Douglas Maclean, a former professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, began by discussing the idea that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are unlike any this country has ever experienced.
"We must think and act anew if we are to save our country," Maclean said.
Maclean said the events of Sept. 11 have been called an act of war, but that the response the U.S. should take is unclear because Americans are fighting a different kind of war against a different enemy, one that is not clearly defined.
Maclean said that because there has been no formal declaration of war, the attacks on America were acts of terrorism, not acts of war. Because of this, Maclean said the rules that applied to past war efforts do not necessarily apply today.
But he said it is important to figure out what ethical rules do apply to this war on terrorism and why it is important to consider these rules. "We must deal with this war differently because it is a different kind of war, I'm just not sure how," he said.
Maclean spoke not only of the ethics of warfare but also the ethics of retaliation. He said these ethics attempt to ensure that retaliation is used to create justice, not to bring revenge on the enemy.
Maclean said it is natural to want revenge after the terrorist attacks, but that these desires must be set aside because they can cloud judgement.
"We must think about retaliation with our eyes wide open," he said.
The 50 or so audience members listened quietly to Maclean's 45-minute presentation and many partook in the discussion that followed, also about 45 minutes long.