Transforming Military Ethics Education

Preparing Defence Personnel to Make Ethical Decisions

UNSW Associate Professor Stephen Coleman’s work is impacting the training of military personnel in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia. Scenarios reflect realistic circumstances that trainees or military personnel are likely to experience.
 

PURPOSE:   

  • To improve training in military ethics for defence personnel
     
  • To increase public understanding of the ethics of contemporary conflict

RESEARCHER

Image of Dr Stephen Coleman

Stephen M Coleman

Associate Professor of Ethics & Leadership
School of Humanities and Social Sciences UNSW Canberra

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The Problem

The technologies and geopolitics of warfare are rapidly changing, producing new ethical challenges in military training. Associate Professor Coleman has focused on ethical issues arising from the changing landscape of contemporary conflict since 2006. “In a broad sense my work considers issues faced by military personnel operating across traditional combat zones, in modern counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, in peace-keeping, in unmanned combat, and in day-to-day non-combat operations,” he says.
 

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The Solution

Coleman’s 2012 publication, Military Ethics: An Introduction with Case Studies, has been adopted as a key textbook and reference work for courses in military ethics at significant military institutions across three continents. These include the United States Military Academy at West Point, the French Military Academy at Saint Cyr and the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom

The textbook is based on research with Australian and international defence force personnel. Unlike the alternatives, Associate Professor Coleman’s textbook takes a real-world case study approach that facilitates reflective discussion amongst junior and mid-career trainees about the life or death situations they will face.
 

A Real-World Case Study Approach

The textbook is based on research with Australian and international defence force personnel. Unlike the alternatives, Associate Professor Coleman’s textbook takes a real-world case study approach that facilitates reflective discussion amongst junior and mid-career trainees about the life or death situations they will face.

The key and vital impact of his work is that this training can be readily operationalised in the field when required. 
 

international defence force personnel
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Results with International Impact

Associate Professor Coleman has intervened in public discourse and provided expert advice on the adoption of non-lethal weapons.

His 2011 TEDx talk, The Moral Dangers of Non-Lethal Weapons (viewed over half a million times), led to Coleman receiving invitations to consult with the US Department of Defence Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate and the United Nations International Arms Regulation unit.

"An internationally renowned textbook promoting personal and collective responsibility in military ethics education used across three continents."


- Professor David Whetham

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