Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 75

Decision Making driven macro-ethical decisions because the American people expect, and our military profession demands, that military professionals make military decisions based on proper moral judgment, taking into consideration the overall end state desired at tactical and strategic levels. As ethicist Don Snider writes, To be sure, all of our forces use billions of dollars of technology, but it is all at the beck and call of a human operator or commander who uses discretionary moral judgments to apply that military power. That is the art of being a military professional, making repetitive discretionary judgments often scores of times a day that are both effective militarily and within the moral norms expected by the military’s client—the American people.1 In making these discretionary moral judgments, Army leaders must take into consideration complexity since understanding and visualizing the complex environment—all the conditions, circumstances, and influences that bear on a commander’s decisions—are essential to proper macro-ethical decisions. In a decision process guided by macro-ethical concerns, actions at any level can be considered morally prohibited, morally permissible, or morally dubious. Morally prohibited actions are always unethical and wrong; they should be considered unacceptable. However, the moral implications of actions resulting from military decisions are harder to analyze because their effects can cross the levels of war. Sometimes morally permissible actions on the tactical level have morally prohibited or morally dubious outcomes on a complex strategic level. This means morally permissible tactical actions that have morally prohibited strategic outcomes should be considered unacceptable. Additionally, sometimes morally dubious actions on the tactical level produce desired strategic outcomes that are morally permissible. Actions contemplated from an ethical standpoint require careful consideration and perhaps new analytical tools to guide the process. One helpful tool for guiding macro-ethical decision making is known as the Cynefin Framework, a problem-solving tool developed by David J. Snowden and MILITARY REVIEW  September-October 2014 MACRO-ETHICS A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper from the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off from Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, 13 March 2009. others for business. Understanding complexity through the Cynefin Framework is not the only way to (U.S. Air Force photo by make macro-ethical decisions. It is, Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., AFCENT Combat Camera) however, a way. This paper will examine the Cynefin Framework and its usefulness to ethical decision making for military leaders. It will then examine two historical military situations in which understanding or misunderstanding a complex environment led to good or poor tactical decisions with subsequent good or poor strategic outcomes. Then it will apply these insights to the analyze the macro-ethics of the tactical use of drones in current operations. These case studies will illuminate the fact that morally dubious actions may produce desired strategic effects that are morally permissible. They will also show how morally permissible actions at the tactical level can have morally undesirable effects on a complex strategic level. A Sense-Making Framework for Morally Complex Decisions According to David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone, in their 2007 article “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making,” the Cynefin Framework “helps leaders determine the prevailing operative context so that they can make appropriate choices.”2 This framework strives to make sense of the prevailing environment. In a 2011 video posted at a website called Cognitive Edge Network, Snowden places decision-making models in two groups: categorization models and sense-making models.3 According to Snowden, in a categorization model, the framework precedes the data. In a sense-making model, the data precedes the framework. This distinction is useful for ethical decision making. Many accuse moral analytical systems of being too narrow in that they do not account for varied and new situations. This is because the analytical frameworks seem to precede the data, or in the case of ethics, the new and unique situations. In complex situations, it may be better to adopt an ethical framework to meet the situation. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that this is not situational ethics per se. Morally prohibited actions 73