Tag Archives: Military Studies

When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military

“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. Its interdisciplinary nature is particularly attractive.”

Gary Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University, has reviewed When Soldiers Say No for the LSE Review of Books. You can read his full review here.

Shannon E. French, Case Western Reserve University:

‘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.’

David Rodin, University of Oxford:

‘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.’

When soldiers say noTraditionally 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.

When Soldiers Say No is edited by Andrea Ellner, Defence Studies Department, King’s College London, Paul Robinson, professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the University of Ottawa, and David Whetham, Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies, King’s College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College at the UK Defence Academy.


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

British Generals in Blair’s Wars launched at The International Institute for Strategic Studies

After much controversy over its publication, British Generals in Blair’s Wars was launched at The International Institute for Strategic Studies on Wednesday 17th July. 100 or so key members of the press, senior MoD/business advisors and top tier Generals attended (including a guest appearance by David Richards – newly retired Chief of Defence Staff).

British Generals launch eventThe event took place at Arundel House with guests being treated to a discussion about the book with one of the editors, Hew Strachan (Oxford), Nick Parker (former Deputy Commanding General in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Desmond Bowen (former UK MoD senior civil servant). The meeting was chaired by Brigadier (Retd) Ben Barry, Senior Fellow Land Warfare at the IISS, and is available to view on Youtube.

British Generals in Blair’s Wars can be ordered through the Ashgate website.

British Generals in Blair’s Wars

British Generals in Blairs WarsBritish Generals in Blair’s Wars, edited by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan, has been generating a lot of press coverage. Copies will be released for sale on Monday 22nd July, and the book can be ordered through the Ashgate website.

Read articles about the book in The Times (£), The Guardian, and Defence Viewpoints.

 ‘Generals may talk, but rarely write self-critically: this collection of essays is a remarkable exception. Jonathan Bailey – himself an exceptional soldier-scholar – along with Hew Strachan and Richard Iron have assembled an extraordinary array of senior officers (and one or two civilians) who reflect on Britain’s last decade of war. The resulting essays are often excoriating – of politicians, but also of the military institutions from which these soldiers have sprung. A British audience will find the generals’ self-examination sobering, even disturbing; Americans will take away insights into our most important ally; students of military affairs more generally will wish to ponder carefully these reflections on generalship in the twenty-first century.’   Eliot A. Cohen, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, USA

‘This excellent book contains a revealing collection of papers, written by senior officers and officials charged with the command and direction of British forces in the last decade. They record the efforts and decisions made within circumstances of: controversial and ambivalent political direction, uncertain popular support, scarce resource, unsatisfied planning assumptions and unrealisable expectations; complicated by the nature of coalition operations. This book is recommended to all who wish to understand the atrophy of Britain’s strategic faculties.’   General Sir Rupert Smith KCB DSO OBE QGM

‘This collection must be almost unique in military history. Seldom if ever have senior military commanders discussed so frankly the difficulties they have faced in translating the strategic demands made by their political masters into operational realities. The problems posed by their enemies were minor compared with those presented by corrupt local auxiliaries, remote bureaucratic masters, and civilian colleagues pursuing their own agendas. Our political leaders should study it very carefully before they ever make such demands on our armed forces again.’   Sir Michael Howard, formerly Regius Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford, UK

‘How military forces adapt to changes in the international environment and the tasks it sets for them is a significant factor in whether wars are won or lost. In this long-overdue book, a number of prominent British practitioners and thinkers on war take a hard-eyed look at how well Britain has adapted to the wars of the past decade. The answers are not always pleasant, but capturing and learning them now is a blood debt owed to those who have fought so fiercely in Iraq and Afghanistan.’   John Nagl, Center for a New American Security, USA

About the Editors:

Jonathan Bailey‘s last appointment in the British Army before he retired in 2005 was Director General Development and Doctrine. He served in Northern Ireland, commanded Assembly Place ROMEO in Rhodesia in 1979-80; was Operations Officer 4th Field Regiment RA during the Falklands War; and in 1999 was KFOR’s Chief Liaison Officer to the Yugoslav General Staff and to the Kosovo Liberation Army. He has written several books and articles on defence and strategic themes. Since 2005 he has worked in the defence industry, and led the seminar series on Campaigning and Generalship, at the University of Oxford.

Richard Iron left the British Army in 2012 and is a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford. He has served in the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces and several tours in Northern Ireland. He commanded 1st Battalion the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment in the Balkans. He was subsequently responsible for British and NATO land doctrine. He was a prosecution expert witness in the Sierra Leone War Crimes trials and from 2007 to 2008 was chief mentor to the Iraqi commander in Basra, including Operation Charge of the Knights.

Sir Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and was Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War from its inception in 2004 until 2012. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books on military history, including European Armies and the Conduct of War (1983), The Politics of the British Army (1997), and The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (2001). He is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the World War I Centenary Advisory Board. He has also written extensively on strategy, and is a member of the Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel.

Ashgate books on Military Studies

The Military and War Studies page on our website provides links through to related books, and you can also download the latest Military Studies catalogue.

Our Military Studies publishing programme covers contemporary thought on strategy and operations, security studies and ethics, and provocative interpretations of military and naval history.

Key subject areas are: war studies; security, peace and conflict; terrorism; and military and naval history.

Trust in Military Teams

 ‘More than any other occupation or organization, military endeavours are completely dependent upon trust. However, trust has many dimensions to it: trust in your comrades; trust in your allies and trust in your equipment. This book with contributions from experts from both sides of the Atlantic examines all these aspects of trust. This volume is set to become the definitive reference source for all researchers and practitioners working in this area.’   Don Harris, HFI Solutions Ltd.

Edited by Neville A. Stanton, Trust in Military Teams is written by defence scientists from the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK, under the auspices of The Transfer Cooperation Programme. The book reports on contemporary trends in the defence research community on trust in teams, and is part of Ashgate’s Human Factors in Defence series.

About the Editor: Professor Neville A. Stanton holds a Chair in Human Factors and has published more than 150 international peer-reviewed journal papers and 20 books on Human Factors and Ergonomics.  In 1998 he was awarded the Institution of Electrical Engineers Divisional Premium Award for a co-authored paper on Engineering Psychology and System Safety.  The Ergonomics Society awarded him the President’s medal in 2008 and the Otto Edholm medal in 2001 for his contribution to basic and applied ergonomics research.  The Royal Aeronautical Society awarded him the Hodgson Medal and Bronze Award with colleagues for their work on flight deck safety.  Neville Stanton is an editor of Ergonomics and on the editorial board of Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science and the International Journal of Human Computer Interaction.  He is a Fellow and Chartered Occupational Psychologist registered with The British Psychological Society, and a Fellow of The Ergonomics Society.  He has a BSc in Occupational Psychology from Hull University, an MPhil in Applied Psychology from Aston University, and a PhD in Human Factors, also from Aston.

More about Trust in Military Teams

Cognitive factors have major impact on friendly fire incidents

According to Jan Maarten Schraagen, it is estimated that 15-25% of all casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations may be attributed to friendly fire. In a short piece on the Ashgate Human Factors author hub, he explains that the consequences of friendly fire incidents may range from decline in morale to decline in political support for the mission. Usually, technology is put forward as the panacea to solve this problem. However, technological solutions have their limitations.  More…

Jan Maarten Shraagen is currently working on a project funded by the European Defence Agency on Cognitive Factors in Friendly Fire Incidents, and is the co-editor of the Ashgate book Naturalistic Decision Making and Macrocognition. He is senior research psychologist at TNO Defence, Security and Safety, Business Unit Human Factors in The Netherlands, and part-time Professor in Applied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Twente.

Military Training and Education conference, 9-11 December, Shrivenham

Tthe Military Training and Education: who needs what, where and when? conference, will be taking place at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham, Wiltshire, 9th to 11th December 2009.

The conference is co-hosted by King College London’s Defence Ethics Network, Hull University’s Military Ethics Education: Network & the International Association for Military Pedagogy. The broad conference theme will be looking at competencies, skills and abilities required and expected at the different levels of the military hierarchy.

Information about Ashgate books relating to Military Studies can be found on our website.