Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 77

MACRO-ETHICS complex ethical dimensions behind a decision to conduct the mission to kill Osama bin Laden: Many question whether the special mission for Osama bin-Laden into Abbottabad, Pakistan, was legal under international law. Yet Americans largely agree it was morally right, whether or not it met the standards of international law. The law on the subject is conflicted, depending on whether one focuses on violations of sovereign territoriality or the significance of Osama bin-Laden and his finding sanctuary in Pakistan. From the standpoint of law, both arguments are compelling—but the majority of Americans, to put it simply, do not care; the morally right necessity of eliminating bin-Laden trumped any esoteric question of legality.9 However, setting aside the bin Laden example, Major also concludes that what is legally permissible is not always morally permissible: “The consideration of what may lawfully be done does not consider other relevancies of morality, diplomacy, politics, our own public opinion, and relations with the host population.”10 These points raise concerns for the unknown or unanticipated perils that arise from the adverse consequences of macro-ethical decisions. For example, what if the legally questionable mission to capture bin Laden had failed? What if it had been a catastrophic failure involving significant friendly casualties, as did the 1979 “Desert One” hostage rescue mission in Iran during the Carter Administration? Also, obvious and complicated contexts (which are considered ordered), tend to gravitate toward complexity (which is unordered, but not chaotic), especially when applied to war, national security, and international relations. Consequently, there is an inherent danger for decision makers to oversimplify situations and contemplated solutions. The Cynefin Framework addresses these difficulties. Snowden says failure to recognize a situation’s context may result in disorder.11 He refers to disorder as “not knowing which space you are in.”12 He goes on to state that this is the place “where we are most of the time” because people “interpret each situation according to their preference for action.”13 Typically, a certain blindness is caused by our preferences and our experiences. MILITARY REVIEW  September-October 2014 The cliff between order and chaos. Therein lies a danger because according to Snowden, there is a “cliff ” between the ordered domains (including obvious and complicated) and chaos.14 Chaos may result from either deliberate unethical behavior or failure to recognize complicated or complex situations. In the latter cause, complacency may cause one to oversimplify and misinterpret a problem causing an already complicated situation to become chaotic. Thus, failure to understand how complicated a military problem is may lead to chaos and moral failure. Irrespective, Snowden warns, once one falls into chaos, it is difficult to recover. He concludes “One should, therefore, manage in the complicated and complex spaces to avoid the cliff.”15 Morally permissible strategic outcomes. Although moral chaos is bad, moral complexity is not necessarily bad as long as military leaders understand the situation and apply an acceptable macro-ethical solution. This is where macro-ethics can use the Cynefin Framework for making ethical military decisions leading to desirable strategic outcomes that are morally acceptable. Within the Cynefin Framework, Snowden considers complex and chaotic contexts unordered: “there is no immediate apparent relationship between cause and effect.”16 Snowden defines a complex context as a place where “cause and effect are only obvious in hindsight, with unpredictable emergent outcomes.”17 Making decisions in a complex context calls for leaders to probe, sense, and respond in order to discover an emergent practice.18 Of these three actions, the key to success in a complex context is effective probing, Snowden asserts.19 He defines probing as conducting “safe-to-fail experiments” (not fail-safe experiments).20 If a solution does not work, leaders should get rid of it. If it succeeds, they should amplify it. This approach may be fine for business decision making. Nevertheless, how can military leaders apply it to ethics? How do leaders conduct probing ethically? Before military leaders probe a situation to discover solutions, they mu 7BFWFW&֖