Responsibility in Complex Conflicts: An Afghan Case
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Military Ethics. 2017, 16 (3-4), 239-255. https://doi.org/10.1080/15027570.2018.1439287
This paper discusses soldiers’ moral responsibility in today’s complex conflicts. The point of departure is the increased focus on soldiers as moral decision-makers in war, illustrated by the introduction of core values in the Norwegian Armed Forces. Responsibility is one of these core values, but it is not clear exactly how we should understand responsibility. I use a case where a group of Norwegian soldiers in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sought the cooperation of a group of mujahedeen to solve the military mission of establishing security. As confidence between the parties grew, the soldiers became horrified witnesses to a practice of bacha bazi, where a young boy is dressed up for entertainment and sexual abuse. This situation gives reason to question the limits of role responsibility, the status of soldiers’ legitimacy, and the challenges of making morally sound judgments in a multicultural context. The discussion demonstrates that, even if there are restrictions on the soldiers’ freedom to act, a responsibility reaching beyond or extending their role should be recognized as part of the moral reality of modern soldiers.