Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Should soldiers be able to 'opt out' of unjust conflicts?

The Boston Review has a long, but thought-provoking article on whether soldiers should be able to opt-out of conflicts they believe are unjust.

The gist of the argument goes like this:

1. Most Wars are Unjust. Both sides of a war can't be just, so every war is either a conflict between a just side and an unjust side or between two unjust sides. So, if you find yourself fighting in a war, statistically you're more likely to be fighting on the unjust side.

2. It's Wrong to Fight for an Unjust Cause. Soldiers ultimately decide whether to participate in a war, and they bear responsibility for that decision. It's not just to attack even enemy soldiers for an unjust cause, just as it would be unjust for a criminal on the run to shoot a police officer.

3. Therefore, soldiers should be able to opt-out of conflicts they believe are unjust. This is just an extension of the current rule that soldiers must disobey orders during combat that they believe are unjust.

Of course, Point Number 1 above isn't really necessary for the conclusion, but it makes the issue more pressing. Otherwise, you could simply say, 'well, this isn't important because most wars are just anyway.'

So, is Point Number 2 right?

1 comment:

  1. I read this story in the Boston Review. Not sure "thought-provoking" would be the words I would use. "for they are usually actively discouraged from engaging in independent, critical thinking about the orders they receive." I have been in the Navy for 24 years, and this statement could not be further from the truth. Our modern, professional fighting force requires critical thinking and judgement at all levels in order to be effective with the relatively small force size we have. Using those critical thinking skills in combination with a cause bigger than any one person is what makes it go. Sometimes go bad, but I woudl argue mostly for good. The peice in Boston Review looks to be written by someone with no military service and with unsubstantiated assumptions, including some odd groupings I had not previousl heard of like "traditional war theorists" or "revisonist just war theorists". I would be interested if there were names and credentials or even an example of someone form these groups that the author may ahve taken the time to interview. Despite this his proposal in the last part of the piece is a thoughtful narrative that does ask relevant questions and raises valid points. Its a long piece, I just think that for the volume of words used, it could be better served as more substance and less rehtoric