68 Ethics by Design
Example: Application in Military Organization
Finally, let’s look at application in a military context before we
discuss your organization’s social contributions. To some, this
sort of example seems so obvious, and to others this seems
like a contradiction of terms. To military strategists and plan-
ners, however, this represents both a current known gap and a
future refinement for military planning models. Desired social
outcomes and ethical performance are on the minds of major
military planners around the world, especially in the larger
international militaries, as it is increasingly finding its way into
curricula at military institutions. In this example, we begin to
explore how social responsibility can be integrated into military
planning models.
In this context, the old adage of winning the battle but los-
ing the war becomes particularly relevant. Military planning that
does not take social impact into consideration can accomplish
victories on the battlefield—the military equivalent to an organi-
zation that successfully produces tires—but still have a larger,
disastrous impact on society that in-turn impacts the military
organization and its ability to function. The book started with
the notion of ethics being about consequences that are “as real
as it gets,” and this holds especially true in military contexts.
Success at a tactical level that does not lead to improved
societal impact (or worse, has a negative societal impact) can
actually interfere with a military organization’s ability to decrease
threats to national security (an assumed objective for any non-
terrorist military organization). Said to the point, military plan-
ning that does not include societal planning can actually create
conditions for on-going threats to security.
Like Kaufman stated about education,
military organiza-
tions do not operate in a vacuum, and in truth what they do and
accomplish is of concern to those who pay for it, pass the leg-
islation to support it, and rely on it to be self-sufficient. If, in the
end, a given military activity does not allow citizens to live bet-
ter and contribute better, it is probably not worth doing and will
be condemned, and budgets will be reduced by taxpayers and
legislators as well.
Socially Desirable Ends 69
First, let’s explore how such thinking and planning actually
furthers the mission of military institutions. In an article in USA
Today, two retired U.S. military officers (one Marine and one
Navy pilot) succinctly articulate the argument and vision.
their article, Zinni and Smith call for a “vibrant” strategic agenda
for national security and foreign policy based on the reality that
many threats to security and national interests—such as illegal
immigration, terrorism, or public health and environmental
problems—stem from complex social problems. For example,
young people living in countries where there is high poverty
and/or violence and few opportunities are “prime recruiting tar-
gets” for participating in or instigating riot, terrorism and war.
They argue,
“We cannot inoculate our nation from these threats.
Instead, we must address the roots of these complex
problems. Simply put, it is time to repair our relation-
ship with the world and begin to take it to the next
level—a level defined not only by our military strength,
but also by the lives we save and the opportunities we
create for the people of other nations…Whether it’s
taking the lead in increasing funding for and using
innovation to expand access to potable water in the
Middle East, decreasing rates of HIV/AIDS in Africa
and Southeast Asia, building international partnerships
to put impoverished kids in school or addressing cli-
mate change, the next administration must reframe and
restructure our foreign policy and national security
architecture. We must match our military might with a
new commitment to investing in improving people’s
lives overseas.”
Military power as it has been traditionally defined will not
address the underlying causes of terrorism or other threats to
national security so long as it is treated in isolation from the
social causes that lead to the threats. But military might and
military strategy conceived of in systemic terms yields a refined
mission, which translates into refined operations and tactics,
and on into a refined use of the resources available. Few

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