Military ethics has primarily grabbed the public's attention thanks to Hollywood. Through movies such as the Caine Mutiny, Platoon, and A Few Good Men, audiences have shared in the dilemmas of men and women in uniform as they struggle to discern what is right and wrong, and then try to do the right thing. Through television, and now through social media, increasingly the real-world rights and wrongs of our military are brought into our living rooms or onto our phones with ever increasing speed.
Foreign military interventions of the past two decades in Afghanistan and Iraq —including scandals such as prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib — have shaped current ethics in the U.S. military. How the U.S. military conducts itself when deployed overseas is impacted by the kinds of missions that it is increasingly asked to carry out — not just warfare but also elements of more complex nation-building exercises — and by nature of the evolving threats it faces, such as non-state actors and the asymmetrical tactics that they employ, including in new theaters such as cyberspace.
How have military ethics evolved in the first two decades of the 21st century? How different are military ethics today and how does the current U.S. military enforce its ethical norms? How does U.S. military ethics, or its failures, impact foreign perceptions of U.S. policy and affect international outcomes? Why does it matter and what are the American public’s views on these issues?