War has always been morally complex. In freshman philosophy and upper-level ethics courses, we dream up wild ethical dilemmas that we use to test different moral theories. They are things like being forced to kill an innocent person or let other innocent people die. These dilemmas are interesting to talk about; but we don’t worry about them too much, since we rarely face choices like that in normal life. Unfortunately, those dilemmas are common enough in war.
I’m not too worried about how a person acts when confronted with a moral dilemma. If it is a genuine dilemma, then there’s no clear right answer. It is the many times when people choose what it is clearly wrong that is troubling. What is the explanation for the actions at Abu Ghraib?(Incidentally, I’m stationed in the same base as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.)
My pastor, Mitch Randall, placed this relevant post on his blog after one of his sons asked him why adults make bad choices. We have all made bad choices in the past (I’m giving up them up for Lent next year). These choices lead to high credit-card balances, having too much stuff, and other things that make life more difficult. In war, though, bad choices can have horrible, devestating consequences. Why are good people prone to such bad choices? We’ll continue to examine that question in future posts.