Greetings of the President

Dear members and friends of EuroISME,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,…’

You might recognise this quotation from Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Dickens was one of the greatest novelists of all time, but he is not known as a deep thinker on military ethics – so why is this quotation relevant to us?

For those whose work involves the study and teaching of military ethics, this is arguably the best of times. Public interest and awareness of the importance of military ethics has been fuelled by drone warfare and cyber warfare, as well as by media reporting of more conventional battles in Syria and elsewhere. The ethics of military conflict is now highly relevant and becoming ever more so.

However, it is also the worst of times. Although the rapid evolution of warfare provides plenty of material for the academic, it also provides new and ingenious opportunities for aggressors to bring misery to those caught up in conflict and poses new questions, especially in the field of technology. New ethical dilemmas also present real and novel challenges for those in the military who must make decisions, often in difficult circumstances.

Military ethicists are trying to bring wisdom to our understanding of contemporary military operations. Euro-ISME plays its part by bringing together those engaged in theoretical or academic study and those who have lived out the realities of ethical decision making in the field. But there is still much foolishness to contend with. There are some who advocate the use of torture ‘because it gets results’, or the use of unrestrained force ‘because that is what our enemies do’. Because it is unlikely that foolishness of this sort will disappear from public debate soon, we must keep making the ethical case to ensure wisdom prevails.

Increasingly, many people no longer seem to have deep rooted beliefs. That makes our societies potentially vulnerable to those who hold beliefs which are fanatical, distorted, but apparently unshakeable. Their sometimes subtle messages of hate and misguided can be met with general apathy, indifference or naivete. Fake news feeds on the credulity of those who simply accept as truth whatever is placed before them. They might absorb this false information, but they do not question its veracity.

For all these reasons there has arguably never been a more important time for the study and practice of military ethics. I therefore wish you all every success in the important work you do. I hope that many of you will be able to join us in Berlin for our 10th anniversary conference from 17-20 May. During that conference we are certain to tackle many of the most pressing ethical issues which modern military operations pose. You will all be welcome and your contributions will enrich our debates.

I opened with a quotation from Charles Dickens, so I will end with one too, although this one requires no explanation:

So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to many more whose happiness depends on you!’

John Thomas

Air Commodore (ret.) John Thomas, President of Euro-ISME

You can learn more about the organisation of the 10th Annual Conference and the Call for Papers in the following article :
REGISTRATION / Invitation for the 10th EuroISME Annual Conference 2020 – Theme : Military Ethics and Urban Warfare – 17 to 20 May 2020 – BERLIN”