I've long been curious about conscientious objector exception to military drafts in America. It's a strange idea, made even stranger by the fact it was relatively seldomly used. Let me paint a picture of moral life for you:

You don't want the bother of serving on a jury. Sure, there's some crime or something, and someone must adjudicate it. But you don't care, it's none of your business. So you'll avoid the hassle if you can, and grumble through it if you cannot. You do not see it as a moral question, and when serving on a jury, are asked to vote purely as a matter of applying the law given the instructions the court provides.

You don't want to bother serving in the military. Sure, there's some international incident of some kind, and someone should stop an atrocity or fight for their country or whatever. But you don't care, and this genocide or brutal dictator is none of your business. So you'll avoid the hassle if you can, and grumble through your service if you cannot. You do not see it as a moral question, and when serving in the military, are asked to follow orders purely as a matter of discipline and cohesion, given the orders your commander provides.

Let's all take the time we need to compare and contrast these in our minds. Explore your feelings.


So, obviously, there's a lot that separates these two. Almost everything, really. And I think that includes how comfortable we should be with the reasoning, as similar as they are in structure. And I think it boils down to two things: in a jury, you are asked for your judgment, as proscribed as it is by law. And in the military, there is no escaping the ethical implications. Killing and defending are moral acts, and soldiers represent the morals of those who sent them. It seems implausible to me someone could fail to have a strong opinion on the morality of a war. The stakes are so astronomically high that it ought to be impossible for an approximate tie between the benefits and the costs.

In many ways, this comparison shows that the primary objection to serving in the draft but certainly be the inefficiency of it. Which, of course, is so monumental as to justify it's permanent disfavor. But it's a strange claim in light of America's more pointless wars. Perhaps we needed something like Vietnam to remind us that our wars are not all WW2. But people were quite disillusioned during WW1. So my theory of the American involuntary fighting force is... admittedly, confused. It's possible people just do something because they're told to? Why would someone like Trump dodge the draft for Vietnam? Did he truly lack the capacity to judge it as a massive tragedy and horrible waste of human life? Why were so many people fleeing to Canada when you could simply explain your beliefs? Was it truly cowardice, and any interrogation of their moral stance would see it collapse?

I'm going to go out on a limb and presume there was a great deal of corruption in the determination of who can conscientiously object to military service, and if you get the exception, you'd still need to support the war effort in some civilian role, so perhaps a moral defense of the war would extend to those activities? And I do think there is a moral component to the efficiency argument, and perhaps escaping service is morally justified in a great deal of the most pointlessly destructive wars.

But the fact that this is not discussed in America, that the history of it, the morality of it, the sheer magnitude of it – it is shielded behind the story of great men and atrocity and justification and execution of war. The details of a battle, and heroes and tragic loss.

It's a fraction of the history, like a child explaining what he notices, when we should be wiser to understand that the why? is the most important part, always.