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.

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

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