Understanding the Moral Component of Conflict: A Re-evaluation of the Relationship between Morality and Strategy
KeywordsU Military Science (General)
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AbstractIt is relatively common for military policy to be criticised on moral grounds. Consider, for instance, debate on the use of drone strikes or that on a no-concessions policy in hostage taking. Such debates inevitably create the impression that society has to choose between strategy and morality. This project demonstrated, however, that any apparent trade-off between strategy and morality is illusory. If any trade-off exists then it is between competing moral perspectives, particularly, that between a utilitarian perspective of ‘save lives’ and a deontological perspective of ‘do no harm’. In demonstrating this point a new framework is proposed with which to evaluate the desirability of a policy. The framework distinguishes between strategic and moral dimensions. The strategic dimension captures whether a policy will achieve the desired objectives. This is a game theoretic judgement. The moral dimension captures whether a policy is moral according to utilitarian and deontological perspectives. If a policy is strategically optimal then it is moral according to the utilitarian perspective. Hence, there is no trade-off between strategy and morality. Moreover, evidence from moral dilemmas suggests that the utilitarian perspective is the perspective most people find natural. Policy makers and military strategists should, therefore, have more confidence in making the moral case for action. The full details of the proposed framework, along with a review of the literature on moral dilemmas, are set out in an academic paper written as part of the project.
TypeResearch report (external and confidential)
Cartwright, Edward and Stepanova, Anna (2016) Understanding the Moral Component of Conflict: A Re-evaluation of the Relationship between Morality and Strategy. Report number: O-DHCSTC_I300882_I_T3_193_2/004. BAE SYSTEMS (doi:O-DHCSTC_I300882_I_T3_193_2/004) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)