When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military (Hardback) book cover

When Soldiers Say No

Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military

Edited by Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson, David Whetham

© 2014 – Routledge

290 pages

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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.


’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 provi

About the Editors

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.

About the Series

Military and Defence Ethics

Military and Defence Ethics
There is an urgent and growing need for all those involved in matters of national defence - from policy makers to armaments manufacturers to members of the armed forces - to behave, and to be seen to behave, ethically. The ethical dimensions of making decisions and taking action in the defence arena are the subject of intense and ongoing media interest and public scrutiny. It is vital that all those involved be given the benefit of the finest possible advice and support. Such advice is best sought from those who have great practical experience or theoretical wisdom (or both) in their particular field and publication of their work in this series will ensure that it is readily accessible to all who need it.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Military