Will

Conscientious Objection to Military Service

24 posts in this topic

I'm still a few years away from having to register for the draft (although the draft is not currently in effect, so if things stay peaceful in the world I won't actually have to enter the military). However, I've seen it recommended that if you want to conscientiously object to service, you should start preparing evidence early, so I've been thinking a little about this decision over the past couple days.

 

My understanding of Taoism is currently basically limited to the Zhuangzi. In that regard, it seems to me that wu wei would obligate non-participation in all wars, although it's possible that I'm misunderstanding the concept. (As a side note, FYI current U.S. law only allows an exemption for those who are opposed to all wars, not just certain ones)

 

What do you guys think? Do you interpret Taoist texts (the Zhuangzi and others) as providing an obligation to object to killing fellow human beings under any circumstances? 

Edited by Will
1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Full disclosure: I'm a US Army veteran, '89-'99.

 

There are very many ways to serve in the military that do not include infantry. Granted, any type of military service could place you in a combat situation, and even if you are never deployed to aware zone, simply training can get you killed. But that's not really your question, and besides, civilians die every day so you can't exactly avoid it. IMHO the best way to avoid being drafted is to volunteer. I have uncles who did just that during Vietnam. Rather than being drafted into the Army or Marines they volunteered into the Navy. Both served in military intelligence. A kushy gig, all things considered.

 

Now, getting explicitly to your question. A Taoist fights when he needs to fight, and runs when he needs to run. The hard part is telling the difference.

4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Will said:

What do you guys think? Do you interpret Taoist texts (the Zhuangzi and others) as providing an obligation to object to killing fellow human beings under any circumstances? 

 

 

ret US Army 75-95

 

The basic question is confused. 

Being a conscientiously objector is based on convictions associated with beliefs

which you seem not to really have.   

 

"Today, ALL conscientious objectors are still required to register with the Selective Service System. ... A registrant making a claim for conscientious objection is required to appear before his local board to explain his beliefs."

 

It will not prevent you from having the requirement to register.  Should they have a draft "not likely"

You can still be in the service as a CO and serve in another MOS like being a cook for example.  If put in a battle field area, you would not be required to have a weapon,  they can not require the enemy bullets to miss you.

Edited by windwalker
4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are such a thing as daoist martial arts, so....... 

 

If you really do dislike violence and is a true pacifist, must that be based on religion? 

 

Can it not be based on your inner conviction that all forms of violence are wrong?

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We all know that I am retired Army, damn proud of it and damn proud of having served my country.

 

A Taoist does what needs be done.  Nothing less, nothing more.

 

One could say that Chuang Tzu was a pacifist but I cannot recall him ever speaking negatively against military service.

 

One must protect what one values.  There are always others who would take it from you if it is not protected.

 

4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, Marblehead said:

A Taoist does what needs be done.  Nothing less, nothing more.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, that was a little bit more than what was needed but still, ...

 

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm spit-balling that you're from the U.S; the draft was done away with in January of '73.. 44 years ago.  There may be the odd politician but no political party is advocating doing away with the draft.  So, while you may have to worry about a war in the next couple of years, you don't have to worry about the draft being re-instated. 

 

At the moment the US has about 1.2 million soldiers in the military and another 800,000 in reserves, who are trained.  Training is real important these days.  It's not just run over the hill with a rifle like wwi and ii, weapons, rules, communication are much more complex.  Untrained cadets aren't of much use, particularly when they're unwilling and conscripted. 

 

So.. for the next couple of years and probably beyond don't worry, if you don't want to join the military that's your option.  Friends of mine who've joined, looking back, are actually happy they did.  They learned and it matured them.  They were mostly Navy and weren't involved in active war.  Plus as I recall they weren't always so happy at the time.

 

 

 

addon> I remember turning 19, and my mother asking if I'd registered yet.  I told her no, I hadn't.  She asked if I was a conscientious objector.  I told her no,  just lazy.

 

30 years later, I have a son who's interested in joining ROTC.  As there's no shooting war going on now, I agreed.  You can learn valuable skills, travel the world, gain real world knowledge, earn big bucks for college and nice health benefits when older.  Side note, we said no, when he wanted to play high school football.  We also recommended like his grandfather he join the Air Force, or the Navy.  So less likely to be on foot patrol in foreign lands. 

 

I respect our soldiers, I respect our conscientious objectors, I don't always respect our leaders. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, didn't realize so many of you guys had served. Thank you. 

 

I will admit I'm a bit surprised by most of you not being pacifists. However, that may be based on a misunderstanding of Taoism. I have a few specific points I want to raise in regards to some of your posts:

 

12 hours ago, windwalker said:

The basic question is confused. 

Being a conscientiously objector is based on convictions associated with beliefs

which you seem not to really have.   

 

Just because I don't have them now doesn't mean I might not in a few years! :)

 

I'm still in the formative stage of my life (second year of high school).

 

12 hours ago, windwalker said:

It will not prevent you from having the requirement to register.  Should they have a draft "not likely"

You can still be in the service as a CO and serve in another MOS like being a cook for example.  If put in a battle field area, you would not be required to have a weapon,  they can not require the enemy bullets to miss you.

 

Yes, that is true. Everyone has to register. But I've seen it suggested that if you plan on objecting if a draft takes effect, you should write as such on your registration form in order to establish an early paper trail of your belief. 

 

From some quick research it seems to me that there are two types of conscientious objectors: Those who are okay with serving in the military but don't want to be in combat, and those who aren't okay with being in the military at all (they are given civilian service jobs in the US). 

 

8 hours ago, Mudfoot said:

There are such a thing as daoist martial arts, so....... 

 

If you really do dislike violence and is a true pacifist, must that be based on religion? 

 

Can it not be based on your inner conviction that all forms of violence are wrong?

 

Good point. The issue is that the U.S. only allows conscientious objection based on broad belief systems, not merely personal convictions. 

 

The key difficulty that I think Taoism presents in this discussion is that, as I understand it, Zhuangzi (and others?) throw some shade on the right-wrong duality. Thus, saying that "I am a Taoist and I think violence is wrong" seems to arguably be a contradiction. Maybe there's a different way it could be phrased that would be more consistent with the faith's teachings? 

 

3 hours ago, thelerner said:

I'm spit-balling that you're from the U.S; the draft was done away with in January of '73.. 44 years ago.  There may be the odd politician but no political party is advocating doing away with the draft.  So, while you may have to worry about a war in the next couple of years, you don't have to worry about the draft being re-instated. 

 

At the moment the US has about 1.2 million soldiers in the military and another 800,000 in reserves, who are trained.  Training is real important these days.  It's not just run over the hill with a rifle like wwi and ii, weapons, rules, communication are much more complex.  Untrained cadets aren't of much use, particularly when they're unwilling and conscripted. 

 

So.. for the next couple of years and probably beyond don't worry, if you don't want to join the military that's your option.  Friends of mine who've joined, looking back, are actually happy they did.  They learned and it matured them.  They were mostly Navy and weren't involved in active war.  Plus as I recall they weren't always so happy at the time.

 

Yes, I am from the U.S. :)

 

Indeed, perhaps it's not really worth bothering with preparing an objection if the chance of actually getting drafted is really low. We would probably have to be in a truly massive war for that to happen (i.e. World War III :unsure:). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join Jehovas witnesses, noone would question you then. 

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My great grandfather was actually a Quaker so he conscientiously objected during World War II. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Mudfoot said:

Join Jehovas witnesses, noone would question you then. 

Then Everyone will want to kill you. ;)

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just kidding, 

Since I was never oriented to the military, I am not saying the following out of some personal bias due to service.... 

The sincerity of such men, who have both served, and yet still have such strong convictions about the merit of peace ,and harmony, and even gentleness, makes an ironic sense to me. They do not arrive at their faith from a fear of violence or some kind of attempt at seeming angelic, and so I am forced to take this , again, seeming, irony into account , when considering Daoist ethics. One needs to understand the message in a way that fits this manly truth, not doubt the men. 

Going far far back, martial arts have been included right along with spiritual teachings , its  not a quirk or anomaly, or contradiction. 

Keeping this in mind, greatly changes the conclusions that one may construe ,were the intended meanings of Daoist and Buddhist texts. 

IMO

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Stosh said:

Just kidding, 

Since I was never oriented to the military, I am not saying the following out of some personal bias due to service.... 

The sincerity of such men, who have both served, and yet still have such strong convictions about the merit of peace ,and harmony, and even gentleness, makes an ironic sense to me. They do not arrive at their faith from a fear of violence or some kind of attempt at seeming angelic, and so I am forced to take this , again, seeming, irony into account , when considering Daoist ethics. One needs to understand the message in a way that fits this manly truth, not doubt the men. 

Going far far back, martial arts have been included right along with spiritual teachings , its  not a quirk or anomaly, or contradiction. 

Keeping this in mind, greatly changes the conclusions that one may construe ,were the intended meanings of Daoist and Buddhist texts. 

IMO

 

I suppose you could take the view that killing someone in a war isn't necessarily bad for the simple reason that some other soldier probably would have killed them if you hadn't participated yourself. (Of course, that does seem like the kind of "ends justify the means" logic that Daoism, or at least its libertarian side, doesn't seem to support...)

 

By that type of logic, you could also argue that, if you get killed in the war, it will have essentially been for nothing because someone else could have fought in your place and would most likely have been just as successful, and possible more-so. Of course, if you don't get killed it's a different story. But you can't be sure what will happen beforehand. 

Edited by Will
1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You may indeed look at it that way. I dont, but I am not speaking for anyone but myself. As I see it , if there is goodness and badness it lives in the hearts of men, and we do indeed judge ourselves ,and others, by the standards we hold. I think gods were invented to remove this from the hands of individuals, but there it resides regardless.. 

Just as laws exist to get everyone on the same page, religions attempt the same, and the attempts are geared to aim us in the direction which our hearts will understand as right. 

Sometimes circumstances placed before us have simple and obvious moral solutions, sometimes the greater view is not so obvious, or is obscured by the immediate circumstance. 

The more removed men are from the obvious, the greater the importance of following general principles , and the more difficult it is to know if one is doing the right thing, but that doesnt mean the right thing is to only attend to the immediate...nor does it mean that the person whos eyes you look into, should be appropriate for sacrifice to remote goals. 

 

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I abhore violence.

 

Yet on those occasions where it is required... it should be swift, and complete.

 

and engaged in without glee, or triumph... violence is failure.

5 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If it were me, I wouldn`t bring Taoism into it.  Philosophizing can be intellectually stimulating and fun but I suspect it`s besides the point the point in this case.  The real question is this: do you want to be in the military?  If the answer is an unequivocal no, then I`d do whatever is prudent and reasonable to keep yourself from being enlisted against your will.  I say life is short.  If you don`t want to serve, don`t serve.  Don`t mess around justifying your decision with verses from the Tao De Ching, just live your life on your own terms.  What could be more Taoist than that? 

 

Edited by liminal_luke
3 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Stosh said:

Then Everyone will want to kill you. ;)

If you side with the sheep, you have to rely on the shepherd or fear the wolves. 

 

That is the way of the world. 

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are many ways to run a life. 

We had some gnats flying at work once, tiny black floating dots . 

Like a single screen pixel , they were nearly impossible to focus your eyes on. 

and so I clapped mostly in vain while they drifted around,

and lived out the brief time alloted. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Will said:

My great grandfather was actually a Quaker so he conscientiously objected during World War II. 

 

And yet he enjoyed the benefits of those that did, allowing him to practice his religion while still living in 

a country that uses war as one means of ensuring those benefits for its citizens.

 

Why not just move to a country that aligns with ones beliefs. Or find another way to serve ones country

if its just about killing, if its about war itself might be a problem living in a country that has them.

 

you talk of daoist thought  and yet

Quote

 

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - chapter 68

"A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
A good employer is humble.
This is known as the Virtue of not striving.
This is known as ability to deal with others.
This since ancient times has been known
     as the ultimate unity with heaven."

 

 

 

Remember if you use daoisum as a reason, you will have to explain this to a panel of 

people who will be versed in the rational for those calming this status which will still not prevent you from having to register

or serving if called up..."unlikely"   All it will do is confer a status if they agree or not if they don't agree..What happens if they don't agree....how deep is ones convictions....

 

Quote

"On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted into the U.S. Army and is immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. ... On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years."

 

This is conviction. 

 

You seem to be bringing the future into the present citing the past "your grandfather" all the while not attending to now.  Why not practice wu wei, and allow things to unfold and reveal the right path for you.

Edited by windwalker
1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Will said:

My great grandfather was actually a Quaker so he conscientiously objected during World War II. 

 

5 hours ago, windwalker said:

 

And yet he enjoyed the benefits of those that did, allowing him to practice his religion while still living in 

a country that uses war as one means of ensuring those benefits for its citizens.

 

Why not just move to a country that aligns with ones beliefs. Or find another way to serve ones country

if its just about killing, if its about war itself might be a problem living in a country that has them.

 

I think a country needs its conscientious objectors as much as its soldiers.  The objector 'checks' the worst impulses of nationalism and destruction, they act as a national conscience, checking the propaganda all nations at war create.  Yet in a dangerous world its naive to think we don't need soldiers. 

 

Some of the best soldiers will become conscientious objectors, and the some of the conscientious will be in the front lines and beyond, maybe not fighting but risking there lives in an effort to gain peace. 

4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, thelerner said:

Some of the best soldiers will become conscientious objectors, and the some of the conscientious will be in the front lines and beyond, maybe not fighting but risking there lives in an effort to gain peace. 

 

And you know this how?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, windwalker said:

 

And you know this how?

Reading history.   Not an absolute but many shining examples of it. 

You find it inconceivable that experienced soldiers might put down there weapons and from that point will fight no more?  Or that Conscientious Objectors can be pretty much the bravest people on earth, putting themselves in harms way to protect others or stop fighting?  

 

 

Perhaps the best modern phenomena of Soldier becoming pacifist is the Veterans for Peace (google it) movement, but be assured its by no means modern or an American phenomena.  People who know war best, can become its harshest critics and pacifists. 

 

Similarly you can look up acts of heroism by CO just as easily.  Many acts of bravery above and beyond. 

4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, thelerner said:

Reading history.   Not an absolute but many shining examples of it. 

You find it inconceivable that experienced soldiers might put down there weapons and from that point will fight no more?  Or that Conscientious Objectors can be pretty much the bravest people on earth, putting themselves in harms way to protect others or stop fighting?  

 

 

Perhaps the best modern phenomena of Soldier becoming pacifist is the Veterans for Peace (google it) movement, but be assured its by no means modern or an American phenomena.  People who know war best, can become its harshest critics and pacifists. 

 

Similarly you can look up acts of heroism by CO just as easily.  Many acts of bravery above and beyond. 

 

Lets just say in 20yrs of service I've met a few, IMO no, you really don't know, its not the topic of the thread no point in going into or over it.  Consistently amazed of how what ever it is,  it seems like its always portrayed as the best ect, ect.  Real CO's have convection of spirit which gives anyone engaged in anything a advantage over those who do not.

 

Real CO's IME do not look for a way to avoid something that they must do ie register, they accept what comes of having and keeping to their convictions not looking for some loop hole or what ever to avoid being tested for them.  

 

If the OP wants to live life looking for loop holes, best of luck in  it....If he really has issues he will have to register, voice the issues and let others decide if their real or not....I'd say not based on lack of clarity...All it means is that he will not be granted CO status, will be registered and have to deal with what ever comes, when it comes.

 

either way he will still have to register.  

Edited by windwalker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites