Preparing Soldiers for Responsibility, Integrity and Transparency in the Dutch Armed Forces. Exploring the Realm of Dilemma Training<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Contribution to the JSCOPE 2000 Conference “Moral Considerations in Military Decision Making”.
By Prof. A.H.M. (Fred)van Iersel, Dr Th.A. (Ted) van Baarda and Dr D. (Desiree)Verweij
In 1999, the Dutch Minister of Defense, Mr. Frank de Grave, promised the Dutch parliament that he would take steps to improve the quality of training in ethical dilemmas in the military as an organization. The reasons are obvious. The Dutch Armed Forces are deeply involved in military operations of all kinds. Military Operations Other than War, in particular,lead to new practices and new moral experiences for Dutch soldiers. These new practices and experiences in the context of ‘peace operations’ all have ethical implications. The awareness of these ethical implications has been triggered by critical incidents like the fall of Srebrenica. Apart from the fact that, as the UN has now stated,<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> the fall itself cannot be attributed to Dutchbat, there still were many complex choices for Dutchbat to make with far-reaching ethical and political implications. Through these types of critical incidents, which also occur in other Armed Forces, the awareness of the relevance of ethics for military practice has certainly been greatly enhanced. There is a need for a deeper exploration of these ethical issues. In fact there is a need to prepare soldiers to take up responsibility. These are the main considerations behind the recent establishment of an office for “ethics and the military” at the Netherlands Defense College at Rijswijk, in September 1999. Together with everyone who has a task with regard to ethics in the armed forces, and especially together with staff members for ethics at the Royal Military Academy of the RNLA and the RNLAF, and staff members of the Academy of the Royal Dutch Navy (Den Helder), the Office for Ethics and the Military will try to stimulate ethical reflection throughout the Dutch Military.
The following paper addresses some of the main issues related to the improvement of dilemma training in this area. Its purpose is to describe and discusssome of the basic issues related to relatively ‘new’ military practices of the Dutch armed forces, especially in military operations other than war. This corresponds with the political priority given to these issues. We think it is necessary to describe these issues and discuss them with the Netherlands’ partners in international cooperation, in order to create opportunities to develop mechanisms for compatibility of ethical standards within alliances involving the Dutch Armed Forces. Of course, the descriptions and discussions are only roughly sketched in the context of this paper. The new start being made in the area of ethics requires that open discussions are held about the assumptions underlying our ethical approach.
In this paper, we offer a set of workable definitions for ‘ethics’, ‘corporate ethics’, ‘professional ethics’ and ‘military ethics’. The first section deals with these definitions.
The third section deals with policy dilemmas regarding the integration of ethics into a military organization.
The fourth and final section offers some elaborations of consequences for ethical training and education given to the Dutch military.
Concerning the terminology of this paper, we have attempted to consistently use the phrase ‘ethics in the context of the military organization’. We think that the term ‘military ethics’ is a legitimate one. But for the problems we are dealing with under the present circumstances, this terminology is somewhat unclear. ‘Military ethics’ calls forth the question whether it focuses on the legitimacy of military practices, in which case there is a risk of assimilation of ethics into its context, or that it - on the contrary- focuses on moral criticism (e.g. through discussion about cases), in which case its acceptance and effectiveness within the military will be under constant pressure. As with business ethics, there are two varieties of ethics in the context of the military: one focusing on the legitimacy of any military practice as it is; and another on independent judgment from an external perspective, which may result in criticism without respect to the moral sensibility of soldiers and their willingness to consider and handle ethical challenges. In the context of this paper, we want to avoid any kind of conflict between the two types of business ethics. In the present circumstances, both approaches are far too limited, given that a new ethical framework for military practices in military operations other than war is urgently required. We therefore focus on ‘ethics in the context of the military’, thus concentrating on the position and role of ethics with regard to the military. We hope that, through this approach, both the substance and the functions of ethics in the military can be treated properly.
I Corporate ethics and professional ethics<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Corporate ethics (or business ethics) and professional ethics are forms of applied ethics. The latter term, ethics, can be defined as reflection on and explication of morality, which means reflection on the values and normsof a certain group of people in a certain period of time. In a further elaboration of this definition, values can be defined as ‘ideals’, as the ‘objectives one strives after’, and norms as ‘rules orguidelines to act upon’ (Verweij 1999). On the basis of this definition, corporate ethics and professional ethics can be described respectively as reflection on and explication of the morality (values and norms) of a certain corporation or organization and of a certain profession.
Since the term 'corporate ethics' is frequently used by the Dutch military, we will devote special attention to this concept, and we will argue that corporate ethics cannot be detached from professional ethics.
Van Luijk, Professor of Corporate Ethics at Nijenrode University and Chairman of the Executive Committee of European Business Ethics (EBEN), describes corporate ethics as the institutionalized discussion on norms and values in corporate situations with the goal of creating links that are relevant to all parties involved. This implies, according to van Luijk, that corporate ethics demands vigilance with regard to the values and norms of a corporation and calls on the genuine readiness of all parties involved, to discuss matters (van Luijk 1989).
The application of this description to military organizations implies that ethics in the context of the military demands vigilance with regard to the values and norms that are inherent in the activities performed by a military organization, and in addition to that, demands a genuine readiness to exchange thoughts on this subject.
Our society has increasingly become a service society. Through this development there is a growing mutual dependence amongst individuals. Practically all actions that are carried out have consequences for others. This also holds for corporations. Corporations are selling services, as opposed to selling products. The military “sells” a service, which is combat capability.
This means that actions (effects of management decisions) have consequences both inside and outside the corporation.
The corporation enters into relations with different individuals, groups and institutions. This relation with other individuals and their institutions indicates the ethical dimension. There are many others involved in a corporation and, as a consequence, there are many interests to take into account. In publications on corporate ethics it is maintained that corporate ethics exists on different levels.
Corporate ethics is about:
A. The corporation or organization in relation to its personnel.
In this respect, one can think of matters such as safe work, fair wages, prevention of discrimination and sexual harassment, the development of moral consciousness among the personnel etcetera;
B. The corporation or organization in relation to its customers and the services that are rendered.
In this respect one can think of matters such as giving good and reliable information, rendering qualitatively good services etcetera;
C. The corporation or organization in relation to society.
In this respect, one can think of the image of the corporation in society caused by the composition of its personnel, the attitude towards the environment, products, sincerity in image-building etcetera (A corporation is part of the society in which it operates).
According to several authors, the most interesting questions can be found at the intersections of the different levels. This has everything to do with the fact that corporate ethics and professional ethics coincide in practice. However, this does not imply that the two concepts are indistinguishable. The difference between corporate ethics and professional ethics is mostly seen as the difference between the individual professional and the company as a whole. In other words, professional ethics is concerned with the moral aspects (values and norms) of the attitudes and actions of a professional; corporate ethics is concerned with the moral aspects (values and norms) that play a role in the activities of the company as a whole. This difference is also referred to as the difference between organizational ethics and personal ethics. This distinction is mainly a difference between two perspectives from which one can look at ethics. In relation to military organizations, this difference implies that military corporate ethics can be seen as a part of military management science, and military professional ethics as a part of the military education and training. This means that corporate ethics aims at responsible conduct of business and professional ethics at personal education and the actual professional practice of the individual soldier. However, as mentioned earlier, professional ethics and corporate ethics coincide in practice; moreover, they have to coincide so that policy formulation can become effective. This can be made clear by the example of policy formulation of a corporationwith reference to women and immigrants (corporate ethics). This policy formulation has to be put into practice, on the shop floor, by the individual military leader (professional ethics). The policy of the military is that more women and immigrants should join up (because it aims to mirror society to some extent, and because an important part of the workforce would otherwise not be utilized). However, if at the grass-roots level in the military, military leaders talk and think about women as "chicks who can absolutely not do what real men can do" and about immigrants as "blacks who happen to be lazy by nature", then the formulated policy has little effect and will be stymied by the prejudices of individuals on the shop floor.
The values that a corporation stands for -and claims to stand for- have to be genuinely shared by those who implement corporation policies. This not only applies to personnel in their home country, but also to tasks that have to be carried out abroad. Corporate ethics can only be effective in combination with professional ethics. In other words, there should be a connection in an organization between the ethics of that organization and the ethics of the individual professionals employed there. This means that general policy (corporate ethics) has to be implemented by individuals who can genuinely subscribe to the policy and whose attitudes and actions (personal ethics or professional ethics) demonstrate this fact. The development of personal insights and personal judgements in this context are of the utmost importance. However, the natural occurrence of these insights and judgements cannot be taken for granted; they have to be developed and stimulated in education and training.
II. The realm of ethics in the military organization
In this section, we will explore some aspects of ethics in the context of military organizations which are relevant to the development of all types of dilemma training.
II.I. Relevance and impact of ethics in a military organization
The first consideration is: why should there be any such thing as ethics in the context of a military organization at all (in itself a question for both meta-ethics, philosophy of law and politics)? At the meta-ethical level decisions should be made on how ethics in the context of military organizations relates to social and political ethics, to business ethics and organizational ethics, and to professional ethics. At the level of philosophy of law, decisions should be made as to how the legal responsibilities of soldiers are related to moral responsibilities. While law can be regarded as codified ethics, ethics can also function as a source of criticism with regard to positive law. Apart from that, international law itself shows both a rapid development and a lot of lacunas when it comes down to military operations other than war, which puts the military at risk of being confronted with extra ethical dilemmas.
At the political level, decisions should be made regarding the relation between political accountability of the Minister of Defense as opposed to the accountability of the military as an organization and in terms of the individual soldier. In any democratic constitutional state, the government is responsible for the military organization. It needs to follow a principle of legality: the legal use of force is what distinguishes the Armed Forces from criminals. Consequently, politicians have the ethical and legal duty to ensure that all missions they select for the military are - and remain - legal.
A democratic government is politically controlled by a parliament. And of course this is the way it should be in a constitutional state. However, as many veterans from countries throughout the world know all too well, more often than not military failures are the orphans of political ethics: ex post facto, the responsibility for failures is laid upon the shoulders of the military. It is no luxury to underline the political and ethical responsibilities of the political elite which sends troops into an area in crisis or actual conflict.
One example of the need for clarity in this area is the legitimacy of multiculturalization in the military organization: should it be implemented - in an ethical sense - because it is a just goal to strive for at the level of personal ethics? Should it be pursued for reasons of political desirability? Or should it be pursued to get enough personnel for the Dutch armed forces in the near future? All views may have some legitimacy, but which legitimization is ethically most valid? The answer to this question may affect the type of multiculturalization and implementation selected.
From the point of view of military organization, various questions arise. Can politicians be prevented from embracing the ethical responsibility of the military for deceitful reasons, such as avoiding political accountability? And if so, how? On the other hand, if a military organization has its own ethical responsibility as a moral subject, how can one avoid Sun Tsu’s problem of unjust interference in genuine military responsibility?<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Once again this dilemma can only be dealt with adequately if there is a valid and democratically accepted model of both relating and distinguishing political, legal, moral and managerial responsibilities.
II.II. Who is responsible?
The second question is, whose responsibility is ethics in the context of a military organization: do these ethics primarily apply to the behavior and leadership of officers, or is it also about non-commissioned officers; or is it maybe even about any private soldier? Both the individual soldier and the military as organization are confronted with the ethical consequences of high degrees of decentralization during military operations. Is there any such thing as a ‘strategic corporal’<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, who in fact has a responsibility which transcends his rank? What are the other implications of processes of decentralization during military operations?
Does modern military technology imply an increase in responsibility for smaller military units; and if so, how should this process be dealt with in the first place? Military technology facilitates both a high degree of self-regulation of the military in a crisis area, but at the same time it enables operational decisions to be overruled by a higher level in the organization. What does responsibility mean in such a complex context?
It appears then that it is very important to distinguish four dimensions of responsibility: the political, the legal, the managerial and moral responsibility. Only when these types of responsibilities have been distinguished can they be interrelated again in a clear way.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
II.III. The content or substance of ethics in the context of a military organization: Ethical dilemmas
Dilemmas should be a central features of ethics in the context of a military organization for a very obvious reason. People know how to make simple choices; handling dilemmas however is a different business. According to the Canadian Armed Forces, there are three types of dilemmas: (1) you are unsure of the right thing to do; (2) two or more values may be in conflict, e.g. honesty versus duty to obey orders; (3) harm may be caused, no matter what you do.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Also in Dutch military organizations one can discern these three types of cases: (1) cases of moral uncertainty (not knowing how to act); (2) choices between two or more conflicting goods or obligations; and (3) choices between alternatives which all have adverse indirect (unintentional) effects.
The first category may not be a dilemma in the strict sense - when there is a choice of two alternatives both of which have adverse consequences - but rather a complex ethical problem; in everyday military discourse, though, it is often referred to as a dilemma. From the point of view of ethics, themes like courage, responsibility, integrity and leadership are closely linked with this type of problem.
The second category affects, for example, specific professions within a military organization such as doctors, psychologists, or social workers. Such individuals have their own professional code of conduct which is not always compatible with military obligations. These cases demand a hierarchy of values, as the Canadian approach rightly points out. The validity of this approach has been proven by S. Toulmin; in his approach, a moral argument is more valid as it has more interrelatedness to higher values.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
The third category contains classical dilemmas for any military organization<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. One might even say that the core of ethics in the context of a military organization is about weighing indirect effects and about doing so in a split second. The moral arguments about collateral damage during the NATO air strikes in the Kosovo crisis illustrate how closely the principle of indirect effect (‘collateral damage’) is linked with other ethical principles, like the last resort principle and the principles of proportionality and discrimination.
II. IV. Casuistry in the context of ethical research
The fourth aspect regards methods in the area of ethics in the context of a military organization: how should research in this area be carried out? The development of ethics as an academic discipline during the last fifty years has shown that it is practice which challenges ethical theory and even provokes the developments of new values, norms and virtues. This implies that casuistry as a research strategy may be very fruitful, also in the area of ethics in the context of the military organization. However Stephen Toulmin’s warning regarding the Abuse of Casuistry<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> should be taken into account: casuistry cannot replace moral argumentation on the basis of ethical theory. Also one should never forget that case studies more often than not are either proactive arguments or reconstructions of moral arguments in the context of post-factum self-evaluations. Neither case necessarily reflects the way people reason when making rapid decisions in the middle of a crisis situation.
However no research strategy can be adequate if it is not grounded in ethical theory. The word ethical theory in itself may easily be misunderstood. To put it in terms of classical Greek philosophy, ethical theory is not about ‘ epistèmè’ (scientific knowledge), nor about technè or poièsis (technical knowledge about ways of producing a result). On the contrary, it is about
‘phronèsis’, the type of knowledge related to the legitimacy of ends people should strive for and means they should use, especially in circumstances which cannot be completely assessed.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Note that this is a general description of situations which require leadership, which is why it often is considered to be not just an intellectual virtue, but a moral one - omnis virtus moralis debet esse prudens (each moral virtue should be prudent). Morality implies rationality <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Well then, ethical theory means ‘a normative framework of concepts, based on analyses and interpretations of and discussions about earlier practices’.
To say that casuistry should be related to ethical theory does not imply that ethics in the context of the military organization would lose its practical orientation, and its purposes and objectives - let alone that all soldiers should be ethicists! It does mean, however, that, especially in the context of research, casuistry should be related to the theoretical framework, based on earlier analyses and practices. And it also means that differences in context between earlier practices and new practices should be taken into account within the research. For example, the ethical meaning of ‘nuclear deterrence’ during the Cold War may significantly differ from the ethical meaning of nuclear deterrence as a general or multipolar deterrence in the post-Cold War era. Ethical theory of bipolar nuclear deterrence and case studies about nuclear crises, like the Cuba crisis, are relevant to any future type of ethical theory of nuclear deterrence, but the differences in context should be taken into account as well.
Because ethical theory in itself is intrinsically pluralistic, any attempt to relate casuistry to theory will add essential dimensions to ethical reflections. For example, it makes a difference if one approaches multipolar deterrence from a utilitarian point of view, or from the point of view of Kantian deontology. Both approaches raise new aspects of ethical decision-making. We think it is useful to teach soldiers how to apply these different perspectives in given cases, provided it is done in a systematic way.
II.V. Space-related conditions: Context of implementation
The fifth aspect refers to the functions and roles of ethics in a military organization: where is the best context to implement ethics in the military organization in such a way that it has positive effects on professional attitudes and military behavior? Ethical awareness in a military organization is especially raised by critical incidents with ethical implications and consequences, in wartime operations as well as in military operations other than war. From this observation, it is only a small step to conclude that the proof of the pudding is in the eating: the entire focus on ethics in a military organization should result in a reduction of the risk of critical incidents with ethical implications (which often have political consequences).
II.VI. Time-related conditions
The sixth aspect concerns the time when the conditions for an effective focus on ethics in the context of a military organization can be created, and the role education can and should play here. Well then, if one wants to reduce the risk, one has to start with controlling risk-related processes in a military organization. By this we mean recruiting, selection, education and training of personnel. In relation to ethics in the context of a military organization, there must be a special focus on the processes of codification of values within the military organization, the instruments for implementation of values, the instruments for maintenance of values, and the retrospective evaluation of values (“lessons learned from an ethical perspective”). A special focus on the reduction of risks in these areas means:
- the establishment of values which accepted by society and are at the same time valid from an academic point of view, as well as being applicable to a military organization;
- the implementation of values within a military organization - its structure, cultures and primary processes - to make sure that measures for prevention are taken;
- the maintenance of values in operational situations, which in itself is difficult because one also has to avoid any type of ethical policing; and finally:
- the evaluation of the values themselves and their functioning.
The aspects of establishment of values and their implementation, maintenance and evaluation are in fact interrelated. In the daily practice of the military, one cannot fruitfully separate one of these parts of the chain of policies which may make ethics an effective force within the Armed Forces.
II.VII. Ethics: A functional perspective
Although all aspects will eventually require our attention, we give priority to a functional perspective on ethics and its role in a military organization. Therefore this paper now turns to addressing the role of ethics in a military organization, especially through an analysis of its functions and its domain. From there, some conclusions may be drawn as to the content and methods of ethics in the context of a military organization and the education therein.
III. Dealing with ethics in a military organization
In the third section of this paper we will try to sketch out an outline for a strategy of improving dilemma training by relating it to its context, which is expressed by the seven aspects mentioned above.
III.I The nature of ethical dilemmas
Ethical dilemmas in the military may occur anywhere: in the barracks, on the battlefield and in the context of military operations other than war. In the context of this paper, it is impossible to discuss all of these different contexts, so we will focus on the relatively new context of military operations other than war.
Ethical dilemmas often become apparent in operational situations. This holds for wars as well as for Military Operations Other Than War. This does not mean that they are exclusively or even primarily operational by nature; they may have strategic and tactical dimensions and may even be strategic or tactical in origin. Ethical dilemmas may be generated by strategic or tactical choices or of course, by the unforeseen actions of conflicting parties in a crisis area. Whatever the origin of the ethical dilemmas, every approach towards an ethical dilemma should deal with the practical operational setting in which they must be resolved. A logically occurring complication is that one cannot stop the operational process until the ethical dilemma has been solved. Therefore a very important problem to be addressed in this paper is: under what conditions can ethics in the context of a military organization contribute to the quality of military performance without interrupting military operations? Under what conditions can ethics be (or become) an effective instrument in the prevention of tragedies at theaters of war which result from insufficient preparation for confronting ethical dilemmas? We want to explore answers by sketching the landscape of policy dilemmas regarding the functions and role of ethics in Dutch military organizations. Basically the idea is firstly that management cycles such as modern quality care systems can also be applied to the development and implementation of ethics. Secondly, the focus on ethics in a military organization can be much more effective when it is dealt with in current management cycles within the military, at different stages and levels of the organization.
III.II. Dealing with the dynamic nature of values and virtues
In recent decades, values in the Netherlands have evolved to an amazing extent. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Cultural modernization in its various manifestations (for example, secularization, individualization, pluralization, multiculturalization, increasing permissiveness) does not stop at the threshold of a military organization. It enters the military organization through the changing characteristics of its personnel. As a consequence, the Dutch Armed Forces attempt to function along civilian lines wherever possible. The strictly military approach is adopted only in as far as it is necessary from the point of view of its effectiveness.
Also a military organization has to deal with the whole range of expressions of ethical modernization. The development of an interplay with the mechanism of cultural generalization can also be helpful to a military organization. Within a military organization, the decision to adopt human rights as a set of integrative values helps both to legitimize diversity within the military organization and to regulate the relations between different cultures within the military organization. Moreover the implementation and maintenance of human rights are of increasing importance as part of military missions. Human rights can be related to the responsibility of the military organization ad extra. Human rights are therefore very attractive to the military organization as an integrative set of values, since they can be used to integrate the military’s responsibilities ad intra and ad extra. Any task related to the implementation of human rights in the context of military operations other than war gains credibility and therefore effectiveness when human rights are taken seriously within the Dutch Armed Forces as well.
From the military organization’s point of view there are two major, related policy dilemmas. Firstly, there is no consensus at all about a hierarchy of human rights; neither ethics nor politics offer a clear means of tackling this problem. For the military, this is not very practical, because it needs clarity in order to be able to translate values into instructions. Secondly, the integration of values - of which human rights are only one example - is relatively abstract in nature. This is therefore of little practical assistance to the individual soldier in an operational setting, let alone when he is confronted with a new ethical dilemma. Now what should the military organization do? Should it develop its own ethical standards as a kind of normative professionalism and impose these values on its personnel, or should it primarily stimulate and support the personal responsibility of soldiers?
If the first option is chosen, how can a military culture be prevented from developing a ‘Kadaver Disziplin’ in which obedience is not limited by ethical values? After all it is not the state’s task to function as a moralist. However, as an employer, the state can and should inform its military employees about their legal obligations - for example with regard to the Geneva Convention - and it should help its employees to shape their own conscience, for example through dilemma training.
If the second option is chosen, how can conscience - which should be followed at all times and under all circumstances - be prevented from having an anarchistic effect within the organization? This would certainly be the case if it offers a legitimacy to individualism in situations where a collective approach and group cohesion are required. Moral values, of course, should be based on the individual. Ultimately they cannot be imposed on soldiers. However, political ethics and military corporate ethics - like codes of conduct and military professional ethics (e.g. as expressed by Amnesty International’s working groups for the military), may support the normative framework needed for a hierarchy of values based on the individual. These forms of ethics should not be seen as instruments for imposing unacceptable pressure on the soldier’s personal conscience. Nor should they be regarded as a substitute for the personal moral conscience of the soldier. Integrity is always based in a person’s conscience. In spite of this principle, rather than because of it, the shaping of conscience should be supported by professional ethics and organizational ethics. Models for ethical decision-making may have their function and role in the formation of an individual’s conscience.
III.III. Codification of moral values
Sooner or later ethical values can and should reach a phase of codification. They may be expressed in laws or ethical codes of conduct. With regard to this codification of values, ethics is subject to a current management dilemma, namely the choice between a top-down development of values versus bottom-up development. As any military organization is (and must be) intrinsically hierarchical in nature, the dilemma becomes even more salient. The dilemma can be formulated as follows: does the military organization prefer a high ethical standard coupled with a low acceptance of this standard (caused by imposition of the standard from above)? How can it increase the acceptance of the imposed standard? On the other hand, if ethical standards are being developed in a bottom-up strategy, how can the risk of an adverse outcome (lower standard plus higher acceptance) be avoided?
Various strategies have been followed within the Dutch Armed Forces. The Dutch Army and Navy have both opted for a top-down approach and are still endeavoring to get their codes of conduct accepted. The Dutch Air Force has chosen a combination of top-down and bottom-up strategies by discussing a first draft of the code with all of its personnel and adapting it afterwards. All three parts of the Armed Forces also asked ethical experts to comment on the drafts in an early stage of development.
If our suggestion in section III.II - implying that the individual is the basis of integrity - is right, this may require that codes of conduct express the paradox that organizational ethics actually compels each soldier to follow his conscience. Also the code of conduct should express the intention of the military to function as a learning organization, in which individual professionals are also learning. Ethics should also be included within the scope of lessons learned within the military. In a learning organization, the codification of values is largely dependent on value development within the new practices and experiences of the military. In other words, the development of values within the military and their codification should be conceived as interrelated dynamic processes. Of course this implies a challenge to the military because it is not easy to be a learning organization in a normative environment that is colored by international law and national military penal law.
III.IV.Implementation of values in a military organization
Up until now Dutch military organizations have already made substantial investments when it comes to ethical education and training for their soldiers. Yet improving the quality of training models remains a relevant issue, due to the diversity of ethical concepts in the context of a military organization, and the diversity of concepts and training which cannot be explained by differences between military units and their tasks. There are even considerable differences in quantities of training and education which cannot be explained by differences in organizational cultures. So there is enough to do in order to reach an acceptable level of standardization of ethics within Dutch military organizations.
Apart from this, recruitment, selection and education should be supported by styles of leadership which integrate the ethical component of leadership. If not, organizational cultures as a context of military socialization will nullify any attempt at putting ethical education into practice.
III.V. Maintaining moral values
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. That also applies to the function of ethics in a military organization. But how can the military, as an organization, actively promote values? Suppose that the values have been developed, codified, and implemented, what more can a military organization do to promote putting values into practice at the right moment and the right place, namely in operational situations in conflict and crisis areas? Whose responsibility is this: is it that of individual armed services personnel? Is it perhaps the responsibility of commanding officers, since they must view a decrease in value maintenance as a symptom of declining morale? Should the military chaplaincy have a task in this and, if so, on what basis - since its task is not that of an ethical police force within the military? Clear choices need to be made here. If one takes conscience as the cornerstone of ethical education in peacetime, one cannot deny personal responsibility in a crisis. Here is where the role of the chaplaincy is crucial: if personal conscience underlies all moral decisions, then the chaplaincy can be helpful in molding it and also in giving guidance in practical situations, without imposing its own values. In the Dutch Armed Forces the chaplaincy does indeed play such a role. A very important presupposition to this is its independence from the military hierarchy, which is based on the Dutch model of separation between church and state.
IV Some discussions
In this fourth section we will explore further some central questions that are crucial for the development of dilemma training in Dutch military organizations.
IV.I. Focus of dilemma training
Ethical dilemmas in the military are not restricted to the military alone. The omnipresent CNN influences those back home - families, public opinion and national politicians - to develop their own opinions about the routine practice of military operations. This illustrates that there is a choice to be made concerning the primary focus of dilemma training. Does a military organization have to place its primary focus on internal relations within the military organization (which means strengthening the identity of the military organization) or should it consider its primary focus to be the quality of military performance from the point of view of society (meaning improving social acceptance). The former would involve primarily internal quality control mechanisms with regard to ethical standards. Dilemma training then means learning how to cope with dilemmas when it comes down to people-handling etcetera. One important risk related to this is the mechanism of covering up problems. If the focus is on social acceptance, on the other hand, then there is always an external quality control. This holds for communication with the media and for communication with the local population in a crisis area. The local population in a crisis area should be considered a stakeholder by peacekeeping forces, for reasons of their long-term effectiveness. From this point of view, dilemma training should demand a combination of preparing soldiers for responsibility by training them to take responsibility at their own initiative in unforeseen situations and teaching them how to handle public communication about the actual choices that were made! In other words, the external focus implies a communicative way of handling dilemmas, which has many consequences for training and education models.
We tend to think that the second focus is more adequate. After all, the Netherlands Army doctrine for peace operations explicitly refers to the role of the media during peace operations within its article about ethical dilemmas. Handling ethical dilemmas in the military is not just about ‘what should I do?’, it is also about giving an account: ‘why are you doing this’, or ‘why aren’t you doing that?’ Whether we like it or not, the work of the Armed Forces during peace operations is open to public scrutiny. Consideration should be given to how this affects the dilemma training model.
IV.II. Ethics policies: Peripheral?
The next question we need to discuss here is whether or not ethics is a peripheral matter within a military organization. We argue that it is a central theme. What should be the level of commitment to ethics within the military organization: strategic, tactical and/or operational?
However moral problems mostly become apparent in an operational situation. Therefore the moral dimension of the operational situation is self-evident, whereas the moral dimension of strategy and its development is often only clear ex post facto.
Now if ethical choices are to be successfully implemented in military organizations - by which we mean both effective and efficient - then the strategic and tactical level should be integrated from the very beginning of this process.
Thus, there is an imminent dilemma between the visibility of the moral problems andthe perceived degree of urgency with which they must be handled, on the one hand, and the difficulty of handling them adequately (let alone preventing them altogether) on the other. While this is not unique to moral problems, it does reinforce the need to focus on the relationship between strategy and ethics and between tactics and ethics.
There is, of course, nothing new under the sun. The only problem is that although this insight was considered to be quite normal in the era of bipolar nuclear deterrence (now known as the Cold War) it has so far failed to function in strategic and tactical planning in modern military operations other than war.
This does not negate the validity of education and training with an operational focus, it simply means that the above-mentioned ‘strategic corporal’ may be so overburdened that improved dilemma training may not suffice as a strategy for preventing tragedies.
IV.III. A path towards a strategy for dilemma training
The special focus on risk reduction thus means that these activities should be linked to each other. What is the use of ethical education if there is no chance that the moral insights obtained will be put into practice? That is why the establishment of values is necessary, for example through codes of conducts. For if there are no clearly defined values within the military organization, how then can they be implemented and maintained? And if the ethical culture among military leaders denies the ethical component of leadership, what is the use of training subordinate soldiers to cope with ethical dilemmas? And, last but not least, if history did indeed repeat itself, as the ancient Greek philosopher Polybe maintained, and if our memory were more adequate, ethical training could focus on specific dos and don’ts. But since history does not repeat itself, we will have to accept a continuous learning process, accompanied by regular evaluations of ethical ‘lessons learned’.
This means that priority should be given to training in basic professional attitudes with regard to three themes: responsibility, integrity and transparency of moral choices.
We realize that many of the assumptions, interpretations and policy dilemmas described here require much greater elaboration. Still we hope that this rough sketch will provide a fruitful basis for dialogue and discussion. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
E-mail correspondence about this paper can be sent to: a.h.vanIersel@kub.nlor: email@example.com
Prof. A.H.M. (Fred) van Iersel has been a staff member for the Office for Ethics in the context of military organizations at the Netherlands Defense College since September 1, 1999. He is also Professor of Military Chaplaincy at the Tilburg Faculty of Theology of Tilburg University, the Netherlands, and author of “Religion and Ethics in the Context of the Armed Forces. Exploring the Road to the Renewal of Military Chaplaincy” (Tilburg University Press, 1997).
Dr Th.A. (Ted) van Baarda is a staff member for the Office for Ethics in the Context of the Military at the Netherlands Defense College at Rijswijk, the Netherlands. He is also Director of Humanitarian Law Consultancy.
Dr D. (Desiree) Verweij is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the Royal Military Academy at Breda, the Netherlands.
November, 30th 1999
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