Morality and War talk by Flight Lieutenant Robin Crosse at Chichester Humanists 21st April 2014


Flight Lieutenant Robin Crosse is a helicopter pilot and returned from Afghanistan a few weeks before giving a talk on War and Morality at the Chichester Inn.

Robin began with a PowerPoint presentation that outlined his views of war and its associated moral issues. He began with a personal history.

After studying law and science at Birmingham University, his aim was to become a pilot, the quickest route being in the armed forces flying a range of helicopters. Recently he became the Simulation Liason Officer and joined the Defence Humanists Committee.


Robin began by clarifying the meaning of the word 'war': a state of organised open-ended collective conflict or hostillity (Alexander Mosely). Or a continuation of politics by other means (Karl von Clausewitz). He dismissed the notion of the imaginary 'war on terror'.

He then asked why nations engage in war and considered various causes including genetic predisposition,  culture and a position based on reason.

Robin then considered the morarlity of war in various ways:

  • self-defence (resisting invasion, pre-emtping invasion and intervention in another country's affairs)
    as a last resort

He then discussed moral conduct within a war:

  • a response must be proportional
    it must be necessary
    it must be humane

He also considered what happens when the enemy uses different rules of warfare. This was later touched upon by a real example. Youths in Afghanistan sometimes throw rocks at low flying helicopters which can make them crash, yet gunners will not fire upon them because they are youths. He also contrasted the approach of UK and US forces.

In conclusion, Robin summed up his approach to morality: act rationally.

After a drinks break, Robin was asked various questions.

What is it like being a Humanist in the armed forces? It's not an issue of importance between colleagues.

Is morality regularly discussed between colleagues? No. Training involves correct conduct in warfare.

Are Humanists discriminated against in the armed forces? Yes there are only religious chaplains. I would not want to share my troubles with someone who looks to God for answers.

Naturally some questions were about life in the armed forces. One interesting story was about noticing a fin shaped hole in both sides of the helicopter. The crew realised that a rocket had passed right through the thin skin of the helicopter without them noticing.

We thanked Robin for sharing his views on the morality of war and giving us a small insight into what motivates a member of the armed forces.



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