Author Topic: Two Realms and the Military  (Read 1222 times)

peter_speckhard

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Re: Two Realms and the Military
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2021, 06:41:56 PM »
Would I be right in guessing that study of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is an important feature of basic training in all the services, and that much of the ethical discussion takes place around that study?

Are there other sources around which ethical discussion forms?

Peace,
Michael

Good question. I think the following:

o   The Geneva Conventions, of course.

o   The United States Constitution (as cited by General Milley in his published recent interviews). Here, especially the Constitution's limited role of the military.

o   Not a specific document but the commonly understood Judeo-Christian ethic of Western civilization.

Peace, JOHN

I dare not forget and another source: Classic "Just War Theory" (from Augustine and Aquinas).
It has been a while since I was in Army basic training, and yes, we were taught that we were not follow illegal orders and given the proper procedure if given illegal orders. The first thing you have to do is ask the officer to repeat the order, ostensibly to make sure you heard him correctly but in reality to alert to the fact that you're questioning and give him a chance to change is mind or rephrase things such that everything is technically legal. But no, we didn't spend a whole lot of time on how one goes about discerning and coming to ethical judgments. One thing you're not allowed to do is shoot defenseless enemy combatants, which means, at least according to our instructor, that you can't shoot at enemy paratroopers while they're in the air and floating down; you're supposed to capture them when they land. But you are allowed to shoot at enemy equipment any time, so if you see a paratrooper, aim for his canteen.

I did in fact witness what I would consider to be illegal behavior on the part of one of the drill instructors; our whole platoon did. He dared a recruit to commit suicide who had already threatened to on the first day and apparently done something with a razor and was just coming off suicide watch. The instructor got right up in his face mocking him, laughing at and imitating his tears, assuring him that he should do it, nobody would miss him, everyone would be better off including him since he was such a big fat.... well. He was relentless on that guy. Anyway. The same instructor also bragged about having a photo of himself holding up severed heads of Viet Cong, which I never saw but some of the guys in the platoon told everyone he had shown them. I doubt it was true. But we got a new set of instructors every two weeks, so that one certifiably insane sarge was soon gone, most of the rest of them we had were okay, and basic training didn't lend itself to filing complaints. I think the kid who went on suicide watch eventually did graduate from basic. His last name was something like Vandeventer.   

prsauer

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Re: Two Realms and the Military
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2021, 11:49:57 PM »
Just wading into this thread - so if my post is redundant I apologize. In response to Dave's questions near the beginning of the thread....


Several questions -
a) do you believe the War College training in ethics at the War College still exists?  Who else would or might be assigned to teaching on morality/ethics in military situations?
Yes. Ethics training exists both at the war college and in basic officer training courses. It was a significant module in my Army chaplain course.

b) did/should that training include the ethics of obeying/disobeying/figuring out what to do with unethical requests from up the chain of command?  Are there parameters for those kinds of decisions whether it be whiste blowing or disobeying a direct order to attack, etc.?
Those scenarios are covered. There are numerous avenues for whistleblowing, Chaplains being foremost among them.
 
c) does the military have a "blue line" similar to the police, which discourages those courses of action?  (viz., the movie A Few Good Men)
I am sure that in any situation there are those whose loyalty to the individual will hinder their ability to do the right thing. That being said, the Army has a number of safeguard redundancies in place. The chaplain, embedded at the Battalion level, is one of those redundancies.

d) is there room in the training of regular military for dialog on moral/ethical issues as part of say basic training?  Should there be?
It is actually an annual training requirement that Soldiers are trained in moral/ethical training. Commanders are evaluated on the basis of this metric, among others. They can not do the training, but it impacts their rating. As a chaplain I have been asked to teach this training by a couple different commanders.

e) more to Don, if the assumption by those in governmental authority is that the major duty of a chaplain is the ministry of presence, is it possible from those times of presence to stretch those folks to see the importance of the ethical and moral dimension, and how would you go about it?
Presence in knowing the individual Soldiers is critical for a number of reasons. So too is the safeguard that the military has given to its chaplains in the form of confidentiality to address those issues (the only exception to this are National Guard Chaplains who are not on Federal orders- they have to follow their own state laws).

In my experience, Soldiers more often than not do the right thing when faced with moral, ethical challenges under some very high pressure situations and at great personal risk to themselves. Beyond the international and national laws - it is in our training, It is a part of our creed, it is part of the military formed identity. One of the most recent examples of this was Justin Watt blowing the whistle on the Mahmudiyah killings by members of his company. He faced a little of the "thin blue line" resistance, but in the end, the safeguards won out and he was able to both report, and be protected in his reporting. West Point had him come in a speak to their cadets a few years ago on the topic of ... ethics.


« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 11:53:33 PM by prsauer »

pearson

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Re: Two Realms and the Military
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2021, 12:43:21 AM »

In my experience, Soldiers more often than not do the right thing when faced with moral, ethical challenges under some very high pressure situations and at great personal risk to themselves. Beyond the international and national laws - it is in our training, It is a part of our creed, it is part of the military formed identity. One of the most recent examples of this was Justin Watt blowing the whistle on the Mahmudiyah killings by members of his company. He faced a little of the "thin blue line" resistance, but in the end, the safeguards won out and he was able to both report, and be protected in his reporting. West Point had him come in a speak to their cadets a few years ago on the topic of ... ethics.


Thank you for this, prsauer.  It eloquently reinforces the conviction that ethics is a matter of, as you put it, "formed identity."  We all acquire whatever ethical character we may have through being engaged in a variety of social practices (including the social practice of the military), and the ethics is learned, enlarged and embedded in the living out of those practices.  In order to be an ethical soldier, one must first be a soldier, and be properly trained and formed as a soldier.  In the end, ethics is a function of personal identity.  Thanks again, prsauer.

Tom Pearson   

John_Hannah

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Re: Two Realms and the Military
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2021, 01:28:03 PM »
Just wading into this thread - so if my post is redundant I apologize. In response to Dave's questions near the beginning of the thread....


Several questions -
a) do you believe the War College training in ethics at the War College still exists?  Who else would or might be assigned to teaching on morality/ethics in military situations?
Yes. Ethics training exists both at the war college and in basic officer training courses. It was a significant module in my Army chaplain course.

b) did/should that training include the ethics of obeying/disobeying/figuring out what to do with unethical requests from up the chain of command?  Are there parameters for those kinds of decisions whether it be whiste blowing or disobeying a direct order to attack, etc.?
Those scenarios are covered. There are numerous avenues for whistleblowing, Chaplains being foremost among them.
 
c) does the military have a "blue line" similar to the police, which discourages those courses of action?  (viz., the movie A Few Good Men)
I am sure that in any situation there are those whose loyalty to the individual will hinder their ability to do the right thing. That being said, the Army has a number of safeguard redundancies in place. The chaplain, embedded at the Battalion level, is one of those redundancies.

d) is there room in the training of regular military for dialog on moral/ethical issues as part of say basic training?  Should there be?
It is actually an annual training requirement that Soldiers are trained in moral/ethical training. Commanders are evaluated on the basis of this metric, among others. They can not do the training, but it impacts their rating. As a chaplain I have been asked to teach this training by a couple different commanders.

e) more to Don, if the assumption by those in governmental authority is that the major duty of a chaplain is the ministry of presence, is it possible from those times of presence to stretch those folks to see the importance of the ethical and moral dimension, and how would you go about it?
Presence in knowing the individual Soldiers is critical for a number of reasons. So too is the safeguard that the military has given to its chaplains in the form of confidentiality to address those issues (the only exception to this are National Guard Chaplains who are not on Federal orders- they have to follow their own state laws).

In my experience, Soldiers more often than not do the right thing when faced with moral, ethical challenges under some very high pressure situations and at great personal risk to themselves. Beyond the international and national laws - it is in our training, It is a part of our creed, it is part of the military formed identity. One of the most recent examples of this was Justin Watt blowing the whistle on the Mahmudiyah killings by members of his company. He faced a little of the "thin blue line" resistance, but in the end, the safeguards won out and he was able to both report, and be protected in his reporting. West Point had him come in a speak to their cadets a few years ago on the topic of ... ethics.

Thanks, Paul. You confirm what I expected to be true, namely that ethics is still paramount in the military since my retirement 28 years ago. I just now watched Admiral Mullen, former Chairman of the JCS speak, reiterating all that General Milley said about ethical obligations of the highest commissioned officers of the United States.

Peace, JOHN
« Last Edit: July 18, 2021, 02:01:23 PM by John_Hannah »
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS