Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Want to Kill People in this War, Not That One

The New York Times reports on an effort to expand the definition of conscientious objection to allow for soldiers to opt out of certain wars:
But today, Nov. 10, a coalition of around 60 mostly left-leaning religious, veterans and anti-war groups are calling on Congress to expand the definition of conscientious objection to allow opposition to a particular war. Leaders of the coalition, the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, assert that broadening the definition would probably lead to more troops applying to become conscientious objectors. But it would also allow for greater religious freedom in the military and improve morale among the troops, they say.

“For many of us, it is a religious freedom issue,” said Rita N. Brock, one of the main organizers of the commission. “The only religious conscience protected now is for pacifists. But the majority of people are not pacifists. I’m not a pacifist. We have a relative view of when violence is appropriate and not appropriate.”

Ms. Brock, a former professor of religion and women’s studies whose stepfather fought in World War II and Vietnam, said one of the commission’s goals is to allow service members who oppose certain wars to remain in the military, serving either in noncombat roles or in conflicts they can support.

“We want to make it easier for them to follow their moral conscience and serve in the military,” she said. “We want to forestall moral injury, which is a Veterans Administration category of treatment.”
An obvious response to this is that these days the military is a volunteer organization. There is no draft. If you enlist you can reasonably expect in our current environment to be fighting in a war somewhere. If you can imagine a kind of conflict that you would find morally objectionable then you shouldn't enlist. If you are a Muslim you have to know going in that you will almost certainly be fighting in a conflict where fellow Muslims will be on the receiving end of your bullets.

On the other hand there ought to be some provision for a soldier whose thinking evolves to get out of the military or move into a non-combatant position.

I can't imagine this proposal will receive much support from the military or the new Republican-controlled Congress.

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