Pursuing Moral Warfare: Ethics in American, British, and Israeli Counterinsurgency

Pursuing Moral Warfare: Ethics in American, British, and Israeli Counterinsurgency

by Marcus Schulzke


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During combat, soldiers make critical split-second choices about matters of life and death dozens of times a day. These individual decisions accumulate to determine the outcome of wars. In this book, Marcus Schulzke examines the theory and practice of how military ethics can guide conduct in counterinsurgency, which are particularly difficult operations because the opponent operates outside of the laws of war. Schulzke surveys the ethical traditions that militaries borrow from; compares ethics in practice in the US Army, British Army and Royal Marines Commandos, and Israel Defense Forces; and draws conclusions that may help militaries refine their approaches in future conflicts. The work is based on interviews with American, British, and Israeli soldiers who were deployed between 2000 and 2012, review of training materials and other official publications, published accounts from combat veterans, and observation of US Army focus groups with active duty soldiers. Examining three distinct national militaries illuminates positives and negatives of different approaches to military ethics. Schulzke makes a convincing argument that while moral warfare is an elusive goal, it is possible to make incremental improvements that can reduce war’s destructiveness while improving the success of counterinsurgency operations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626166585
Publisher: Georgetown University Press
Publication date: 03/01/2019
Pages: 239
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Marcus Schulzke, formerly a lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York, specializes in security studies and applied ethics. He is the author of two previous books, Just War Theory and Civilian Casualties: Protecting the Victims of War and The Morality of Drone Warfare and the Politics of Regulation.

Table of Contents


AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Emergence of Military Ethics2. Moral Theory and Ethics at War3. Constraints on Ethical Reasoning in Combat4. Ethical Decisions in Counterinsurgency Operations5. The US Army and Virtue Ethics: Embodying the Warrior Ethos6. The US Army in Afghanistan and Iraq: Warrior Virtue in Asymmetric Wars7. British Military Ethics: Pragmatism and Minimalism8. The British Military’s Adaptive Struggle: Adjusting to New Challenges9. The Israel Defense Forces: On Guard Against Existential Threats10. The Ethics of Israeli Counterinsurgency Operations: Navigating the Rules of War

ConclusionAppendix: List of Interview QuestionsNotesIndexAbout the AuthorAcknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Cian O'Driscoll

Does the academic literature on the ethics of war speak to the realities of the contemporary battlefield? How do frontline soldiers both perceive and negotiate the demands that military ethicists place upon them? Marcus Schulzke not only addresses these questions in this very fine book, he also brings them to life. Essential reading for anyone interested in Military Ethics, War Studies, Civil-Military Relations, and the Ethics of War, it examines the relation between just wartheoryand just warpractice. This is a ground-breaking work that deserves to be widely read.

Victor Asal

Pursuing Moral Warfare by Marcus Schulzke makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of military ethics and their actual application in the realm of counterinsurgency which is repeatedly overlooked. Going beyond theorizing and philosophizing, Schulzke digs into how actual participants in counter insurgency actually think and act related to ethics by asking them directly and reflecting usefully on their answers. This is a book that needs to be assigned in all counter insurgency classes.

James Igoe Walsh

Pursuing Moral Warfare explores the ethical challenges of counter-insurgency. Based on interviews with soldiers and junior officers from three countries, it shows how these combatants interpret and put into practice the just war philosophical tradition when using force on complex and uncertain battlefields.

David Rousseau

This fascinating and informative book explores how soldiers make ethical decisions in combat. The comparative analysis of doctrine and soldier behavior significantly advances our understandings of how soldiers make ethical decisions on the battlefield. This important and well-argued study will be useful to scholars, students, and practitioners.

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