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Title: Mediums and Messages: An Argument Against Biotechnical Enhancements of Soldiers in the Armies of Liberal Democracies
Author(s): WILSON, J.S.
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 11    Issue: 2-3   Date: 2004   
Pages: 189-197
DOI: 10.2143/EP.11.2.504947

Abstract :
Assuming that one believes that individuals and states can morally defend values, beliefs, and institutions with force (in short, that just wars are morally possible), one logically wants just combatants to possess the physical, mental, and spiritual capacities that will enable them to win the war. On the other hand, being a just combatant in a just war does not morally entitle that combatant to do anything to win that war. The moral requirement for just combatants to fight justly is codified in international law of war and in state-specific legal documents such as the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice. While it is almost unequivocally clear to soldiers and civilians who soldiers cannot harm in the performance of their duties, and why these people are exempt from harm, it is less clear what the state itself (assuming throughout the discussion that the state is a just combatant in a just war) can morally do to its own soldiers to enhance their chances of victory: can the state do anything to soldiers to give them an advantage on the field of battle? For United States soldiers and their counterparts in most Western liberal democracies, the answer is obviously no. Deeply embedded social and cultural norms in Western democracies mandate that the state set and enforce rigid lines which drill sergeants and earnest commanders cannot cross, even in the name of combat readiness, grounding these norms in notion of basic rights appealed to in the U.S. Constitution. In this essay, I argue against some types of drug-induced internal biotechnical enhancement of soldiers on the grounds that, in the present state of technology, it is not reasonable to suppose that the military can perform such enhancement operations on soldiers without causing irrevocable psychological damage that would certainly and unjustifiably alienate the soldiers from the very society they serve.

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