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Showing posts from December, 2017

Leaders should love their soldiers

The first time I heard the expression, “Leaders should love their soldiers,” I dismissed it as corny, soft, and unrealistic. Over the course of my Army career, however, my understanding of what it means to love soldiers grew steadily. I now believe that military leadership entails a moral obligation to love soldiers in ways that are appropriate for senior-subordinate relationships. I initially made sense of the dictum to love my soldiers by interpreting it strictly in military terms. I embraced the famous adage by German General Erwin Rommel that “the best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties.”  According to this approach, leaders love their soldiers by being professionally competent. It’s a task-oriented, “they may hate me now, but they’ll love me later” form of love that focuses on pursuing outcomes that are unquestionably good for soldiers—victory and survival. However, this approach can leave some soldiers feeling that they…

Beware the Dark Side of Loyalty

Loyalty has long been considered a military virtue, which it can be, but it must be kept in check. Unlike other Army Values, loyalty is not a reliable guide for ethical conduct. Feelings of loyalty often compel soldiers to disregard their ethical responsibilities.

When it comes to loyalty, the challenge for Army leaders is to ensure it doesn’t grow out of control and begin to strangle more important organizational values.

In my December ARMY article, I challenge leaders to ensure that misplaced loyalties do not undermine their unit's ethical climate.

Is Loyalty Overvalued?

Think deeply. Act justly.

Pete

Refuting some bad assumptions about morality and war

As a military ethicist who strives to engage in constructive conversations about the morality of war, I’ve come to recognize five common misconceptions that sabotage efforts to think critically about morality and war. The mistaken assumptions undermine any realistic possibility of a war being morally justified. Therefore, the misconceptions must be addressed and debunked to set the conditions for meaningful discussions.

The five misconceptions are:

Peace is always an option.Both sides in war are always wrong.Warfighting is analogous morally to a sports competition.Motives must be pure for a war to be just.Any immoral acts in a war make the entire war immoral. I invite you to read the entire article and share your thoughts.
Moral Misconceptions: Five Flawed Assumptions Confuse Moral Judgments on War
Think deeply. Act justly.
Pete

Practicing What We Preach has Ethical Implications

Whenever an organization preaches one standard but practices a different one, all of its standards are compromised. Members don't know which standards really matter. 

In war, ambiguity about ethical standards can lead to terrible consequences. Therefore, military eaders should go out of their way to ensure alignment between their unit's words and deeds on ethical standards.

I addressed this topic in my September 2017 ARMY column, which concludes:

"Ethical ambiguity leads to ethical confusion, and ethical confusion sets conditions in which there is greater risk that unethical behavior will spin out of control. That is unfair to soldiers and dangerous for everyone involved.

Leaders can foster ethical climates by encouraging their soldiers to identify and bring to their attention any gaps between stated standards and enforced standards. Leaders and their soldiers should discuss any gaps as professionals to make a good determination about which standard—the stated one or the…

Ethical Challenges of Advising Foreign Militaries

The U.S. Army has 187,000+ soldiers deployed to 140+ countries. Few of them are engaged directly in combat operations.  Instead, most of them are advising and training foreign military forces.

Very often, those foreign military forces behave unethically, at least as we outsiders perceive the situations. 

Commanders owe their soldiers clear guidance on how they expect them to approach the intercultural ethical challenges they will encounter. Advisers are most effective when they have a shared understanding of when to intervene, when to influence and when to ignore a counterpart’s behavior.

My August 2017 column in ARMY magazine addressed this topic.
Divergent Ethics: Facing a Foreign Partner who has a Different Moral Code

I welcome and invite feedback and discussion.

Pete