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Accountability for KillingMoral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America's Post-9/11 Wars$
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Neta Crawford

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199981724

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199981724.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2021

Organizational Responsibility

Organizational Responsibility

(p.305) 6 Organizational Responsibility
Accountability for Killing

Neta C. Crawford

Oxford University Press

The preparation for and waging of war is a social system entailing structural requirements and effects, as well as having implications for individual agency. The chapter makes a short detour to philosophy and organization theory to show that organizations can be and are imperfect moral agents, and that the U.S. military is a moral agent. Because most scholarly work on moral agency focuses on individuals, the chapter necessarily breaks new ground by integrating organization theory with a theory of imperfect moral agency. While some measures for minimizing civilian harm were in place at the start of these wars, it arguably took the military a long time and many civilians killed to see enormous political and strategic costs of collateral damage, and to recognize that its procedures could be and should be changed. Once recognized, however, commanders and the services focused on developing and improving means to minimize collateral damage. Rules of engagement were modified, and algorithms, weapons, operations, and ethics training were improved to meet the requirement for civilian protection. Throughout the wars the U.S. military has acted as an imperfect moral agent, and its gradual recognition of the problem of collateral damage, its initial ad hoc responses to the problem, and the gradual institutionalization of a program of civilian casualty mitigation illustrates a cycle of moral agency and a process of organizational learning. This process has been, with exceptions, mostly positive. But the chapter also shows where and how the U.S. military could further act to reduce systemic and proportionality/double effect collateral damage.

Keywords:   organizational responsibility, imperfect moral agents, civilian casualty mitigation, cycle of moral agency, rules of engagement, standard operating procedures

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