Ethics Training and
Development in the Military



© 2007 Paul Robinson

From Parameters,  Spring 2007, pp. 22-36.

In June 2006, the Pentagon announced that all US servicemen in Iraq were to undergo additional military ethics training, including lessons in “core warrior values.” Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, then commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, said that the training would focus on “professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat.”1 This highlighted the growing importance of ethics training and development in the military, not just for the forces of the United States but for those of other countries as well. Formal ethics training programs were a rarity in most armed forces until fairly recently. In the past decade, they have become increasingly common. The Canadian Department of National Defence, for instance, introduced a “Defence Ethics Program” in 1997, and the French military academy at St. Cyr began its program in ethics training in 2002.

It is one thing to say that soldiers will have to undergo ethics training, it is quite another to ensure that they learn the right lessons. Indeed, if incorrectly carried out, ethics training might even be counterproductive. It is clear from a survey of ethics training programs in various national militaries that there is no uniformity of approach between them and a lack of coherence within them. There is also disagreement as to the degree to which such programs are necessary in the first place. Given the fact that few Western nations now send their military forces on operations independently, the lack of uniformity about what constitutes ethical behavior and how best to educate soldiers is potentially a cause for alarm. As Major General (Ret.) Patrick Cordingley, former commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade in the British


Army, noted after a recent trip to Afghanistan, although rules of engagement for the various coalition forces in that country are similar, they are interpreted in different ways. We need, he said, to get together as a coalition and thrash out the ethics behind the rules in order to reach mutual understanding.2

It is obvious that much needs to be done in determining what is the best approach to instilling the desired ethics in servicemen and women. This article builds on a workshop on “Ethics Training and Development in the Military,” held at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom on 22-23 June 2006. This workshop was attended by representatives from the armed forces and military academies of ten countries, as well as philosophers, political scientists, and historians.3 The workshop sought to determine what ethics training and development programs are in existence; their theoretical underpinnings; the effect of cultural and national differences on content; whether such programs are best run by military officers, chaplains, lawyers, or academic philosophers; and if it is feasible to develop common principles and approaches for the armed forces of participating countries. The article summarizes and expands on the initial directions identified by participants, and aims thereby to provide greater understanding of a matter requiring further thought, a matter that is becoming a vital force influencing the battlefields of the twenty-first century.

The Importance of Ethics Training and Development

The first issues to be resolved are why ethics matter to the military and whether formal ethics training programs are actually necessary or productive. These issues raise the question of what we mean by military “ethics.” Are we referring to the instillation in military personnel of a general morality that makes them what an ordinary civilian might consider “morally good”? Or are we referring more narrowly to the professional standard required for the fulfilment of their role as servicemen and women? Is it actually necessary for military personnel to be morally good as long as they are proficient at their jobs? Are the two separable, or are they mutually dependent? In short, are the ethics required of a soldier in his or her role (role morality) the same as those required of a civilian (ordinary morality)?


In a paper about the system of ethics training at the US Military Academy at West Point, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Wilson notes the opinion expressed by the late General Maxwell Taylor, “who saw no moral problems in serving with a combat ready officer who is ‘loyal to his superiors and his profession but disloyal to his wife,’ or keep[s] physically fit but has ‘General Grant’s weakness for strong drink.’ For Taylor, a good soldier, even a good officer, could be a bad man.”4 It is instructive to examine this question from the point of view of the combat soldier. When under fire, does he worry whether the man next to him is an adulterer, or merely whether he is brave and knows how to use his weapon? Almost certainly the latter. Indeed, one can find many examples of outstanding military officers whose personal lives left much to be desired. For example, General Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps in the latter-half of the First World War, embezzled regimental funds while a battalion commander.5 But he was to prove himself one of the best generals serving on the Western Front.

As Lieutenant Colonel Wilson also points out, General Taylor’s position eventually became unsustainable due to a succession of scandals which undermined public faith in the military in the years following the Second World War. The armed forces of the world are under increasing public scrutiny, and if their members behave in a fashion which the public deems morally reprehensible it may destroy public support for their mission. We live in the era of the “strategic corporal.”6 Immoral behavior by even the lowest ranking soldier can have a strategic effect, as witnessed by the impact of the images of Private Lynndie England, a “strategic private,” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

When viewed in this manner, the conflict between role and ordinary morality is overcome, as that which is contrary to ordinary morality indirectly undermines the mission by destroying public support, and is therefore also contrary to role morality. As Hilliard Aronovitch concluded in a 2001 article in Journal of Applied Philosophy: “Effective fighters are also ethical fighters, good soldiers in the one sense are also good soldiers in the other sense. . . . Hence, good soldiers must in certain ways be good persons as well.”7

Given this conclusion, it would appear that it is highly desirable to institute some form of ethical development for service men and women. That does not necessarily mean, however, that formal ethics training is the answer. The traditional way of approaching this matter has been to use a form of osmosis, in which military institutions shaped the characters of their members by unseen and gradual influences. The sheer force of the institutions, via their historical traditions, their atmosphere, and the example and pressure of the soldiers’ peers, would mold the character of the trainee into the desired form without any official ethics training. This is indeed still the method relied on to a large degree by the British armed forces, who conduct very little in the way


of formal ethics training. In their defense, the British would undoubtedly claim that their methodology works. There is no evidence that British service men and women behave worse than soldiers of other countries with more formal systems. However, many would stipulate that the ability of military institutions to indirectly influence the character of their members has declined. Once all soldiers were male; they joined at a young age; lived together in barracks; few married, and when they did it was after years of service. Participation and regular attendance at the corporals’, sergeants’, or officers’ mess was more or less compulsory; one could not escape the powerful influence of the institution. Today, however, troops often join the force later in life, when their characters are fairly developed. They marry earlier and are more likely to live off-post; military messes and clubs are in decline. One cannot rely on the social system to integrate new members of the force through some hidden process of osmosis.

This lack of social influences makes a formal system of ethics training desirable. There are, however, some dangers. If we teach people that they must be “moral” and that their institution demands and upholds the highest standards, there is always a danger that members of those institutions will come to regard themselves as morally superior to those outside the military. Perversely, anything they do then becomes moral in their eyes, because they are “good” and so whatever they do must be good.8

In short, one can argue that this means ethics education must avoid the spirit of elitism. A common refrain among military officers is that moral standards in society are in decline and the military has the responsibility of being morally superior to the general public. According to Andrew Bacevich’s book The New American Militarism: “In a 2003 survey of [American] military personnel, ‘two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve. . . . Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality.’ Admiral Stanley Arthur, US Navy Retired, has expressed concern that ‘more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve.’”9 This view is potentially dangerous, a point made by a former commander of the German Zentrum für Innere Führung (Leadership Development and Civic Education Center), who argued that the aim of ethics education must be to ensure that the ethics of soldiers coincide as closely as possible with the society they serve, ensuring that soldiers continue to view themselves as citizens, not as members of some special caste.10 According to Stefan Werdelis, the German approach is to view the “soldier as citizen in uniform.”11 Given their historical experience of military elites, the Germans’ distrust of them is understandable. Other countries, which have had more positive experiences, might be justified in feeling less concern. It is clear, however,


that there is disagreement about what the end result of ethics training in the military should be.

Who Owns Ethics Training in the Military?

If one accepts the hypothesis that some form of ethics training is desirable, the next question is who should be responsible for it. There are a number of possible candidates: military officers, lawyers, chaplains, and civilian philosophers being the obvious choices. Different countries utilize each of these professions in different ways, resulting in considerable disagreement about who should “own” ethics training.

A major difference is between the “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches to ethics in the military. The Canadian Defence Ethics Program and the German system of Innere Führung are examples of centrally directed programs which operate across all services according to a common, centrally  dictated, set of principles. This methodology has considerable advantages. Above all, it ensures coherence. The danger with the top-down approach is that ethics training often comes to be viewed as yet another chore imposed on junior commanders from on high, as a “check-the-box” requirement. Giving the leading role in ethics training to those at lower levels of the chain of command, and allowing for differences between units and services is one way of overcoming such perceptions. The two approaches may not, however, be incompatible; ideally, units may have a centrally operated program that outlines the principles and provides training for the trainers, while the actual management is conducted at the lower levels of the organization.

In the United States, according to Dr. Martin Cook of the United States Air Force Academy, the system of ethics training suffers from incoherence. Numerous activities exist side by side, each introduced in response to some previous ethics initiative or scandal, with little or no effort at integration. “What one sees,” says Dr. Cook, “is a fundamentally incoherent and confused welter of programs justified, if at all, by the belief that if ethics is important, throwing lots of resources at the subject from any number of angles and approaches must somehow be doing some good.”12

One obvious area of disagreement concerns the role of chaplains in ethics training. According to Colonel Yvon Desjardins, director of the Canadian Defence Ethics Program, the Canadian Forces (CF) deliberately keep military chaplains away from ethics training.13 By contrast, chaplains play a major role in the German Zentrum für Innere Führung, and the ethics program of the Norwegian military is entirely dominated by the chaplains’ corps. Chaplains in the Norwegian military play a key role in creating the list of core military values, conducting much of the actual training, and are extremely ac-


tive in the research and publishing associated with military ethics. The difference in approach may in part be explained by differing national characteristics. Bearing in mind Canada’s multicultural nature, and the fact that Canadian military members are of diverse religious backgrounds (often choosing not to exercise strong religious beliefs), the CF believe that their members might not react positively to what might be viewed as religious indoctrination. This is especially true if training is conducted by chaplains of a different religious affiliation. Norway, however, is a religiously homogenous nation, being 85 percent Lutheran. A program dominated by Lutheran pastors is unlikely under such circumstances to meet resistance. Having said that, Norwegian chaplains involved in ethics training insist that their model could be applied elsewhere, noting that there is no reason why a secular humanist should have any more authority with, say, Muslim soldiers than would a Christian chaplain. Quite the contrary, they claim, noting that chaplains in many armed forces often already cater to the pastoral needs of members of other religious affiliations.14 It is safe to say that there is no final agreement as to what the appropriate role of chaplains should be in ethics training.

Furthermore, the influence of chaplains may sometimes be less than that of religious institutions and personalities outside the military, and the influence of the latter is not always beneficial. Allegations in 2005 of “religious pressure” being exerted on cadets at the US Air Force Academy bear witness to this dilemma.15 Dr. Cook comments that “the kinds of independent and non-denominational Evangelical churches many cadets choose to attend (Colorado Springs being an ‘Evangelical Vatican’) serve to instill a resistance to critical thinking and complexity in ethical reflection. . . . they inculcate a kind of anti-intellectualism when it comes to ethical reflection that is often quite difficult to penetrate in the classroom.”16 The role of religion and religious authorities in military education appears to require further investigation.

There is also debate as to the role that philosophers might play in military ethics education. It is generally felt that it is pointless to attempt to instill the rank and file with formal lessons in moral philosophy. Lectures on deontology, utilitarianism, or other philosophical systems often are not seen as directly relevant to the practical needs of the soldier. There are indeed pitfalls in entirely excluding philosophers from what is after all their intellectual terrain. Patrick Mileham of the British Centre for Defense and International Security Studies has drawn attention to this conundrum in a discussion of ethics training in the British armed forces. British units have, Mileham claims, remained resistant to the idea of properly researching the subject of moral philosophy, in order to apply its findings to doctrine, teaching, and publications. What they have produced by way of doctrine muddles what Mileham terms “institutional ethics” (domestic regulation in barracks and human re-


source management) with “operational ethics” (how soldiers ought to behave on active duty or in combat).17

This hostility to philosophy had a negative effect, some claim, in the production of the British Army’s ethics doctrine, as outlined in the pamphlet Values and Standards of the British Army, published in 2000. The pamphlet follows a “virtue ethics” approach, detailing the virtues required of the soldier, and implying that the way to ensure proper ethical behavior is through the inculcation of the necessary virtues. However, the pamphlet goes on to contradict its previous emphasis on virtue by stating that when determining what to do, soldiers should follow a utilitarian “Service Test”—“Have the actions or behavior of an individual adversely impacted or are they likely to impact on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Army?”18 The mixing of virtue ethics and utilitarianism in this fashion is intellectually incoherent and confusing to the novice. Consultation with a moral philosopher could have avoided this contradiction. Dr. Mileham reports, however, that there is now near critical mass of serving officers in all three services calling for a joint-services approach and reflecting the need for professional, independent study of moral conduct, doctrine, publications, and training. The British Army’s doctrine manual Land Operations, published in 2005, contains a chapter on “The Moral Component” and presents a much better explanation of the “Values and Standards” required of individuals.19

Although some leaders may not want philosophers lecturing the rank and file, it is nonetheless desirable for those charged with the responsibility for teaching military ethics to have some philosophical training. If, for instance, ethics instructors are using case studies as a teaching method, they can only do so effectively if they have some knowledge of the concepts the case studies are meant to demonstrate. One can well argue that there is a legitimate need for some philosophy education for all military officers. In fact, Dr. Cook notes that cadets at the US Air Force Academy generally consider their required philosophy course “one of the very best in the core curriculum. Often they comment that its relevance to their future careers is quite obvious.” Cook notes it is the one place where “cadets engage in sustained normative reflections and learn some skills for doing so . . . and where they engage in sustained critical thinking about complex problems.”20

On What Principles Should Ethics Training be Based?

Even though there is an acrimonious debate over who should “own” ethics training in the military, there is greater consensus regarding the principles on which such training should be based, although there are some dissenting voices. The first area of disagreement concerns the goal to which ethics


training is directed. The most commonly expressed sentiment among those tasked with the conduct of this training is that the objective should be individuals who are able to think about ethical problems independently and act “autonomously.” Individuals should understand that what they believe is right is more important than merely obeying orders or succumbing to peer pressure.21 Lawrence Kohlberg developed a famous (though disputed)22 model of moral development which includes three levels: the pre-conventional level, in which individuals act correctly primarily in order to avoid punishment; a conventional level, where they respond to peer pressure, and are driven by a concern for reputation; and a post-conventional level during which individuals use their own reasoning to determine “universal ethical principles” of right and wrong, and then abide by them because they have “seen the validity of principles and become committed to them.”23 Most practitioners feel that the aim of ethics training should be to move soldiers up the ladder toward the post-conventional stage. The objective should be to train soldiers who act ethically, not because they’ve been told to, or because they think it will make them look good, but because they themselves have determined that it is the right thing to do. Otherwise, they may acquiesce to unethical orders or peer pressure.

There are those who believe that this inculcation is too ambitious a goal. Peter Olsthoorn of the Royal Netherlands Military Academy notes that concern for reputation (level two of Kohlberg’s model) plays a vital part in military life—the desire not to look bad in front of one’s colleagues is a major reason why soldiers show courage in battle. Drawing on Mark Osiel’s book Obeying Orders, Olsthoorn argues that in a military environment, “we should be somewhat less stringent. . . . accepting that moral rules are followed, not because they are moral, but because not following them brings disesteem.”24

Whatever the desired end-state, the approach adopted in most armed forces is that of “virtue ethics,” with their philosophical origins found in Aristotle. Essentially, virtue ethics seeks to ensure moral behavior by instilling certain virtues (loyalty, honesty, and courage) to create good character. The person with character will then behave appropriately because that is the sort of person he or she is. The advantage, from a military point of view, of this approach is that in combat there are intense pressures and little time for deep intellectual philosophizing. In such situations having an individual who will behave properly due to conditioned responses is highly desirable. Consequently, many military academies have adopted an approach based on Aristotelian virtue ethics. Those in the United States are prime examples. Quoting Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, “The US Military Academy takes great pains to instill essentially Aristotelian virtues into the cadets in order to build a character worthy of trust.”25 Dr. Cook comments that at the US Air Force Academy, “It’s rather obvious that Aristotle is the intellectual father of the enterprise.”26


Regardless of their genesis, most armed forces have produced lists of the virtues they claim to value. These vary from country to country and service to service, but have considerable overlap.

The United States Army lists its “Army Values” as:
l Loyalty
l Duty
l Respect
l Selfless Service
l Honor
l Integrity
l Personal Courage

By contrast, the “Core Values” of the British Army are:27
l Selfless Commitment
l Courage
l Discipline
l Integrity
l Loyalty
l Respect for Others

While those of the Canadian Forces are:28
l Duty
l Loyalty
l Integrity
l Courage

The similarities between lists suggests that there is a common core of military virtues on which a universal moral code might be constructed.

There are, however, criticisms of the virtue ethics approach. In particular, the emphasis on character might have the effect of causing military leaders to believe that all unethical behavior is the product of failures of character (“few bad apples” theory). Many times such failures are the product of deficiencies in institutions or practices.29 The focus on character may prevent leaders from taking a critical look at the institutions they lead and thereby ensure that morally corrupting rules, structures, and systems remain. Teaching soldiers that they must be brave, loyal, and so forth, does not tell them what to do when there are conflicts between the requirements of various virtues. Virtue ethics needs to go beyond mere rote learning of lists of virtues in an attempt to teach soldiers to reason and understand exactly what the virtues mean and how to resolve conflicts between them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in teaching military ethics.

Another criticism of the virtue ethics approach comes from Professor Asa Kasher, author of the Code of Ethics of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).30 He argues that since the focus of most Western armed forces, as well


as the justification of most wars, in recent years, has been humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping operations, it makes little sense to teach soldiers only “military” ethics. Kasher advocates an appropriate combination of military and police ethics. The latter, he maintains, requires a different set of virtues.31 Similarly a number of British ethicists dislike the use of the term “warrior,” which in the eyes of at least some is associated not with noble soldiers but savages with spears. This distinction is also made by the American author Ralph Peters who distinguishes between soldiers and warriors: Warriors are “erratic primitives of shifting allegiance, habituated to violence, with no stake in civil order. Unlike soldiers, warriors do not play by our rules, do not respect them, and do not obey orders they do not like.”32 Warrior ethics and virtues according to such interpretations are undesirable, especially in an age where soldiers are rarely involved in direct combat, but are more likely to conduct “operations other than war.” These operations require a very different approach to that of the traditional combat soldier.33 Others, on the other hand, point out that combat remains the fundamental task for armed forces, and its requirement should continue to underpin professional ethics.

Professor Kasher also comments that military ethics should not be ethics applied to the broad category of military affairs, but rather a concept directly related to what constitutes correct behavior for military personnel. He believes the objective “is not to build appropriate character, but rather appropriate behavior.” Kasher complains that many of the lists of virtues and values contain the same virtues and values that anybody outside the military might agree with. This, he feels, is the wrong approach. In the IDF, ethics training begins with the development of professional identity, not with conventional morality. Soldiers in modern democracies tend to be moral relativists. They regard talk of morality as an external imposition. But if you talk in terms of professional development and identity they are more accepting. Instead of starting with lists of virtues and attempting to indoctrinate the individual soldier, one needs to first expose the individual to what it means to be a soldier in a democratic state. This means that the starting point of ethics training should be the principles of liberal democracy, its values and norms.34

Such a methodology leads one away from a “virtue” approach and more toward a “values-based” one (virtues representing desirable characteristics of individuals, such as courage; and values representing the ideals that the community cherishes, such as freedom). There are ethics training programs such as that of the Canadian Department of National Defence that are in part values-based (the program is a hybrid of values-based and compliance-based elements).35 However, the lists of values produced in these programs are often similar to the lists of virtues required of any ideal military person, and the distinction between values and virtues is not always clear.


What Should Ethics Training Courses Contain?

A vital issue is the content of ethics training courses. As previously noted, training in moral philosophy may be desirable for leaders, though not necessarily for more junior personnel. There is, however, universal agreement that to be effective, ethics training should be practically oriented and relevant to the soldier, sailor, or airman. Addressing instances of immoral behavior by simply giving another lecture on “warrior values” is unlikely to generate much of an effect.

In dealing with instances of immoral behavior most practitioners favor the use of case studies. Unfortunately, there are few suitable case studies readily available. In the English language the majority of the studies are American.36 The increased production of such materials for use by instructors would certainly be welcomed. Motivational speakers are also popular at many institutions, but a number of ethics instructors have expressed doubt regarding their utility. Pep-talks to soldiers by successful coaches, businesspeople, or even beauty queens, do not necessarily touch soldiers’ hearts. Such “experts” are often viewed as being too remote from the soldier’s practical experience. Most institutions and services have found it is best to use motivational speakers with military experience and knowledge. Similarly, if role models are depicted in books, or museum displays, considerable care needs to be given to ensuring that the model presented is appropriate to the soldier’s frame of reference.

At the recent workshop held at Hull University in England, several useful points were made regarding the use of case studies. A number of workshop participants thought it productive to start with simpler cases and move onto more complex ones. One approach is to get soldiers to generate case studies of their own, based on personal experiences. The individual soldiers can talk to their colleagues about the case, what happened, and whether they think that the right thing was done. Alternatively, cases can be chosen to illustrate moral dilemmas, which soldiers then have to resolve. This encourages people to think about various solutions, rather than simply being told the “right” answer.

Unfortunately, there is an almost universal tendency to use negative cases when illustrating ethical or unethical behavior. This is often the case even when soldiers present their own cases—they nearly always pick a case in which an individual has misbehaved, and the discussion then centers around what was bad about the behavior and why things went wrong. While negative cases can make a contribution, it would be more useful to the inculcation of appropriate responses if more positive examples were used. The focus on negative cases may indirectly instill the idea that the point of ethics


training is to teach personnel to avoid making mistakes, rather than training them to act in an exemplary manner.

The use of negative ethical examples relates to another problem, the fact that ethics training when not properly conducted may create a climate advocating risk avoidance. Ethics may be viewed as something one resorts to only after a scandal, as a form of cover-up. Certainly, the manner in which ethics programs have evolved in various countries indicates this is often the case. Martin Cook notes this tendency in the US armed forces. He believes it may explain the incoherence of American ethics training—after a particular scandal a new training course or ethics institution is set up. These actions are to serve as an indication that something is being done to rectify the problem; however, the real problem lies in the fact that no action is taken to integrate these new courses or institutions with existing ones.

The lesson one may draw from this is that ethics training should not be seen as some supplement which one puts on top of other forms of military training late in the day when there happens to be a spare moment in the timetable. Ethics training needs to be seen as something other than a burdensome compulsory duty. Rather it needs to be integrated into military training from a very early stage as a fundamental part of the process of developing professional soldiers. This also means that ethics courses which form part of the curriculum at military academies might in some cases be usefully moved forward to appear earlier than they currently do.37 It also means that ethics needs to be integrated into military exercises and pre-deployment training for operations, so that it becomes a part of regular military life.


According to General Cordingley, “Our soldiers are not little angels. . . . We need to be realistic.”38 Ethics training by itself will not produce morally perfect soldiers. A few extra lectures on “warrior values” are unlikely to transform the behavior of soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere. A need still exists for the informal processes of institutional and peer pressure designed to help shape and develop character, which also means leaders must continually examine the health of their institutions. There is little point in teaching individuals a particular form of behavior, if they can see that the institution to which they belong in practice rewards and values other behavior. Moral leadership is, therefore, a vital supplement to formal ethics training.

It is vital that leaders foster a culture which encourages ethical debate. Jamie Cullens, director of the Center for Defence Leadership Studies at the Australian Defense College, has pointed out that the Australian Defense Force has sought to create an organizational culture which is willing to


discuss past errors as well as to promote traditions emphasizing military achievements and positive examples of military ethics and national values. Through programs of this sort, one can hope to tackle ethical issues before, not after, the next disaster.39

To conclude, some form of formal training appears to be desirable. Additionally, there is a need to establish a common set of values that might be used in coalition warfare. It is also clear that there is little agreement among Western democratic nations as to how we might institute this training. This lack of consensus may be unavoidable. Differences in national character and history may make the models of one country unsuitable for another. Nevertheless, we need to learn from one another. It is hoped that the thoughts, programs, and methodologies presented in this article might enlighten those charged with the weighty responsibility of ethics training in the military.


1. BBC News, “Ethics Lessons for US Iraq Troops,” 1 June 2006,

2. Comment to workshop on “Ethics Training and Development in the Military,” University of Hull, England, 23 June 2006.

3. Namely the UK, USA, Norway, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, and Japan. I wish to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK, as well as the Institute of Applied Ethics of the University of Hull, for their financial support, which made this project possible.

4. Jeffrey Wilson, “An Ethics Curriculum for an Evolving Army,” presented at the University of Hull, 22 June 2006.

5. A. M. J. Hyatt, General Sir Arthur Currie: a Military Biography (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1987), pp. 11-13.

6. As General Charles C. Krulak noted in 1999, “In many cases, the individual Marine will be the most conspicuous symbol of American foreign policy and will potentially influence not only the immediate tactical situation, but the operational and strategic levels as well. His actions, therefore, will directly impact the outcome of the larger operation; and he will become, as the title of this article suggests—the Strategic Corporal.” General Charles C. Krulak, “The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War,” Marines Magazine, 28 (1999),

7. Hilliard Aronovitch, “Good Soldiers: A Traditional Approach,” Journal of Applied Philosophy, 18 (2001), 17.

8. Maurice Keen, one of the foremost modern scholars of ancient chivalry, notes this phenomenon in his study of European knights in the Middle Ages. It was, he claims, precisely the high-minded chivalric propaganda and indoctrination about serving the weak, the Church, and ladies, that convinced knights that fighting was a godly activity and that, therefore, the more they slaughtered the better they were. Maurice Keen, “Chivalry, Nobility, and the Man-at-Arms,” in War, Literature, and Politics in the Late Middle Ages, ed. C. T. Allmand (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1976), p. 45.

9. Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005), p. 24.

10. Interview with the author. Of course, the underlying assumption here is that prevalent ethics of the people whom soldiers serve are ones that we would wish them to emulate.

11. Comment to Hull workshop.

12. Martin L. Cook, “Ethics Education, Ethics Training, and Character Development: Who ‘Owns’ Ethics in the US Air Force Academy,” presented at the University of Hull, 22 June 2006.

13. Comment to Hull workshop.

14. Comment to Hull workshop.

15. For instance, see T. R. Reid, “Air Force Removes Chaplain from Post: Officer Decried Evangelicals’ Influence,” The Washington Post (13 May 2005), p. A4.


16. Cook, “Ethics Education.”

17. Patrick Mileham, “Teaching Military Ethics in the British Armed Forces,” presented at the University of Hull, 22 June 2006.

18. Ministry of Defence (Army), Values and Standards of the British Army: Commanders’ Edition, Army Code 63813, 2000, pp. 3, 12-13.

19. Ministry of Defence (Army), Land Operations, Army Code 71819, 2005.

20. Cook, “Ethics Education.”

21. The desire to focus military ethics training on the development of moral autonomy is most recently expressed in Susan Martinelli-Fernandez, “Educating Honorable Warriors,” Journal of Military Ethics, 5 (March 2006), 55-66.

22. An important complaint is that Kohlberg used only males for his research. Females appear on average to measure lower on the scale developed by Kohlberg, which suggests that it has a pro-male bias, in effect preferring male ways of examining moral problems over female views. See, for instance, Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1982), pp. 18-22.

23. Lawrence Kohlberg, The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981), pp. 409-12.

24. Peter Olsthoorn, “Conventional Ethics in the Military,” presented at the University of Hull, 22 June 2006.

25. Wilson, “An Ethics Curriculum for an Evolving Army.”

26. Cook, “Ethics Education.”

27. Values and Standards of the British Army, pp. 6-11.

28. Summary of Duty with Honour: The Profession of Arms in Canada (Canadian Defence Academy, 2003), pp. 16-18.

29. Similarly, Thomas B. Grassey of the US Navy states that ethics must be placed in an organizational context and writes of “the error of equating professional ethics with personal virtue.” Thomas B. Grassey, “Why Ethics is so Hard,” in Ethics and the Military Profession: The Moral Foundations of Leadership, eds. George R. Lucas Jr. and W. Rick Rubel (Boston, Mass.: Pearson, 2005), p. 17.

30. The Spirit of the IDF: The Ethical Code of the Israel Defense Forces,

31. Comment to Hull workshop.

32. Ralph Peters, Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph? (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 1999), p. 32.

33. For a critique of “warrior” ethics by a Canadian officer, see Thomas St. Denis, “The Dangerous Appeal of the Warrior,” Canadian Military Journal, 2 (Summer 2001), 31-38. For similar objections by a retired US army officer, see Robert Fisk, “Ethos of the Destroyers: The American Military’s Cult of Cruelty,” Counterpunch, 16-17 September 2006, The article’s primary claim is that “the change of military creed under the Bush administration—from that of ‘soldier’ to that of ‘warrior’—is encouraging American troops to commit atrocities.” I was informed at the Hull workshop that one reason why the US armed forces had chosen to use the term “warrior” was because it was considered to be recognized and accepted internationally, throughout the English-speaking world. There is some reason to doubt whether that is the case.

34. Comment to Hull workshop.

35. “The Defence Ethics Program is a comprehensive values-based ethics program,”

36. The one published book of military ethics case studies is: W. Rick Rubel, and George R. Lucas, Jr., eds., Case Studies in Military Ethics (Boston: Pearson, 2005); The Netherlands Defence Academy has developed two books titled Military Ethics and Practice Book: Military Ethics, which are due to be published soon. The Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics Web site also contains links to a collection of case studies:

37. Against this, a 1982 pamphlet on ethics training in the military suggested that, “Our experience in teaching ethics at a service academy suggests that the kind of course just described [i.e., a formal ethics course] is better taught to upperclassmen who are not still staggering from the everyday worries of the rites of initiation, who have the time for the necessary reading and reflection, and for whom the issues of war and morality are closer and command more emotional involvement.” Peter L. Stromberg, Malham M. Wakin, and Daniel Callahan, The Teaching of Ethics in the Military (Hastings-on-Hudson: The Hastings Center, 1982), pp. 62-63.

38. Comment to Hull workshop.

39. Comment to Hull workshop.

Paul Robinson is an Associate Professor in Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and until recently was a lecturer in security studies, and deputy director of the Institute of Applied Ethics, at the University of Hull, England. He has also served as an officer in the British and Canadian armies. Dr. Robinson is the author of numerous works on military history, defense policy, and military ethics, including most recently the book Military Honour and the Conduct of War: From Ancient Greece to Iraq (Oxford: Routledge, 2006).

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Reviewed 26 February 2007. Please send comments or corrections to