Professional Military Ethics and the Laws of War: More Important Now than Ever Before
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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This essay focuses on one of the intangible elements of the art of operational leadership -- enhancing ones sense of military ethics and knowledge of the laws of war to arrive at a decision. In war, professional military ethics are inextricably woven into the fabric of the decision-making process and, along with other critical elements like desired end state and the laws of war, make up an essential part of a final decision. This essay describes the link between decision-making, ethics, and knowledge of the laws of war. This link is historically based, proven over time, and continues today. Furthermore, understanding it can be a great enabler in making sound decisions and justifying them to national and international audiences. The services should provide the necessary time and effort to ensure their senior officers are educated accordingly, regardless of the cost in time, admittedly a very scarce resource to the flag or general officer. In todays conflicts, the types of ethical issues that the operational commander, or any flag officer, will encounter are graduate level in their complexity. They require careful thought and study. When the time comes to make a decision of enormous consequence, there may not be time to look up terms like noncombatant immunity, double effect requirements, and necessity.
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