Could you qualify as a “Conscientious Objector”?

The following is a submission from Ron Madson, written on February 23, 2011, the fourth anniversary of his father’s passing as a tribute to his legacy.

My father was a WWII veteran that served in Patton’s infantry in the European theatre. It wasn’t until he was 91 years old before he told me the details of his war experiences—and I am not aware if he told anyone else. My father was the most Christ-like person I have ever known. In the fall of 2002 I sat with my father listening to the war rhetoric seeking to justify our nation’s invasion of Iraq. This man, who rarely showed emotion and spoke seldom, emotionally told me that he did not believe that there was any scripture or Christian principle that would allow us to attack another country as we did in Afghanistan and were about to do in Iraq. He was certain that in our anger, fear and pride we, like the Nephites of old, were abandoning our covenant with the Lord by being the aggressor. He was hopeful that as a people we would surely denounce these wars. Knowing his character I am certain that if he were magically young again, he would have applied for conscientious objector status as to our current wars— as he would have in Viet Nam.

Could he have qualified as a conscientious objector? In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue as to whether someone could decide which wars were just and, thus, “selectively’ qualify as a conscientious objector.[1] The court focused on section 6(j) of the Military Service Act, which provided that “no person shall be subject to service in the armed forces of the United States who, by religious training and beliefs, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.” Interpreting this statute, the Court ruled that one could not pick and chose which wars were just or not just. In other words, one’s objection could not be selective (there is proposed legislation seeking to allow “selective” objection). Therefore, if my father was not also opposed to our involvement in WWII, then he could not qualify as a conscientious objector to Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Then addressing the issue of “religious training and belief,” the Court, while recognizing that some faiths have well developed traditions, teachings, training and beliefs that sustain conscientious objection to “war in any form,” determined that one is required to qualify individually in order to obtain a CO status. Undoubtedly, if someone, to name a few, is Amish, Jehovah Witness or Seventh-Day Adventist, it is already presumed that they have a well established “religious training and belief” system that they can point to in order to establish their conscientious objector status.

So what about LDS “training and belief” as to whether to engage in war? In March of 2009, I attended a Job Fair at Utah Valley University. The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army had their booths seeking recruits. I, with several others, went there to speak to those that were listening to the recruiters. We provided them with literature and arguments as to why they should not join the military. My personal approach was to ask each potential recruit: “Do you have a spiritual or ethical reason for joining the military at this time, and if so, would you share it with me?” They would often refer to their ultimate action hero, Captain Moroni, or cite some slogan like “fighting for freedom.” I would also ask if there were any scriptures or doctrine that they could point to that, in their mind, justified our nation’s involvement in either the Iraq or Afghanistan war. Their responses to this question was even more general—“the scriptures tell us we are allowed to defend ourselves.” After this experience, whenever I had an opportunity to have a serious discussion with someone as to our current conflicts, I would try to always start with this question: “Without reference to the current wars, tell me what doctrines and beliefs govern whether you believe you are justified, if ever, in supporting a particular war?” My intent in this question is to invite us to first determine the spiritual and ethical framework that governs our approach to taking the lives of others— before examining the details of a particular conflict. Personally, I believe the mental and spiritual exercise is needed before being presented with an actual war/conflict. Otherwise, we might find ourselves selectively choosing doctrine and evidence driven by fear and anger.

I had the opportunity over the past few years to visit and assist two LDS individuals that were in the military, but were considering applying for a conscientious objector status. After reviewing the legal requirements with them, I suggested that there is, in my opinion, ample doctrinal basis in our scriptures to claim a belief that one can be opposed to participation in war in any form. First, we believe the Bible to be the word of God. Other faiths have founded their creedal opposition to all wars on selected passages of the Bible: Jehovah Witnesses—Isaiah 2:4 “neither shall they learn war anymore”; Seventh Day Adventist—Jesus’ teachings to love enemies and refuse violence; and the Historic Peace Churches such as Quakers, Mennonites and Amish who saw Christ’s very life and death as a denunciation of all forms of violence. Second, the Book of Mormon explicitly commands us that the common words and example of Christ found in the Bible and Book of Mormon (Sermon on the Mount/life of non-resistance) override all other examples and words (2 Nephi 31:40-41; 2 Nephi 26:1; and 2 Nephi 32:6); and third, modern day revelation mandating that we “renounce war and proclaim peace.” (D&C 98:16). I recognize many in our faith cite the words of war generals and Prophets in the scriptures that do not allow for objection to “participation of war in any form” even to the point of putting to death conscientious objectors, but the issue is, as defined by Gillette v. United States, is whether you personally have a well anchored faith and belief that causes you to object to “war in any form.”

While I believe a doctrinal basis in our faith can be found to qualify one as a conscientious objector under Gillette v. United States, I also caution those that seek CO status that there are some practical obstacles that LDS face that other faiths like the Amish do not face. The review board is fully aware that the LDS, as a faith, have not denounced, but rather have been very supportive of all our nation’s wars since becoming a state. This is further reinforced by the perception that in our most recent wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, our leaders have not only not “denounced” these wars, but have given implicit support. Elder Nelson’s conference address on D&C 98[2] in October of 2002 was interpreted by major news outlets that the Mormon Church had issued a strong anti-war message referring to our “current hostilities.”[3] However, the church public relations department, seeing the potential fallout, immediately responded with an official statement that Elder Nelson’s talk had been misinterpreted as to its’ application to our “current hostilities” and that “the Church itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, other then urging its’ members fully to render loyalty to their country.”[4] The following spring, and just days after our invasion of Iraq, President Hinckley delivered his key note address in General Conference directly addressing our doctrine as to “war and peace.” While the address can be parsed to mean different thing, I believe stripped of his general commentary the doctrinal “summum bonum” of his address can be succinctly stated that we are obligated as citizens of our respective nations to support our nation’s wars[5], and, moreover, ““Those in the armed services are under an obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign.

When they joined the military they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.” To those I have counseled, I have responded to these practical issues as follows: First, President Hinckley made it perfectly clear that he was expressing his personal opinion; second, our church leaders teach us principles that they believe are correct, but that we govern ourselves; third, their words are not the very words of Christ, but rather their interpretation of the words of Christ, and each of us have access to the same scriptures/words of Christ; and fourth, past prophets/leaders do not all concur as to the standard we must apply to whether we should engage in a war. The Prophet Mormon told us that we must lay down our weapons of war and not take them up “save it be that God shall command you.” (Mormon 7:4)[6] and that is the inverse of recent prophets that have essentially said, we having no revelation” from the Lord to the contrary, you have an obligation to support your nation’s war. Therefore, one can either believe that our doctrine requires us to not engage in war unless God commands, or that we will engage in any and all wars of our nation, unless we receive revelation to the contrary.

In conclusion, I would tell anyone seeking conscientious objector status, that they not make the mistake of believing that they will receive support from the institutional church or current leadership pronouncements in seeking conscientious objector status—they are on their own. But one need not despair, for from the Spanish American War to the “current hostilities” faithful members, albeit few, of our faith have secured conscientious objector status—including many during WWII.[7]

So, I return to the question I asked the students at Utah Valley University. What “training and belief” governs your conscience when it comes to issues of war and peace? Does your faith in the words of Christ cause you to object to “any and all wars.”? And if not, then are there wars to which you would selectively qualify as a conscientious objector– if such a standard would be allowed? And what doctrine could you articulate that reflects your core beliefs that would support a conscientious objection– either as to any and all wars or a particular kind of war? And, as required in all conscientious objector requests, the person seeking that status must show that his/her claim as a conscientious objector is “truly held” as an opinion that has become settled over time through their verbal and written expressions— even in times of peace. So are you making your case everyday? With family and friends even when it is not popular? I just found out from others that my fourteen year old son has written on his Facebook wall that his heroes are Gandhi and Noble Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo. With each book he reads or paper he writes for English or History class where he “denounces war and proclaims peace” he is building word by word his own case as a conscientious objector. I believe his grandfather would be pleased.

What case are you building? Have built? And what words of Christ support your “belief and training?”

_________________________________________
[1] Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437 (1971) United States Supreme Court.
[2] Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” LDS General Conference October 2002.
[3] CNN Reported: “The Mormon Church issued a strong anti-war message at is semiannual General conference clearly referring to current hostilities in the Middle East, advocating patience and negotiations” and “The Golden Rule’s prohibition of one interfering with the right of others was equally binding on all nations and associations and left no room for retaliatory reactions, Nelson said at the meeting Saturday.”
[4] “Message of Peace Misinterpreted” retrieved from the official LDS website Archives April 25, 2007
[5]“War and Peace”, President Gordon Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2003, DF “As citizens we are all
under the direction of our respective national leaders
”; “We also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our government” and “One of our Articles of Faith, which represents an expression of our doctrine, states ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.’”
[6] Mormon’s standard in Mormon 7:4 would qualify him as a conscientious objector consistent with Sicruella v. United States, 348 U.S. 385 (1955). In Sicurella a Jehovah’s Witness who opposed participation in secular wars was held to possess the requisite conscientious scruples concerning war, although he was not opposed to participation in a “theocratic war” commanded by Jehovah. The Court noted that the “theocratic war” reservation was highly abstract—no such war had occurred since biblical times, and none was contemplated.
[7] Confirmation of the fact that there were Latter-day Saints conscientious objectors in World War II is to be found in the Selective Service System Special Monograph No. 11, Conscientious Objection, (Washington D.C.: GPO, 15—pages 25,26 and 319).

Comments

  1. I don’t object to all wars. I think there is justification for some wars, as hellish as they all are. I didn’t disagree with going into Afghanistan in 2001. I did however, think we had the wrong person in charge of the country at the time and did feel that he would mess it up (which he did). In general, I disagree with wars and am very thankful that I am living in a country, and in a particular world that I am not forced to be a part of the military where I would be confronted with a situation where I would have to take the life of someone else. Wars tend to have competing goals and morals that have little to do with the actual reasons, blurring the moral and ethical nature of the war. I’m thankful to God for placing me on this earth in an environment where I don’t have to deal with that.

  2. Paul Bohman says:

    All my life I have been a conscientious objector, *despite* growing up in the church. I don’t know that I would even attempt to base my own moral viewpoint on war using LDS teachings or culture. The teachings can be selectively filtered either way. The culture, on the other hand, is decidedly pro military, and proud of it. For my own part, I have always deplored pretty much everything associated with the military, despite knowing otherwise good people who are involved in it, and even despite the “good intentions” behind some wars.

    The whole notion of young people killing other young people simply because old lawyers tell them to is beyond absurd to me. It’s the height of that kind of immorality.

    That’s a very un-Mormon sentiment, but it’s at the core of who I am.

  3. Yossarian says:

    Reminds me of what Zinn once wrote

    “civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.

    Yossarian was right, remember, in Catch-22? He had been accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which nobody should ever be accused of, and Yossarian said to his friend Clevinger: “The enemy is whoever is going to get you killed, whichever side they are on.” But that didn’t sink in, so he said to Clevinger: “Now you remember that, or one of these days you’ll be dead.” And remember? Clevinger, after a while, was dead. And we must remember that our enemies are not divided along national lines, that enemies are not just people who speak different languages and occupy different territories. Enemies are people who want to get us killed.”

  4. Ron Madson says:

    #2, Dan. When you said you did not “disagree” with our invasion of Afghanistan, can you tell me what doctrine/gospel teachings/scriptures/words of Christ that you could reference that allowed you to not “disagree” with our invading Afghanistan, and I assume, therefore, to not “renounce” that war? I really am not challenging your position but would like to know. I am literally building a file/survey of what doctrine/teachings members of my tribe cite/reference in reaching such conclusions?

    #2, Paul. Same question I asked Dan. Is there some doctrinal teaching/framework you use in reaching your position or is your aversion to military/war just something very primal/encoded in you?

    I wonder if we just have instincts and those instincts simply scan/ proof text the scriptures to justify something more primal in us?

  5. I served my mission during from May 2001 to July 2003 in the Arizona Tucson Mission, which included many military bases from Arizona to New Mexico. After 9/11 I was so disturbed by the rhetoric of the country, LDS Church members (in and out of the military), and fellow missionaries that I wrote a little tract on why I believed in peace in a very similar fashion to your father. I gathered all the quotes I could find in the ward and institute libraries in Las Cruces, New Mexico during p-day (it drove my companion crazy). I typed up the tract on my type writer and gave photo copies to missionaries at zone conferences that I traveled to. Nothing could have prepared me for the backlash. My mission president was relatively understanding, but my fellow missionaries were livid. I was accused of being an atheist, communist, etc. I remember teaching a family the evening that the US invaded Iraq. They had the CNN or Fox News on while we were teaching our lesson (sadly that was pretty common) and I started crying. Everyone else thought I was feeling the spirit, but I was just so upset by what was happening to our country and the rest of the world that I couldn’t contain it. Both of these wars have brought untold suffering to thousands, if not millions, of people. How can God approve of that?

    Why is it that people are so eager to find inspiration in, and in my opinion, pervert the story of Captain Moroni, yet over look the clear example of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies?

    I do believe that war can be justified. But I am very disturbed how easily that justification is sought and met by world leaders.

    As a side note, I was recently talking with a fellow member of the Church about this very issue and he told me that the war in Iraq was really about opening up the middle east to missionaries. Sadly this was not the first time I’ve heard this argument. Has anyone else?

  6. Eric Russell says:

    “faithful members, albeit few, of our faith have secured conscientious objector status—including many during WWII”

    How wonderful. If only more during this period had the courage to follow this Christ-like example, maybe we wouldn’t still have this Jew problem.

  7. #6: Eric,
    I will take your comment as some type of failed joke. If not, what ‘Jew problem’ do we have today? How did killing Japanese work against this problem?

  8. Eric, that’s an unhelpful, borderline spiteful comment given the reasonable tone of Ron’s post.

  9. Bob,
    I am not a historian, and don’t know many of the intricate details of the US decision to enter WW2, but I think there is an interesting question here:
    WW2 was not the same as Vietnam, either in cause or effect, but suppose for a moment that media and public perception of WW2 had been the same as they were of Vietnam, with the resulting widespread protests and lack of public support. How very different the world might look today?

  10. Latter-day Guy says:

    While I am very sympathetic to those who choose CO status — not least because I’m not at all confident I could go through major combat with my soul intact — it does seem that the chance to choose not to fight (without major reprisals/persecution) exists because others have chosen differently. Kind of a Nephi-Lehis/stripling soldiers situation.

  11. Latter-day Guy says:

    (I ought to clarify that #10 was referring to US warfare in general, not any specific conflict.)

  12. Ron Madson says:

    #6, Eric, actually your comment is welcomed by me. My question is whether you would consider being a “selective CO” and if so what doctrinal basis would you assert as to your conscientiously objecting? Would you have objected to Viet Nam, Afghanistan or Iraq?
    Also, was there no other way but force to protect the Jews during WWII? There were opportunities before the war to save the Jews as the persecuting was escalating. Then during the war many engaged in effective civil disobedience to save the Jews. Sweden declared neutrality but in doing so became a haven for the Danes, Norwegians to transport in mass several thousand Jews. The Danes, Norwegians and Finns, who gave up without much of a fight, refused to give up Jews and were able to protect nearly all of them. Then there is this remarkable incidence of women refusing to give up their husbands http://www.rinr.fsu.edu/fallwinter97/features/hitler.html
    I am no longer convinced that there is no other way. Pacifism is not passive, but demands aggressive and creative resistance. Personally, I believe self defense is justified but I wonder if the Anti-Nephi Lehites; Isaiah telling Hezekiah to not trust in “chariots” of Egypt; the Lord in DC 98 who gives us a promise that if we forgive our enemies and not resist He will fight our battles; and the example of the early christians for three centuries who refused all military service are all examples inviting us to live a much higher law that in the end really works far more effectively in defending the “Jews” then armed resistance. So again, what doctrine governs our decision to support or not support a conflict? Your decision? Do we as LDS have a settled doctrinal framework/template to use or do we just fall back on 12th Article of Faith and support “any and all wars”?

  13. Jordan

    I did hear the comment that the Vietnam War would serve the purpose of opening up that country for missionary work.

  14. #9: Scott,
    There was a strong lack of public support for the US to enter WWII. Only after the bombing of Pearl Habor did we declare War on Japan. Only after Germany declared War on the US, did we declare War on them.
    Germany and Japan are likely stronger today than in the 1940s.

  15. Ron,

    #4,

    I don’t know if I could really use a scripture to back the invasion of Afghanistan. I know President Hinckley did so. For both wars, actually. I did not agree with his use of those scriptures. For me, it was fairly simple. Osama Bin Laden attacked us, and we had a right to go after him. I don’t believe secular nations can easily follow the guidelines of one particular religion vis a vis war. And I cringe when religious leaders use scriptures from ancient times to defend warmongering today. I think it is bad form.

  16. Jordan,

    Why is it that people are so eager to find inspiration in, and in my opinion, pervert the story of Captain Moroni, yet over look the clear example of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies?

    I do believe that war can be justified. But I am very disturbed how easily that justification is sought and met by world leaders.

    As a side note, I was recently talking with a fellow member of the Church about this very issue and he told me that the war in Iraq was really about opening up the middle east to missionaries. Sadly this was not the first time I’ve heard this argument. Has anyone else?

    Well said. Ironically, if the Captain Moroni scripture is to actually be applied to the war in Iraq, Saddam would be Captain Moroni defending his country from an attack from the larger, more powerful Americans.

  17. Eric,

    How wonderful. If only more during this period had the courage to follow this Christ-like example, maybe we wouldn’t still have this Jew problem.

    As if Jews were respected or treated nice in America before World War II. We weren’t rounding them up and throwing them in concentration camps, but don’t kid yourself that we were all that caring what the Germans did, until we learned to what level the Germans chose to go. World War II was NOT about freeing Jews.

  18. Bob,
    That reply doesn’t address my question, really, since the point was widespread public disapproval throughout. All you really said is, “People objected until they stopped objecting.”

    My question is how the world would look today if widespread public rejection, and CO status had been obtained by a large segment of Americans, had continued even after Pearl Harbor. I asked this because you posed the question of what benefit killing Japanese soldiers did–so I am effectively asking you to answer your own question.

    Mind you, I am not seeking one answer or another–I am just thinking about how different levels of conscientious objection might have altered the world we live in today.

  19. Ron Madson says:

    #5, Jordan, I really would like to see your 11 page tract that you handed out at zone conference. That is remarkable and courageous on your part, and I am creating a file of those that have and are protesting among our faith.

    #5, and #13, When I attended the Mormon Studies section on War/Peace issues at BYU about two years ago (maybe a year?), one of the speakers who was in military uniform (teaches at West Point) showed slides of the first LDS branches to be formed in Afghanistan and the first baptisms (although it was all soldiers and not converted Muslims). He said explicitly that the message he was given by our church leaders is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being used by the Lord to open up missionary work there. This is precisely what was said as to Viet Nam conflict. Moreover, watch the DVD put out by the church called “Let Not your Heart be Troubled” and that argument is implicitly made. When I get the time I will provide the quotes for all of the above. I don’t know, but it seems that an invasion is a poor door approach and the daily use of predator drones does not help in “building relationships of trust.”
    Again, doctrinally there does not seem to be much support for this approach to spreading the gospel. The Sons of Mosiah seemed to have a more effective approach.

  20. Thank goodness not everybody is a CO and sits on the sidelines considering themselves morally above everybody else who sacrifice for the greater good.

    My LDS grandfather was involved in liberating a concentration camp in WW2. Once he saw the corpses and the nearly dead people he knew exactly why the war was justified.

    I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the LDS service men and women who have given and yet will give so much in defense of their fellow countrymen.

  21. #18: Scott,
    In a nutshell, I don’t know how the world would look today, or that it would be look any different, because of WWII.
    In the period Vietnam of 1963-1968, I was a Marine, Missionary, and a student protestor. My son’s wife was born in Vietnam. Her father fought for the North. (We never discuss that together).
    During Vietnam, as protesting increased, the war got bigger.

  22. bbell,

    While I agree with your sentiment and thank all of our service men and women for sacrificing so much, I am curious about what defending their fellow countrymen require in Iraq right now. How am I any safer by their being there?

  23. “I don’t know, but it seems that an invasion is a poor door approach and the daily use of predator drones does not help in ‘building relationships of trust.’”

    I agree completely. Devastating a nation with war, killing thousands, crippling infrastructure, and ruining an economy seems like a pretty extreme way to open the door to missionary work. We have many examples of diplomacy and patience opening nations to the Gospel, so I don’t think war is necessary.

    And I think it will take more than Americans just being physically able to obtain a visa and enter a country for Muslim nations to welcome Christian missionaries.

  24. bbell,

    My LDS grandfather was involved in liberating a concentration camp in WW2. Once he saw the corpses and the nearly dead people he knew exactly why the war was justified.

    That’s of course justification after the fact. Who knew before the war began that the Germans had been putting Jews in concentration camps. No doubt few would stand by on the sidelines if they had seen this stuff before the war began. I’m not criticizing the point about the justification for our involvement in World War II. Germany did declare war on us. Whether we liked it or not, we were therefore at war with them.

  25. “I don’t know, but it seems that an invasion is a poor door approach and the daily use of predator drones does not help in ‘building relationships of trust.’”

    as we see it didn’t seem to work very well.

  26. @ Bbell,
    “•First, about 25,000 objectors served in the military in “noncombatant” roles. They were medics who were in the Army but didn’t carry a gun.
    •Second, those who objected to being the military served on the home front. About 20,000 objectors fought forest fires, built conservation projects in rural areas, or took care of the mentally ill in hospitals

  27. bbell,

    “Thank goodness not everybody is a CO and sits on the sidelines considering themselves morally above everybody else who sacrifice for the greater good.”

    You assumption seems to be that the only way to sacrifice for the greater good and do some positive for freedom is through the military. That seems like a faulty assumption and that many people, as Ron said, are working very hard to confront problems before they escalate to war.

  28. I don’t see the difference between CO medics and combat troops. Medics take the same if not more risks as combat troops. CO medics are universally praised in the literature about WW2 as being incredibly brave.

    The other 20K CO’s who stayed home are cowards as far as I am concerned. I remember listening to a high official in the ACLU talk about how courageous it was that her grandfather had CO’d WW1. My response to her was that I had relatives buried in France and as far as I was concerned her ancestor was a coward.

    I actually think Ron’s attitude and efforts actually lead to more war long term. I am reminded of the British pacifism movement of the 20′s and 30′s that helped lead to WW2

  29. Douglas Hunter says:

    It is impossible to be both pro-war and pro-family, the two are structurally exclusive of each other.

  30. War requires you to sacrifice your conscience. You’d also have to remember the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were a select group within the larger church. Their children, the stripling warriors, went to war in their behalf, and were not considered unrighteous for doing so. I think the ANLs are among the most praise-worthy groups in all scripture, but let’s not forget the reason why they made the oath in the first place — because they had previously shed much blood on an individual and sadistic level. They preferred to lay down their lives than return to anything of the sort.

    So I think it’s hard to apply that comparison broadly to what we should do, when it wasn’t even applied broadly in their own time and there was a very specific and individual reason for their actions. And I hope I don’t take away some of the universal lessons we can learn from them by saying that (not my intent).

  31. Lucas Schmogler says:

    Showing courage and trying to prove you’re not a coward doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. Was mountain meadow and example of courage? I know that it’s an extreme example but it applies.

  32. Ron Madson says:

    #20, bbell. My father saw the victims also, but he still had a doctrinal/principled objection to Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Or do you see all conflicts as the same?

    So what I am searching for is “your” or “our” (if it even exists) doctrinal template/framework for deciding whether we can or should “selectively” if not entirely assert that our religious “training and beliefs” requires us to be COs as to an type of war or “any and all wars”? Then once we have the statues/principles in place, we can then discuss facts/application rather then the other way around.

    So, leaving aside present or past conflicts for the moment, I am asking if we/you like the Anabaptists, JWs, Seventh Day Adventists, have “a” doctrine that you believe must guide you/us in the next war that will inevitably come?

    Example:

    1. One approach is simply applying the “ends justify the means” test. This is the metrics of determining that my violence/killing/intervention will cause death and destruction but save more in the end. This is the formula applied in the Bush Doctrine/ Cheney 1% doctrine, Barrabas/Zealot option offered to Christ. It may surprise you but nearly every single aggressor uses this formula. Even one of the attackers at Haun’s Mill in 1838 was a state legislator and testified that the attack at Haun’s Mill was defensive in that they were pre-emptively preventing further attacks by Mormons as the Danite Mormons had done in Daviess County (Gallatin, Milport, Splawn Ridge and then Crooked River). Absurd you say? Really any different then the Bush Doctrine? So is your formula making calculated decisions based on projected outcomes of least deaths? Is it counting only the death in your tribe while ignoring civilian losses of your enemy?

    2. Is it a “just war” doctrine as articulated by Grotius? In other words do we use his formula rather then apply to our scriptures?

    3. Is it citing certain passage from BOM? Self-defense? Using Captain Moroni’s approach?

    4. Is it using the “immutable covenant” formula of DC 98. That formula has very specific guidelines.

    or

    5. Is it emulating the example of Christ as was followed by his disciples church for nearly three hundred years? They refused to serve in any army.

    Now, I assume you reject #5. Because I suppose that the argument of the “metrics” crowd is that if everyone is a CO then evil will prevail, more deaths, more harm overall. Are you really sure? Let’s suppose that Christ taught the zealot option. Let’s assume that his followers took up the sword to “share” the gospel by protecting their people and those that they felt were being abused by Roman Empire. Short term saving of lives? Perhaps. Long term message of Christianity? Can we crush the serpent’s head by becoming the evil we deplore? Their CO status was the message and power of Christianity–a message that has survived today. A message that I believe is encoded in our scriptures. It is a message that the born again Anti Nephi Lehites embraced. Can it be so easily dismissed? Can we state with certainty that it is not wisdom and will not work in the end? That the metrics of CO is beyond our wisdom and can only be seen by widening the lens of history even further?

    So, I invite you to specifically frame the doctrine that will apply to the next war? Will it be DC 98 formula? Something else? What exactly is the doctrine in your opinion?

  33. it's a series of tubes says:

    I am reminded of the British pacifism movement of the 20′s and 30′s that helped lead to WW2.

    I found William Manchester’s
    The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill
    Alone:1932-1940
    (and the earlier volume, Visions of Glory)
    to be a fascinating read. I’m saddened that Manchester did not complete the third volume prior to his passing.

  34. bbell: “I remember listening to a high official in the ACLU talk about how courageous it was that her grandfather had CO’d WW1. My response to her was that I had relatives buried in France and as far as I was concerned her ancestor was a coward.”

    You showed her!

  35. bbell, Ron’s approach is perfectly valid and can be justified from the scriptures. So can the domestic defense approach. I think the foreign wars, particularly the modern invasions such as most recently Afghanistan and Iraq, are pretty hard to justify from the canonical scriptures and Christian principles, but obviously people do make scriptural arguments for the justness of those wars.

    I don’t think it is accurate or productive to call COs cowards. I respect them for their moral courage to stand up for their religious convictions in the face of extreme societal and (back then) legal pressure to fight. The COs in WWI or WWII were not hippies and neither were British politicians and bureaucrats in the 1920 and 1930s who made a good faith effort at dissolving or preventing conflict through diplomacy.

    Fundamentally, WWII really is just an extension of WWI, and if ever there was an absolutely pointless war, it was WWI. Even if Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian Empires had won (in the sense that they gained a tiny sliver of French countryside after the stalemate of trench warfare, or even in the sense of “taking over” France by conquering Paris), people in France would not have been appreciably less free, as they were burdened by the strictures of the class-oriented societal structure of the day to a similar extent as citizens of the German and Austrian empires. An argument could be made that England would be less free but not because of submission to a German government; rather, the beginning of the demise of the strict Edwardian class system and the close of the “long nineteenth century” in England could arguably be dated to around 1917 in the trenches of northern France. In any event, if diplomacy had averted WWI and the ridiculous alliance structure had not escalated a political assassination into a world war, then WWII would not have happened.

    If ever there was a war in which young men were needlessly ordered to kill other young men by old politicians and aristocrats based on outdated nineteenth-century pretensions of honor/glory, WWI fits the bill. And it ushered in the century of violence, the fruits of which are still being felt in the twenty-first century in the conflagrations that continue to erupt as a result of the lay of the land after WII, which I view really as an extension of WWI. It is the 30 years war (1914-1945) of the twentieth century.

  36. 32 – re: “war doctrine”, which sounds more like war theology and creeds. Whatever happened to actively make yourself worthy to receive revelation and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as individuals?

    If you’re looking for a rule which should be applied to all governments, etc., well get baptized and follow the spirit is a good rule. If you want more than that, you’re searching for a utopia that doesn’t exist… and for it to exist you need to do just that…. actively make yourself worth to receive revelation and follow it.

  37. Ron and Daniel: My paper for the upcoming conference at Claremont discusses offensive and preemptive war in the BoM. I also take special consideration in trying to apply ancient examples to modern conflicts. In fact, that transition actually increases the justification for the “offensive” action taken by the United States after 9/11.

  38. 36,

    Right, because we are typically a very doctrine-lite church, without getting a lot of specifics from our leaders and scriptures. So why would we look for such a thing for as trivial a matter as war?

  39. Peter LLC says:

    Amen, John.

    My LDS grandfather was involved in liberating a concentration camp in WW2. Once he saw the corpses and the nearly dead people he knew exactly why the war was justified.

    In hindsight, it’s safe to say he didn’t:

    “The horror of the twentieth century is thought thought to be located in the camps. But the concentration camps are not where most of the victims of national Socialism and Stalinism died. These misunderstandings regarding the sites and methods of mass killing prevent us from perceiving the horror of the twentieth century…. The tremendous majority of the mortal victims of both the German and the Soviet regimes never saw a concentration camp…. [Furthermore,] the western Allies liberated none of the important death facilities… reached none of the bloodlands and saw none of the major killing sites…. Horrible though these images [of German concentration camps] were, they were only hints at the history of the bloodlands. They are not the whole story; sadly, they are not even an introduction.”
    Timothy Snider, Bloodlands, pp. xi–xiv

  40. Peter LLC says:

    Erratum: Timothy Snyder

  41. Eric Russell says:

    Wow. I think Ronan is right – no kidding. Evidently, the comment actually was unhelpful because its point eluded everyone.

    Ron, I appreciate your sincere intent, but here’s my question for you: when crazy men kill and threaten to kill more and show no sign of stopping by any means other than being physically coerced, what doctrinal bases do you have for not stopping them?

  42. Yossarian says:

    Eric,
    your hypo assumes a large amount of certainty that such situations never give us. You are certain as to the craziness, the intent to kill and actually kill more absent coercion. Has there ever been an example where the “by any means” has actually been tried. Im not sure I can think of any example in history where any means and all means short of war have been tried. I cant think of hardly a nation that has a dept of peace, that studies peace, learns of peace, and creatively think of ways to make peace. Instead we have a military complex in the US, for example, that has more weapons, supplies more weapons, and is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

    The vast majority of the times, a token effort at peace is given before violence is used. I think the OP was question to you. Do you ever draw the line? and if so when and why? Any basis for that or is it more based on how you feel that day?

  43. Ron Madson says:

    #37, Morgan, can’t wait to hear your presentation. And I thought my presentation arguing the application of DC 98 was going to be a tough sell.

    #38, Jacob. Touche! I agree with Chris that in the final equation it goes back to personal revelation, but the issue remains if we have any doctrinal guidelines from our restoration? Some principles/doctrine we can point to–and then we govern ourselves, of course? DC 97 and DC 98 were given just days after the Missouri conflict in 1833 in Jackson County. The Lord stated that Section 98 was an “immutable covenant”–sounds fairly important (maybe even more fixed then Section 89 that was given as an adaptable suggestion and not by way of commandment–but then again maybe we have some scriptural dyslexia between 89 and 98?).
    My paper for the LDS Peace/War conference poses the question as to whether we have once again rejected this “immutable covenant” as a people.
    Elder Nelson taught it in fall of 2002 in conference. News outlets interpreted it as a denunciation of the “current hostilities” but then the church issued a statement that Elder Nelson was misinterpreted and that we are loyal to our country.

    The way I read it Chris may be right. We are on our own if we seek to denounce any war. President Hinckley’s address stripped of general commentary was: First, we are loyal to our nation per Article 12 and Second, if you are in the military you have a contractual duty. Is that the sum total of our current doctrine as a group? If so, then if I am working with someone to get a CO then I would approach their obligation as a lawyer. Contracts can be voidable based on: Fraud in the inducement, misrepresentation, breach contract, etc.
    However, I am suggesting that perhaps we need to seriously consider if there is an emerging doctrine that we can give our common consent to rather then just do whatever your government tells you to do and/or contract law 101.

  44. I’m not one to harp on conspiracy theories but war in our day is largely a conspiracy in some ways given the involvement of the military industrial complex in our economy and its excessive entanglements with politics in present-day American society. This, too, is a result of WWI, ultimately.

  45. oops, I meant to delete “largely” and replace it with “in some ways” but forgot to delete it after adding the latter.

  46. Ron Madson says:

    #41, Fair question Eric. Defending oneself from immediate direct attack is IMO “justifiable.” Again, there are 29 variants of pacifist from “nuclear pacifist” that will never, ever use the nuclear weapons to absolute pacifist. I am not an absolute pacifist—I don’t have that much faith.
    I would, however, strongly recommend John Yoder’s book called “What would you do if” which has series of essays of purer pacifist dealing with direct assaults. Remarkable essays and might even change your perspective…it did mine even as to direct assaults.

  47. Eric Russell says:

    “your hypo assumes a large amount of certainty that such situations never give us.”

    The uncertainty is exactly where I’m leading. When men actually are killing and actually are threatening to kill more, does the remote chance of an alternative solution justify the lives lost in the mean time or in the case of failure?

  48. I for one appreciated Eric’s unhelpful, borderline spiteful comment. And I thank him for his service.

    Also, I won’t pretend to know the character of Ron’s father better than Ron does, but let’s acknowledge that Ron does make something of a leap when he takes his father’s stated strong moral opposition to our current wars to Ron’s certainty that his father, if he were a young soldier today, would apply for conscientious objector status. Maybe he would, but Ron doesn’t say he said so. There are a lot of fighting men that think the particular war in which they serve is bullshit, morally speaking, and there have been such men from at least Mexico to Afghanistan, but still consider it their duty to stick a bayonet in the other guy. And not just because they signed a contract, but because they feel duty-bound to fight their nation’s wars. God bless those guys.

    So for all I know, Ron’s father might have denounced our current wars as unjust wars of aggression, and a national violation of a covenant with God, and still been willing put on the uniform and pick up a rifle. He wouldn’t be the only one.

  49. Framework: War (and killing in general) can be justified under certain circumstances. Broadly, it’s OK to go to war so long as you are fighting in defense of a people who have been attacked. Good and evil exist and fighting in defense of good is not evil.

    Thus, in very broad strokes, the Civil War, Revolutionary War, WWI, WWII and Korean War are justified. Vietnam and Afghanistan are possibly justified, but likely not. Iraq is not, unless you’re arguing it’s a continuation of the Gulf War, which is weak.

    I’m not sure how you can read the Book of Mormon, including Nephi killing Laban and almost all of the war stories, and claim you don’t understand the justification for certain wars.

  50. but still consider it their duty to stick a bayonet in the other guy. And not just because they signed a contract, but because they feel duty-bound to fight their nation’s wars. God bless those guys.

    That’s sick. Sticking a bayonnet in another guy, even if he does happen to belong to a different nation-state, is not something anyone should ever feel “duty-bound” to do, no matter what your conception of just war is. Each soldier who dies such a death on the battlefield because of some politician’s strategies and priorities is an individual whose death is actually tragic, much more so in this age of wars based on abstractions than in the case of villagers sticking swords into the bellies of invaders from a conquering tribe.

    This is where the flaw is: feeling duty-bound to fight your nation’s wars, whether they are right or wrong. On the CO point, what if all German young men had been COs and refused to fight the unjust war that was WWI? Would they be cowards, bbell and gst?

  51. Eric Russell says:

    Ron, I actually see the justication for pacifism when it comes to the self. I am entirely justified in giving up my own life in the name of non-violence. What can’t be justified is giving up the life of another person in the name of non-violence.

  52. Unless I missed it, we have overlooked Pres. Kimball’s address “The False Gods We Worship.

    Here’s the excerpt I find interesting:

    We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

    We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.)

    .

    That sounds pretty anti-war to me, and has definitely influenced my thinking about non-defensive wars, along with the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis.

  53. One bit of anecdotal interest: During the waning years of the Vietnam war I was in college, and opposed to the war. However, having a student deferment, and later a high draft lottery number, I never had to seriously consider the CO option.

    My recollection is that a few, very few, LDS young men in the Ogden area tried to pursue the CO status, but all of them failed to qualify (at least to my knowledge) under the idea that you have to be opposed to all wars, and can’t differentiate between just and just wars.

    However, the older brother of a friend of mine, who was RLDS, used the ANL and Book of Mormon scriptures successfully to gain CO status, and served in military hospitals for two years in the states.

  54. Yossarian says:

    “I’m not sure how you can read the Book of Mormon, including Nephi killing Laban and almost all of the war stories, and claim you don’t understand the justification for certain wars.”

    Its not that hard. You will note that the decision to kill and drunken defenseless man led to the sword of Laban becoming a national icon of kingship and power that ingrained justification for violence into the Nephite collective conscience. It is better a lamanite (or whomever the enemy du jour is) die rather than our nation/culture suffer. So no matter how justified Nephi claims he is or we want to believe he is, his decision had consequences on his nations future.

    Sure, we can call their (I assume you are self-identifying with Nephites because we are of course the “good guys” in all situations) wars “justified” Didnt end very well though did it? In almost all cases it brought only more war. I guess if you want to justify modern wars and conflicts as you march dutifully towards your own extinction and the extinction of millions of God’s children, be my guest. Perhaps the lesson from the BoM is to try and learn from their failures rather than be fools and mimic them.

  55. Peter LLC says:

    Evidently, the comment actually was unhelpful because its point eluded everyone.

    You are known for your subtlety.

  56. Ron Madson says:

    #53, Kevin F….the RLDS denounced our current hostilities. They take DC 98 seriously. If allegiance to country trumps that in mainstream LDS then there it is. However, DC 134:2 and DC 98 make allegiance to state conditional–subject to the exercise of conscience.

  57. 43,

    Ron, I agree that it boils down to personal revelation, as well, but I don’t agree with the “be baptized and pray about it from there” approach. There are plenty of instances where we have been given specific guidance about our moral obligations regarding war. D&C 98 is first and foremost in my mind because it gives such clear counsel:

    “Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace.”

    “And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.”

    I don’t recall a prophet stating that the Lord commanded us to enter into war against another nation anytime recently. So when is war justified? When the Lord commands it. But from D&C 98 we learn that that probably won’t happen until we have shown that we can patiently bear abuse and aggression often, putting our trust in Him to protect us instead of, as Pres. Kimball said, “gods of stone and steel.”

  58. I remember silencing a room during the buildup to the Iraq war by asking if the epistle from Giddianhi (the Gadianton robber) to Lachoneus (the Nephite leader) wasn’t pretty much what we were saying to Saddam Hussein.

    I don’t think I could be a CO. I believe there are just wars, though I would limit them to wars where we were attacked first. In the BOM, the wars that are described as having started by Lamanite aggression are also the wars that are implied to be righteous. When the Nephites become the aggressors, the Lord withdraws his support of the people and they are eventually destroyed. That’s, in a nutshell, the scriptural metric I use for distinguishing between justified and unjustified conflict.

  59. Ron Madson says:

    #57, Jacob S—precisely! DC 98 was given specifically to provide a fail safe system. It allows us to screen out ‘evil and designing men” even within our own government. What would a little patience and evidence testing have done for us in regard to Iraq? Viet Nam? Exposed the deceit? That is what DC 98 does–allows us to exercise restraint and patience. DC 98 tells us that if a nation sues for peace we are requires to accept it. The Lord gave us the DC 98 tool to help us not to allow “cowards” to avoid conflict.
    There is a quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” in the chapter “Harlan Kentucky” where it starts with a mother telling her son “Die like a man, like your brother did”—-violence is made sacred in “honor” cultures. It is tribal, it is barbaric, it is retarded. But most of it is not christian. We enshrine violence and call it sacred. We build cairns over the dead lest the truth be revealed. So if my ggrandfather was injured in WWI, and if my brother is killed in Viet Nam. So that means I need to sign up and bayonet someone to be part of my tribe? As a rite of passage?
    No wonder we can be so easily manipulated into killing each other.

  60. it's a series of tubes says:

    asking if the epistle from Giddianhi (the Gadianton robber) to Lachoneus (the Nephite leader) wasn’t pretty much what we were saying to Saddam Hussein

    Hmm, just to make sure I am understanding you correctly: By your comparison, the countries who signed on to the UN resolutions condemning Saddams actions were comprised of murderers and thieves (Gadiantons, various BOM cites etc.). They wanted what Saddam had and was entitled to, and wanted to take it by force (3 Nephi 3:3). They were party to and participants in oaths handed down by Satan, and were labeling good evil and evil good (3 Nephi 3:9).

    Does that about capture it? Forgive me for disagreeing if so.

  61. Ron Madson says:

    #58, Kristine–nice comparison to Giddianhi..

    In case it was missed it could be argued that Mormon became a CO by today’s standard at the end of the BOM. He tell us to be more wise and then puts forth a standard that is recognized as a basis for CO status, ie, if you can only go to war if God commands you directly. Mormon’s position is consistent with Sicruella v. United States, 348 U.S. 385 (1955). In Sicurella a Jehovah’s Witness who opposed participation in secular wars was held to possess the requisite conscientious scruples concerning war, although he was not opposed to participation in a “theocratic war” commanded by Jehovah. The Court noted that the “theocratic war” reservation was highly abstract—no such war had occurred since biblical times, and none was contemplated.

    Our standard as I see it? We go to war unless God tells us otherwise rather then we refuse to go unless we receive revelation. The “default” position is totally backwards from Mormons admonition to us at the end of the BOM.

  62. I remember silencing a room during the buildup to the Iraq war by asking if the epistle from Giddianhi (the Gadianton robber) to Lachoneus (the Nephite leader) wasn’t pretty much what we were saying to Saddam Hussein.

    I can completely understand those opposed to the war even back before a lot of Bush’s claims were shown to be bogus. However I confess I just don’t see the parallels. If only because the US wanted Iraq to be their own democracy and not controlled by the US. (You could adopt the conspiracy theory that this wasn’t really what Bush wanted of course, but that doesn’t dispute what he was claiming) There were lots of other non-parallels such as the stated reasons for why the invasion took place. Once again you could dispute how honest Bush was being. But at least in what was stated it seems pretty far removed from Giddianhi’s epistle.

  63. Clark (#62) I agree. Would you be willing to email and do a possible guest post on my blogs about the non parrallels between Bush and Giddianhi’s epistle?

  64. Yossarian says:

    Robert Gates from a few days ago in a speech to West Point cadets:

    “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

    So what are our doctrinal reasons for supporting preemptive wars again?

  65. Clark,

    If only because the US wanted Iraq to be their own democracy and not controlled by the US.

    heh, can Iraq tell us to leave their country? If not, then they are not free.

    The Giddianhi point is that the United States and its allies (remember, the US failed to get a UN resolution for their war) were going to attack and decapitate Iraq in order to take control of its resources. Who currently runs Iraq’s oil production, Clark? If I am not wrong (and I could be on this), it is not controlled by an Iraqi corporation. The Gadianton Robbers, in this case, won, and the Gidgiddoni of this scenario lost.

    Personally I much prefer the Alma 43-48 scenario. But Saddam is Captain Moroni defending against the aggression of the larger and more powerful Lamanite (American) forces who are invading them with trumped up reasons. That’s more fitting.

  66. 62# “If only because the US wanted Iraq to be their own democracy and not controlled by the US. (You could adopt the conspiracy theory that this wasn’t really what Bush wanted of course, but that doesn’t dispute what he was claiming)”

    Doesn’t everyone starting a war claim they are doing good?

  67. Yossarian says:

    Daniel

    so why do you support the Afghanistan war? You seem opposed to a large number of wars but not that one and I assume a few others.

  68. john f., I didn’t call anyone a coward.

  69. Daniel (65), what we wanted at the time. No one disputes the invasion went to hell pretty quickly. In any case we weren’t, as Giddianhi stated, trying to amalgamate Iraq into the United States.

    As for Iraq’s oil I believe it’s controlled by Iraqis with Chinese and French companies getting most of the contracts. Recently (last year) I believe UK’s Shell and Malaysia’s Petronas got the newest contracts. Conservatives have long pointed out against the conspiracy theorists that the US didn’t exactly benefit oilwise from the war. (Don’t believe me, see this Al Jazeera post)

    Morgan (63), no time I’m afraid to be able to commit to anything. My blogging goes in spurts when I have a moment here or there.

  70. Roger (66). Not necessarily. Hitler as I recall defended invading chunks of eastern Europe to try and get imperial colonies and resources like Britain did in India. And of course before that most of the European powers were pretty upfront about invading all these other countries for imperial aims.

  71. My head hurts too much to tackle the bigger issue of how one justifies CO status as LDS, but read on…Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the seventy was in my hometown to hold a regional conference of some kind in the early 70s, at the height of the Vietnam anti-war protests. He took questions from the audience at a priesthood leadership meeting attended by my dad and brother. Someone asked him “what does the church think of young men in the church who object to the war and seek CO status?” Elder Featherstone got very passionate about this and stated something to the effect that “I know what Captain Moroni would do.” The take-home message was that CO’s should be compelled to fight or be executed, and the church certainly would not support them. There may have been some hyperbole in that, but this is how his statement was widely interpreted. We still discuss it today, decades later. It turned my stomach then, and it does even more so now. My only regret about my consistent objection to the Iraq war all along was that I was too passive in my resistance. I wish I would have been in the streets marching and protesting, rather than quietly expressing my opinion to family, friends, and associates. It churns my stomach everytime someone prays in sacrament meeting (or in the temple prayer circle) to “bless our servicemen and women fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq.” We should be ashamed of ourselves. I also want our service men and women blessed–I have family members serving–but I don’t see how these offensive invasions are helping the cause of our freedom. They are almost impossible for me to justify; they could have and should have been avoided. Like Ron’s dad, I fear that in my lifetime, with Vietnam, and now with these two wars, the USA has broken the covenant and turned the corner like the Nephites of old.

  72. Ron Madson says:

    So back to the original post I asked “Could You Qualify as a Conscientious Objector” (even assuming it was ‘selectively allowed’) and if so what scriptures/doctrines/framework would you use. If you apply for a CO status you are given specific questions. So assume you are locked in a room and you are given the CO questions. How would you answer. And not referring to any past or present conflict. Just what your spiritual template is?? What is it?

    I went through the above 70 comments above and found the following posts that did attempt to respond by citing or implying some doctrine/framework (if I read anyone wrong I am sure you will tell me):

    #36 Chris —get baptized, get the spirit and get personal revelation on a war by war basis

    #37 Morgan—taking the offensive is justified per his reading of Moroni’s war tactics

    #49 DSmith–Defend oneself or others if they are attacked

    #50 JohnK—”duty” to stick bayonet in someone if your nation tells you to do so

    #57 Jacob—The only one that explicitly endorses DC 98 formula

    #58 Kristine N—if attacked first then can defend

    So again, if you are allowed “selective’ CO status what words of Christ in our scriptures would you cite? If any? And without any reference to the past or current wars? Or come up with someone else’s words or model–or even your own

  73. Yossarian says:

    Ken #71

    Elder Featherstone for the win. Put all the damn hippies heads on a pike. If we are going to sacrifice our children to the Gods of war we might as well save the money from sending them overseas and kill them right here at home on our own sacrificial altars.

    And why again is Captain Moroni a model we should follow? Oh yes because he strikes the fear of God into his enemies. Dont make Captain Moroni angry, you wouldnt like him when hes angry. He might go HULK on you

  74. Yossarian,

    so why do you support the Afghanistan war? You seem opposed to a large number of wars but not that one and I assume a few others

    I mentioned earlier. Osama Bin Laden attacked us on 9/11 and I felt we were justified in going after him. Sadly, we did not have the right person at the helm, and the war in Afghanistan went sour very quickly.

  75. Ron,

    For a start, the Beatitudes:

    Matt 5:5 “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

    Matt 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

    Also from the Sermon on the Mount:

    Matt 5:21-22 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
    But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

    I think those are not necessarily definitive, but with the BoM and D&C 98, you have a basis for scriptural support of the CO position. Add to that statements like that of President Kimball, and you’ve got a start.

    The problem is, for every scriptural reference you can come up with, there are probably just as many that encourage going to war, or imply that God condones this kind of violence. If I recall from the 70′s, part of the problem for LDS applicants for CO status, they were a distinct minority, and the draft board ( at least in Ogden, UT, where I was attending college at the time) didn’t feel comfortable with individuals claiming a pacifist religious tradition when the majority of LDS young men either volunteered, did not try to evade the draft, or actively supported the Vietnam war. It’s as if they refused to accept that a minority could have valid objections based on scripture and doctrine, when the majority held differing views.

  76. Can I also add that for all the good characteristics of Captain Moroni that we are all encouraged to remember, I get the feeling that while I could respect him, I might not have liked him much personally? He enforced conscription at sword point and conducted military tribunals with summary executions. He did not seem to be very tolerant of differing opinions.

    On the other hand, he extended great mercy towards his enemies when they would lay down their weapons. As I say, a complex man to understand through the written record.

  77. Can someone explain to me how letting soldiers pick and choose what wars to fight is not, in essence, a military dictatorship?

  78. Yossarian says:

    Daniel. I get you feel we were justified but what is your rationale? Is it scriptural? Something else? Or just a feeling?

  79. Somebody says:

    Ron:

    What would you recommend to a person who is considering joining the National Guard? I have a brother who is considering it strictly for financial reasons – tuition and pay. He hasn’t been able to find a job in some time and, though he generally disagrees with the gov’t on the war issue, he’s being swayed for financial reasons.

  80. Eric Russell says:

    Ron, here’s the doctrinal framework: standing by and doing nothing while innocent people are slaughtered is morally wrong. No scriptural citation here.

    Obviously, hoping for peace, we want to stop innocent people from being killed in a peaceful manner. In any situation where there is a peaceful solution to such a problem, we should take it. I am aware of no peaceful solution to Hitler’s terrorizing of Europe and subsequent genocide, but if there was such a one, then the West ought to have taken it. I am likewise unaware of a sound violence-free solution towards a post-9/11 neutralization of Taliban growth and radicalization. If someone presented such a plan to Bush and he rejected it in favor of violence for the sake of revenge, then he’s wrong. But I am unaware that such was the case.

    But if there is no workable non-violent solution, then other means must be taken. As great an ideal as non-violence is, it’s not more valuable than people’s lives.

    We all want peace and we all want it maintained at a low cost in human life. If one believes that there is a viable non-violent solution to a conflict that their country is using violent means for, then that’s a matter of judgment – judgment of civil, political, and strategic nuances. Proof-texting scriptures to gather self-righteous leverage for complex questions of geo-political strategy is as asinine as the similar tactics that many conservatives use find a moral imperative for limited government.

  81. Somebody says:

    “Osama Bin Laden attacked us on 9/11 and I felt we were justified in going after him. Sadly, we did not have the right person at the helm, and the war in Afghanistan went sour very quickly.”

    If this is true [and I’d offer it isn’t, at least in the manner Daniel assumes], then how do you justify going into two separate nations and attacking them, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Bin Laden?

    How do we justify going on the offensive, halfway across the world, spilling “collateral damage” all along the way? At what point does war ever get recognized as a business model? A business model that takes otherwise productive young men and women, forces them into combat, using them as “guinea pigs” in more than one way, and tells us that our warring across the world is our God-given right?

    [P.S. I'm not being facetious in asking these questions. I'd really like to know at what point do we stop wars of aggression, even if you concede the fact that Bin Laden "did it", as Daniel professed. How many civilians or troops really need to be sacrificed at this particular altar before we start asking a few questions?]

  82. 60: From Saddam’s perspective, yes. We threatened him with violence if he didn’t surrender, told the Iraqis the couldn’t stand against us and their resistance was futile (or something; maybe that’s another reference…), and promised to lift sanctions if they’d cooperate. Now, I do recognize that what Giddianhi said is pretty much what any power threatens another power with when they’re going to try and invade (minus the allusions to secret combinations) but yeah, in essence, we used pretty much the standard, “surrender now and preserve your lives” line that Giddianhi used.

    62: Clark, I’ve heard that argument before and I don’t buy it. I don’t think what we’ve put in place in Iraq or in Afghanistan is going to be any better in the end than Saddam. The people of the nation have to be the ones doing the reform. I’ll gladly be wrong about Iraq if it’s actually in a good place in a few decades, but I have a lot more hope for Egypt than I do for Iraq, and mostly that’s because Egyptians overthrew Mubarak themselves.

  83. Ron Madson says:

    #71,75 Kevinf, Because CO status is individual I believe that you have made a sufficient case doctrinally to obtain a CO status. But as you pointed out if you apply in Utah the board may have a hard time accepting your take given that it is a very small minority in our faith that apply for CO status. Another factor in CO status is whether you have just had the epiphany or have expressed those beliefs over a period of time. You mentioned expressing those sentiments to family and friends. That might suffice, but I think public statements—even like the one you posted here would be evidence of a settled opinion.

    It is noteworthy that in a faith where we have a very specific declaration from the Lord to “denounce war and proclaim peace” when threatened and even endure assaults without retaliation under certain circumstances, that we would have a presumption that we endorse all wars and that CO applications are the exception and not the rule. Your comment as to Elder Featherstone is also my experience. And last I checked Captain Moroni words are not the equivalent of the words of Christ as you cited

  84. I’m female, so at this point our law forbids me from being drafted. So I’m having to think through what my position would be, whether I would seek CO status if drafted. I think I would try to qualify as a medic or healer of some sort, and not fight in the infantry. If I needed to declare as a CO in order to do that, I believe I would try to do that.

    I have two close friends who fought as soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, one for Canada and one for the US. I heard in confidence from them things that disturbed me very much about the conduct of our forces in those wars. Two WW2 veterans who spoke candidly about their experiences led me to the same conclusion.

    On the other hand, I would have no trouble at all executing summarily someone who was brutal to their wife, such as the fictional husband in the book A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the Taliban pretty much all qualify there. I support The Gulabi Gang, for instance, a gang for justice who train their female members to wield sticks and have been known to drag abusive husbands into the street and beat them up (avoiding permanent injury… but come on, they’re beating them up with sticks which can’t be so nice) and tell them never to lay hands on their wives again, under pain of future street beatings.

    I grew up abused and a believer in strict-nonviolence, and the abuse stopped instantly when I finally broke down my principals and fought back with all my heart, even though I lost the ensuing fight. After years and years of nearly daily beatings. It. Stopped. Instantly. That was huge for me.

    Dozens of adults, parents, neighbors, teachers, family friends, knew it was going on, watched it going on and did nothing to stop it. They advised me to tell an adult authority, not to fight back. I now advise kids who ask my opinion what they should do about abuse to wait until it happens again and fight back furiously with whatever weapons come to hand. It’s risky but not as risky as allowing the abuse to continue. They will be the ones punished by any authority, almost certainly, yet the result will be worth the punishment, which they should accept without argument.

    I’m reading a book here http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/FDTD.pdf about how to topple a dictator by non-violent means, a book apparently studied by those responsible for the recent Egyptian uprisings, and I agree with its analysis. I think it’s the smartest way to go about it, but not because I abhor violence in any form. Rather, because this method pits protesters’ strengths against the dictatorships’ weaknesses, rather than the opposite, which armed insurrection does.

    I personally would be perfectly willing to kill to defend children, old people, families, etc. from aggression, even if the aggression were being perpetrated by Americans against helpless villagers in other lands, I think. I wouldn’t strike except in direct defense of people in the moment of aggression. I would find it much better to protest, to organize, and fight politically against the war, but I haven’t done that for these two wars. Toppling the Taliban seems to me for humanitarian reasons to be a good plan, though it seems we’ve gone about it wrongly.

    Even in Iraq I was glad when Saddam fell, which I think most of his people were as well. But in the aftermath I question whether we’re doing more harm than good over there. The waters have been too murky for me to see clearly where my conscience should call me. I planned at one point to go to Iraq to help in the reconstruction and in building the civil society necessary for self-rule. Then factional fighting began and things became very unclear to me.

    I was disappointed that Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan, and think disaster relief would be a much better plan, to build infrastructure and feed and educate people. I think if we helped the people all over the world to feed and educate themselves, and to build a health care and infrastructure similar to what Partners In Health is doing in Haiti, we could for a tiny fraction of what we spend on the military make ourselves and the world far, far safer.

    I believe military intervention and propping up of oppressive dictatorships has us reaping what we sow, and harvesting a full crop of hatred and distrust for generations after we disengage or are kicked out. I believe we, during our efforts to win the cold war, imitated the Soviets far too much. In our efforts to win the war on terror, whatever that is, we’ve given up a lot of our freedoms and suffered abrogations of our constitution, and gotten not even a mess of pottage in return. We’ve reaped very poor consequences from those actions. I believe the extent to which we accepted torture as justifiable, when torture is never justifiable, will definitely come back to haunt us.

    I listened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impassioned speeches against the Vietnam war not long ago, and I wondered where are those brave and honest voices today? Have we come down so much since then? Are we so much less principled, are we so much inferior to who were were back then? So I guess what I meant is that I should speak out, too, and not just wait for someone else to.

    I’m not against violence when used directly counter to immediate aggression. In fact, I think it’s a good idea in that case. However, I’m in favor of feeding and educating kids no matter where they live, as opposed to bombing them. And against tyrants, I believe nonviolent protest is the superior method of engagement. Also, as regards torture, I’m not wanting to support one bunch of thugs winning over another bunch, just because the first bunch happen to be Americans. I will support people who fight for civilization and justice, for government that obeys the rule of law, the will of the governed, and the constitution.

  85. Yossarian,

    Daniel. I get you feel we were justified but what is your rationale? Is it scriptural? Something else? Or just a feeling?

    I base it on international law and international politics. We certainly didn’t need to go into Afghanistan, but no one in the world was upset about us going in. In fact, it was welcomed. The world thought we would go in and maybe finally transform Afghanistan from the hellhole it was. The NATO Charter was invoked and our NATO allies got involved too. It was amazing how the world coalesced around the idea of fixing Afghanistan. But again, we had the wrong person at the helm, so what occurred afterwards, after the initial takeover of Afghanistan messed everything up.

  86. Somebody,

    #81,

    If this is true [and I'd offer it isn't, at least in the manner Daniel assumes], then how do you justify going into two separate nations and attacking them, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Bin Laden?

    Steven Jones’s theory is not worthy of response. I never justified Iraq. That was the dumbest thing this country has ever done. And Afghanistan did have something to do with Bin Laden. That’s where he was living, and the Taliban were giving him protection. It was their choice to either side with the cave dwelling terrorist, or join the rest of the civilized world. Frankly, I would have attacked the Taliban back in 1999 when they destroyed the thousand some odd year old Buddha statues.

    How do we justify going on the offensive, halfway across the world, spilling “collateral damage” all along the way? At what point does war ever get recognized as a business model? A business model that takes otherwise productive young men and women, forces them into combat, using them as “guinea pigs” in more than one way, and tells us that our warring across the world is our God-given right?

    I don’t argue it is a God-given right. But such questions are vital to a healthy democracy, in my opinion.

  87. Daniel (85) It was amazing how the world coalesced around the idea of fixing Afghanistan. But again, we had the wrong person at the helm, so what occurred afterwards, after the initial takeover of Afghanistan messed everything up.

    I agree the guy at the helm wasn’t terribly competent sadly. One can’t help but wonder how things would have been had we’d had better candidates in 1999.

    That said I’m pretty skeptical we ever could have fixed Afghanistan. But certainly we could have made a different set of priorities. Even the structure of government we setup in Afghanistan was kind of doomed.

    Kristine (82) Clark, I’ve heard that argument before and I don’t buy it. I don’t think what we’ve put in place in Iraq or in Afghanistan is going to be any better in the end than Saddam. The people of the nation have to be the ones doing the reform.

    Whether you think Iraq will be better or not the point remains that what was stated and pretty clearly what was intended doesn’t match in the least what Giddianhi stated. Now one can propose a secret conspiracy on Bush’s part like Michael Moore did. Although there’s precious little evidence for that. You can argue that the results would be the same as Giddianhi proposed independent of intents. But in either case you’re pretty well conceding the non-parallel.

    We threatened him with violence if he didn’t surrender, told the Iraqis the couldn’t stand against us and their resistance was futile (or something; maybe that’s another reference…), and promised to lift sanctions if they’d cooperate. Now, I do recognize that what Giddianhi said is pretty much what any power threatens another power with when they’re going to try and invade (minus the allusions to secret combinations) but yeah, in essence, we used pretty much the standard, “surrender now and preserve your lives” line that Giddianhi used.

    But that’s not all Giddianhi said. He basically said they were annexing all the Nephite lands. Contrast this with what Bush said. Now I think you could make a parallel between Giddianhi with say the war of 1812 invasion of Canada or even perhaps the invasion of Quebec by American revolutionaries in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. But Gulf War II? Pretty much a non-parallel beyond some really, really superficial parallels that you noted.

  88. Yossarian Robert Gates from a few days ago in a speech to West Point cadets:

    “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

    So what are our doctrinal reasons for supporting preemptive wars again?

    You realize the quote isn’t about war but merely about infantry. More or less what Gates is advocating is bombing the hell out of people with drones, cruise missiles, bombers and the like with special forces leading targeted strikes.

    Not at all coincidentally Obama’s favored strategy in Pakistan and elsewhere. There’s a surge in Afghanistan to (he hopes) help stabilize things. Then there will be a draw down and ground troops will be there to train local troops. The rest will be a drone war with special forces on the ground doing recon and targeting.

  89. “And Afghanistan did have something to do with Bin Laden. That’s where he was living, and the Taliban were giving him protection. It was their choice to either side with the cave dwelling terrorist, or join the rest of the civilized world. Frankly, I would have attacked the Taliban back in 1999 when they destroyed the thousand some odd year old Buddha statues.”

    You really think Afghanistan had anything to do with Bin Laden? And, if so, that killing thousands of civilians, members of the Taliban, our own soldiers and God-knows-who-else in order to get him is either justified, or just a sad causal effect of that elusive search?

    If we choose to dig deep enough, we’d see that many of our (e.g. American) foreign relations did more than enough to both seed and foment the ensuing issues. Jon Krakauer’s book on Pat Tillman did a pretty good job exploring those issues, and many other issues related to war, both generally and as it applies to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Personally, like most wars, I think Afghanistan is about little more than money, both now and long term (see this video – “[Afghanistan] will never not know war.”).

    [P.S. Does your final statement (“I don’t argue it is a God-given right.”) mean “I don’t argue – it is a God-given right”, or “I don’t argue [that] it is a God-given right”?]

  90. Ron Madson says:

    #80, Eric Russell,
    I appreciate your sentiment, but how does that model work in practical terms? Does it mean that we are ethically justified each time we see someone “slaughtering” someone else? Rwanda? Libya? IRA killing English? So, if we hear reports of a backwater country/people that has killed unmercifully dozens of innocent people, advocating blood atonement, and are practicing a sort of Sharia law that oppresses women from our point of view, then should we intervene? If so, then would have you have approved of the United States sending an army to crush subjugate the Mormons who murdered those at MMM, teaching blood atonement, and oppressing women? Or could our intervention lead to even more deaths and violence?

    Tolstoy’s describes an example of where three men are abusing one man. A dozen men come upon the scene and see what they perceive is an injustice and begin to pummel those three. Then a larger group see those dozen and call out the larger militia to stop them. Where does it end?

    So we see Saddam killing his people and torturing them. We see the Taliban abusing their women? So we intervene and literally kill hundreds of thousands over a decade, and engage in torture, daily predator drones with daily collateral damage. Using the same logic we used, would a larger power look down on our carnage and be justified in arresting or “slaughter” by destroying all of our soldiers and crushing anyone that supports our war effort as “insurgents”?

    What makes our slaughter any more noble then that which we sought to arrest? Or is it that we are just the biggest and baddest enforcer?

    DC 98 has preventative firewalls to prevent this cycle, but I so no evidence of us really buying into it from 1838 to the present. Do you believe DC 98 has any application to our time? Will it ever?

  91. Ron Madson says:

    #79 Somebody,
    Good question. I would explore with your brother every hypothetical because those hypotheticals may come to pass. And ask him questions to cause him to confront how he would handle/accept the worse case scenarios. Finally, read all points of view–including, and in particular, those that oppose our current wars. Like purchasing a risky investment he needs a full disclosure statement with all the negatives. Better to know now then afterwards. He should speak with those that have served and are know war opponents. He will get all the pluses from the recruiters.

  92. Ron (#89), do you apply the same logic to force used by the police within our nation? If not, why not?

  93. Ron Madson says:

    #91, Clark,
    Good question. No. Officers of the Peace exist to thwart direct, immediate personal threats/violence. If our nation/military were circumscribed as the police are (DC 98 limits would suffice if followed), then that would be a vast improvement over our foreign policy and acceptable IMO. I am not an absolute pacifist. But turning it around, could the police engage in the logic/tactics we have used to invade nations, village, homes that we believe harbor criminals? So let’s apply the “one percent” doctrine we used to justify our recent wars to our internal affairs. Here is a satirical piece to illustrate my point. http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/in-defense-of-blackwater-gangs-neocons/

  94. Clark,

    I agree the guy at the helm wasn’t terribly competent sadly. One can’t help but wonder how things would have been had we’d had better candidates in 1999.

    Al Gore was definitely a better candidate, and having experienced Clinton’s handling of Bosnia and Kosovo, would have had the right people around him to handle Afghanistan too. Please don’t take it the wrong way, I’m not saying both Bosnia and Kosovo were easily handled, but compared to how Bush handled Afghanistan, they look like child’s play.

  95. Ron,

    What makes our slaughter any more noble then that which we sought to arrest? Or is it that we are just the biggest and baddest enforcer?

    DC 98 has preventative firewalls to prevent this cycle, but I so no evidence of us really buying into it from 1838 to the present. Do you believe DC 98 has any application to our time? Will it ever?

    I see D&C 98 as impractical, to say the least. Imagine if you are the leader of the country. Someone has attacked and killed your civilians. You go to that person and tell them not to do it again. They do it again. You implore with them not to do it again. They still do it. Would not by this point the people of your own country who are dying at the hands of this enemy be furious with you for not doing something about it other than pleading for your enemy to stop killing your people? Politics is the art of the possible, thus you can create the reality you want. In international politics, there is literally no one that can stop the biggest bat in town from being swung at, well, anyone. A world with one hegemon is unstable because everyone else goes after the one hegemon. A world with two hegemons is unstable because the two will always be at each other, and employ the smaller nations to their will. A world with multiple hegemons is also unstable because no one is sure who is leading. The principles of D&C 98 have little value in such a system.

  96. Ron Madson says:

    Daniel, I agree. DC 98 is radical! As radical as Hezekiah trusting the Lord instead of the chariots of Egypt as Isaiah counseled Hezekiah. Impractical? Yes. Would it work? Maybe we should try it once and see what happens? No, our retaliatory system seems to work just fine for us. But you are right, it does not translate politically at all. Incredibly impractical in this world. So our option is individual CO requests, and possibly someday as a faith adopt it and sit out the final Armageddon as the fundamentalist Jews, Christians and Muslims rush headlong into the conflict shouting “for God and Country” as they finish each other off—”he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” (Revelations 13:10). Mormon got it right. In the end it is the wicked that destroy the wicked. In the end they begin to mirror each other in a mimetic rivalry. Our choice is to join in or sit it out.

  97. Ron,

    I agree that religious fundamentalism tends to push the idea of war more than any other group because of a misreading of ancient prophecies, in all the religions you mention. Your point is one that I follow, that the true patience and faith of the saints is not to follow in the path of violence. Zion is supposed to be a place of refuge from the violence of the world, not a participant in the violence of the world.

  98. But turning it around, could the police engage in the logic/tactics we have used to invade nations, village, homes that we believe harbor criminals?

    I think you need to watch the news more. They already do.

  99. Eric Russell says:

    Ron, with all due respect, these questions suggest you haven’t thought very seriously about this topic. You consistently confuse moral matters with those of general judgment.

    “then should we intervene?”
    Yes. Whenever and wherever we can intervene to make the world a better, safer place, we ought to.

    “Or could our intervention lead to even more deaths and violence?”
    Yes, of course it could. That’s always a risk. That’s why good judgment is critical in every situation. But doing nothing might lead to more deaths and violence, and attempts at non-violent intervention might lead to more deaths and violence. When evil people start doing evil things, terrible outcomes are likely to result no matter what. The moral imperative upon us is to use our best judgment to limit suffering in any way we can.

    “Where does it end?”
    This story pretends towards some grand truth about violence, but it’s just another matter of judgment. A decision of twelve men to save the life of the one is a moral good, but if there is a larger group immediately supporting the three attackers, it might be a poor judgment. In any case, it is because of related concepts that a state ought to seek multi-national support in any international intervention.

    “What makes our slaughter any more noble then that which we sought to arrest?”
    If you really can’t see a difference between wicked men senselessly and selfishly causing atrocities and those who seek to stop them for the sake of the greater benefit of society, we live on different planets and have no common ground upon which to have a discussion.

  100. cheers for gst.

  101. Yossarian says:

    Clark

    John Howard Yoder made this distinction between the police and military

    “The distinction made here between police and war is not simply a matter of the degree to which the appeal of force goes, the number of persons killed or killing. It is a structural and profound difference in the sociological meaning of the appeal to force. In the police function, the violence or threat thereof is applied only to the offending party. The use of violence by the agent of the police is subject to review by higher authorities. The police officer applies power within the limits of a state whose legislation even the criminal knows to be applicable to him. In any orderly police system there are serious safeguards to keep the violence of the police from being applied in a wholesale way against the innocent. The police power generally is great enough to overwhelm the individual offender so that any resistance on the offender’s part is pointless. In all of these respects, war is structurally different.” – John Howard Yoder, Politics of Jesus, 204

  102. Peter LLC says:

    here’s the doctrinal framework: standing by and doing nothing while innocent people are slaughtered is morally wrong.

    Except in cases of mistaken identity, of course.

  103. Yossarian says:

    No Peter, I think Eric is right, we shouldnt stand by and do nothing. Although its getting confusing for me since innocents are being slaughtered in the name of protecting innocents. But Eric is right, he has thought about this seriously unlike the rest of you silly moral/general judgment conflationists.

    So when do we start opposing the american war machine that is killing innocents again? Nine innocent boys had their lives snuffed out. Mothers and fathers have lost their innocent children. for what? Remember folks, they hate us for our freedoms.

  104. Yossarian says:

    The really cool part is that we have killed hundred of thousands of innocents, roughly 300 times those that were killed at 9/11. We MUST STOP US. We can’t stop killing. Will someone please stop us. We are out of control?

  105. Yossarian,

    Sadly a large enough segment of the American public like these wars enough to continue supporting them. Sadly a large enough segment of the American public elect really dumb people to be in charge of the country, and then when failing re-elect them out of spite for the other guy.

  106. Peter LLC says:

    Eric is right

    Well, most of the time, sure. But his doctrinal framework fails to take into account that sometimes the slaughter of innocents is simply a regrettable mistake that would not justify more death and violence. It’s the same error these guys make:

    More than 200 people gathered in Nanglam on Wednesday to protest the boys’ deaths, witnesses said. Waving white flags, they shouted “Death, death to America!” and “Death to Obama and his colleagues and associates!”

    I mean, can’t these Afghans see a difference between wicked men senselessly and selfishly causing atrocities and those who seek to stop them for the sake of the greater benefit of society?

  107. In the police function, the violence or threat thereof is applied only to the offending party. The use of violence by the agent of the police is subject to review by higher authorities. The police officer applies power within the limits of a state whose legislation even the criminal knows to be applicable to him. In any orderly police system there are serious safeguards to keep the violence of the police from being applied in a wholesale way against the innocent.

    But this is true of the military as well. After all in America military action is subject to democratic control. Individual troops regularly have their actions overviewed by superiors. Soldiers who go beyond military law are subject to military law. (There have been people convicted of overuse of force and put in jail, after all) And the claim that police force only is applied to the offending party is laughable given even a superficial reading of the news. A common complaint about the so called war on drugs is that police often attack the wrong home, misapply search warrants and yes, innocent civilians have been killed by police in America.

    About the only part of that claim that seems defensible is the scale issue. However that is at best a matter of degree.

  108. Al Gore was definitely a better candidate, and having experienced Clinton’s handling of Bosnia and Kosovo, would have had the right people around him to handle Afghanistan too. Please don’t take it the wrong way, I’m not saying both Bosnia and Kosovo were easily handled, but compared to how Bush handled Afghanistan, they look like child’s play.

    At the time I thought both were extremely poor candidates. And prior to Iraq going so awry many commentators (like you above) said Bush had the right people around him. So forgive me skepticism there. And Gore hasn’t exactly done much to change my view of him the past ten years. If anything it’s made it stronger. Sadly we rarely have good candidates make it through the nomination process for either party due to a slew of reasons.

  109. No Peter, I think Eric is right, we shouldnt stand by and do nothing. Although its getting confusing for me since innocents are being slaughtered in the name of protecting innocents. But Eric is right, he has thought about this seriously unlike the rest of you silly moral/general judgment conflationists.

    So when do we start opposing the american war machine that is killing innocents again? Nine innocent boys had their lives snuffed out. Mothers and fathers have lost their innocent children. for what? Remember folks, they hate us for our freedoms.

    I think there are lots and lots of good reasons to be a conscientious objector. I think there are lots of good reasons to be a pacifist. I think there are lots of great reasons to avoid intervening in so many countries. I’m not sure I agree that any of the arguments I’ve seen here are good reasons though.

    Even if one isn’t a utilitarian or consequentialist (i.e. think that what makes an act good are the results) I think there are problems with the above. Sometimes we recognize that in doing good innocents suffer. Philosophers have tons of thought experiments like that. (The classic one you hear at Church is the train full of people barreling down a track to certain destruction that could be prevented but would cause the death of one person further down the tracks)

    I think some have the idea that somehow any death entails the action to be wrong. I really have a hard time believing this. For an other I think some are almost making the case that if we’re not the ones doing the killing that it’s somehow OK. And in my eyes, withholding action while not the same as committing an action, require ethical defense as well. Not saving a drowning child who I could have saved might not be the same as murdering them, but clearly it’s unethical.

    Now I really am extremely skeptical about the extension of American force. And if anything I’ve become far more skeptical the past years. (I really am hoping Obama doesn’t get sucked into Libya, for instance) But things really are far more complex than I think the thread suggests.

    Perhaps a first step might be to decide what it is that makes something good or bad and then work out from there?

  110. Clark,

    And prior to Iraq going so awry many commentators (like you above) said Bush had the right people around him.

    I’m sorry but did I say somewhere that I thought Bush had the right people around him?

  111. it's a series of tubes says:

    But that’s not all Giddianhi said. He basically said they were annexing all the Nephite lands.

    Exactly. That’s one of the key reasons why Kristine’s supposed “parallel” is a non-starter. Giddianhi was arguing that the government of the lands the Gadiantons had left belonged to the Gadiantons by right (3 Nephi 3:10) and they were entitled to take it back.

    Moreover, Lachoneus was (if the account is to be believed) a righteous man, whose response to the letter was to cause his people to pray to the Lord for deliverance, and to prepare to defend themselves.

    Sorry Kristine, but Saddam was a thug, a murderer, and a despot. I’ve heard firsthand from Iraqi expatriates of the atrocities they experienced, including one who lost a family member in Dujail. I’d wager that this very instant Saddam’s in the throes of the process described in D&C 19:15-18. Any attempt to conflate him and Lachoneus simply won’t work.

  112. Ron Madson says:

    My OP was to invite input from members of my faith as to what moral/doctrinal/scriptural/ethical or even practical framework they use in deciding whether to support or not support any and all conflicts? The responses have been illuminating. The paper that I will be presenting at the LDS Peace/War symposium in a couple of weeks is entitled: “DC 98: The Immutable ‘Rejected’ Covenant.”
    In my paper I use the Missouri conflicts from 1833 through 1838 as a case study. The case study I believe demonstrates what works and does not work, and then I attempt to compare it to the wars of my generation (Viet Nam to the present hostilities).
    Leaving aside doctrine for now, I can not help but conclude that even using an utilitarian approach as to nation to nation conflicts that violence more often then not leads to more violence–unless it is purely defensive. The case studies, even void of any moral or spiritual analysis, bear this out IMO.
    Again, there are many variants of pacifism. I respect the absolutist pacifist and they have their role, but one form of pacifism is where the person says the choice is not “kill or be killed” (in other words, we do not jump from A directly to Z=killing en masse), but a conditional pacifists pauses, thinks, considers, studies it out (and I am not talking immediate threats but marshaling entire nations against each other) and considers using B through Y options before jumping to “Z”–killing en masse. Wendell Berry’s quote is perfect: “War is really a failure of imagination.”

    So today, we have two contrasting models at work. We have seen the terrorist approach. It is beyond stupid. The terrorists believe that by force they can compel us and governments to change. Then we in retaliation literally kill anywhere from 90,000 civilians (several time more then all terrorists for last few decades) to 160,000 (thanks Wikileaks) and we expect our approach effective in changing the hearts and minds of those countries we have invaded now and generationally. Then we see the Egyptian revolution with passive resistance it changes a nation overnight. Their model is a repudiation of both Al Queda and our form of terrorism.

    So what about our faith’s moral/doctrinal dimension? Either DC 98 came from God or it did not. If it didn’t then I would still argue that the patterns set forth in that section, at the minimum, compel us to pause, weigh evidence, and test it out before reacting. It is inviting us to play chess instead of checkers. If it actually came from God then we might put that template up to our past conflicts and play out alternative scenarios. I have and I am convinced it works. It works in screening out the deceit practiced by evil and designing men within our own ranks—the checks in that section is more about screening out our confusion/ignorance, thereby, leaving only purely defensive wars being justified.

    There was at least one congress person that actually tried to slow us down to “think” and challenge our “intelligence” before going forward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf1N-y9Mbo4&feature=related

  113. You know, my point was actually more that Giddianhi thought his actions were justified. Every aggressor thinks their actions are justified. Sure, the parallels between the arguments are no more than superficial, but in both cases Giddianhi and the US felt they were justified in attacking first. Giddianhi says,

    3:10 And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs.

    Giddianhi was clearly portraying himself as a liberator freeing his people from a wicked tyrant who took away their rights and their chosen government. How is this different from the US and Saddam?

    What you guys seem to be arguing is that we’re righteous, Saddam was evil, so taking him out was justified. Here’s the thing–everyone thinks their actions are justified. I’m sure Saddam thought his actions were justified, just as I’m sure Gaddafi thinks he’s justified in his actions right now. I’m also sure the communications from the rest of the world telling Gaddafi to step down and avoid the bloodshed read to him much like Giddianhi’s “surrender or die” epistle.

    I’m not actually intending a comparison of the relative goodness or badness of any particular regime; it’s simply an observation that the “surrender or die” epistle comes across the same way to everyone it’s given to, and everyone it’s given to feels like a courageous, righteous leader in ignoring it.

  114. There are worse men ruling in the world than Saddam. And there are worse atrocities and genocides committed that we ignore. The atrocities that Saddam committed are not the reason we are over there.

    If we tried to force every atrocious leader out of power through our military, we would be broke, and military-less (we almost are already). We choose our military actions, and over recent decades the choices are rarely the protection of innocents, and even more rarely the defense of our homeland.

  115. Yossarian says:

    Clark #107

    I think any serious look at the wars over the past 10 years would suggest that the two really arent that similar. In terms of scale, the police do not kill hundred of thousands of innocents. As to the other aspects, the police are required to use violence as a last resort. The military doesnt function that way. It exists to use force and violence in the name of national interests.

  116. Yossarian says:

    Clark, eric, et all

    So I understand, are you suggesting that if

    x number of innocents saved – number of innocents killed by us > number of innocents we think would have been killed absent our actions

    then war is justified. Is it just metrics to you? Are people just numbers in a mathematical analysis?

  117. it's a series of tubes says:

    What you guys seem to be arguing is that we’re righteous, Saddam was evil, so taking him out was justified.

    I don’t see anything I have posted that could be read that way. I’ve been entirely silent on the merits of the U.S. actions; rather, everything I have posted has been directed to showing the how the parallel is fundamentally flawed. Saddam’s evil is one of the components as to why it is flawed.

    Kristine, I’d further disagree with your position that Giddianhi thought his actions were justified. Given the group he led and the oaths associated with it, I think it is clear that he knew full well whose side he was on.

  118. it's a series of tubes says:

    “justified” in the sense of morally correct / righteous, to clarify.

  119. Eric Russell says:

    Yossarian, no. I don’t advocate a pure utilitarian approach, but such a narrow deontological approach is likewise misguided.

  120. I’d further disagree with your position that Giddianhi thought his actions were justified. Given the group he led and the oaths associated with it, I think it is clear that he knew full well whose side he was on.

    Remember, history is written by the victors.

    You’re still judging the righteousness of the aggression based on the righteousness of the aggressor. My claim is that relative righteousness doesn’t come into it. Aggression is always going to be perceived as unrighteous from the perspective of the attacked.

  121. Yossarian, I think you miss my point. The issue isn’t whether there are differences between the police and military. Clearly there are many. The point is that the issues you and others raised as the problem with the military are true of the police as well. Pointing to scale only works so far since that would entail justifying small scale military actions, which I assume a conscientious objector wouldn’t want to do. (And also seems kind of problematic logically)

    As for metrics, I’m not advocating such. I’ve not even arguing for any particular view. I just think that most reasonings on both sides of the issue are pretty bad. As I said I think there are pretty compelling reasons to be a pacifist. I don’t share them, but I can recognize the logic behind them. My sense is that most people just have an emotional reaction to war and then try and find reasons to explain the emotional reaction independent of formal reasoning.

    Kristine (113), if the point is only Giddianhi thought his actions were ethically justified that’s a different issue. I think that’s a trickier issue since then you have to look at the actions of the group he belonged to. (i.e. whether he was being sincere) And of course we have a somewhat one sided and biased account of the Gaddianton robbers. But if the only question is whether Giddianhi says he is good, then he certainly does.

    Daniel (110), sorry that wasn’t clear. Lots of people prior to 9/11 talked up how good the team around Bush was much like you are talking up the team who would have hypothetically been around Gore.

  122. Aggression is always going to be perceived as unrighteous from the perspective of the attacked.

    I’m not sure that’s correct. They might not like it but they might perceive it as “righteous.” Once again consider a criminal. A criminal may know their actions are wrong but still want to do them anyway. When the police come and their is a gunfight (aggression) they may very well not like the violence but they won’t necessarily think it unrighteous.

    I’d lay good bets a lot of horrible tyrants know what they are doing is wrong. They may even very well know opposition groups are in the right. Doesn’t mean they want to stop.

  123. Ron So today, we have two contrasting models at work. We have seen the terrorist approach. It is beyond stupid. The terrorists believe that by force they can compel us and governments to change. Then we in retaliation literally kill anywhere from 90,000 civilians (several time more then all terrorists for last few decades) to 160,000 (thanks Wikileaks) and we expect our approach effective in changing the hearts and minds of those countries we have invaded now and generationally. Then we see the Egyptian revolution with passive resistance it changes a nation overnight. Their model is a repudiation of both Al Queda and our form of terrorism.

    I think Egypt is a special case precisely because of the sort of relationship they have with us as well as the kind of military they have there. Clearly things didn’t go like that in Libyra, for instance.

    I think assuming non-violent protest always works is pretty doubtful. I’m definitely not saying it won’t work in many cases. However I can but point to China as a place it hasn’t worked out too well. And I’m pretty sure the Taliban would not have cared to mow down protestors.

    There’s no one size fits all solution to these sorts of things. So much depends upon context. Could the Egyptian revolution have taken place had Al Jazerra not been in place along with internet social media? Probably not.

  124. I’d lay good bets a lot of horrible tyrants know what they are doing is wrong. They may even very well know opposition groups are in the right.

    But they still feel justified in their actions. Righteous is too strong a term to use here–that was a bad choice. I would bet, though, most of them feel justified in doing the things they do in order to secure the peace. To use a different modern example, I’m sure that Hosni Mubarak felt completely justified in suppressing the rights of his people for 30 years. He wasn’t acting as a despot out of a simple desire for power–I’m sure that, especially at the beginning, his decisions were made in what he felt were the best interests of the Egyptian people.

    I’m also sure that when his people rose up against him he felt their actions were completely unjustified. This is far from an analogous example, but I’m really trying to illustrate the point that those who are in power are going to see challenges to their authority as something between unjustified an outright evil. It takes rather a lot of self-reflection to be honest enough to recognize when your actions hurt others and that criticism leveled at you is warranted.

  125. The concern I have about most of the conflicts that have been mentioned involve nations and ethnic/religious groups that are much more prone to mimetic violence than Americans seem to be, and hopefully, in my observation, especially LDS folks.

    We (as a nation, not our church) were much worse in the 19th century than now, but we still have to throttle the revenge impulse. Gangs have “honor codes” that spell out vengeance for certain acts. Some people remember for generations the wrongs committed against them, including the LDS population. We remember Missouri, but events such as Mountain Meadows should serve as a reminder that revenge is a slippery slope with potentially horrible consequences.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read Rene Girard and his work on mimetic violence, but the basic premise of scapegoating and escalating violence is still very much in evidence in the human condition.

    That’s why D&C 98 should be much cause for reflection on our parts. We are capable of terrible things, when we don’t set our sights higher. One theme I remember frequently from the Book of Mormon, albeit somewhat small comfort from our mortal perspective, is that the prophets and leaders, while mourning the loss of lives of many innocents, reflected that they had indeed gone to a greater reward, and their testimonies stand as witnesses to the wicked violence that we seem to succumb to so easily.

  126. britt k says:

    I read part of a Sadam Hussein biography. According to the writer his parents left him in the care of his uncle who systematically taught him to kill and torture animals…starting small. Did that child have a choice? What does that do to a person to have you parents leave and the adults in your life do that? do they really know? Can we tell from here?
    I stopped reading the biography with the dipping parts of people in vats of boiling oil part.

    that all said. Gandhi amazes me. His creativity. His determination. His willingness to sacrifice. We say WWII is an automatic and clear case of wrong v. right. It would have been amazing if more people had stood up. The question is more how did the people who did stand up…how did they become that? how can I? I have children…it’s one thing to risk yourself, but your children?

  127. It’s easy to forget that the unrighteous dominion counsel is at the end of a section that begins with Joseph begging God to come out from hiding and wipe out the enemies of the Saints. Those two passages get discussed in insolation too often; they rarely get treated as the beginning and end of the same message.

    I’m not an extreme pacivist, but we really are a war-prone people. We sometimes forget that the Book of Mormon, once we get past the small plates of Nephi, were abridged and written by military generals. It’s not surprising there is a strong justification thread that runs through that abridgment – and it’s hard to tell sometimes where prophet ends and general begins, and vice-versa.

  128. Kristine (124) I’m not sure I agree. I think a lot of people do things they know are wrong. Perhaps it’s not that instinctive guilt type of knowledge and is more an intellectual recognition. If you simply mean that they don’t feel guilty I’d probably agree. Lots (most?) criminals don’t particularly feel guilty. I think most probably know they do wrong. And honestly I don’t think it requires a lot of reflection normally.

    Now in some cases it does require reflection. Especially those caught up with “ends justify the means” sort of cases.

    But surely we can and ought distinguish between those claiming self-justification (rationalization?) from those who have reflected and honestly think they are in the right.

  129. But surely we can and ought distinguish between those claiming self-justification (rationalization?) from those who have reflected and honestly think they are in the right.

    Can we? Objectively, from the outside, what are the differences between those who are rationalizing behavior and those who honestly think they are in the right? How many jihadists are rationalizing their behavior, vs. honestly believe they’re doing the right thing?

  130. I think the Jihadists tend to believe although often their leaders are far more cynical. But I think Bin Laden believes. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t kill him of course.

  131. Ron Madson says:

    #79 Somebody,

    Actually, If there was one single book I would recommend for a family member to read before signing up for military duty is:
    “War is a force that gives us meaning” by Chris Hedges. It is only 185 pages long–graphic, compelling and off the chart brilliant. Chris has seen it all as war correspondent for decades and captures theologically and practically the face of war.

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