Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Ethics of Escalation of Force

The Blackwater hearings focus new attention on an old issue - what ethics - what principles, rules, and oversight- apply to escalations of violence? In a Democracy, ethics trumps values. Police and soldiers cannot justify shooting into a crowd to catch a 'bad guy', nor can they justify escalation of force based soley on a perception of a threat to their right of self-preservation. The role of police and soldiers requires acceptance of a high level of risk that oneself or one's buddies might be shot in an ambiguous situation. No civilized (read that ethical) society since the Enlightenment justifies proactive shooting unless actually attacked. We rightly honor the bravery and chivalry of police and soldiers who take the burden of assuming innocence rather than guilt, and who put innocent lives above their own. In Blackwater's case, it appears self-justified values based on an extreme definition of the rights of self-preservation, trump ethics. A Democracy cannot be sustained internally nor accepted abroad unless ethics trumps values. The escalation of force by police and soldiers charged with the public trust must operate within the ethical framework of principles,rules, and oversight that define civilized democracies.