As the commanding general of the Joint Task Force ordered to operate the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay after Sept. 11, Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert faced an ethical dilemma unlike anything many will ever experience.

On Oct. 21, he spoke on campus as part of the Jepson Leadership Forum series “Into the Fray: Global Perspectives on Conflict.” Lehnert is now a leader in the discussion about why the prison should be closed.

“As more detainees came in, I became increasingly concerned about the lack of evidence,” he said, adding that he believed many of the decisions the country made regarding the prison and detainees were made out of anger and fear.

“If we treat them as they treat us, we become them,” he said.

Before the talk, Lehnert visited with students in Dr. Terry Price’s Leadership Ethics class and Dr. Richard Dagger’s Just and Unjust Wars class. He also sat down with Dr. George Goethals for a conversation on leadership. The event, which viewers could also watch live, was cosponsored by the Department of Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL).

The first event in the Forum series was a talk on "Conflict Between and Within" by renowned Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, recognized worldwide as an authority on religion and spirituality and named one of TIME magazine's 25 most influential Americans.


“I think one important lesson we can all take from his lecture is that mistakes in every facet of life are unavoidable. The most significant aspect of these mistakes is not the mistake itself, but the process and actions we take immediately after to begin repairing whatever it is that we have broken or damaged. More importantly, having a cognitive and deliberate plan of action before the mistake even occurs is essential to effective leadership.” --Tim Hettermann, ’15, leadership studies and business administration

“I found his talk especially interesting because he addressed several issues that we have discussed in class relating to leaders' ability to avoid following rules. The session in class allowed us to understand his background and hear a couple of his personal stories and experiences. The talk in the evening portrayed the difficult dilemmas he faced during his time working at Guantánamo. He shared that leaders sometimes ask you to do unethical things, so it is important that you know how you are going to respond in those situations even before they occur.” --Louise Andersson, ’15, leadership studies and business administration

"The General said it's not best to be feared rather than loved and that it is best to be both since they aren't mutually exclusive and can be achieved hand-in-hand. I found this very interesting because it is an ongoing debate in leadership." --Tim Stone, '15, leadership studies



E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts
Chair, Department of Political Science
Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL)
Political and legal philosophy, with special interests in republicanism, political obligation, and the justification of punishment
Professor, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor in Leadership Studies
Presidential Leadership
Peer Interaction and Performance
Professor, Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics
Leadership Ethics
Moral Psychology
Social, Political, and Legal Theory