Collateral damage: Technology's influence upon the American warrior's ethical obligation to the noncombatant from the Civil War to the War on Terror

Patrick C Sweeney, Salve Regina University

Abstract

What role has technology served in shaping the U.S. professional military ethic and its attitudes toward collateral damage and the sanctity of the noncombatant? Earlier research has examined the military's ethic, the role of technology in military operations, and the roots of noncombatant immunity. The interrelationship of all three subjects has not enjoyed similar investigations. A nation's military has an ethic that is inherently related to the values of the society that it serves. In the United States, the military moral compass is contained in a professional military ethic that has been shaped and continues to evolve from multiple influences. The sway of the just war tradition and the discourses of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill offer perspectives on ethical obligations to place rational and compassionate limits on war making. The unique stimuli, however, of a democratic nation with its own historical experiences and values, contribute to the formation of a moral framework that is distinctive from those of other national military organizations. One ethical-shaping influence experienced by both society and its armed forces, and cautioned by the French philosopher Jacques Ellul and the cultural critic Neil Postman, is technology. This study assesses the professional military ethic and the factors that have influenced its appraisal of collateral damage and the sanctity of the noncombatant. Critical to this examination are the consideration of technology's multifaceted influence upon individual Service ideologies and their relationship to collateral damage from the Civil War to the War on Terror. This study concludes with an assessment of the external and internal influences that offer a hope to the mitigation of technology's risks to the noncombatant. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy|History, Military|Military Studies

Recommended Citation

Sweeney, Patrick C, "Collateral damage: Technology's influence upon the American warrior's ethical obligation to the noncombatant from the Civil War to the War on Terror" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations (Off Campus access). AAI3333058.
http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/dissertations/AAI3333058

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