Here we present the link to a YouTube video of approximately 30 minutes via the University of New South Wales: Canberra series of talks from the ‘Ethics under Fire: Issues and Challenges from Contemporary Conflict for the Australian Army’ conference. This speech by Colonel Ian Langford, contains a personal reflection on ethical challenges.
Colonel Ian Langford suggests that context and perspective always matter. Time, fatigue, logistics and the type of adversary will always affect decision making and the behaviour of the group. He also highlights the fact that we have a bias towards the negative when it comes to ethics, we only discuss the issue or case studies when it appears ethics were absent, rarely do we talk about those times where good decisions are made in challenging situations.
He also discusses belief systems, both your own and the organisations and how they tie into ethical-based decision making. Colonel Langford then moves on to heuristics, or the things that allow you to arrive at a decision quickly without having to process a lot of information and arrive at an outcome. That ‘pattern recognition’ whereby you run the risk of defaulting into a paradigm which could see you applying the wrong circumstance to a problem.
He explains the concepts of ‘situational’ ethics versus ‘strategic’ or fixed ethics. The challenge is when drift occurs and the deviation of ethical adjustment allowed for the specific situation becomes normative behaviour. He indicates that the military relies on predictive behaviour and adherence to certain rules and regulations in order to generate capability and outcomes.
Importantly he reinforces that there is an immense amount of pressure on soldiers when facing difficult decisions. However, this doesn’t excuse poor behaviour or decision making, it simply prompts us to think about how we best equip them with the tools they need to go forward.