The International Society for Military Ethics (ISME)

(Formerly the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics--JSCOPE)


History, Structure and Purpose


In its formative years ISME benefited from the advice and assistance of Dr. Daniel Callahan and Bruce Jennings of the Hastings Center, Briarcliff Manor, NY. During the summer of 1979, a number of military officers attended a Hastings Center Institute on professional ethics-this meeting was the beginning of ISME. Marine officers who attended that first meeting later hosted (at Quantico Marine Base) a conference for officers from all services who were interested in military ethics. Most of those at the Quantico conference were involved in teaching military ethics at some level. Because the Quantico meeting was so well received, officers on the staff of the Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, agreed to host the next conference on professional military ethics. Held in January 1980, there were 33 officers and several civilian professors in attendence. At that meeting, a permanent organization know as the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics (JSCOPE) was formed. Colonel Malham M. Wakin of the US Air Force Academy was named the administrator of the organization and the Department of Philosophy at USAFA became the headquarters for JSCOPE activities. In the years that followed, many faculty members from the United States Military Academy at West Point, led by Colonel Anthony Hartle, also made vital contributions to the gatherings.


Because of the meeting's inter-service charter, JSCOPE later sought an affiliation with the National Defense University (NDU), whose leadership encouraged and supported the effort.  After holding annual conferences at a number of locations around the United States, JSCOPE decided to make NDU the regular location of the annual mid-winter conference. For some time, the Proceedings of the conferences were often published by the NDU Press.


Over the many years since its inception, JSCOPE has enjoyed increasingly generous, volunteer support from all the service academies and several civilian institutions. In order to accommodate its growing membership, starting in 1999, the conference began meeting at the Springfield Hilton hotel in Springfield, VA.  In 2005, the JSCOPE board voted to change the meeting's name to the International Society for Military Ethics (ISME).  The new name better described the varied and eclectic character of the program's participants and made clear that the organization had no formal ties to the military services. In 2008, we were generously hosted by the University of San Diego, holding the conference for the first time on the west coast.

Structure and Purpose

For years simply an informal meeting of interested parties, ISME in 2005 incorporated as a non-profit organization.  The new structure allows ISME to more easily collect conference fees and pay its expenses.  Nevertheless, it still exists solely in virtue of its members' commitment to professional military ethics.  ISME's goals are to:

  1. Provide a forum for the discussion and exchange of ideas relating to professional military ethics.
  2. Foster the rigorous and systematic analysis of military issues of ethical significance.
  3. Clarify the ethical norms and related behavioral expectations which should guide and constrain the conduct of military professionals.
  4. Enhance the quality of military ethics instruction.
  5. Afford service commanders informed, timely analyses of the ethical impact of military service practices.

Topics of some previous ISME/JSCOPE Conferences include:

  • "Professional Military Ethics"
  • "Teaching the Teachers of Ethics"
  • "Ethics for Commanders"
  • "Institutional Practices Which Invite Ethical Abuse"
  • "A Written Code of Ethics for the Profession of Arms"
  • "Ethical Issues Associated with Terrorism as a Mode of Warfare"
  • "Are Tactics and Strategy Immoral?"
  • "Accountability and Moral Courage"
  • "Comradeship, Fraternization, and Sex Discrimination"
  • "Constabulary uses of Military Force
  • "The Ethics of Military Intervention"
  • "Ethical Foundations of Leadership"
  • "Ethics and Leadership During Organizational Change"
  • "The Core Values Movement in the Military"
  • "Conscientious Objection"