July 23, 2016

Beyond Precision: Issues of Morality and Decision Making in Minimizing Collateral Casualties

Last updated: July 29, 2008


Dwight Roblyer
Deputy Division Chief
United States Air Force

Published by Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ACDIS Occasional Paper series
April 2004

Full text [PDF]


[from the author's introduction] This paper analyzes how the United States military currently endeavors as a moral agent to “do the right thing” while preparing for air strikes. While the machines of air war can be further improved, much of the moral burden of avoiding collateral casualties and damage falls on the military decision makers who employ them. Military members make or support many of the decisions about where, when, and how those machines will strike. These decisions often exist in the moral territory beyond the black-and-white bounds of legal standards where multiple right objectives compete for priority. It is also the moral dimensions of accumulated individual decisions that perhaps register the most clearly in any determination of the overall morality of an organization—or a country. Thus, in order to win wars while protecting innocent lives, the people of the United States desire a military that strives to attain the highest moral standards, and military members involved in the targeting decision process deserve the best moral preparation and decision-making tools their nation can provide.