Preparing Soldiers for Responsibility, Integrity, and Transparency in the Dutch Armed Forces: Exploring the Realm of Dilemma Training

Article excerpt

Abstract

After the fall of Srebrenica the awareness has risen that soldiers need a different preparation for military operations other than war. One type of instrument for this purpose is ethical dilemma training. The following article addresses some of the main issues related to the improvement of dilemma training in this area. Its purpose is to describe and discuss some of the basic issues related to relatively 'new' military practices of the Dutch armed forces, especially in military operations other than war. The authors discuss some presuppositions and consequences of ethical dilemma training in the military, especially at the level of policies.

Introduction

In 1999, the Dutch Minister of Defense, Mr. Frank de Grave, promised the Dutch parliament that he would take steps to improve the quality of training in ethical dilemmas in the military as an organization. The reasons are obvious. The Dutch Armed Forces are deeply involved in military operations of all kinds. Military Operations Other than War, in particular, lead to new practices and new moral experiences for Dutch soldiers. These new practices and experiences in the context of 'peace operations' all have ethical implications. The awareness of these ethical implications has been triggered by critical incidents like the fall of Srebrenica. Apart from the fact that, as the UN has now stated (Annan, 1999), the fall itself cannot be attributed to Dutchbat, there still were many complex choices for Dutchbat to make with far-reaching ethical and political implications. Through these types of critical incidents, which also occur in other Armed Forces, the awareness of the relevance of ethics for military practice has certainly been greatly enhanced. There is a need for a deeper exploration of these ethical issues. In fact there is a need to prepare soldiers to take up responsibility. These are the main considerations behind the recent establishment of an office for "ethics and the military" at the Netherlands Defense College at Rijswijk, in September 1999. Together with everyone who has a task with regard to ethics in the armed forces, and especially together with staff members for ethics at the Royal Military Academy of the RNLA and the RNLAF, and staff members of the Academy of the Royal Dutch Navy (Den Helder), the Office for Ethics and the Military will try to stimulate ethical reflection throughout the Dutch Military.

The following article addresses some of the main issues related to the improvement of dilemma training in this area. Its purpose is to describe and discuss some of the basic issues related to relatively 'new' military practices of the Dutch armed forces, especially in military operations other than war. This corresponds with the political priority given to these issues. We think it is necessary to describe these issues and discuss them with the Netherlands' partners in international cooperation, in order to create opportunities to develop mechanisms for compatibility of ethical standards within alliances involving the Dutch Armed Forces. Of course, the descriptions and discussions are only roughly sketched in the context of this article. The new start being made in the area of ethics requires that open discussions be held about the assumptions underlying our ethical approach.

In this article, we offer a set of workable definitions for 'ethics', 'corporate ethics', 'professional ethics' and 'military ethics'. The first section deals with these definitions. The authors of this article are convinced that any strategy to implement the exact improvement required by the Dutch Minister of Defense must address at least six different considerations. They will be sketched out in the second section. The third section deals with policy dilemmas regarding the integration of ethics into a military organization. The fourth and final section offers some elaboration's of consequences for ethical training and education given to the Dutch military. …