Dragan Stanar

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Faculty of International Politics and Security, University UNION Nikola Tesla Belgrade



The term moral is a homonym, and has multiple meanings in Serbian language. Unlike in English, where we have several different terms, referring to several different notions – ethics, moral, morale, there is a conceptual confusion in regards to the use of the word moral, as it can refer to several different meanings. In the military context, the syntagma moral vojske can mean both moral in the military and military morale. It is precisely due to this polysemy of the word moral in Serbian language, especially in the military discourse, that issues arise. One of the most significant implications of this is the reduction of the meaning of moral to only what would be military morale in English – a psycho-emotional state of motivation and spirit. In this way, the “ethical” meaning of the word moral is neglected and even ignored. This paper aims to show how it is impossible to generate and maintain the desired level of military morale without taking into account the ethical element in the military. Moreover, the author of this paper asserts that we must define an “ethical determinant” of military morale. What this actually means is that, when arguing about what impacts military morale, especially in war, we must not forget the impact that immoral behavior of individuals within our ranks has on overall military morale. Immoral behavior of individuals, particularly neglection of the Jus in Bello norms of the Just War Theory, can undermine the resolve, confidence and belief of their units, as believes about justness of war of witnesses of such behavior can be shook to the core. If combatants do not believe that their fight is a righteous and just one, if they start to question the purpose and justness of their side, we can no longer expect the optimal level of morale in this unit. Neglection of ethical norms (the value-meaning of the term moral in Serbian language) in the context of military ethos and military ethics cannot be without impact on military morale. The two notions are not in conflict with each other – on the contrary, they are complementary, and thus they must both remain a part of what we define as military ethics and military ethos. This mutual relation is perfectly sublimed in the process of defining the ethical determinant of military morale. Elimination of the “ethical” meaning of the word moral from military discourse represents a dangerous and reckless reduction witch can have deep and profound negative implications both on military and society.