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Showing posts from August, 2005

NPR Interviews

The audiofiles of the interviews are available online: Here and Now, a 15-minute interview and the Leonard Lopate show, a 35-minute discussion that included WSJ reporter Greg Jaffe.

I'll be interviewed today (Wed, 24Aug) on the syndicated radio show Here and Now at 12:10pm EDT, and tomorrow (Thur, 25Aug) on WNYC's Leonard Lopate show from 1:15-2pm EDT. Feel free to listen in and send me your feedback.

Are ROE sufficient?

A senior leader recently said to me that the LLW and ROE are all that Soldiers need; and, in fact, that introducing morality into the battlefield equation will only confuse Soldiers and undermine discipline.

I respectfully disagree. First of all, would you ever try to justify an action as moral by saying, "The lawyer said it was ok"? I think that we all know that what's legally permissible and what's morally permissible can be very different. In almost all cases, they do correspond with each other, but they may not always, and they come from different sources. Law and policy is contingent--written by a lawyer or commander; morality is necessary--it has a less flawed, more enduring Author. Thus, for a soldier who has killed someone in Fallujah, the knowledge that the JAG in Baghdad or Arlington would say that the killing wasn't illegal isn't going to be a great comfort to his conscience. He already knows that, since he acted IAW ROE, he won't be court…

Link to masters thesis

Soldiers, Self Defense, and Killing in War

Chapter 1 is a critique of Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars, which is used at West Point and is the best text on Just War Theory. Walzer understands warfare, but he implicitly relies on an account of killing in self defense that is much too permissive, one that claims that we are justified in killing anything or anyone that threatens us.

Chapter 2 is a critique of war-pacifism as laid out in Richard Norman's Ethics, Killing, and War. I argue that he presents a strong case for when killing is and is not justified, but--because he simply does not understand soldiers and warfare--he applies his criteria inaccurately to soldiers in war.

In Chapter 3, I show how Norman's account of justified killing can be combined with Walzer's more accurate understanding of warfare to produce a moral justification for killing in combat.

This was my first deep thinking on the subject, so I invite and welcome any critiques of the argument.

Warfighter or Security enforcer: the moral implications

Counterinsurgency operations (COIN) present tons of challenges, not the least of which is how they complicate the moral calculus of killing.

A Soldier who fights in a high-intensity war against a uniformed enemy can confidently assume that every enemy soldier is a combatant, a threat, someone whom it's morally permissible to kill. That's why Soldiers don't fire warning shots; instead, they aim to "put two in the chest." People downrange are to be killed unless they surrender or become incapcitated.

In contrast, a Soldier who is part of a security force in a situation where his mission is to protect the people and where a non-uniformed enemy hides among the people, such as the situation we face in the Iraq COIN, faces a calculus more like that of a police officer. He must assume that people are innocent civilians until evidence suggests otherwise. People downrange are to be protected unless they show hostile intent.

This puts Soldiers in a bind; it gives the bad guys…

Talking about this stuff "publicly"

Some of my fellow Soldiers have questioned whether I should be addressing this issue--the need to talk about the moral justification of killing and its possible linkage to PTSD/PITS--in such a public forum. There's a concern that this is our 'dirty laundry' that we shouldn't air out for everyone to see. It’s true, after all, that some anti-war groups have used some of my words (usually out of context) to further their agendas.

So, here's some thoughts on why I think we as Soldiers should talk publicly about this issue:Public discussion on killing will be good for the Army and its relationship with the people its serves because civilian readers will likely be pleasantly surprised-to-shocked to realize that: the Army actually educates and trains Airborne-Ranger types who care deeply about morality in war; that officers study morality and war; that West Point teaches it as part of a required class; that the Army encourages and rewards critical thinkers; that its leader…

"Back into the fight" vs "Back into civil society"

There have been a bunch of articles lately, especially in the Army Times, about actions the Army is taking to address the problem of PTSD among Soldiers. I'm a little concerned to hear the Army place so much emphasis on the role of combat-stress teams (CSTs), which are in-country teams of uniformed mental-health professionals who counsel Soldiers after critical events (e.g., firefights).

By many accounts, CSTs are very effective at getting Soldiers "back into the fight." So, it seems that CSTs address what's been called "shell shock" and "battle fatigue" in previous wars.

But, I wonder: is the treatment that gets Soldiers back to being Soldiers the same that's required to help Soldiers re-integrate as civilians? After all, PTSD isn't about not being able to get back into the fight; it's about not being able to leave the fight behind.

Recent reports indicate that symptoms of PTSD are more common in the follow-up screenings done 3-4 months …