1st Edition

Ethics at War How Should Military Personnel Make Ethical Decisions?

    174 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    174 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book debates competing approaches to ethical decision-making for members of the armed forces of liberal democratic states.

    In this volume, four prominent thinkers propose and debate competing approaches to ethical decision-making for military personnel. Deane-Peter Baker presents and expounds the ‘Ethical Triangulation’ model, an ethical decision-making method he has employed through much of his career as an applied military ethicist. Rufus Black advocates for a natural law-based approach, one which has heavily influenced the framework formally adopted by the Australian Defence Force. Roger Herbert outlines the ‘Moral Deliberation Roadmap’, the moral reasoning framework recently adopted by the US Naval Academy. Iain King then sets out a model of quasi-utilitarian decision-making developed in several post-conflict settings and refined at the UK’s Royal College of Defence Studies. After the opening chapters in which each author outlines their favoured decision-making approach, the four contributors then evaluate each other’s proposals, often critically. Philosopher David Whetham offers some concluding thoughts in which he summarizes areas of agreement between the authors, identifies key areas of difference, and suggests directions for future research.

    This book will be of great interest to students of military ethics, the ethics of war, moral philosophy, and International Relations, as well as military professionals.

    1. Introduction

    Part I: Theory

    2. The Ethical Triangulation Model

    Dean-Peter Baker

    3. The Moral Deliberation Roadmap: The US Naval Academy’s Moral Reasoning Framework

    Roger Herbert

    4. The Quasi-Utilitarian Approach to Decision-Making in War

    Iain King

    5. A Natural Law Basis for Military Ethics

    Rufus Black

    Part II: Analysis and Critique

    6. Baker Response

    Deane-Peter Baker

    7. Herbert Response

    Roger Herbert

    8. King Response

    Iain King

    9. Black Response

    Rufus Black

    Afterword. A Concluding Reflection on Military Ethical Decision-Making

    David Whetham


    Deane-Peter Baker is Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Canberra. He is Director of the UNSW Military Ethics Research Lab and Innovation Network (MERLIN) and a co-convenor (with Professor David Kilcullen) of the UNSW Canberra Future Operations Research Group.

    Rufus Black is Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Tasmania. He has held a range of senior executive, academic, board, and advisory roles in the public, private, and education sectors in Australia including conducting major reviews for the Australian government on Defence and Security matters.

    Roger Herbert, following a 26-year career as a US Naval Special Warfare Officer, joined the faculty of the US Naval Academy, where he served until 2021 as the Robert T. Herres Distinguished Military Professor of Ethics and Director of the USNA’s core ethics course.

    Iain King is an author and defence expert with an extensive background in both ethics and conflict work; most recently he worked as Director of NATO’s Mission in Iraq. He led the UK’s government research programme into conflict and was a Fellow at the US-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as well as being an in-studio commentator for CNN and BBC.

    'How best to teach ethics to our military? This volume explores four intriguing possibilities, and places them in dialogue with each other. A must read for anyone trying to implement a successful military ethics program.' 

    Martin L. Cook, Admiral Stockdale Chair of Professional Military Ethics (Emeritus), US Naval War College

    'Internationally-renowned military educators, literally drawn from the four corners of the globe,  provide distinct, compelling, competing, but ultimately compatible views of military ethics drawn from a reservoir of shared experiences. Fascinating, engaging, and more than worthy of a close study.'

    George R. Lucas, Jr., Senior Consultant, Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance, Distinguished Chair of Ethics, U.S. Naval Academy Emeritus, and Professor of Ethics & Public Policy, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School Emeritus

    'We all strive to do the "right thing" in our lives but making the right decisions in stressful situations is often fraught with moral hazards. Fortunately, the approaches in this book help clarify even the murkiest of ethical dilemmas. A "must read" for decision makers, not just the military.'

    Major General (Ret’d) Craig Lawrence CBE, Formerly the UK’s Director of Joint Warfare and author of The Quick Guide to Effective Strategy

    ‘An important contribution that will be of immediate interest to both specialists and more general readers. Accessible, informed and perceptive.’

    Jason Burke, International Security Correspondent of The Guardian, and author

    ‘This is, by far, the best book on this vital topic.’

    Lieutenant General Sameer Al Akabi, General Secretary to the Chief of Defence, Iraq