Aug 1st 2016

Military Ethics: An Introduction (FutureLearn)

We explore the ethical responsibilities that weigh on military professionals, who are ‘managers of violence’. Military professionals are unusual in having the use of lethal force as a central, defining feature of their role, and unique in the level of force that they are authorized to use. This fact places a considerable ethical weight on military practitioners as well as the civilian decision-makers who authorize military missions.

The military profession is also unique in having a dedicated ethical framework associated with it, Just War Theory. This defines the conditions for when it is justified for a party to resort to war, the requirements for ethical conduct within the bounds of a war or armed conflict, and the conditions for a just ending to war.

The ethical challenges that military professionals face do not, however, begin and end with the use of force. As such this course combines an overview of Just War Theory with an introduction to key principles of ethics that can aid military professionals in facing every day ethical challenges.

Over seven weeks, we will explore six topics:

1. Foundations in ethical theory

2. Ethics within the military profession

3. Going to war

4. The conduct of war

5. Military and society

6. Ethics, technology and war

Specific topics addressed include role morality, illegal orders and whistleblowing, the competing duties of military commanders and the ethical challenges arising from new technologies such as unmanned and autonomous weapons systems, non-lethal weapons, and cyberwarfare.

Leading military ethicist Deane-Peter Baker travels around the world exploring key issues and case studies and speaking with international ethicists, military professionals, historians, philosophers, government and NGO personnel to build a comprehensive introduction to this essential field. This course is a must for military professionals, civilian policy makers, journalists, NGO personnel and anyone interested in the appropriate conduct of military affairs.