Posting in Environment
Even in the most psychologically taxing environment on earth, ethics training works.
Halfway through a 15 month, high-intensity combat deployment in Iraq, soldiers were shown videos of ethically dicey situations they might encounter with civilians. The question researchers wanted to answer was: can soldiers who are already suffering enormous amounts of stress -- literally fearing for their lives -- be trained to stop and think long enough to prevent unethical behavior?
The answer, happily, is yes. In a study published in the Lancet, researchers concluded that a combination of videos and leader-led discussion groups led to "significantly lower rates of unethical conduct of soldiers and greater willingness to report and address misconduct than in those before training."
From the paper:
For example, reports of unnecessary damage or destruction of private property decreased from 13·6% before training to 5·0% after training, and willingness to report a unit member for mistreatment of a non-combatant increased from 36·0% to 58·9%. Nearly all participants reported that training made it clear how to respond towards non-combatants.
You wouldn't think "sensitivity training" or its equivalent would work in the highest stress environment on the planet, but apparently it does. One caveat: soldier's ethical or unethical behavior was self-reported, so it's possible that soldiers who had the training were simply reporting less of it because they had been made aware that it was wrong. But isn't that exactly the mechanism by which ethics training works?
Photo: Jayel Aheram
Nov 30, 2011
It's just who happens to win that decides which side was fighting 'fair' and which side was a bunch of 'warcriminals who deserved what they got'. 'Military training is focused on discipline and following orders to do things that individuals would not do.' The moment You do something against Your concience, You ARE a war criminal. It makes no difference if You do it because of orders or not.
With proper leadership, soldiers will not be war criminals. One of the best examples of this is the German Armed Forces in World War II. While the German and Soviet armies were especially brutal on the Russian front, the German Africa Corps was without the premeditated attrocities found in other theaters of operations. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even tried to discipline SS troops under his operational command in France and Italy. When told he could not, he had them moved to where they could do less harm. Even on the Western Front in 1944, while German SS troops were killing civilians and American POWs in France and Begium, the German army managed to behave with correctness with regards to such attrocities. On the other hand, there are documented cases of Allied soldiers executing German POWs on the Normandy beaches.
If they really want to curtail potential war-criminal like actions buy troops they need only stop the practice of multiple repeat tours of duty. Soldiers are not supposed to do 4, 5, 6 or even more tours of duty. It was not until the last decade that the military started sending soldiers back in the field for repeated tours of duty like this. This has increased the level and number of ex-military that experience Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. There also would not even be a need for repate torus of duty if our government would stop policing the world and expanding the US empire for the powerful and wealthy elite of the world. I use to believe in the fight for freedom but it???s gotten so obvious now that these wars are about resources for international corporations that own our politicians. Its time to say no more and to bring these troops home. Not only can we not afford monetarily to keep up the fight but it???s unconstitutional and no there???s not an exception clause for ???The fight against terrorism??? in our Constitution. The war on terrorism is an excuse used to send our good men and women into battle to win resources for powerful international corporations. It???s time to say enough.
Far too many people get mad at the troops when their anger should be focused on the politicians who sent them there with no clear objectives for the mission, no difinition of success and no exit plan. I am really mad at the State Departments failure in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After WW II the civilians who implimented the Marshall Plan were unsung heros. Few government employees not in a uniform worked hard to see success in the MId East. Staffing issues have been a chronic problem for the State Department as government employees have refused to go there even after the areas became safer. Successful suits on the ground would have won over the population. Instead years later we have large cities in both countries that still have no power or running water.
with our hard won values. How do we use diplomacy with people who revere death when we revere life. There is no compromise with the Koran ! Either you are Muslim or you are an Infidel and do not deserve to be on this Earth and it is the Muslims duty to cut your throat ! It is stated clearly in the Koran . Read it for yourself. DON'T FORGET THEY DECLARED WAR ON US
19 year old boys from an urban environment and thrust into a brutal war away from all the values they have grown up with, and then judge them whith the values of urban society when they stray from the traight and narrow. Consider the fog of war. Nobody knows what will happen next in war Read Sun Tzu's 'The art of War'. It is taught in every military academy Then read the Koran. Preferably one translated and printed before 1950 . There are many versions and all are given the same authority by Muslims. The Koran is a random collection of verses without any sequence chronological or otherwise . It is not like the Bible. Don't treat it as such. The history of the Koran's author Shows him to have all the characteristics of a psychopathic murderer.
I think this question is one that can no longer be answered, yes. Intelligent journalist has become an oxymoron. This article is a great example.
Maybe there should be an article on "Can Environmentalists not be Ecoterrorisits?" It has about the same relevance.
War is caused by politicians. Soldiers only do the fighting. They take commands from the commanders and commanders in chief. In war, the situation is this: kill or be killed. The foot soldier does not take ethical responsibility for what the soldier is ordered to do. It is the politician that does. Whether you are talking about the ethnic cleansing in the Americas of the 1400's to the 1800s, the evils of WWII, the design of nuclear bombs, sick insane men flying planes into buildings with thousands of people in them, or the more recent military experiments with drones and robots, it makes no difference. War is inherently evil. Our species may never learn. We may end up taking out all life on this planet because one physicist wrote up the derivation energy equals the mass change times the speed of light squared. The same physicist wrote President Roosevelt a letter telling him to hurry up and make the nuclear bomb because nazis held the majority of the world's uranium ore. Look up Einstein's letter to Roosevelt. The nazi bomb was a paper tiger, similar to Hussein having WMD's. Giving this idea to a politician was as ethical as handing a 5 year old a loaded shotgun in a crowded place. Stupid. Unethical. Ignorant. Worse than any atrocity a foot soldier could commit. I believe the scientific community can learn a lot more about ethics from a seasoned soldier than we can train them. If there ever is an all out nuclear war on this planet, there will be no life left except maybe a few anthrax spores.
- - -Training is geared to take a civilian and turn them into a soldier who will do things unthinkable to civilians. - - - It is appalling if you honestly think US military forces are trained like that. US forces have died in Iraq and Afghanistan because they refrained from shooting back at enemy forces hiding among civilians. The best shot I ever saw pulled off was a Marine sniper who picked off a Somali gunman in Mogadishu that was hiding in a crowd of women and children. The gunman laid down to fire from between a womans legs and a Marine sniper hundreds of yards away took him out with a single shot because the Marines closely engaged would not fire back into the crowd. It is tough to fight an enemy that hides among their civilians.
The header, "Can soldiers be trained to not become war criminals?" strongly implies that soldiers are, become, or tend to become war criminals. I don't think that was your intention, but nonetheless, I am asking you to change the headline of this story out of respect for all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served with honor.
It concerns me that soldiers pausing for even a nanosecond to consider their "proper behavior" under fire in a combat zone might be killed because of it. Too much happy horse manure.
Military training is focused on discipline and following orders to do things that individuals would not do. Basic training is very similar from country to country because the techniques go back centuries. Training is geared to take a civilian and turn them into a soldier who will do things (edit: unthinkable to civilians) the civilian could not do (end edit: THX HI). A well trained and well disciplined army will still have its share of bad apples that cause problems for the whole group. I was in the Navy in the submarine command, we were told to watch out for each other and to make sure that everyone was in good physical and mental condition; this is because you have a small group of men who have to react quickly and correctly to emergency conditions that needs everyone working together for survival. In the article, it said that leader led discussions helped to get the soldiers thinking about ethics and that was effective. The key is that the leadership has to communicate ethics and not say one thing and do another; that causes a lot of discipline breaches. I agree with Dr_ Zinj that toture is not something our forces should use; it is against the Geneva Conventions and if our military tortures prisoners then we put our soldiers at risk of similar harsh treatment. Torture is not very effective way to get information and it can produce information that can be more harmful to the fellow soldiers of those torturers.
The victor in what ever conflict gets to write the history and as such gets to decide who is and is not a war criminal. The modern liberal considers ALL US military personnel as war criminals while ignoring the extreme atrocities of the Taliban, Al-Queda, FSI, El- Whatevers, Viet Cong, Viet Minh, North Korea, Iran, etc, etc, etc. The surest way to prevent being a war criminal is to WIN in the quickest, shortest, and most complete way possible.
Or call it education if you want. We're all conditioned to behave in certain ways in whatever culture we live in. The United States historically has had a culture of promoting peace and resolving conflicts through peaceful means, which is great. This means that a lot of U.S. soldiers in our recent wars were given the tools to behave appropriately in terrible combat situations. But you can't train a soldier for every situation they're going to experience - like when their best friend is shot and killed or blown up by a roadside bomb. You can't ask an 18 year-old soldier to hold his/her emotions and treat the opposing combatants with respect. Yes, some soldiers can handle the pressure and will in turn behave professionally - but a lot of them won't. And that's one reason we're seeing murder trials for U.S. soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're simply asking too much of them. War is hell.
Law of armed conflict was a section taught in Senior NCO Academy. That includes identification of lawful and unlawful combatants, and appropriate and legal treatment there of. Detainees who were ordinary soldiers captured on the battlefield, who were not otherwise committing crimes qualified as PoWs; with all the rights that go with that status under international law and the UCMJ. Those captured for committing crimes are ordinary criminals, subject to either the laws of the country captured in, or U.S. laws, which of course derive from the U.S. Constitution. Either way, the Justice Department "experts" who signed off on the legality of "enhanced interrogation techniques" were dead wrong, unethical, and incompetent in law. i.e. John Loo et al. Regardless of their recommendations, authorization and employment of those techniques was a clear violation of the either the Geneva Conventions or the Constitution. Which makes G.W. Bush, and a multitude of civil and military authorities criminals and war criminals. And they never did acknowledge or take responsibility for those crimes.
I cannot speak for what training soldiers receive, but ethics training was part of boot camp for the USMC prior to 1987 and continuing today. Annual training on military ethics was mandatory for NCO???s and above. Sadly every war attracts the wrong element into the military. People who want to kill will join for the thrill. It has long been thought the Zodiac killer of the 1960s and 1970s stopped killing only because he was drafted into the Army or volunteered for Vietnam to simplify killing and evade police.
You have a valid point about some of our troops being sent out too many times into the mid east war zones. This can also be an argument for reinstituting the draft, there aren't enough volunteers and perhaps the war mongers in congress would think differently if their descendants get drafted to fight in poorly planned wars that have made the Viet Nam war look better than it was. I agree that we should pull all the troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan because the situation will not improve and the people we don't want in power will still get into power regardless how long we extend these wars. The current troops have one advantage over the Viet Nam vets and that is not being spit on and called baby killers. Unfortunately, the current troops are not getting the care they need to recover from battle.
I don't agree that this article is in any way an example. The jouralist creed is 'Good news is bad news . Bad news is good news.'
When we vote them into power we assume the collectve responsibility. War is one of nature's ways of attempting to keep the most successful species , Us, under control. Another way is that we breed psychopaths and put them into positions of power over the rest of us. So far the breeders are winning. 7 billion and counting. Nature will always win with or without humanity. The picture is too big for our primative brains to comprehend . The Homosapein brain is only about 80,000 years young, Which is a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms.
I edited my original comment, the phrase I used sounded like I was advocating doing unthinkable things to civilians and that was not my intention, thanks for pointing that out. Training to do things that are unthinkable to civilians is not to do unthinkable things to civilians. My list of unthinkable things that turn civilians into soldiers is learning things like bomb detection, bomb defusing, jumping out of planes into hostile territories, knowing what to do if someone yells "Grenade!" and also to work as a team. Your story of the sniper is an excellent example of doing something that without training is unthinkable. I was impressed by the marine sniper who was able to take out several pirates in an enclosed boat with a hostage they were about to kill. I do have a lot of respect for what our troops can do. What I find appalling is sending our troops out to fight a war that would have been better resolved by diplomacy. We should never send our troops into a situation where they can not win because the rules of engagement or the objectives are not clear.
Proper behavior for soldiers under fire is to determine the source of fire and return fire. Any non-combatant who raises his/her head during a firefight is a candidate for a Darwin award.
My background in psychology tells me self reporting is usually flimsy as evidence that an experiment has succeeded. My past experience as an infantry combat soldier tells me your attention had better not be divided when your life is on the line. Reflexes and reflection sometimes make poor bed fellows. No atom bomb would ever have shortened the length of the war with Japan and eventually saved many lives if ethical rigidity had ruled. If a situation does allow for ethics and compassion to rule without a greater cost being paid go for it and hope you have made the right decision.
Islam does not respect our values or our laws . Treat them with sharea law and see how they like it.
I can...I was an Army Combat Medical Specialist from 1986-1989. The whole point behind all of the training and some of the stupid crap they have you do is to teach strict discipline. A disciplined and professional soldier will do his job with honor and valor.
All the liberal Namby Pambi thoughts get you killed or worse , limbs blown off, Try living with those disabilities before you give the enemy a generous thought. THEY DECLARED WAR ON THE WESTERN NON MUSLIM PEOPLES OF THE WORLD AND CALL ISLAM A PEACEFULL RELIGION. ! !
We should expect them to follow OUR laws & "values" when we're on THEIR soil? You would have made a wonderful British soldier during the American Revolution.
the generals who ordered Admiral Yamamoto's plane be shot down in WWII. Bin Laden was not tortured or renditioned to another country. The Seals simply eliminated a leader of the combatants while he was on extended "leave" from the war zone.
But it would be a stretch. The American President, although the Commander in Chief of the military, is a civilian leader and non-combatant. Osama bin Laden, being much more intimately involved in the planning and execution of al Qaida operations than the president would be in American military operations, was most likely considered a senior officer and therefore subject to attack by military forces.
No one wanted bin Laden dead more than me. Theoretically though, if a team of Al-Qaeda members took the White House, and murdered Obama, would they be simply eliminating a leader of the combatants while he was on "extended leave" from the war zone, and therefore not war criminals?