Ethical Strategies Beyond Mere Realism

Partnered security operations are central to contemporary warfare, and strategists ought to employ rigorous ethics to the construction of strategies that employ other political communities. Consider American operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria as prominent examples. When partnerships occur between formal security forces of nation states, the obligations between partners are often well-codified. Long-standing alliances, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have comprehensive conceptions of the common good the alliance seeks to defend. Unlike these formal state-to-state alliances, partnerships with non-state actors present strategists with ethical problems. The American partnership with Kurdish fighters in Syria conducting Operation Inherent Resolve is a primary example. This complex situation exposes a lacuna in American strategy making, most notably a poverty of moral thought in considering the obligations that result from entering into partnerships with non-state political communities for the purposes of war.


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