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Ethical Education – A Central Component of Training and ­Development in the ­German Armed Forces

By Friedrich Lohmann

What exactly is ethics and how does it affect our actions and the way we live our lives? In his essay, Friedrich Lohmann asks these questions from a general point of view, before examining what they mean specifically for military personnel and their daily service. Lohmann sets out his understanding of ethical competence and explains how ethical education works at a cognitive and emotional level and as a key element in human personality development. With regard to the Bundeswehr and its institutional commitment to values as the army of a “democracy able to defend itself”, the author emphasizes the importance of ethical education for its soldiers. At the same time, he suggests that soldiers of the Bundeswehr occasionally smile at ethical education or express functionalist reservations against it, instead of pondering without prejudice the sense and purpose of ethical reflection and education for their profession. ­Although ethics needs to free itself from arguments about its functional rationale, in discussions with soldiers it is important to point out that the ethical justification of military service goes hand in hand with the quality of mission fulfillment. This is an aspect to which particular attention is given in Innere Führung, as the self-image of the Bundeswehr. Not least, ethical education can protect military personnel by showing them the special ethical challenges of the job during training. It also allows them to anticipate, at least in their minds, potentially extreme situations, which will inevitably put their morality to the test. If the “soldierly per­sonality” is strengthened in this respect, disinhibition in the use of force during a deployment will become less likely.

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