Ethics in Defence,
There is a growing focus on the ethics of organisations and Defence is not immune. Ethics is not just about fraud and the misuse of resources. It is something that pervades every part of our lives and it not as simple as right or wrong actions. Defence organisations worldwide appear to be grappling with the more diverse range of ethical considerations and the ADO is no different –
it is approaching ethical issues in a very fragmented and disjointed way. This paper calls for a wider realisation of the breadth of the issue, the need for high level support to coordinate the work required and includes a proposal for a way ahead.
"In peacetime, we practice tactics, strategy, and weapons firing. We must do the same with our values. We must develop the candor to display the courage to make a commitment to real competence...We can afford to do no less, for the time is short and the stakes are high."
GEN Donn A. Starry
US Army (Retd), (b. 1931)
Ethics and values are a difficult area at the best of times. The ethics and ethical health of an organisation only become obvious when they fail. The majority of the time they exist in a grey area where work progresses relatively smoothly and the ethics of decisions are really not considered.
Recent examples of unethical behaviour in the business world and the public sector have led the general community and the media to reflect on what has happened to ethics, values and morals in our society. They are calling for organisations to publicly adhere to the values they profess and demonstrate this observance to shareholders and to the public.
The growing managerial trend away from proscriptive directives to values based guidelines is bringing the ethics, morals and values of employees and organisations into the spotlight. The Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) is also following this trend making the need for a strong ethical foundation within Defence even more vital. Without decisive action to ensure this base exists, problems involving inappropriate actions or decisions can only be expected.
In Western liberal democracies, such as Australia, military service is 1inherently imbued with moral values. Community ideas and expectations of
what is right, just and moral govern the actions that the ADF are ordered to take by the government and the public. Service in the ADF implies that an individual puts the interests of others, such as mates and the nation, ahead of their own self-interest. Operationally Defence is bound by the Geneva Conventions, philosophical concepts such as Just War Theory, the rules of engagement, the chain of command, community and societal values and individual morals.
These factors try to encourage the ethical behaviour of troops whilst on operations or in training at home. However, training in ethics is almost non-existent. Many would argue that there have been no real problems and that the system is working; therefore why change it? However, the potential for the ADF to experience problems similar to those faced by; the US Army in Vietnam, the NATO forces in Bosnia, the Canadian Army in Somalia, or elements of the coalition in Afghanistan will still exist. It will be argued that Defence should take a proactive stance to ensure these problems don‟t occur.
Because of the very nature of its work and high community expectations, Defence comes under scrutiny more often than most other departments. Recent incidences such as a certain maritime incident, the investigations into 3RAR and the Navy divers at CHOGM portray Defence in a negative manner,
severely affecting the perceptions of the public and overshadowing the good work the ADO does. Defence needs to be confident that they are providing their people with the best possible training to ensure that the decisions they make are ethical and will help to avoid further scandals.
Defence is also engaged in more operations now than it has ever been. In addition “contemporary technology enables around-the-clock conflict, placing greater demands on commanders and subordinates for speed of decision and action (tempo). Our traditional decision making methods will not always be appropriate or effective. We must seek to employ more flexible models of 2command and control.” We also need to ensure that our people are receiving training that will empower them to make these decisions, quickly, confidently and ethically.
The ADO focus currently appears to be on the fraud and resource side of ethics. The Inspector General‟s organisation is “providing independent audit,
review and evaluation service and; investigating fraud and educating Defence 3Staff about ethics and fraud awareness.” At present it offers advice to people
with ethical dilemmas of any sort, but their focus is only on resource ethics and therefore too specific to cope with the wider ethical dilemmas which occur (for example military or operational dilemmas). It must be noted that the Inspector General‟s Organisation was set up to fulfil a legislative requirement in the FMA act for the Department to use resources “effective, efficiently and ethically”. It was not designed or intended to have a more expansive role than it already does. If more emphasis is going to be put on the individual reasoning behind decisions however, Defence needs to ensure that appropriate support networks and mechanisms are in place to assist this process. It is argued that the Inspector General‟s organisation is not best placed for this to occur, nor is structured or intended to.
Presently any ethics training within the organisation is offered piecemeal to select individuals. There is no standard or baseline, doctrinal direction or even recognition of the wider issues. The concept of establishing an ethics centre to provide coordination and support is one that has been proposed within the 4Defence community. This paper will argue that Defence is organisationally not yet ready to support such a centre, but that the issue is too important and there is too much at stake to simply wait for a crisis to prompt any sort of action.
What is Ethics?
The study of ethics is part of the academic discipline of philosophy. Ancient philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Artistotle posed basic questions in ethics that still raise debate today. Like most fundamental concepts, there is not single accepted definition of ethics. For most people, however, ethics can usually be defined as the values, principles and reasoning that guide human 5decisions to choose the most right course of action.
Most of the ethical decisions that we will be called to make won‟t actually be of a simply right or wrong nature. “Ethics is 10% always right, 10% always
6wrong and 80% maybe.” This “maybe area” can be described by the idea of
right versus right, or the challenge to choose the most right or least wrong decision. It is reflected in the basic philosophical question, “What ought one to 7do?”
Often values that guide ethical behaviour can come into conflict, for example, honesty and loyalty. For instance, Australian soldiers are renowned for their ability to “obtain” stores needed for the benefit of their unit by means both fair and foul. If questioned by a superior, should a soldier be honest as to where a suspect item came from, or should he remain loyal to his mates? If the soldier is honest, it may result in disciplinary action against other members of his or her team, and undermine group cohesiveness and the ability to do the job. On the other hand, dishonest appropriation of stores may adversely affect the ability of the organisation as a whole to do its job, and undermine confidence in resource allocation.
The ADO is removing the rules that have given their people some sort of basis or guidelines for their actions. Now, as long as they can justify their decisions in a reasonable manner then it is okay, but the department is providing them with very little support to do so. Can the ADF be confident that their people will always make “most right” decision and often under very stressful circumstances (such as on operations)?
“In times of danger, it is the ethical element of leadership which will bond our units together and enable them to withstand the stresses of combat.”
GEN John Wickham, Jr.
In the most basic and crude of terms, military forces are in the business of killing people. There is a community expectation that should Australia be attacked or support an international engagement that the ADF will be sent to promote or protect Australia‟s interests. Often this will involve shooting at or
even killing opponents. This means that the military (and Defence in general) constantly has to justify its actions to both its people and the general public.
The very idea of state sanctioned violence has to be reconciled against strongly held social/public morals and norms. “Properly speaking, war is not a
normal social setting. Hence, it admits of certain highly specialized – and
highly specifiable – exceptions to the normal set of moral expectations for 8human conduct.” Even those who join the forces have to resolve that they might be called upon to take another persons life at some stage during their career and that this is not wrong.
Gregory D Foster of the National Defense University (Washington) discusses this problem in his paper “Civil-Military Gap: What Are the Ethics.” He outlines
the expectations of the community on the military as the following;
Operational Competence – “the ability of the military to fulfil its ;
mission by accomplishing all assigned tasks.”
; Sound Advice – “rendering the best possible professional judgment
to the elected and appointed civilian authorities who are
accountable for ensuring the country‟s security.”
; Politically Neutral – “to remain above the unseemly expediency,
favoritism, and self-interested deal making of low, partisan politics.”
; Socially Responsible – “to be an institution that not only gets the job
done operationally, but that does so in a manner that contributes to 9civil society.”
Each of these attributes then have to be reconciled with the fact that the military are trained to attack and kill people if necessary to achieve an objective, a socially repugnant idea. In general, the military and the civilian community have a strong love-hate relationship. The civilians recognise the need to have someone to protect them (and are usually glad it isn‟t them), but if the military does something that contradicts the expectations listed above, criticism is swift and extensive.
Military ethics ought to be fundamental to the conduct of every serviceman who enters the ranks and in many ways are an attempt at dealing with the issues mentioned above. At the most basic level military ethics deals with the moral and philosophical questions of “Is it right to kill?” The concept of „Just War‟ is also integral to military ethics. If a soldier cannot understand why his
or her life is being put at risk, why should they be expected to fight? This then raises the idea of selective conscientious objection (that is, objection to service in a particular conflict because the conflict is unjust), which is becoming a concern in the ADF. The Anglican Bishop to the ADF, Dr Tom Frame commented at a recent seminar; “While we rightly expect personnel to
render their contracted service without question, this principle does not remove the need for an ethical explanation or commentary of an operation to 10be formulated and provided.” If the troops are given no guidance on the
reasons behind engaging in a conflict, Defence cannot be surprised if the number of attempts to use selective conscientious objection increases. However, even an official explanation may not be effective in quietening concerns if it is apparent that the commanders also don‟t believe it. It is a fair to say, that Defence does not provide the commanders of an operation with training in this area to allow them to deal with such situations.
Compounding this problem the people that the ADO employs are now, on average, better educated and from a wider spectrum of society than they have been before. With the X and Y generation slowly entering the ranks, simply being told to do something is no longer enough. Recruits and young officers want to know why. Defence increasingly has to explain their actions and decisions, not only to the government or the media but also to their own people. The consequences of this for military situations are immense. If soldiers think something that they are told to do is wrong, there is a fair chance the leader is going to have to be able to explain to them why, ethically, it is right. Is this always going to be possible, particularly on operations where time constraints might be significant. Have the officers received any training
for this eventuality? In a program called “Ethics in America: Under Orders
Under Fire,” filmed in 1989, an officer was asked what he would do if, in
combat, one of his men refused the order to take the hill. After a few moments to clarify the situation and run through a couple of scenario‟s the conclusion was he would shoot the subordinate. Granted, in a combat situation there isn‟t
time to sit down and discuss the issues, but equally how valid is it to take such drastic action against a subordinate who is upholding his personal ethical beliefs?
In recent military operations ethical issues have surfaced on a large number of occasions. Incidences that have occurred in Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Afghanistan have brought the ethical aspects of the military into question, not only by military leaders but also by the general public.
In 1994, Australian troops were sent to Rwanda as part of the UNAMIR II assistance mission, mainly for medical duties. In 1995 they were stationed at ndthe Kibeho refugee camp where, on the 22 of April, almost 5000 people
were massacred using guns and machetes. The peacekeepers, due to the UN Rules of Engagement, were unable to fire on the attackers and could do nothing but watch and try to help the wounded. “Few Australian soldiers have
ever been put into such an invidious position, but most obeyed their orders. Others didn’t… plenty of non-official incidents took place and people are alive 11today because some Digs (Australian Soldiers) bent the rules.”
In 1995 the Dutch, as part of a UN peacekeeping force, were stationed at Srebrenica. The Serbian army invaded the „Safe Haven‟ and overwhelmed the Dutch contingent who were stationed there. Most Muslims who weren‟t captured fled to the UN base at Potacari, however, there was simply not the facilities to accommodate them all. The Serbian Army arrived at the base at Potocari with promises of relocating the Muslims to outside of the war zone. The Dutch army watched, and by some reports, helped, men and women be sorted onto trucks. After most of the refugees had been moved on, it became apparent that the Serbian army were not simply relocating the refugees, they were murdering the men and boys in a process of ethnic cleansing, killing an estimated 8000 Muslims. Dutch commanders were placed in an
extraordinarily difficult ethical position. In April this year the Dutch government resigned after the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation released it‟s findings. It blamed politicians and top military officials for presenting the Dutch and UN peacekeepers with an impossible task and held them responsible in 12part for the massacre.
In 1998-99 in Kosovo thousands of people were massacred, again because of their ethnicity. NATO intervened, but not until many of these atrocities had already been committed. After the conflict was suppressed there was widespread discussion as to whether NATO‟s intervention on humanitarian
grounds was even lawful or justified under the UN Charter.
Recently with the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan ethical implications of United States (US) bombing have been raised with the shooting of a wedding party in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. There has also been much discussion on
whether the US should be in Afghanistan at all. “If wars are fought unethically,
if force is used indiscriminately, without proportion, without respect for innocents, without restraint, without humanity, then victors become tarnished 13and the vanquished become embittered.”
Another consideration is the „CNN effect,‟ which means that the actions of military personnel overseas are beamed into households in almost real time 14and the criticisms come almost as quickly. An example of this is the 1991
Gulf War conflict. On 16 January the aerial and missile bombardment of Iraq was ordered. It was to begin at 6:30pm so it could be recorded on prime time television back in America. This stunt was used to encourage support for the war. On the 26 and 27 February, however, the „CNN effect‟ worked against the US. In compliance with UN resolutions the Iraqi Army was withdrawing from Kuwait, an event that was openly publicised and reported in the local media as a withdrawal. The US however bombed the fleeing soldiers and civilians constantly on what has become known as „the Highway of Death.‟ Hundreds of vehicles were destroyed and thousands of people were killed in what seems to be a pointless attack, with no one returning the American fire. US leaders were forced to make a decision to stop the bombing. Images of the carnage, including the blackened and charred skeleton of an Iraqi soldier half out of his incapacitated tank, were beamed around the world as quickly as those initial, almost patriotic opening scenes. The “vivid television coverage… especially of the „highway of death‟ from Kuwait to Basra, influenced the Bush administration‟s decision to call an early end to the 15war.”
Somalia was a catalyst for the Canadian Forces. The torture of prisoners and demonstrations of racism caused a huge outcry in Canada by the public, the media, and the Department. It prompted an inquiry into the structure of the department, the behaviour of the troops, and the training they received. Of the 160 recommendation tabled, 132 were accepted in whole or in part. These recommendations included the disbandment of the Airborne Regiment; the establishment of a Monitoring Committee on Change; a requirement to review the adequacy of the Defence Act every five years; and, review of the role and powers of the Military Police. Another of the results of the inquiry was the 16establishment of the Defence Ethics Program in 1997.
The Canadian Defence Ethics Program has four goals:
1. To foster an attitude that is respectful of human beings
above all else,
2. To enhance the ability to make sound ethical decision
based on values and obligations consistent with the state of
3. To provide a framework for fulfilling Defence professional
responsibilities to Canada and its government everywhere
we [Canadian Forces] serve, and
4. To develop an organisation that does the right thing by
helping its personnel do the right thing and by not condoning
the actions of those who would do otherwise.
It achieves these goals through education programs, training, publications, journals and conducting an annual “Ethics Week” within units. The Ethics Week Program aims to remove some of the complexity that surrounds ethics for the Canadian Department of National Defence. It is conducted by an Ethics Officer of MAJ(E) rank or higher in each section or unit and is an opportunity for people to discuss some of the issues or questions that they have about situations or policy or actions that have occurred and work through them in a group setting.
Canada has adopted a “values based approach” to ethics training. To address legislative requirements for resource management Australia in the late 1980‟s took a prevention-based approach with the Defence Ethics and
Fraud Awareness Campaign (DEFAC). With the current management trends Defence is now being pushed towards a values based approach. This is part of the organisational renewal process. There is now a need to reassess what controls and guidelines Defence has in place and to determine whether they are still adequate for the new direction or whether they need to be supplemented with something else.
Similarly Vietnam, and the repercussions of the My Lai massacre in 1968, prompted the U.S. Army to examine their ethics training and develop more extensive programs. However, as an organisation with a conservative profile and culture, it was slow to adapt. In the 1970‟s and 1980‟s various senior commanders exerted their influence on the direction and content of the ethics instruction that was beginning to be added to the curriculum in the service 17schools, academies and at the war colleges. The success of Operation
Desert Storm seemed to be proof that the new ethical focus of the US Forces was working, then in 1991 the Navy “Tailhook” scandal erupted again
throwing the services into chaos. In 1994 this was addressed by the introduction of a new character development program and a focus on virtue ethics, which is the idea that the basis of ethics is to be found in appropriate values and character rather than imposition of rules. Ethics are now thoroughly ingrained into every training operation and course that any soldier 18in the US Army, Navy or Air Force engages in.
Australia has been fortunate that no events of such magnitude have occurred. This can be attributed to good leadership but there is also an element of luck involved. A need for confidence in the ethical standards of troops, their ability to make ethical decisions regarding a situation they find themselves in and in the ethical basis for involvement in these conflicts has become more vital today than ever. Defence needs to be aware that as it increasingly takes the lead on international incidents that there is an increased potential for criticism of its actions as well as an increased international profile.
Leading multinational forces can bring its own problems, with the possibility that allied troops may ascribe to different values sets which may conflict with those of the Australian‟s. Ethnic hatred or resentment because of the minor role that a country may be playing in an operation could lead to increased tensions within a peacekeeping force that Australia is commanding. The opposing forces may also not subscribe to the Geneva Conventions Law of
Armed Conflict and commit acts that are morally wrong to Australian soldiers. These factors could impact upon the decisions Australian troops make or the situations that they have to face.
At home Defence can be dragged into political situations or criticised for carrying out governmental policy, such as in the 2001 “Certain Maritime
Incident.” Criticism of the level of secrecy Defence demanded whilst on operations, the effectiveness of the chain of command, and Defence‟s relationship with its minister and the media in general stemmed from what was a political incident. Whilst Defence, in this instance, was following orders from the government of the day, the result when things didn‟t go as they ought should be warning enough of the potential detriment to Defence if an incident of the same magnitude were to occur whilst forces are on an international 19operation.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough that no actual criticism of the ethical standard or behaviour of Australian service personnel is being levelled at the ADF. The actual number of our troops and the engagements that they have been involved in far outweighs the number of unethical incidences committed by the few (a point that is often overlooked by the media). What this paper is suggesting is that military ethics and ethics in leadership are an integral part of the way Defence operates. If more emphasis is being placed on these areas Defence needs to be confident that their troops will continue to act in a manner which will bring honour to the force in general. Defence cannot wait for its Desert One, its Somalia, or another HMAS SWAN type incident to drive the creation of an imposed framework that will support their people in training requirements, awareness of the issues and assistance with any ethical dilemmas they may face.
Ethics Training in the ADO
For civilians in Defence ethics training is sparse at best. The Public Sector Training Package offers three courses to Defence employees on ethics and values. Each of these focus on the public service aspect and have a strong resource ethics flavour. These courses, however, are voluntary. The Inspector Generals organisation also offers education packages on resource ethics for areas if requested, or after an audit with a negative finding.
In the ADF personnel are exposed to a little more ethics training within each of the officer training schools at Point Cook, Creswell and Duntroon. Within the ADC the Australian Defence Force Academy offers the students some rudimentary ethics training in several of its courses and the Australian Command and Staff College offers 2 periods involving a thirty minute lecture, 20one syndicate period and a plenary session for summarising and questions.
The Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (Senior Leadership and Management Block) does not have a discrete ethics component. These courses are usually focused on military and leadership ethics and often taught by the chaplains. This training is offered in isolation to the rest of the course (ie. there is an ethics specific unit and the issues are rarely discussed outside
that allocated period). It is argued that there is a need to ensure all members of Defence, whatever their service or rank, needs to have ethics training reinforced throughout their career.
The „CNN Effect‟ has also led to the development of the „strategic corporal,‟ a soldier who is seen to make split second decisions that impacts on the outcome of a battle. The increasing presence of the Strategic Corporal in operations clearly highlights the need for periodic training at all levels. “Strategic corporals are people in the field confronted with situations outside their guidance, who may have to make decisions that would be viewed as 21strategic in order to deal with these situations.”
“Our own experience has shown us that practical application of the rules of
engagement are fundamental mission success issues,. We spend a great deal of time educating the soldiers and then practising in scenario-based training. Like many other armies, we understand that it is generally the individual soldier, the private or lance corporal on the ground who will make that instantaneous rules of engagement call which, of course, has operational 22and strategic implications if he gets it wrong.”
If the only structured training that the organisation provides is to officers or during promotion courses for enlisted personnel, then Defence is taking a significant risk. Soldiers are being sent into situations where they may need to make ethical decisions and are not being provided with the appropriate guidance or training.
Defence leaders need to recognise that ethics is much broader than fraud. Whilst this is still a very important area, it is very specialised and should remain so. There are other specialised, technical groups, such as the Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee, which deal with a very different set of ethical standards and don‟t deal with resource ethics at all. Few individuals will hopefully be confronted with an ethical dilemma that deals with chemical warfare being tested on humans. Equally there are legal ethics, medical ethics, computer ethics, bioethics, military ethics and public sector ethics which need to be considered and are simply beyond the charter and the physical capability of the Inspector General to deal with. However, they need to be dealt with, if Defence is going to provide their people with the support that they need to be able to conduct their jobs properly and ethically.
A Way Ahead
In July 2002, the Centre for Defence Command, Leadership and Management Studies (CDCLMS) ran an ethics seminar at the Australian Defence College, Weston Creek. This followed from guidance given by the Deputy Chief of the Army (DCA) (now Chief of the Army) who forwarded Commander ADC a paper by MAJ Keith Joseph PhD on the need to examine this issue. The paper also included a proposal for a Centre for Military Ethics to be established. DCA felt that this was an important issue that deserved more consideration and Commander ADC tasked CDCLMS to examine it further. The seminar was the first step in this process, bringing together 50 individuals from 10 Groups in Defence who are actively involved in ethics training or had a particular interest in the area. There was a general consensus that the issue