Ethical Dilemma in the Military and Rules of Engagement Author

EthicalDilemma in the Military and Rules of Engagement


EthicalDilemma in Military and Rules of Engagement

CompleteSentence Outline

Topic:EthicalDilemma in the Military and Rules of Engagement

GeneralPurpose: Toinform about the ethical issues in the military sector

ResearchQuestion: Tofind out how the military violate human rights or/and state’ssovereignty in their wars fighting terrorism, protecting the libertyrights of the US citizens and their intervention in civil wars.

ThesisStatement:The ethical dilemmas that may arise among the military soldiers andnon-combatants on the battlefield when they are given strict rules ofengagement by their commanders.

  1. Concerns about the effectiveness of military rules of engagement in war

  2. Themes related to the ethical dilemmas

  3. Consequences war as a result of following and not following the rules of engagement


  1. Many directives issued by military authorities to the soldiers in war lead to moral and ethical issues.

  1. Soldiers and non-combatants such as medical officers follow such orders.

  2. They may fail to adhere to the rules and directives issued by military authorities.

  3. Moral issues emerge as a result of following and not following the directives.

  1. Themes related ethical dilemma in military rules of engagement.

  1. Ethics of killing

  2. Use of nuclear weapons in wars.

  3. Interrogation of terror suspects

  4. Military intervention in civil wars.

  5. Discrimination and unfairness of the international conventions such as The Hague and Geneva treaties.

  1. Consequences of following and not following military orders.

  1. Killing innocent people.

  2. Mass murder

  3. Interrogation of innocent terror suspects

  4. Violation of people’s human rights

  5. International conflicts due to disobedience of the international conventions


  1. There is a dilemma on whether to follow orders or not

  2. The military personnel and non-combatants ought to use their conscience in their decision making during the war.

  3. Compliance and non-compliance with the given military rules has a lot of consequences.

EthicalDilemma in the Military and Rules of Engagement

Alot of concerns have been there on whether military directives reallyachieve military objectives of a State without violating human rightsor even disrespecting the sovereignty of any given state. Theresearch paper addresses the ethical dilemmas that may arise amongthe military soldiers on the battlefield when they are given strictrules of engagement by their commanders. There has been tensionbetween the US government and the international human rightscommissions during the Afghanistan War, Gulf War, Iraq War and manymore. The central focus lays on the US government on how it protectshuman rights in its military attacks in foreign countries (Charles &ampDemy, 2010).

Asstated earlier, the basis of the research paper was to find out howthe military violate human rights or/and state’s sovereignty intheir wars fighting terrorism, protecting the liberty rights of theUS citizens and their intervention in civil wars. The major themesrelated to the ethical dilemmas explained in this paper includes theethics of killing, use of nuclear weapons, humanitarian interventionin civil wars and the interrogation/ torture of terror suspects.Also, the themes of preventive wars to protect US and discriminationand unfairness of the international conventions such as The Hague andGeneva treaties are well expounded in the essay. The themes help alearner to get an in-depth understanding of the ethical issuesbrought about by military attacks of the U.S in their fight againstenemies in the historical wars and the ongoing wars today (In Van,2006).

Militaryrules of engagement

Rulesof engagement refer to the directives mainly issued by the militaryauthorities to the soldiers and non-combatants in war on how to carryout the attacks.Inrelation to the military, the phrase, ethical dilemma, can be used torefer to that state of the armed forces in war when they are tryingto decide whether to carry out attacks subject to the issued ordersor not. It is evident that wars among nations has been there inhistorical times paying attention to the World War I, which tookplace from 1914 to 1918. The main cause of the war was as a result ofcountries enlarging and empowering their military forces as a way ofpreventing invasion from other nations across the world (Mileham &ampWillett, 2001). Many rules were issued to the soldiers in war by theinvolved states across the world.

Duringthe world wars, many innocent people’s lives were lost due to themilitary fights among the superpowers in the world. In the recentwars waged by the US in foreign countries, for example, the Iraq Warand the Afghanistan War, many people have been killed by soldiers whoobey the given rules of engagements by the authority (U.S. ArmyCommand and General Staff College., &amp U.S. Army Command andGeneral Staff College, 1922). The question of the ethics of killingby the military forms the basis of this research paper. In addition,the research explores whether soldiers are morally justified toattack the enemies subject to the orders given by their leaders ornot.

Complianceand non-compliance to military directives

Itis vital to consider the moral outcome when states are givingmilitary rules to the soldiers in war. This covers the aspect ofwhether soldiers should be trained to be efficient killers in warswithout even reasoning. The military chaplains and the combat medicsengaged in war for specific duties also face the ethical dilemmas inwars (In Van, 2006). The non-combatants are usually involved directlyin wars, but offer services such as first aids, rescues anddeportation of injured soldiers.

Themethod to be used in the interrogation of terror suspects,intervention in civil wars and the release of nuclear weapons is ahard decision to make the armed forces in war (In Van, 2006). Directives issued from the central military offices may not beapplicable in war or may lead to mass murder. Therefore, the militarysoldiers and non-combatant face a hard time on whether to follow themor not. They not only fear the consequences of war, but also theirfate in their jobs because they can be dismissed or litigated in thecourts of law. The question remains, whether all military ordersshould be considered morally right or not.

Theessay provides relevant examples of wars waged by nations againsttheir enemies and a brief history of these wars in relation to moralsand ethics. Being an area of concern, many studies are conducted onwhether military orders should always be obeyed or not based on thedecision making process. These studies gives an in depthunderstanding of how soldiers carry out their work in thebattlefields, for example, killing their enemies, torturing suspectsor shooting prisoners without considering the moral outcomes of suchundertakings. On another hand, the studies reveal that the armedforces may follow the directives or fail because in the battlefields,decisions are made very fast, unlike other related sectors such ascriminal investigations and detainment of prisoners of war.

AncientMoral issues in relation to the Military

Therehave been moral risks on whether to train officers to be perfectkillers in times of war over the past years (Robinson,De and Carrick, 2008).In addition, the use of nuclear weapons in war has led to lots ofcontroversies across the world. For example, the nuclear attack inJapan still rings in people’s mind whether it was morallyjustifiable or not. It seems that rules of war are not morallyjustified to some extent and, thus, some of them should not be obeyed(In Hoven, 2014). They usually result in to mass murder,international conflicts or killing of innocent people.

Moraland Ethical issues in the US Military

Asstated earlier, the organised attacks by soldiers usually result intocontroversies on whether they are morally upright or not. The USgovernment has been participating in wars for many years and this hasconsequently caused mass murders, for example, Vietnam War, Iraq War,Yugoslavian War etc (Stone et al., 2008). Mostly the government seemto invade other states without considering the moral outcomes and,therefore, the United Nations and other world organizations tend tointervene in their efforts to protect the human rights of citizens(Cohn &amp Gilberd, 2009).

Moststudies carried out in the past and recently reveal that moralconcerns have been there on how the security departments of statessometimes operate without being questioned. The major problem beingthe ethical dilemma in the military, these studies has confirmed thatsoldiers violate human rights in their wars against enemies(International Sociological Association, Moskos &amp Caforio, 2009).At this point the military forces can practice discretion and to someextent go beyond the issued directives and commit mass murder,release nuclear weapons or torture innocent people (Heinze &ampSteele, 2009).

Themesrelated to the Ethical dilemma in Military and Rules of Engagement

Thethemes are as outlined below

  • Ethics of killing. Note that despite the right of life being advocated for to all human beings, that right can still be taken by a state where one is killed. Some military rules of engagement give soldiers the power to kill, which is wrong according to the Jewish and Christian religious denominations (Doyle and Sambanis, 2006).

  • Use of nuclear weapons in wars. The question remains whether the superpowers seek moral justification when they want to use these weapons against their enemies or not. There is an ethical dilemma ranging between the use of nuclear weapons or surrender in military wars (Coleman, 2013).

  • Interrogation of terror suspects. It has not been decided on to what extent a soldier should interrogate terror suspects and methods to be used to be used to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians (MacCann, 2000).

  • Military intervention in civil wars. In the major civil wars in Rwanda and Kosovo, the US military was reluctant to intervene in the war and this resulted to death of many innocent citizens. It is, therefore, not clear whether the military should remain quiet or engage in wars when they are attacked or when civil wars arise (United States, 2007).

  • Discrimination and unfairness of international conventions. The Hague and Geneva treaties requires that any member state of international bodies such as the UN should engage in war after being authorised by the body. However, some states engage in wars without such authorisations with various reasons and thus leading to many ethical and moral concerns across the world (United States, 2007).

Consequencesof decisions made by the soldiers in war

Killingof innocent people

Warsin Iraq and Afghanistan remains questionable on whether the Americansoldiers killed terrorists only or even innocent civilians werekilled in the fights. This might have resulted from the directivesissued by the authorities. The medical personnel can also lead toinnocent killings when they fail to rescue the affected citizens(Bellamy,2009).


TheRwandan civil war led to mass murders that shocked the whole world.However, there were no military interventions in this war and thusthe military authorities of the in this case never issued rules tothe soldiers (Bellamy,2009).

Interrogationof innocent terror suspects

Usually,the soldiers engage in war with a mission of getting the criminals,which is aided by interrogation of the suspects. In the course ofgetting the criminals, the armed forces may end up torturing innocentpeople in the name of searching security information as directed bytheir commanders.

Violationof Human rights

Thehumanitarian law requires that soldiers of war to protect the humanrights and above all the right to life and freedom from torture.However, the military directives may influence the decisions made bythe officers in war, who end up violating the human rights. The Iraqand Pakistan wars are real examples of how soldiers can disrespectthe human rights of citizens (United States, 2007).


Dueto the non-compliance to the international treaties, conflicts mayemerge, for example, the concerns on whether the US government obeyedthe Hague treaties in its war against Iraq or not led tointernational conflicts.


Thestudy shows that rules given by military authorities usually resultinto violation of human rights. In addition, they disrespect thesovereignty of states. The fact that these orders result to ethicaldilemmas among soldiers in operation has been well addressed in theresearch paper. It, therefore, means that there should be a balancebetween issuance of rules of war to soldiers and the withdrawal ofsuch orders with time so as to control or prevent mass murder(Bellamy,2009). The methodology used in the research can be recommended forother studies where preconceptions and hypotheses are not usedleading to reasonable conclusions.


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Charles,J. D., &amp Demy, T. J. (2010). War,peace, and Christianity: Questions and answers from a just-warperspective.Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books.

Cohn,M., &amp Gilberd, K. (2009). Rulesof disengagement: The politics and honor of military dissent.Sausalito, CA: PoliPoint Press.

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Doyle,M. W., &amp Sambanis, N. (2006). Makingwar and building peace: United Nations peace operations.Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

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