Academic journal article Military Review

The Embedded Morality in FM 3-24 COUNTERINSURGENCY

Academic journal article Military Review

The Embedded Morality in FM 3-24 COUNTERINSURGENCY

Article excerpt

TODAY'S ARMY DOCTRINE describes a new era of "persistent conflict" in which military professionals must apply their skills in "complex" and "multidimensional" environments and conduct operations "among the people."1 Marines and Soldiers trained in the nuances of attack, defense, and movementto-contact must become, in General David Petraeus's words, "pentathlete leaders comfortable not just with major combat operations but with operations conducted throughout the middle- and lower-ends of the spectrum of conflict."2

The profession of arms once demanded a strict separation between war and politics. Young leaders today have become politically savvy dealmakers, agenda framers and setters, and economic planners. Senior military leaders do not consider these young professionals' agility to be above and beyond the call of duty. On the contrary, Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, states, "Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors."3

The world's heightened complexity has an ethical component. Remote desert warfare poses mostly instrumental challenges related to the synchronization of means. Operations conducted among and with the people demand that U.S. forces continuously demonstrate ethical judgment. Although the scandal of Abu Ghraib signifies failure, innumerable successes occurring daily in Iraq and Afghanistan show that the overwhelming majority of military professionals are meeting the ethical challenge.

Nevertheless, the Military Health Advisory Team IV survey yielded troubling results when it became public in May 2007. The survey queried fewer than 2,000 Soldiers and Marines who had served in units with "the highest level of combat exposure" in Iraq and found that

* "Approximately 10 percent of Soldiers and Marines report mistreating noncombatants or damaging property when it was not necessary.

* Only 47 percent of the Soldiers and 38 percent of Marines agreed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

* Well over a third of all Soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow Soldier or Marine.

* Less than half of Soldiers or Marines would report a team member for unethical behavior."4

Although Army doctrine specifies that "preserving noncombatant lives and dignity is central to mission accomplishment" in counterinsurgency, the survey reported that between one-third and one-half of the Soldiers and Marines who answered the survey's questions dismissed either the importance or the truth of the dignity attendant to noncombatants.5

Shortly after the publication of the MHAT's findings, General Petraeus urged troops to use the survey results to "spur reflection on our conduct in combat." He stated, "We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur reexamination of these issues."6 This essay follows General Petraeus 's call to reflect on the values "that make us who we are" and reexamine our commitment to them by focusing on human dignity.

Army doctrine explicitly emphasizes "human dignity," although it is not immediately clear whether the Army posits that preserving human dignity as an intermediate end (or means) or as an ultimate, moral end. Also not readily apparent is the relationship between human dignity and the military ends sought. Nevertheless, FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, contains an ethical subtext and entails an implicit but substantial morality. This implicit morality raises two questions:

* How does the military professional come to accept these implicit obligations?

* How is this morality relevant to our current military struggles?

Reading Between the Lines

There are two ways to understand the declaration that "preserving noncombatant lives and dignity is central to mission accomplishment."

In one sense, this counterinsurgency tenet is utilitarian; that is, we ought to preserve lives and dignity because it pays, or is in our interest, or is conducive to mission success. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.