Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 78

Photo by Sgt. Matthew Acosta, 22nd MPAD moral obligation based on the Geneva Convention to establish the “security and well-being of the Iraqi people in his area of responsibility.”21 He based his actions—some of which could have been considered morally dubious— on this moral obligation, and he succeeded in establishing security in a city torn by violence. After probing, a leader should ask what is morally permissible and determine based on emergent data whether the morally permissible actions identified will lead to the strategic goal. This may require some trial and error. Incidents from Iraq in 2004 provide more examples. Then Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman used high-handed methods such as physical coercion and intimidation to extract information from or to punish Iraqi detainees. Soldiers under Sassaman’s command forced two Iraqi civilian detainees off a bridge, which led to one’s death by drowning. New York Times writer Dexter Filkins describes how Sassaman established a very aggressive and abusive command environment with regard to the treatment of prisoners that, once exposed by the news media, proved counterproductive to the strategic objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom.22 Compare these actions with the methods employed by then Col. Dana Pittard. As commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in Iraq in 2004, Pittard determined that U.S. forces could not kill their way out of difficult situations. Although his troops had permission to use high-handed methods, Pittard determined that those methods, although morally permissible on a tactical level, would have an adverse effect strategically.23 He used a forceful but less lethal and less threatening approach with civilians, which proved effective in supporting strategic goals. The objective of using a framework for ethical decision making. The bottom line is that leaders should use a framework to assess what strategic effects tactical Army Col. Dana Pittard talks with local policemen about the security issues at the Iraqi election poll sites, 30 January 2005. 76 actions are having, including the second- and third-order effects of morally permissible or morally dubious actions. Once a leader commits to a morally permissible or morally dubious action, and that action produces desired strategic results, the leader should amplify the results. If it does not, stop it. Try a different probe. This is not situational or utilitarian ethics. Actions that are morally prohibited remain prohibited regardless of the situation or the strategic outcome. Instead, macro-ethics can use the Cynefin Framework to focus on attempting to make a decision within the boundaries of morally permissible or morally dubious actions. Moreover, the only acceptable decisions are those whose actions produce a desired and morally permissible strategic outcome. Strategic-level ethics, at the highest decision-making levels, have a broad scope. Ending hostilities in an honorable, just, and timely manner is a broad strategic goal. Leaders must avoid morally permissible or morally dubious actions that, on a strategic level, would prolong the conflict or delegitimize our narrative (honor and justice). Conversely, it would be acceptable for leaders to employ morally dubious tactical actions in addition to morally permissible actions if they would result in an honorable, just, and timely cessation of hostilities. First Case Study: Operation Linebacker An example of a morally dubious tactical decision having morally desirable strategic results that occurred during the Vietnam War is Operation Linebacker II. To force the North Vietnamese back to the Paris peace talks and convince the South Vietnamese government of U.S. resolve, in December 1972, President Nixon ordered the largest bombing of North Vietnam since the beginning of the Vietnam War. According to David L. Anderson, it was a morally dubious tactical action that remains as controversial now as it was then.24 Yet, Nixon desired a morally permissible strategic outcome. He wanted to conclude the war with honor and justice, and in a timely manner. Anderson describes the situation: The Nixon administration was exasperated with both Hanoi and Saigon, and the bombing can be seen as a message to both. Washington wanted the DRV [Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the communist North, with its capital in Hanoi] to sign the October agreement September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW