That is dipping into the realm of strong personal opinions and that is no place for a large unwieldy bureaucracy to try to go. Particularly not one whose very existence is itself broadly immoral in the minds of a number of the citizens it serves...
This is interesting because it is clearly in tension with what you say above. Also, I think we have a duty to explain the morality of our actions when those actions involve killing people, ordering others to kill people, and ordering others to die. None of that makes any sense to me unless it is in a moral context. If you fear a large bureaucracy getting involved in moral issues, then first among those must be those that involve the deaths of thousands of people. Maybe that is exactly why it should be a personal and not governmental choice.

Regards,
Bob
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Old 11-08-2010   #46
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might want to slog through this.

Cheers

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Old 11-08-2010   #47
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Default Apparently, I was unclear, let me muddy things a bit more...

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Originally Posted by Bob Underwood View Post
The problem is that professionals traditionally enjoy autonomy in practice. Namely, they generally get to decide when, where, how and on whom to practice their expertise...So the question is: how much should we have? Can we afford this sort of autonomy?
I'm disposed to think it a trade and not a profession -- I think aspirations to be a profession create several problems -- however, that's a digression. What is certain is that the Armed forces of the US have a very mixed bag in the autonomy arena. Those forces deploy to missions only on orders of the national government and the civilian masters of the force. That is far from autonomous in the largest sense.
Quote:
The problem with our profession is that rights are at stake. If we fail to do our job, those we protect will lose rights...However, if we do our job incorrectly, act on the wrong people or in the wrong way, rights are lost as well. This is what makes morality appropriate to the conversation.
I agree with most of that but will point out that the decision to deploy to do the job is made by the politicians. Thus they have the onus to decide the vagaries of conscientious objection. If we deploy and then err, thus turning some willing US participants into unwilling participants (as happens in all wars), then the onus is on the service(s) involved for errors of commission, i.e. they didn't do their job competently (as unfortunately happens in all wars). Regardless, the responsibility for the determination of what qualifies as Objector status and what should be done about claimants lies with the civilian law makers, not the Armed Forces.
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Two things here: My point doesnít necessarily depend on what is right and wrong. Whatever you suppose is right, you generally agree that you canít be obligated to do wrong.
Essentially correct IMO. Unless of course that generic you wants to do wrong...

It is important to note that the "generic you's" determination of wrong may or may not be supported by legal and public more considerations. Just because you or I think 'X' is wrong doesn't mean that it is legally wrong or morally deficient in the determination of the broader public.
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Also, this statement seems inconsistent with your earlier claims.
Obviously, I see no inconsistency so you'll have to point that out to me, please.
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I take you to think it wrong to make a contract and then renege. So what would you say if I told you my version of morality tells me ďdonít keep contractsĒ? If you think its wrong to break contracts, thatís fine, but such claims impose morality across individual constructs.
Yes, I do think its wrong to make contracts then renege because because something one failed to foresee occurs. That is admittedly my opinion and many do not share that view. I have no problem with that.

However, the issue is not one of disparate moral views, it is one of legal requirements. Whatever one's moral approach to the issue, if the contract is legal and binding, then the legal aspects will overrule everyone's moral concerns. Whether they should or not is irrelevant, they will.
Quote:
Second:Here I cut parts of the quote together and donít mean to do so unfairly. But, the issue is generally acknowledged criminal actions. Illegal wars are criminal, and widely thought to be so.
Possibly correct though "widely" could be problematic. Still, I'll accept that. What I do question is who determines the legality of a given war. Everyone does not accept the ICJ and the invasion of Iraq for one example was adjudged illegal by many. Now what? We're still there and in a role blessed to a degree by the UN.
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The point holds if we extend this to moral terms as well. There is a long and well-established acknowledgement that unjust international attacks are moral wrongs in the strongest sense.
My goodness. Again, WHO determines these things? Unjust? Moral wrongs? If you mean public opinion, well and good -- but I'll mention that it generally is divided and getting true consensus on 'unjust' and 'morally wrong' is difficult. Certainly that was not obtained for the Iraqi adventure. Even if that consensus existed and was overwhelmingly opposed, it is still only public opinion. That the public believes a thing does not make it so. Five years ago they believed we were all going to die of heat stroke before 2010 due to global warming...
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What is widely accepted is the right to use defensive force.
We can agree on that. What we might not agree on is when and how that force can be applied and what should happen to those in a volunteer force who are to be part of such application but decide they do not want to participate.
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It might be true that nations do not have morals in the way individuals do.
I do not not believe "it might be true," it is a fact.
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However, this does not mean that morality should not or cannot apply to state/national action. People take such actions, these actions affect people, and are meant to benefit still other people. These are moral issues.
Ah, yes. Different thing and we can agree on that. The issue then becomes a moral consensus on which a or the decision maker(s) operate. In a democratic society, can we accept that will generally be the sensing of what the majority -- not all -- of the population is believed to think appropriate or moral?
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I think there is something here worth talking about. However, this would be a significant departure from current policy.
Really? Not in my experience. I've been retired for a while but we used to do both those things pretty much as I laid them out.
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Does this mean the Army, National Command authority, or other agency have an obligation to tell its professionals on the merits and with corroborative testimony that the combat assignment is legal and moral? I think it might.
My suspicion is that social mores are trending in that direction. I personally think that is not good for the Armed forces or the National Command Authority but they seldom seek my opinion.

My answer to that would be no, the constraints I mentioned earlier, the checks and balances in this governmental, the ease and rapidity of communication today and other factors really mean that any mission commitment is going to meet or exceed and reasonable criteria for legality (as most of the Legion of Lawyers determines) and morality (as viewed by most of the populace or politicians). Thus, any quibbles along that line are generally going to be outliers and no one should cater to them. Regardless, the politicians have the responsibility to explain to the voters (including those serving) their rationale -- though they are past masters at sluffing this off to the services -- who should IMO stoutly resist playing that game.
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Parting shot: This is interesting because it is clearly in tension with what you say above.
Sorry, once again I do not see any tension or disagreement. Please enlighten me. Obviously, I was unclear somewhere but a couple of revisits leave me unsure just where...
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Also, I think we have a duty to explain the morality of our actions when those actions involve killing people, ordering others to kill people, and ordering others to die.
First and foremost, Armies kill people, by definition (and by law in this country) that's what they do. So no one should be confused on that Score. To include those who sign or intend to sign enlistment or accession contracts...

I don't disagree with the duty to explain unless by 'we' you mean the Armed Forces, then I disagree. If the national government commits a force, then that government has the responsibility to justify its action legally and morally.
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None of that makes any sense to me unless it is in a moral context. If you fear a large bureaucracy getting involved in moral issues, then first among those must be those that involve the deaths of thousands of people.
I'm unsure of your meaning. Yes, I do fear a large bureaucracy getting involved in moral issues, particularly if it is an organization that is viewed as only marginally moral by a good many citizens. I believe that to be an invitation to problems. Politicians are elected by the citizens to make decisions, hopefully legal and moral decisions. It is their responsibility to explain to the public -- and to those serving who will do their bidding -- the rationale and to assure all of the legality and morally acceptable dimensions of the mission.
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Maybe that is exactly why it should be a personal and not governmental choice.
If you mean it should be a personal choice to enter the Armed forces, I totally agree. If you mean that once one has entered the force that any decision to not comply with orders or participate in an action should be (and currently, as well as in my future view, is) a personal choice, I also agree. I not only agree one can make such a choice, I have no animosity toward those that elect to do so. I do, however, have little sympathy for anyone that inconsistent.

If you mean the government has or should have no entry into those choices, I also agree. If you mean the government should have no recourse if an individual reneges on a contract voluntarily undertaken, I do not agree, many members of the public do not agree nor does the Congress or US Code. The Courts have also been known to disagree.

As I said yesterday, One always has choices.
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Old 11-08-2010   #48
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Wink Interesting read. Er, slog. Yes, slog was a good choice of words...

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might want to slog through this.
Yet again the concept of the morality of a nation is introduced as 'normative.'

I could cite the 1/3 rule and its pertinence to the jus (or lack of juice) and such normativity but I'll spare everyone.
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Old 11-08-2010   #49
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Then it is curious why we should, as a profession, ignore the context in which we apply force. What if a given application of force will actually undermine the current policy goal? How would we know?
Read Clausewitz! If the application of force is not effectively setting forth the policy then it should not applied. - and you should either change the policy or apply the force in a way that serves it.

...and Policy is way above your pay grade. Keep out of it. The profession of arms serves policy. Understand the limits. Do not probe the boundaries!

Quote:
At the very least, we should agree that policies that would lead to defeat, less security etc aren't ethical.
Name me a politician or leader who has ever set forth a policy he states to be "un-ethical?" Policy comes from politics. Politics is power over people. Power is always ethical in the eyes of those holding it.

Quote:
What I think is lacking in our Army is precisely the understanding we need to turn tactical action into effective strategic responses to the hybrid threats we face. For my money, this is because the Army has, for too long, assumed that all policy is, ipso facto (had to use my own latin), ethical and worth killing and dying in service to it.
Well then the problem is a lack of education in basic professional military thinking. The very basics of linking Policy to tactics via strategy are missing. This is not because the world got more complicated. It is because the Army gave up reading books and educating people.

Again, what is it you are confused about?
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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Old 11-08-2010   #50
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Read Clausewitz! If the application of force is not effectively setting forth the policy then it should not applied. - and you should either change the policy or apply the force in a way that serves it.

...and Policy is way above your pay grade. Keep out of it. The profession of arms serves policy. Understand the limits. Do not probe the boundaries!


Name me a politician or leader who has ever set forth a policy he states to be "un-ethical?" Policy comes from politics. Politics is power over people. Power is always ethical in the eyes of those holding it.


Well then the problem is a lack of education in basic professional military thinking. The very basics of linking Policy to tactics via strategy are missing. This is not because the world got more complicated. It is because the Army gave up reading books and educating people.

Again, what is it you are confused about?
Unfortunately, policy has historically been not so well insulated from military service. Amazingly junior officers have set policy in the past, because they were "Johnny on the Spot".

I seem to remember reading about a fairly Junior Brit Naval Officer who started and ended a war with Denmark in one fell swoop and a Reserve Captain by the name of Fertig in the Phillipines who also set policy despite not having guidance from higher.
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Old 11-08-2010   #51
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Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
Wait!

No oil.
No nukes.
No commies.
Reputedly only about 50 AQ terrorists.

Why again are U.S. troops there?
I'll tell you that, if you tell me what U.S. troops are doing in the Balkans.
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Old 11-08-2010   #52
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Unfortunately, policy has historically been not so well insulated from military service. Amazingly junior officers have set policy in the past, because they were "Johnny on the Spot".
Correct! Which means you have to understand the policy in place and how your actions serve it. Many on this board confuse, Party Politics with Policy. Considering the US Government cannot tell the difference between Strategy and Policy, this is not surprising.
Quote:
I seem to remember reading about a fairly Junior Brit Naval Officer who started and ended a war with Denmark in one fell swoop and a Reserve Captain by the name of Fertig in the Phillipines who also set policy despite not having guidance from higher.
Right. Do you think they engaged in needless navel-gazing about the "Profession of Arms." No. They understood the Ends required and made it happen. If you understand (not invent or try to change) the policy in place, then the action you should take becomes a pretty simple choice.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 11-08-2010   #53
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Read Clausewitz! If the application of force is not effectively setting forth the policy then it should not applied. - and you should either change the policy or apply the force in a way that serves it.
I have read Clausewitz ... one of the reasons I hold my views. So, now what? Also, here you are making a normative or moral claim about policy - "should not". No government has taken up action intending to lead to their own ruin. However, simply because they thought it was smart doesn't make it so. (cf. below).

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

Name me a politician or leader who has ever set forth a policy he states to be "un-ethical?" Policy comes from politics. Politics is power over people. Power is always ethical in the eyes of those holding it.
I'm not especially worried about the eyes of those holding power. Simply because somebody has the power to do something does not make it right for them to do it. (Read Plato, or Clausewitz, or Fuller, or Fahrenbach et al.)

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

Well then the problem is a lack of education in basic professional military thinking. The very basics of linking Policy to tactics via strategy are missing. This is not because the world got more complicated. It is because the Army gave up reading books and educating people.
On this we are agreed, however, I think we have widely divergent views on what the products of that education should be. But how can we understand policy and our place in it unless we understand the categories of its making? There is certainly more than simple power protecting power here.

Regards,
Bob
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Old 11-08-2010   #54
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Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
might want to slog through this.

Cheers

Mike

And all I get is an "interesting"?


Ken, as to the tension in your comments: You make arguments that claim we should subordinate our moral judgements to legal requirements. Fine, but this is a moral claim, and one you think should apply to all people (so far as I can tell). But you also say that we have no right to impose such claims on anyone.

Regards,
Bob
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Old 11-08-2010   #55
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Default Ah, I *was* unclear. Apologies.

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...as to the tension in your comments: You make arguments that claim we should subordinate our moral judgements to legal requirements. Fine, but this is a moral claim, and one you think should apply to all people (so far as I can tell). But you also say that we have no right to impose such claims on anyone.
I do not make the claim that we should subordinate our moral judgments to legal requirements. Just the opposite, thus my purposely repeated "One always has choices."

Morals are an individual construct and each person has an absolute right to their own. Legality is a consensual construct that may or may nor accept a particular moral view.

The fact of life I apparently failed to clearly state is that legal requirements today will override individual moral concerns. The politicians set the norms generally IAW majority opinion; individual opinions are trumped. That's my point in this sub thread. One can do what they believe morally correct but if it runs afoul of the statutory factors those factors will prevail and a loss is inevitable.

In event of such loss, I did and do advocate taking responsibility for one's actions without whining...
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Old 11-08-2010   #56
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The fact of life I apparently failed to clearly state is that legal requirements today will override individual moral concerns. The politicians set the norms generally IAW majority opinion; individual opinions are trumped. That's my point in this sub thread. One can do what they believe morally correct but if it runs afoul of the statutory factors those factors will prevail and a loss is inevitable.
Very profound Ken, and that's part of the problem Politicians have no morals but they do have opinions. I was talking to a friend about this the other day relative to Economics and I asked him do you really,really believe God is a capitalist? just cut taxes on the rich and everything will be just fine bit of a digression but it also applies to war.
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Old 11-08-2010   #57
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The problem with our profession is that rights are at stake. If we fail to do our job, those we protect will lose rights (life, liberty, political community etc.). However, if we do our job incorrectly, act on the wrong people or in the wrong way, rights are lost as well. This is what makes morality appropriate to the conversation.
I submit that the problem with this discussion of morality is that it is based on a notion that rights are primary. On such a view, duties (which are the "musts" of moral claims) are artifactual on rights. In other words, because you have a right to life, I have a duty not to kill you.

An alternative point of view is that duties are primary and that rights are artifacts derived from those duties. On this view, your right to life is artifactual on my duty not to harm others.

I suspect that the view of rights as secondary may be somewhat tough to swallow given what the Declaration says about inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, I submit for reflection the idea that rights derived from duties may be just as inalienable as rights that are primary.

If one wishes to hold that rights are primary, then I think one should be able to explain from where those rights proceed in a way that does not require some appeal to consequences as the source of the rights.
Morality, by its very nature must be universal. That is, the truths of its claims must apply to all people at all times in all places. Otherwise we are simply dealing with useful rules of societal conduct. I submit, along with that eccentric East Prussian Immanuel Kant, that any theory that is based on consequences for evaluating the truth of its moral claims cannot be universal because every one of its prescriptions is conditional--of the form "if..., then...". Should one not desire the antecedent, then the rule of action found in the consequent would not apply.

Universal truths are unconditional. So are duties.
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Old 11-08-2010   #58
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There's morality and then there's morality. When I was in OCS in '77 we had a lecture on the Law of Land Warfare in the auditorium of Infantry Hall at Fort Benning. The instructor described a hypothetical situation -- an NVA machine gunner opens fire on an infantry platoon in Vietnam and blows half of them away. When a G.I. sees his buddies get killed he rushes the MG and when he's 10 feet away the NVA gunner throws up his arms in surrender. The G.I. kills him anyway. The school solution -- a war crime has just been committed. I asked a fellow OCS candidate, an 11B 101st Vietnam veteran, what he thought about that. He said that you should give the guy a medal. Terry's first officer assignment was with the Old Guard at Fort Myer because he was a second lieutenant with a CIB.

Last edited by Pete; 11-08-2010 at 07:35 PM. Reason: Fix typo.
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Old 11-08-2010   #59
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I suspect that the view of rights as secondary may be somewhat tough to swallow given what the Declaration says about inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, I submit for reflection the idea that rights derived from duties may be just as inalienable as rights that are primary.
I believe the Constitution does say that. Everyone remembers about their rights from their creator but they forget the part about "In order to secure these rights Governments are instituted among men." IOW you have to have laws to enforce responsibilities (duties).
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Old 11-08-2010   #60
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I submit that the problem with this discussion of morality is that it is based on a notion that rights are primary.
Well, nothing I've said is inconsistent with a Kantian conception of rights. And holding these rights to be primary in this context doesn't necessarily require a consequentialist appeal.

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Universal truths are unconditional. So are duties.
Perhaps, but duties are not the only source of moral value. And certainly not the only one relevant to the ethics of war.
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