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SUMMARY OF EVENT On May 1, 2011, Operation Neptune Spear, the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, the worlds

most wanted terrorist took place in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In August 2010, the compound in which Bin Laden was suspected to be hiding was placed under surveillance. Satellites were used to watch over the house, then unmanned drones, and finally a local Pakistani spy. They got information that there was a man in the house who did not have to do any of the chores in the house. They also found out that there were women and children in the house, possibly Bin Ladens family. Soon, there was enough evidence to claim that Osama was indeed hiding in the said compound. 79 Navy SEALs plus a dog were sent to perform the mission at midnight. One of their 4 helicopters crashed, but the troops were all safe and they proceeded to do their mission. In the compound, the troops encountered and killed 2 men and a woman while they tied up all other women and children. At the 2nd floor, they killed Bin Ladens son. At the 3rd floor, they saw Bin Laden looking at them. For the first time, they got confirmation that Bin Laden was indeed in the house. Bin Laden returned to his bedroom. 2 other SEALs went after Bin Laden and his wife. One of those SEALs shot the wife while the other fired at Bin Laden twice. Bin Laden was killed without him being able to use his AK-47 and pistol in the room. This paper will look at the morality of a SEALs decision to take part on such an operation. There are various ways in looking at this objective. For this paper, deciding to take part on such an operation tantamount to being a Navy SEAL, that is, doing their

duties as a Navy SEAL because missions are orders. They are not given choices. Specifically, this paper seeks to answer the following questions: (1) using Aristotles doctrine, is being a Navy SEAL Team 6 member morally good or morally bad? (2) Using Thomas Aquainas doctrine, is being a Navy SEAL Team 6 member morally good or morally bad? IS THE ACT MORALLY GOOD OR BAD? (ARISTOTLES DOCTRINE) Aristotles rationalist and teleological moral doctrine tells us that living well is the purpose of man and that his rationality should dictate his behavior in the direction of adhering to this purpose. Man has a soul and this soul has both irrationality and rationality. The relationship between the two is that the human souls rationality should control its irrationality. Man is more inclined to being irrational but he has the potential to be rational. Man is more inclined to being irrational because of his passions. His rationality regulates his passions so that he does not engage in his passions too much or too little. His rationality guides him to engage in his passions at an average magnitude. Man must discover the proper meaning of excess and defect and thereby discover the appropriate mean (Hermida, 27). This act of engaging our passions in an average manner is called virtue. Vice is the extreme. Virtue is the mean. Being virtuous is to act as one should, when one should, to whom one should, to the extent one should and for the reasons one should (Hermida, 28). Being virtuous is living well. This is human excellence. . The challenge is to use our rationality in regulating our irrationality. This is best done by developing the habits of right thinking, right choice and right behavior. The

training1 of these Navy SEALS is designed to develop these habits. They are made to endure extremely strenuous physical conditions using only their physical, mental and emotional capabilities. The usual issue surrounding the morality of being a Navy SEAL is that their duty has them inflicting pain. Let us have a closer look at this dimension of their duty2. Their primary aim is not to inflict pain. Inflicting pain just comes with what they have to dodefend their nation. In general, the military do not carry weapons to inflict pain. They carry their weapons in preparation for any attacks on their nation. This is really the main difference between a terrorist carrying a gun from a military-man carrying a gun. The terrorist carries it to hurt. The military-man carries it to defend. Navy SEALs go through such rigorous training so that they are able to defend their people in the best way possible. A Navy SEAL who achieves the best physical, emotional and mental state and also who carries his weapon around should not be feared. When one sees them, one should feel protected from harm. A Navy SEAL who achieves the best physical, emotional and mental and also who carries his weapon around is a man of virtue. And this is the kind of man that Aristotle argues us all to be like. Following the order to go and assault that compound housing the most wanted terrorist shows how much of a virtuous man he is because, he is being the Navy SEAL that he should be. He is being a man who protects his people in the best way possible. Therefore, according to Aristotles doctrine, being part of that team is a morally good act because he follows orders and these are orders that requires the best physical, mental and emotional state from him- a virtuous him.
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IS THE ACT MORALLY GOOD OR BAD? (AQUINAS DOCTRINE) But whereas Aristotle envisioned a naturalistic morality through which men could achieve virtue and happiness by fulfilling their natural capacities or end, Aquinas added to this his concept of mans supernatural end. Being a Christian, Aquinas taught that human nature has its source and ultimate end in God. Therefore human nature does not contain its own standard of fulfillment. It is not enough for a man to be simply a man and to exercise his natural functions and abilities in order to achieve perfect happiness. There is a double level of morality corresponding to mans natural end and to his supernatural end.(Hermida, 47) Using Aristotles doctrine, a moral assessment was done considering only mans natural end. Now, using Aquinas doctrine, a moral assessment on the same act will be done considering mans supernatural end. Aquinas also has doctrines without much consideration for the supernatural end of mandiscussion on eternal law, human law, etc. But here, we delved only into the discussion on the divine law. The divine law is available to man through revelation and is found in the scriptures. It is not the product of mans reason but is given to man through Gods grace to ensure that men know what they must do to fulfill both their natural and, especially, their supernatural ends. (Hermida, 61) Revelation is a common human phenomenon but it can only be received in particular, concrete, specific, finite and relative historical forms. (Haight, 64) The higher ends revelation is unique in every person because the medium of revelation is dependent on the person. How the higher end is revealed to you is based on your experiences. Though shall not kill can have several interpretations despite a Christians belief that it is one of the Ten Commandments. Again, revelation is

a common human phenomenon. It manifests itself in various ways and this paves the way for an understanding of how a person should respect other s beliefs, morals, etc. Aquinas doctrine argues that there are moral doctrines revealed to us. Being a revelation, it is innate to us. There is a law within each of us that we should always abide. Using the doctrine of Aquinas stating that the morality of an act depends on the objective of the act, the intention of the agent and the circumstances, there will be complications on determining whether a human act possesses goodness or is deficient or evil. In resolving this, Aquinas doctrine and Roman Catholicism will be used. Roman Catholicism will be used because, again, the identities of the members are not divulged to the public. Hence, we cannot properly tell what their faiths are. We cannot determine the divine law that is unique to everyone for each soldier. Instead, we utilized a divine law prominent here in the University, Roman Catholicism. According Aquinas

doctrines there are three factors that determine the morality of the human act: the objective of the act (Ex Objecto), the intention of the moral agent (Ex Fine) and the circumstances affecting the human act (Ex Circumstantia). A human act possess goodness insofar as there is something real about it and that it is completely good or simply good if it has all the reality that is required by the norm of a good human act. On the other hand, a human act is deficient or evil if it does not have what should be real in it according to the essence of a good human act. (Hermida, 65) We refer to the Divine Laws of Roman Catholicism to resolve the issue on the norm. Again, the usual issue surrounding the morality of being a Navy SEAL is that their duty has them inflicting pain. And again, their primary aim is to defend their nation

and unfortunately, inflicting pain comes with that objective when necessary. These SEALs make sure that they minimize inflicting pain. In their operation to take-down Bin Laden, the objective of their act was to kill him. Contrary to initial reports, the mission was a shoot-to-kill mission. The SEALs were ordered to kill Bin Laden upon sight and that really was what happened. Bin Laden was shot to his dead in the chest and in the head. The SEALs intended to kill Bin Laden. There are acts wherein the intention and the objective are different but in this act, both are the same. The circumstances of the act are show that the act was deliberated upon by so many experts including President Barrack Obama and was done for self-defense. All three criteria have us concluding that their decision was morally bad if we utilized the norms of Roman Catholicism. For us, it was the nature of the mission, a shoot-to-kill mission that really spelled it to be a morally bad act. Had there been an opportunity for Bin Laden to live, the results would have been otherwise. VOLUNATRINESS OF THE ACT (ARISTOTLE AND AQUINAS DOCTRINE) Now, we look at whether the acts of the SEALs were voluntary. According to Aristotle, for an act to be voluntary, it must originate in the agent and the agent must know the particulars of the action. According to Aquainas, for an act to be voluntary, it must proceed from deliberate will. The best way for us to assess this is by checking whether the screening process of the Navy SEALs involved anything that could possible hamper a voluntary decision of the recruits3.

Their screening involves ensuring that the person who decides to enter the Navy SEALS is physically fit, mentally sharp, mature and resilient Apart from these screening procedures that just involves the candidate, their screening procedures also involves preparing the family of the candidate 4 . This clearly helps ensure that the people involved in the screening and training wish to respect and also take care of someone whom people like their own families hold so dear despite all the harmful things they will have the candidate go through. Looking at Aristotles first criteria and Aquainas criteria, the recruiters make sure that the candidates decision originates from him by running a comprehensive background check on the candidate through physical fitness tests, mental exams and even checking his family background. This checks if the person is in a state of coercion. With the technological innovations that they use for their background check like massive computers running very complex searching algorithms, things are clearly ethical. Looking at Aristotles second criteria which is to whether the candidates are being made aware of the particulars, they surely are. Even more, their families and loved ones are being well informed of what their son or loved one is going to go through.

REFERENCES: 1. Discovery Channel Documentary entitled, Killing Bin Laden. Sites were:,,, 2. Navy SEALs website:,,, 3. Lecture Notes in Moral Philosophy, by Ranilo Hermida (Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University, 2011). 4. Dynamics of Theology, by Roger Haight (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990)


In partial fulfillments of the requirements for Philosophy 104: Foundations of Moral Value

Alfred Crespo Jude Salinas