"Care and Counterinsurgency"

by Daniel Levine

Journal of Military Ethics dated July 2010

This article first appeared as a CISSM Working Paper entitled, "Care and Counterinsurgency."

Counterinsurgency demands different tactics than conventional warfare, and as a result requires a different moral perspective as well. Counterinsurgents face a situation in which the distinction between civilians and combatants can be obscure, and where they are expected not just to defeat an enemy but to actively promote the interests of, and build trust with, the civilian population. What counterinsurgents need are not new moral rules of war so much as new virtues that will let them conduct their activities, within the moral minimums set by the rules of war, in a way more coherent with the implicit values of just counterinsurgency. These virtues have been explored in what may be a surprising area – discussions of the ‘ethic of care’ inspired by the need to manage urges to violence and anger in the context of building trust relationships in the family. Reflection on the ethics of care can reveal a way of thinking about counterinsurgency that highlights the importance of developing attentiveness, creativity, and restraint in a counterinsurgent's relations both with civilians in the area of operation and even with insurgent combatants.