Dying or Living: A Moral Dilemma for Ethical Warriors

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 50
Oral Presentation
Emmanuel GOFFI , Paris Institue of Political Studies, France
Western countries have developed a romantic vision of soldier’s relation to death. In France, the so-called “acceptance of supreme sacrifice” is deeply rooted in both warfare ancient history and the over promotion of physical courage. Dying for France’s higher interest is considered as the core of military identity. This has been reinforced by the professionalization of French forces in 1994 which initiated a professional/client relationship between service members and citizens.

With the development of modern remotely controlled weaponry, relation to lethal risks is changing raising concerns among the military about soldiers’ identities. If supreme sacrifice remains a holy concept hardly disputable, concerns are growing due to the gap between the idealized holistic way of thinking sacrifice within the military and the common reluctance to warfare casualties of individualistic western societies. The French military is experiencing a clash between the promotion of altruistic death and the promotion of egoistic life, both within and outside the forces.

Debates about the future of the French forces always focus on how to adapt the current format of the military to the new expectations and constraints it faces. I would suggest that this is the wrong way to deal with these issues. I would suggest instead that we should re-think the way we consider the military in regard to our current objectives and constraints, and not according to outdated concepts.

The proposed presentation thus aims at re-thinking the French pro patria mori to the light of the current framework in which the French military is used, getting rid of the weight of history and re-assessing our relation to death in warfare. My reflections will be supported by philosophical and sociological considerations about physical courage and the need to get rid of the idea that courage is intrinsically linked to combat.