Soldiers, squadrons and strategists: building an ethical backbone for the armies of the twenty-first century – an Anglo-Australian practitioner’s view

International relations War Defence Ethics Australia United States of America Great Britain


The Western world is weary of conflict. Fifteen years of war since 2001 have drained the resources of many First World nations and have left an indelible stamp on their armed forces. Many militaries are now struggling to change and adapt in the aftermath. They are facing an identity crisis that must be resolved if they are to be prepared for future challenges. Cultural issues and the need for a better defined virtue-ethic from the tactical to the strategic sits at the heart of the struggle. Guiding this change is a major opportunity for the military ethicist who can contribute to the thinking of individuals, groups and strategists. This article outlines three ethical priorities – the resurgence of operational mentoring as a core role for ground forces; the ethics of operating in modern, massive multinational operations; and, the future ethics of robotics and the automation of war – which require the recasting of virtue ethics and their nuanced application by individuals, groups and strategists.

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