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Ethical Issues in International Situations

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Several recent American films have dealt with ethical issues in international situations and raise thorny questions for students of leadership ethics. One such film is Zero Dark Thirty.  If you have not seen the film, you will probably want to watch it, but you can also get a synopsis of the plot on IMDb if you don’t mind spoilers. http://www.imdb.com/

There is only one thread for both weeks in this discussion, but be sure you participate at least twice, once to post your own thoughts and once to respond to other students. Of course, if someone engages with you, you should also post a return response. Remember that ethical issues can raise conflicting points of view. It is fine to disagree with a post—we want to generate discussion—but always be respectful.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is a fictional account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and presents us with important ethical questions regarding the morality of torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) and the responsibilities of filmmakers to represent the truth.

Please post your thoughts on the ethical issues raised by this film by responding to one or more of these questions:

Ethical Issues and Discussion Questions

1. Did Zero Dark Thirty change your perceptions about “enhanced interrogation techniques”? If so, how did they change?
 

2. Regardless of the semantic question of whether waterboarding is a form of torture, the fact remains that its use presents us with serious ethical dilemmas. Is it ever morally acceptable to subject a prisoner to pain, duress, or humiliation? If so, what circumstances call for such drastic means?
 

3. Moreover, if coercive modes of interrogation are ever permissible, where should we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable interrogation methods, and what criteria should we use to establish that line? Who should have final say?
 

4. Do filmmakers have a moral responsibility not to misinform their audiences about important issues, or do their artistic licenses trump such concerns?
 

5. The film’s conflict is resolved by the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Should the U.S. government have done more to capture him alive? If avoidable, was this killing—and indeed, the creation of  a “Kill List” of terrorists—ethical?

Source: Ethics on Film:  Discussion of “Zero Dark Thirty.” (2013) Carnegie 

Council for Ethics in International Affairs. http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/education/002/film/reviews/0007.html

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