Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 76

remain prohibited and unacceptable regardless of the situation or the outcome. The idea behind macro-ethics is to determine whether a morally permissible or even a morally dubious action will produce a morally permissible outcome on a strategic level. To help clarify the distinction between morally permissible and morally dubious actions, we should establish the meaning of dubious. provides two definitions. For the purposes of this paper, the second definition, “unsettled in opinion,” is useful since it highlights that not all actions can or should be considered prima facie moral or immoral.4 That is, there are differences of opinion on the morality of many matters; these we call “grey areas.” For example, there are differences of opinion regarding strategic bombing in disputing whether it is ever morally permissible to bomb cities where one is certain there will be civilian casualties. During the period between World War I and World War II, many considered the bombing of cities permissible. Everything that added to a nation’s capacity to wage war was considered a legitimate target, much of which was often located in large urban and industrialized areas. The bombing of these targets would result in a shorter war, the argument went, which was a desired, and morally permissible, strategic outcome. In some camps, this idea remained widely accepted beyond World War II. Nevertheless, there was, and remains, considerable disagreement as to the moral permissibility of bombing cities. It is a morally dubious tactic. Notwithstanding, a shorter war still is considered a desirable, and morally acceptable, outcome. Application to the ethics of tactical decisions. The Cynefin Framework can give high-level military leaders a tool for deciding when or whether a tactic—such as the bombing of cities for strategic purposes—is morally permissible, morally dubious, or morally prohibited. Using this framework can help leaders make a morally acceptable decision. The Cynefin Framework was developed to help executives make decisions in complex business situations. In this paper, I propose applying the model for ethical decision making in military operations. Contexts for decision making. Snowden defines the Cynefin Framework using five contexts, also called domains: obvious (originally called simple in the 2007 article), complicated, complex, chaotic, and disorder.5 74 (In the Cynefin Framework, complicated and complex are used differently; they are not synonyms.) According to Snowden and Boone, obvious and complicated contexts, “assume an ordered universe, where cause-and-effect relationships are perceptible, and right answers can be determined based on the facts.”6 An obvious context is relatively simple; things are as they appear. To make decisions in an obvious context, a leader’s job is to sense, categorize, and then respond.7 There is a right answer. Many ethical decisions fall under an obvious context. For example, the decision whether to kill enemy prisoners is an ethical decision in an obvious context. Killing unarmed prisoners violates any number of laws and moral codes. It is a morally prohibited act. The decision to kill in self-defense, however, is morally permissible. Again, the decision is simple. One senses the situation, categorizes it (based on the rule that killing is permissible in self-defense), and responds appropriately. Within a complicated context, the situation is slightly different. There may be more than one right answer. To make decisions in a complicated context, leaders sense, analyze, and then respond.8 In this context, leaders use personal knowledge and experience as well as subject matter expertise to analyze the situation and come to a decision. For example, military decisions in a complicated context may involve obtaining legal analysis, whereupon leaders base their decisions on interpretation of laws. By way of illustration, the decision to target a religious site may be a legal decision based on the rules of engagement (ROE). If an enemy operates from a religious site, under the prevailing ROE that site may lose its status and becomes a legal, and morally permissible, target. Conducting operations against the target would be thus legally acceptable. However, the decision is not simple; it involves analysis. It is complicated. The decision to treat such a site as a target may not be straightforward. Other factors may emerge, after careful consideration, that outweigh on moral grounds purely legal justification for attacking the site. This illustrates that not all legal acts are morally permissible, which means decision makers should not regard the results of some legal acts as being acceptable. Legality and morality get tangled. In the article “Law and Ethics in Command Decision-Making,” A. Edward Major discusses the September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW