Train to Defy
In the film Mein Kreig, many of the individuals interviewed commonly used the defense of superior orders. Some were more open about acting in error during their war service despite the insistence of their superiors that they carry out their duty. Others appeared ambivalent to the idea that their actions may have constituted immoral or criminal actions. The discrepancy is bothersome and still plagues modern militaries such as the United States. Perhaps if the German army had empowered soldiers by training them on laws of war, outlining ahead of time what constituted crimes against humanity, none of them would be confused about their options.
(Rudolf Hoss attempts to justify the implementation of the “final solution” because of a Fuhrer order)
American soldiers of the modern battlefield are experts in almost all fields due to a high standard of training and equipment. An Important aspect of the situation-factor that contributes to the cause of atrocities during international conflict is the fundamental nature of training and instruction of soldiers prior to deployment, when they may face moral dilemma. On the one hand, soldiers are briefed about their responsibility to disobey unlawful orders and the Law of War; on the other hand soldiers are conditioned to follow orders in a reactionary fashion without careful deliberation in contrast. FM 3-21.8 defines battle drills as, “a collective action rapidly executed without applying a deliberate decision-making process.”(2007), which are basic tasks performed in a manner indicative of conditioning. Soldiers are often discouraged from weighing decisions about orders, and pressured to obey without consideration. Because of the recognition that conditioned responses are effective in maneuvers such as in weapons training, battle drills, and medical training, it would seem intuitive to receive Law of War scenario based training in a similar format with equal time given to soldiers in order to prepare them for questionable situations.
Current Law of War doctrine is adequately stated, but not well translated into training scenarios. The Infantry FM 3-21.8described rules and procedures that make sense in the abstract,
TEN SOLDIER RULES 1-250.
The following 10 simple rules will assist Soldiers in living and enforcing the law of war (LOW) (use the mnemonic OBLIGATION):
(1) Only fight individuals who are identified as uniformed combatants, terrorists, or insurgents committing hostile acts or demonstrating hostile intent.
(2) Based on triage, medically care for all wounded, whether friend, foe, or noncombatant.
(3) Leave medical personnel, facilities, or equipment out of the fight unless they are being used by the enemy to attack U.S. forces.
(4) Injured or surrendering Soldiers who no longer have the means to fight are protected. Disarm them, treat their wounds, and speedily turn them over to the appropriate authorities.
(5) Guarantee humane treatment of noncombatants and enemy prisoners of war. (6) Abusing prisoners is never authorized. Do not kill, torture, or mistreat enemy prisoners of war or those being detained by U.S. forces.
(7) Taking private possessions is stealing. Respect private property.
(8) Intervene, stop, or prevent violations of the law of war to the best of your ability.
(9) Only use necessary force to eliminate the threat and accomplish the mission. (10) Never tolerate a LOW violation. Report all violations of the LOW to your superiors. (2007)
but typically reading an abstract manual has never sufficed in other areas of training such as, zeroing a weapon for example. Instead it requires repetition of the actions so that it becomes a natural extension of behavior, and can be performed with less conscious thought under the pressure of more stressful circumstances and eliminate mistakes.
To improve effectiveness, one idea would be to supply training involving the receipt of unlawful orders in a kinetic training environment, and then instruct the appropriate procedure to refuse the order, so that the situation would immediately register as more than insubordination. More familiarization at the lowest level would help insulate service members from command pressure, and boost confidence in decision power.
FM 3-21.8: The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad. Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of The Army, 2007.
Mein Krieg. Directed by Harriet Eder. Kino on Video, 1997. Film.
Rudolf Hoess, former Auschwitz commandant, testifying at the Nuremberg trial, YouTube.com April 15, 1946