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Beyond Precision: Issues of Morality and Decision Making in Minimizing Collateral Casualties

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This paper will analyze how the United States military currently endeavors as a moral agent to do the right thing while preparing for air strikes. While the machines of air war can be further improved. Much of the moral burden of collateral casualties and damage falls on the military decision makers who employ them. Military members make or support many of the decisions about where, when, and how those machines will strike. These decisions often exist in the moral territory beyond the black-and-white bounds of legal standards where multiple right objectives compete for priority. This paper begins with a brief survey of the nature of undesired civilian death and injury resulting from wartime attacks from the air, and then examines the goals and the characteristics of air operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom OEF. Following this is a review of the moral principles and legal standards that exist. against which the wartime actions of the United States are often compared. Next, the paper describes the process currently employed to plan air strikes, citing as primary sources the official doctrine, training, policy, and procedures used by the United States Air Force and the United States Central Command. which is the joint combatant command executing OEF. This process description is followed by considerations from the fields of applied ethics and decision analysis as they pertain to identifying possible issues in the decision support provided to military members who must make very difficult moral judgments in the targeting process. Finally. from this examination. The paper offers insights and recommendations to improve this moral decision support for military specialists and decision makers who work both to avoid unintended harm to innocents and to pursue national objectives.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Sociology and Law

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