Welcome to Military Ethics Twitter Course #METC!

#METC starts tomorrow, so I wanted to lay out how I see this working, as well as the general approach we’ll take over the next five weeks. First things first, several of you listed your learning objectives for the course. We will explore some of those questions directly; others could serve as topics for future #METCs if our experiment bears fruit.

My objectives for the course are the following:

  1. to help you develop a deeper familiarity with some of the core concepts and debates within the field of military ethics;
  2. to help you identify strong sources and rigorous approaches to moral reasoning so you can continue your study and analysis after we’re done; and,
  3. to learn how we can better engage on issues related to military ethics in this particular medium.

I heard from a number of people who think twitter is either an inappropriate or insufficient venue to discuss ethics and morality. I disagree, but certainly there are more and less effective ways to do it. Hopefully the next five weeks can help us learn how to better discuss issues related to military ethics without recourse to platitudes or fear mongering.

This means a few things for how I’ll engage #METC:

First, I’ll intentionally take positions I disagree with to push the conversation. I’ll also take starker positions than I’m personally comfortable with in order to clarify the boundaries or implications of an issue. #METC isn’t about where I come down on these questions; it’s about helping you figure out where you come down. I can do that better by focusing on clarity, sometimes at the expense of nuance and candor. If you’re ever interested in my own position on something, just ask.

Second, thoughtful, well-intentioned people can disagree. There are some clear red lines in military ethics, but there are also a significant number of choices that come down to judgment; that is to say there are multiple morally defensible choices (or, unfortunately, no morally defensible choice, only multiple indefensible choices of varying types). Since our goal is learning, you should focus your effort on how you justify your arguments or why you find some arguments more persuasive than others. If you were in the hot seat, asked to make a call, then you’d be judged on your ability to make a choice and carry it out. Here we have the luxury of focusing on why we would make particular choices over others. We won’t all agree. That’s life. It is cause for neither concern nor disrespect.

Third, there are plenty of topics we won’t cover in this #METC. I’m simply mirroring the elective I teach at the Command and Staff College. There are topics we should include in a thorough Military Ethics Course (the Just War Tradition) that we won’t cover here for the simple reason that they’re included in our core curriculum. I’ll keep a running list of topics you’re interested in if we decide we’d like more #METCs at a later date.

Now some nuts and bolts:

  • I’ll post a quick overview of the day’s topic at some point on the first day, ideally before lunch.
  • I’ve got a series of questions that I’ll tweet with the #METC hashtag starting that evening. You all can engage those questions and each other (use the hashtag!) or you can ask me questions directly. I have more time in the evenings, so you may have to wait a little bit for a response, but I’ll get there!
  • I’ll work to storify conversations as they come together. If something needs a longer response, I also might blog a longer post, though I really want to see if we can keep this predominantly twitter-centric.

Want to ease yourself in? Here’s the Army’s Ethic (though we’ll look at more than battlefield ethics). If you’re really looking to geek out, the Naval War College has their very own YouTube page where they post talks. You can find the 2011 Ethics Conference and the 2012 Ethics Conference. I’ll link specific talks relevant to the topics we cover as we go, but now you have the whole shootin’ match. The Naval Academy also posts their lectures on-line. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to Military Ethics Twitter Course #METC!

  1. I’m really excited to see you doing this. As somebody who’s taught military ethics (at the Naval War College, coincidentally), I have to confess to a bit of discomfort at the thought of discussion limited to 140 characters at a time…but as somebody with a doctorate in educational technology, I also know that some weighty discussions can be managed that way, with the added benefit of forcing participants to refine & tightly focus their thoughts.

    I am, sadly, unable to participate this go-round, having gotten returned to the Intelligence Community last year to help lead a professional credentialing effort. But this is a topic I’m passionate about on BOTH halves of my schizophrenic professional life, so I’ll be watching–and hoping for the chance to dive in for a future iteration!

    Good luck, and good learning; hooah!

  2. This is great! Saw the article on Wired and am looking forward to seeing how this goes. I’ve been planning to try a similar experiment with the Ethics in Military Justice elective I teach at the Army’s JAG School starting in March (so I’m also excited to take advantage of your learning curve!).

    Best of luck!
    Ben Grimes

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