When Soldiers Say No

Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military

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  • Edited by Andrea Ellner, King’s College London, UK, Paul Robinson, University of Ottawa, Canada, and David Whetham, King’s College London, UK
  • Series: Military and Defence Ethics
  • Traditionally few people challenged the distinction between absolute and selective conscientious objection by those being asked to carry out military duties. The former is an objection to fighting all wars - a position generally respected and accommodated by democratic states, while the latter is an objection to a specific war or conflict - theoretically and practically a much harder idea to accept and embrace for military institutions. However, a decade of conflict not clearly aligned to vital national interests combined with recent acts of selective conscientious objection by members of the military have led some to reappraise the situation and argue that selective conscientious objection ought to be legally recognised and permitted. Political, social and philosophical factors lie behind this new interest which together mean that the time is ripe for a fresh and thorough evaluation of the topic. This book brings together arguments for and against selective conscientious objection, as well as case studies examining how different countries deal with those who claim the status of selective conscientious objectors. As such, it sheds new light on a topic of increasing importance to those concerned with military ethics and public policy, within military institutions, government, and academia.
  • Contents: Foreword, Jeff McMahan; Introduction, Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham; Part I Arguments For and Against Accepting Selective Conscientious Objection: The duty of diligence: knowledge, responsibility, and selective conscientious objection, Brian Imiola; There is no real moral obligation to obey orders: escaping from ‘low cost deontology’, Emmanuel R. Goffi; Selective conscientious objection: a violation of the social contract, Melissa Bergeron; Who guards the guards? The importance of civilian control of the military, David Fisher; An empirical defense of combat moral equality, Michael Skerker; Selective conscientious objection and the just society, Dan Zupan. Part II Case Studies in Selective Conscientious Objection: Selective conscientious objection in Australia, Stephen Coleman and Nikki Coleman (with Richard Adams); Conscientious objection to military service in Britain, Stephen Deakin; Selective conscientious objection: philosophical and conceptual doubts in light of Israeli case law, Yossi Nehushtan; Claims for refugee protection in Canada by selective objectors: an evolving jurisprudence, Yves Le Bouthillier; Conscience in lieu of obedience: cases of selective conscientious objection in the German Bundeswehr, Jürgen Rose. Part III Conclusions: Selective conscientious objection: some guidelines for implementation, J. Carl Ficarrotta; War resisters in the US and Britain - supporting the case for a right to selective conscientious objection?, Andrea Ellner; The practice and philosophy of selective conscientious objection, Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Editor: Andrea Ellner is in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London, UK, Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada and David Whetham is Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies at King’s College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College at the UK Defence Academy.
  • Reviews: ‘The issue of selective conscientious objection is where the rubber really hits the road for recent debates about the moral status of soldiers. The real achievement of this fine volume is to connect the theoretical debate with the concrete policy challenges faced by military and government - and to substantially advance both. Essential reading for anyone working on the ethics of war.’
    David Rodin, University of Oxford, UK

    ‘We expect members of the military to accept civilian authority and not determine foreign policy. But what if a nation commits its troops to an unjust war? Are they then morally obligated to refuse to fight? This is a question with potentially devastating real-world consequences that should concern every citizen. Whetham, Robinson, and Ellner have produced a brilliant, provocative volume that examines the issue of selective conscientious objection from many perspectives and across several cultures to provide a balanced array of arguments from which readers can derive their own conclusions.’
    Shannon E. French, Case Western Reserve University, USA

    When Soldiers Say No brings together arguments for and against selective conscientious objection, as well as case studies examining how different countries deal with those who claim the status of selective conscientious objectors. This collection adds considerably to the literature by bringing together a range of perspectives on the merits of selective conscientious objection, as well as consideration of its application (or lack thereof) in a number of states … The book will obviously be of great appeal to anyone with an interest in selective conscientious objection in the military, but is also, more broadly, likely to be of interest to those engaged in military ethics, defence studies, international relations, international law, human rights, and moral philosophy.
    LSE Review of Books

    'When Soldiers Say No is a highly-recommended and well-researched piece of multidisciplinary literature providing a wealth of information to readers with an interest in the intricacies and complexities of selective conscientious objection. … The book provides useful empirical insights based on the principled analysis of various case studies on selective conscientious objection … I would recommend the book to students with an interest in international relations, war studies and jurisprudence, as it takes the normative and emancipatory power of law, philosophy and ethics seriously. Its undoubtedly stimulating findings and recommendations should encourage policy-makers to probe strategies to re-think their moral obligation to provide a greater legal option of selective conscientious objection to professional members of the armed forces.'
    E-International Relations