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Schouten, S.C.S.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosphy

The Battlefield of Ethics

Moral dilemmas soldiers face on a mission: what to do?

Morality plays a big part in a soldier’s mission. Soldiers are often faced with moral dilemmas, which can have a serious impact on a soldier’s health and wellbeing. To be able to prepare soldiers for these dilemmas and to reduce the moral dilemmas they are faced with, this thesis investigates the key factors creating these moral dilemmas and the main sources soldiers take into account when making moral decisions.

Intense in-depth interviews with fourteen Dutch soldiers, who have all taking part in the Task Force Uruzgan mission, showed that in deciding what to do in case of a moral dilemma, soldiers rely upon two sources: the Rules of Engagement and their own moral values. Most of the moral dilemmas soldiers are faced with have to do with two factors: a lack of certainty and the experienced differences in cultural values between the soldiers and the civilians of the country the soldiers are stationed in.

A lack of certainty can either be that the soldier misses crucial information or that he has doubts about whether or not information is trustworthy. Moral dilemmas caused by this lack of certainty appear not always to be true moral dilemmas: sometimes these dilemmas dissolve when taking time.

So far almost no research has been done on the factors creating moral dilemmas for soldiers and also little literature is to be found. Knowing the key factors that create moral dilemmas, the next logical step is to do more research on it: how to prepare soldiers in the best way possible so they can reduce and deal with the moral dilemmas they face? In this thesis different types of possible research designs are set out.

Last modified:30 August 2018 2.29 p.m.