Deane-Peter Baker

Deane-Peter Baker

Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra (at the Australian Defence Force Academy)

Location Canberra, Australia

Activity

  • Actually, I think if AQ had sent an expeditionary army to the US that would have been less objectionable than 9/11, mainly because most of those deliberately targeted on 9/11 were civilians, not combatants.

    I think you are right that perceptions of fairness or unfairness matter because they affect how populations and states respond - which of course has...

  • @StevenBrown , I'm not sure it goes as far as giving up any right to political affiliation (ADF members can correct me here), but there are constraints on public political statements and activities while in uniform, I think. I don't know what the situation is for states that have large-scale conscription (e.g. Israel) - harder to justify a blanket restriction...

  • Hi @PhilipStevenson - that's certainly true, but I think there is also an underlying assumption that we don't expect police to give the criminal a 'fair chance' to fight back. Instead we expect the police to subdue the criminal in whatever manner is safest to themselves and bystanders, constrained by the need to avoid unnecessary force.

  • Thanks Paul - yes, I took two sets of my on-screen 'uniform' on the trip with me, so I could wear one set while the other dried after washing! The clothes were selected for their quick-drying qualities, as I was generally only in one motel/hostel for a night or two.

  • Thanks for your suggestions John!

  • Hi @JohannaR I'm very pleased you found the course worthwhile, and that it's got you thinking about ethics as a field of study. Medical ethics/bioethics is a particularly big field, and a meaningful employer of full-time ethicists, though other professions are catching on and catching up. Big tech companies are increasingly turning to ethicists as they develop...

  • An important question Robert - what do you think? If a soldier suffers a debilitating injury to (say) a limb, and has it surgically replaced with an advanced and integrated mechanical limb, is there a fundamental difference to doing that for a soldier who did not suffer from an injury in the first place?

  • @ShaneC you've put your finger on what makes many uncomfortable with the DDE. One reason is it depends on perspective. If our perspective takes the rights of the individuals as the starting point it is very difficult to see how it is justifiable to carry out an act which one foresees will kill someone, even if that is not the goal or intention. If, however,...

  • @JohannaR , some deep questions here! Ethics is a constraint on war, but not necessarily the purpose of war. When a state fights a war of self defence, for example, so long as all the jus ad bellum principles are met we deem that war to be just/ethical (self defence being a just cause) - but the purpose of fighting the war is not to be ethical but rather to...

  • @JohannaR you are right that war should be pursued to rectify injustice. But remember that the traditional view of just war theory keeps jus ad bellum apart from jus in bello . The principles of jus in bello apply whether or not your side is engaged in a just war, and at least one side will not be (and quite often neither side is engaged in a just war). So we...

  • It's the nature of the topic that there are many rabbit holes one could go down - you stuck with the main issues pretty well, considering!

  • Glad you found it worthwhile Darren!

  • That's a really good point @IlonaH

  • Glad you're not finding it boring Darren! Would you be able to tease out your distinction between 'morally ethical' and 'militarily ethical'?

  • That would be a great book title!

  • Hi @darrenm - can you expand on your view that autonomous weapons can be used ethically? The thrust in the discussions to ban 'killer robots' is that using them would be inherently unethical.

  • Hi @BenD , there is in fact an effort to get autonomous weapons banned or regulated under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (UN CCW)

  • I don't think it's likely that we'll every get humans out of the firing line Paul!

  • Hi @DavidHollywood - can I push you on that? Would you make a similar argument about policing? If police could do their job in a way that would impose no risk of harm to them by criminals, would that be unethical? If not, can you pinpoint why it is different for military personnel?

  • @BA , that comes up in the final week of the course

  • @BA , hopefully the later steps in the course will help answer this for you!

  • Thanks for the tip Paul!

  • @NeilC , it's a tricky question what level of violation of jus in bello would render a side's participation unjust overall (even if the jus ad bellum criteria were met), but it's certainly in principle something that can happen.

  • High praise indeed! Glad you enjoyed it Quinn!

  • Thanks Cameron, glad you enjoyed the course.

  • I'm afraid we're stuck with the Latin terms Mick! I agree that the contributions in the discussions have been great - thank's for your part in that too.

  • Indeed!

  • Glad you enjoyed is Stephen!

  • Hi @JohannaR - can I push you a little on this? Isn't (part of) the reason we don't allow athletes to enhance their bodies because of fairness? But there is no expectation of fairness in war. One side is not bound to use (say) 3rd Generation Fighter Aircraft because that's all the other side has - if you have 5th Gen Fighters and can overmatch the enemy, then...

  • That's a good point @CW , and both terms are used. The difference is whether you are focusing on the intent or the effect. 'Non-Lethal' weapons are intended not to cause lethal harm. 'Less Lethal' weapons (same weapons!) sometimes have lethal effects, because humans are frail and Murphy's Law reigns.

  • Hi @CameronW , good link to the moral equality of combatants (MEC). The MEC is about one's status on the battlefield - that one may be killed by the enemy without them in so doing violating the ethics of war or morality more broadly. So one is vulnerable in a moral sense - but this doesn't necessarily mean one is required to be vulnerable in a physical sense....

  • Not my words @JoW , my colleague CDR Richard Adams, RAN (PhD)!

  • Hi @JohannaR - you share a reservation that many feel about drones, that it seems unfair. But as @JesseN points out, war is not a duel, and as long as it is fought within the laws and ethics of war there is no requirement that any side should give the other a 'fair' chance to fight. Since the first caveman threw a spear rather than fighting with a club...

  • Conscription is back in fashion it seems, in Europe anyway: https://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2018/10/military-draft-making-comeback-europe/

  • True, though an Israeli academic I know made the interesting claim that, in her experience, conscription is a significant engine driving startup's in Israel - young men and women thrown together in conscription, particularly those who get trained for technical roles, often band together and leverage their technical skills and learned leadership abilities to...

  • Hi @JesseN , great post! This sounds a lot like the picture that the philosopher Robert Nozick develops in his very influential book 'Anarchy, State and Utopia', where he tries to show that states (but, in his view, only 'minimal' states) can exist without violating individual rights to property etc.

  • That's a tricky question @DavidIsted , but a good one! We can't be idealists about this, as no state is perfect in it's adherence to the social contract. I think the question of whether a particular state is legitimate has to be considered on a case by case basis. And of course an illegitimate state may sometimes still be better than the alternatives. To put...

  • Hi @RichardDennehy , that's definitely a coherent position. Many who argue for the 'right to rebel' (i.e. the right to take up arms against the state) base that position on this point.

  • Hi @ShaneC , you are not the only one to find the distinction between ‘foreseen’ and ‘intended’, this is a major area of critique for the DDE. The usual test is to ask ‘would I still want to go ahead with this act if the effect in question did not occur?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then that effect is not intended, only foreseen.

  • Thanks for this thoughtful comment @GarthC . This brings us back to one of the shortcomings of consequentialist ethics - the enormous challenge of predicting consequences.

  • Hi @BA that’s a big question! Here’s a preliminary question that would need to be answered first - if virtues are ‘excellences of character’ can we apply virtue ethics when evaluating the actions of states?

  • So the ends justify the means @JoelMcClure ?

  • That’s definitely an important topic Ben, but beyond what we can do in 7 short weeks, unfortunately.

  • That’s a great analogy, I’ll have to use that!

  • Hi Johanna, great question! One way to think of democratic elections is that they are a way to make the contract explicit.

  • You're right @SamG that the DDE is focused on comparing effects. I think I hedged a little in the description in the article because effects are never 100% certain, plus killing the HVT is not, strictly speaking an action but rather (as you say) the outcome or effect of an action. But that's probably making things unduly complex!

  • Even then, of course, conscription has traditionally only been applied to males (with some noteable exceptions), and excludes a wide range of people on the basis of health, criminal record, weight and fitness ... etc. So can a military ever completely reflect society? Is it enough that it be broadly reflective of society in key aspects - gender, race,...

  • Thanks @StephenMark , that book is on my 'to read' list.

  • Hi Brent - agreed. See my response to Sam below.

  • Hi @SamG , good observation. The key distinction here is between why people do what they do in practice (which, as you say, involves a wide range of disparate reasons) on the one hand, and what gives the state moral legitimacy on the other. That's where the social contract is supposed to kick in, and why it is largely hypothetical - states come in to being in...

  • Hi @SamG , thanks for this thoughtful comment. You're right that one of the challenges with the DDE is that the same scenario can often be described in different ways, which can skew the outcome of applying the DDE. One thing to remember, though, is that the DDE does not exist independently of the main principles of the jus in bello. So your question about...

  • Corrected, thanks.

  • Good catch, thanks Sam!

  • Good question @PaulRothwell . You're right that violators of these norms too often get away with it. Post-war tribunals like those in the aftermath of WWII, Yugoslavia and Rwanda are one means by which individuals are held accountable, and as you say the ICC is another. First responsibility, of course, lies with states themselves, and we do see some held...

  • Hi @PaulRothwell thanks for your comment. I have stood in the field where those POW's were murdered at Malmedy - it was difficult to imagine such savagery on a beautiful summer's day with cows grazing peacefully there and butterflies flitting about. You're right, of course, that the principles of the jus in bello have and will be ignored in wars. But for every...

  • Hi @PaulFerguson An infamous version of this argument was put forward by none other than Osama Bin Laden, in his 'Letter to America', justifying the 9/11 attacks (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver). After giving examples to support his claim that 9/11 was an act of self-defence because 'you have attacked us', he justifies targeting...

  • Oh James, I think you may have opened up a can of worms! Are you saying it would have been wrong for Skorzeny's men to shoot US troops in the back while wearing US uniforms, or that it is generally wrong to shoot enemy troops in the back? If the latter, you've stumbled into a debate that uses the 'sleeping soldier' as the key case - is it okay to kill sleeping...

  • @JohannaR , you've hit on a fundamental issue in the debate over the ethics of war - is pursuing the aims of a just war enough justification for the unintended but foreseen deaths of innocent bystanders? The broad Just War tradition has always answered that in the positive - that pursuing a just peace justifies collateral damage, even if that is to be avoided...

  • Hi @IlonaH , thanks for this comment. You are right that there is no neat and clean objective way to make this kind of judgment in some cases. But there are many cases where pretty much anyone would agree that the proportionality requirement is not met (e.g. if the insurgent in the scenario were not a HVT but rather a low-ranking part-timer - 'small fry').

  • Hi Johanna - that's a big question! The principles of the jus in bello were applied pretty unevenly in WWII. There are many cases of the deliberate killing of civilians, e.g. Nazi reprisals in response to partisan attacks, deliberate strafing of refugees etc. And of course there were significant violations on the Allied side as well - firebombing of Dresden,...

  • @DavidIsted , thanks for this. I think a key distinction here is between what 'is' and what 'ought to be'. Moellendorf is not arguing that this is what states do in practice, but what should be done - i.e. his claim is normative, not descriptive.