Symposium on Military Codes of Ethics

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November 2, 15:00-17:30

Jeannette Martin Room, 567 Capen Hall, North Campus, University at Buffalo, NY


  • 15:00 Randall Dipert: Codes of Military Ethics: A Brief Historical Examination
Codes of ethics in fighting wars go back to the Romans and to the “natural law” tradition stretching from Augustine and Aquinas to Hugo Grotius (1625). Especially remarkable was General Orders 100, written by Justus Lieber and his friend General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the U.S. Civil War. Since 1864 there have been many international agreements such as the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and other treaties. The U.S., Israel, and a number of other nations have not formally agreed to some of these treaties. I try to extract a short list of more general ethical principles that motivate these diverse laws and agreements, and reservations about them.
  • 15:45 Barry Smith: Building an Ethical Warfighter
The talk will explore the idea that military ethics should be a matter not of education – teaching the soldier about ethical theories – but rather of training – drilling the soldier to behave in an ethical manner. The basis for military training is codified in the publications of military doctrine, and I shall explore in this light Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ARDP) 1, entitled The Army Profession. One advantage of the suggested approach turns on the fact that military doctrine is subject to a continual process of revision. This means that, where soldiers behave unethically in specific ways, steps can be taken to modify training in order to avoid recurrence of such behaviors in the future.
  • 16:30 Asa Kasher: The Code of Ethics of the Israel Defense Forces
The talk will describe the first code of ethics of the IDF, on values, definitions and fundamental principles. It will go on to describe the subsequent internal developments of ethics within the IDF, most importantly concerning doctrines concerning the circumstances under which one fights, and the codes of ethics of particular units of the IDF.


Randall Dipert and Barry Smith are professors of philosophy in the University at Buffalo. Asa Kasher is Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor Emeritus of Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University. He is author of the first Code of Ethics of the Israel Defense Forces, and of a number of influential works in military ethics, speech act theory and other topics at the borderlines of the philosophies of language and mind. He served on many public and governmental committees, covering subjects such as military and security ethics, medical ethics, on the ethics of Members of Parliament and of Government ministers. In 2000 he was awarded the Prize of Israel, the highest national award, for his contributions to philosophy (2000). He is the editor of Philosophia.