An Introduction to Military Ethics: A Reference Handbook

By Chavez, Albert | Air & Space Power Journal, September 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

An Introduction to Military Ethics: A Reference Handbook


Chavez, Albert, Air & Space Power Journal


An Introduction to Military Ethics: A Reference Handbook by Bill Rhodes. Praeger Security International (http://www.abc-clio.com/Praeger.aspx), ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, California 93116-1911, 2009, 165 pages, $44.95 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-313-35046-7.

In the last decade, military ethics has inspired a number of opinions and has come under much debate during the global war on terrorism. The subject raises the question of what constitutes a just war and how a state might rightly conduct such a thing. According to Miguel Alzóla, "Since the late eighteen century, just war theory has been separated into two parts, jus ad bellum-which concerns the justice of resorting to war in the first place-and jus in bello-which concerns the justice of conduct within war after it has begun" ("The Ethics of Business in Wartime," Journal of Business Ethics 99, no. 2 [2011J: 62).

Author Bill Rhodes confronts adversaries as well as the 2,500-year legacy of just war theory by demonstrating how acts of terrorism by nonstate participants require a new theory and a fresh way of thinking about the justifiable use of armed force. Furthermore, he analyzes how new and emerging theories may alter the fundamental identity of traditional military forces. A scholar and lecturer, Rhodes conducts research and observes developments in professional ethics for the company Aerworthy Consulting. He also serves as director of the International Society of Military Ethics, a nonprofit organization. Rhodes holds several important positions in both the private sector and nonprofit organizations, providing consulting services in the field of military ethics.

The author notes that "military ethics works in a specialized problem space tied tightly to political philosophy, history, and psychology. Influences from all of these characterize the field, helping to define its limits and contributing depth. Its jurisdiction is further characterized and enriched by the nature of military service itself and the functional requirements that nature imposes on military members" (p. 49).

The book "provides an overview of the moral challenges faced by military members. In a practical world of military life, there is no adequate substitute for honest assessments, wise judgments and committed, competent, action" (p. 1). It includes eight well-organized, wellwritten, enriching, and engaging chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the fundamental concepts of applied ethics, which enhance the philosophical groundwork for framing the practical issues; chapter 2 examines the literature on the Western just tradition from its inception to the present; chapter 3 explores the importance of military life, military members, and the "use of military force in the name of a political community" (p. vii); chapter 4 addresses ethical aspects of the resort to armed forces in the contemporary arena; chapter 5 conveys the conduct of armed hostilities and the ethical structures of the rules of warfare; chapter 6 notes emerging controversies as well as challenges confronted by modern militaries, setting the stage for humanitarian intervention and dealing with terrorism; chapter 7 addresses cultural issues in the modern military as well as the integration of women and religion into the military; the final chapter evaluates the necessity of addressing professional identity for the modern militaty. Clearly, chapters 3-6 are the most powerful ones in the book. …

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