When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#41  Postby Juliuseizure » Jun 19, 2011 5:24 pm

Weaver wrote:
Juliuseizure wrote:He was fired for refusing to obey an illegal order to deploy. Refusing to obey illegal orders was his duty. All the soldiers who did deploy to Iraq should have been given the boot for obeying illegal orders.
The order to deploy to Iraq, in support of military operations ordered by our President and approved by our Congress and the United Nations, was most certainly not an illegal order.

You may disagree with the basis of the war - I certainly do - but it was not an illegal war.


I'm sorry, but when did the UN approve military action in Iraq? I thought they were satisfied weapons inspectors had a handle on the (non-existent) situation.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#42  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 19, 2011 6:03 pm

AlohaChris wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:The alternative, of course, is a military Junta. "We'll decide what's legal and what's not, just don't worry your pretty little civilian heads about it." Sod that shit!

I disagree,that's not the only alternative. More transparency in government and sticking to the laws you already have is a better alternative. If your doctrine is "no wars of aggression", then you don't attack a country that hasn't attacked you and isn't massing troops on your border. The military (ideally) should be more free to challenge bad decision making/violation of policy, without fear of payback.

While I agree with that doctrine loosely, I think this is breaking down in where, precisely, in the military this sort of challenge should come from. Lt. Joe Blow is certainly not in a position to even affect policy making. This is the duty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Field grade officers simply do not get to pick and choose their assignments. Nor should they.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#43  Postby Zwaarddijk » Jun 19, 2011 7:57 pm

The_Metatron wrote:
AlohaChris wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:The alternative, of course, is a military Junta. "We'll decide what's legal and what's not, just don't worry your pretty little civilian heads about it." Sod that shit!

I disagree,that's not the only alternative. More transparency in government and sticking to the laws you already have is a better alternative. If your doctrine is "no wars of aggression", then you don't attack a country that hasn't attacked you and isn't massing troops on your border. The military (ideally) should be more free to challenge bad decision making/violation of policy, without fear of payback.

While I agree with that doctrine loosely, I think this is breaking down in where, precisely, in the military this sort of challenge should come from. Lt. Joe Blow is certainly not in a position to even affect policy making. This is the duty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Field grade officers simply do not get to pick and choose their assignments. Nor should they.

Wasn't it already established though that every soldier is required to disobey every illegal order? If so, field grade officers should opt out if they consider an assignment illegal, no?
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#44  Postby Weaver » Jun 19, 2011 8:00 pm

Juliuseizure wrote:
Weaver wrote:
Juliuseizure wrote:He was fired for refusing to obey an illegal order to deploy. Refusing to obey illegal orders was his duty. All the soldiers who did deploy to Iraq should have been given the boot for obeying illegal orders.
The order to deploy to Iraq, in support of military operations ordered by our President and approved by our Congress and the United Nations, was most certainly not an illegal order.

You may disagree with the basis of the war - I certainly do - but it was not an illegal war.


I'm sorry, but when did the UN approve military action in Iraq? I thought they were satisfied weapons inspectors had a handle on the (non-existent) situation.

The UN never rescinded the use-of-force authorization which had been present since '90. It was an open-ended resolution, and was used by the Bush Administration with notice of intent. The UN could have rescinded the resolution, but they didn't.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#45  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 19, 2011 8:08 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:
AlohaChris wrote:
I disagree,that's not the only alternative. More transparency in government and sticking to the laws you already have is a better alternative. If your doctrine is "no wars of aggression", then you don't attack a country that hasn't attacked you and isn't massing troops on your border. The military (ideally) should be more free to challenge bad decision making/violation of policy, without fear of payback.

While I agree with that doctrine loosely, I think this is breaking down in where, precisely, in the military this sort of challenge should come from. Lt. Joe Blow is certainly not in a position to even affect policy making. This is the duty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Field grade officers simply do not get to pick and choose their assignments. Nor should they.

Wasn't it already established though that every soldier is required to disobey every illegal order? If so, field grade officers should opt out if they consider an assignment illegal, no?

No. An assignment, or orders to move, are not unlawful orders. This particular liutenant wasn't ordered to do anything unlawful at all. He was ordered to move with his unit. A lawful order which he refused.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#46  Postby Zwaarddijk » Jun 19, 2011 8:23 pm

The_Metatron wrote:
Zwaarddijk wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:
While I agree with that doctrine loosely, I think this is breaking down in where, precisely, in the military this sort of challenge should come from. Lt. Joe Blow is certainly not in a position to even affect policy making. This is the duty of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Field grade officers simply do not get to pick and choose their assignments. Nor should they.

Wasn't it already established though that every soldier is required to disobey every illegal order? If so, field grade officers should opt out if they consider an assignment illegal, no?

No. An assignment, or orders to move, are not unlawful orders. This particular liutenant wasn't ordered to do anything unlawful at all. He was ordered to move with his unit. A lawful order which he refused.

Uhm, by international law, it's quite possible it's illegal for him to move to that place. (As most countries don't grant personnel of other countries' armed forces visas or anything like that just like that!) It's not clear that moving there was lawful.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#47  Postby kiore » Jun 19, 2011 8:43 pm

I will echo that when I was in basic (NZ Army) we were told very clearly that it was unlawful to follow an unlawful order, clearer examples were orders to mutiny, or rebel against lawful government (no coups allowed), and the treatment of prisoners and non-combatants. Junior soldiers were expected to be familiar with the basics of the Geneva conventions and those drawing up rules of engagement to be exact. Of course the practicalities of debating/refusing some orders on active service which are less clearly illegal remain problematic, but armed forces should have mechanisms in place to oversee and regulate to limit such occurrences. In reality many armed forces operating in the world either do not have the mechanisms or are not too interested in International law. Interestingly in a place not too far from where I'm sitting :whistle: The formal armed forces distance themselves from illegal acts by utilizing informal armed forces (militia and even 'special' police) to do the dirty work, whether this is from a wariness of accountability (I actually doubt this), or that they recognize that allowing troops to violate the rules of war causes indiscipline and potentially degrades their utility.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#48  Postby Weaver » Jun 19, 2011 9:03 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:
The_Metatron wrote:
Zwaarddijk wrote:
Wasn't it already established though that every soldier is required to disobey every illegal order? If so, field grade officers should opt out if they consider an assignment illegal, no?

No. An assignment, or orders to move, are not unlawful orders. This particular liutenant wasn't ordered to do anything unlawful at all. He was ordered to move with his unit. A lawful order which he refused.

Uhm, by international law, it's quite possible it's illegal for him to move to that place. (As most countries don't grant personnel of other countries' armed forces visas or anything like that just like that!) It's not clear that moving there was lawful.
That has got to be one of the silliest arguments I've yet heard.

There were no restrictions on US Soldiers travelling to Kuwait under orders - which is the travel that Lt Dipshit refused.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#49  Postby mrjonno » Jun 20, 2011 10:16 am

Don't really think your average soldier is a position to decide if a war is 'legal' or not (not convinced anyone is to be honest) but they should be aware of the legality of how a war should be fought (ie not shooting civilians/prisoners etc)
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#50  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 20, 2011 10:46 am

One of the sub-plots of a movie, By Dawn's Early Light, addressed this very issue. It concerned the B-52 enroute to Irkutsk, I think. The co-pilot Captain Moreau, portrayed by the extremely lovely Rebecca Demornay, decided she will not cooperate with the mission and convinced the pilot, Major Cassidy [Powers Boothe], to abort the mission in defiance of valid attack odrers.

There was a scene in the cockpit where Major Cassidy was explaining that it won't matter. He said that someone else will do it. And, that is an important point to note, because he was correct. Someone else would be assigned that combat mission. Which is one of the major reasons military men don't take kindly to their colleagues who break the faith and leave it to someone else to take their risk.

One of the flight crew tried to kill the pilot unsuccessfully, but ejected from the aircraft and the tail gunner operator was sucked out of the cabin after him, leaving only Moreau and Cassidy alive in the aircraft. National command authority discovered that their aircraft had turned off of its attack, and ordered its destruction by a Navy carrier group, who scrambled to either escort the B-52 to a water landing, or destroy it. When their carrier was torpedoed and sunk, the abandoned the attack on the B-52, in favor of flying to a better ditching location.

It was quite dramatic. But it did highlight the concept. Captain Moreau didn't have the authority to determine legality of the orders her aircraft was given. She made a personal choice, got others to agree with that choice, and nearly got them all killed for it. Only lucky circumstance prevented it.

The movie ended with that B-52 heading for Bora Bora, flying off into the sunset. I have no doubt that in the real world, the surviving military would eventually look for that aircraft, and probably find it. If those pilots survived, they would be captured, and almost certainly court martialled for fleeing in the face of the enemy. They'd likely be shot.

But, back to Lt I-don't-want-to-go-to-Iraq. Similar concept. He defied a valid order that certainly included some risk. Some other bastard had to go in his place. What happened to that replacement, I wonder? How'd things turn out for him and his men?
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#51  Postby Bernard » Jun 29, 2011 4:17 pm

Juliuseizure wrote:aaaaaaaaLawhuakba. Sharia (law) is what is opposed over here, because the law is the real authority.

Is the UN's Law superior to the US's law then? I guess it should be, but is not. I don't know why.


Have not personally reviewed forces at the UN's command and forces at US's command, but I would think the balance falls easily to the side of the US. Thus the realpolitik superiority conflict between the "should" and "is" as noted above.
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When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#52  Postby Apollonius » Jul 08, 2011 8:52 pm

Juliuseizure wrote:Are western soldiers allowed to refuse to deploy on specific wars, or under specific political parties? Presumably there is some point where a soldier can reclaim their autonomy on ethical grounds, if, for instance, commanded to commit genocide.

I seriously considered recruiting to the navy at one point but I didn't support the majority of my government's deployments so was uncomfortable signing away autonomy. Perhaps there's much more to it than that though.


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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#53  Postby cavarka9 » Jul 08, 2011 9:18 pm

when they really have to pee. Otherwise, they could get into serious trouble for mutiny.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#54  Postby Juliuseizure » Jul 08, 2011 9:57 pm

Bernard wrote:
Juliuseizure wrote:aaaaaaaaLawhuakba. Sharia (law) is what is opposed over here, because the law is the real authority.

Is the UN's Law superior to the US's law then? I guess it should be, but is not. I don't know why.


Have not personally reviewed forces at the UN's command and forces at US's command, but I would think the balance falls easily to the side of the US. Thus the realpolitik superiority conflict between the "should" and "is" as noted above.


Whatever happened to the pen being mightier than the sword? :nono: :waah:
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#55  Postby Dogzilla » Jul 30, 2012 9:51 pm

A general guideline that was established in WWII is that a soldier can refuse an order when it violates the rules of civilized warfare and the soldier is fighting for the side that loses the war. For example, a German soldier could refuse an order to shoot innocent civilians and would be guilty of a war crime if he did not. A British soldier, however, could not refuse an order to drop bombs on innocent civilians.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#56  Postby lordbyron » Aug 06, 2012 11:15 am

The answer is anytime he/she thinks it is more beneficial to do so. How ?

I will explain this is a rational way ;), since the soldier is a rational being (this is highly questionable) (Again by being a human a soldier has the potential to be rational) he/she will have to assess each and every order that is received and come to a decision each time that the order suits his/her standards of an executable order, if that is the case the order shall be executed if not he/she should weigh the consequences of not executing the order against executing it, committing a genocide or facing an immediate execution by the superior, decide which one is the most satisfactory result for him/her than go with it. By doing so a soldier is honest to himself as well as the humanity. He should be feeling relaxed in both situations, when facing a court being sued for committing a genocide knowing that he is still alive, or on his last breath knowing that he has done his best for the humanity.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#57  Postby Zwaarddijk » Aug 06, 2012 2:00 pm

lordbyron wrote:The answer is anytime he/she thinks it is more beneficial to do so. How ?

I will explain this is a rational way ;), since the soldier is a rational being (this is highly questionable) (Again by being a human a soldier has the potential to be rational) he/she will have to assess each and every order that is received and come to a decision each time that the order suits his/her standards of an executable order, if that is the case the order shall be executed if not he/she should weigh the consequences of not executing the order against executing it, committing a genocide or facing an immediate execution by the superior, decide which one is the most satisfactory result for him/her than go with it. By doing so a soldier is honest to himself as well as the humanity. He should be feeling relaxed in both situations, when facing a court being sued for committing a genocide knowing that he is still alive, or on his last breath knowing that he has done his best for the humanity.
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A standard of ethics that should be rejected, for sure!
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#58  Postby Sityl » Aug 06, 2012 6:23 pm

The_Metatron wrote:One of the sub-plots of a movie, By Dawn's Early Light, addressed this very issue. It concerned the B-52 enroute to Irkutsk, I think. The co-pilot Captain Moreau, portrayed by the extremely lovely Rebecca Demornay, decided she will not cooperate with the mission and convinced the pilot, Major Cassidy [Powers Boothe], to abort the mission in defiance of valid attack odrers.

There was a scene in the cockpit where Major Cassidy was explaining that it won't matter. He said that someone else will do it. And, that is an important point to note, because he was correct. Someone else would be assigned that combat mission. Which is one of the major reasons military men don't take kindly to their colleagues who break the faith and leave it to someone else to take their risk.

One of the flight crew tried to kill the pilot unsuccessfully, but ejected from the aircraft and the tail gunner operator was sucked out of the cabin after him, leaving only Moreau and Cassidy alive in the aircraft. National command authority discovered that their aircraft had turned off of its attack, and ordered its destruction by a Navy carrier group, who scrambled to either escort the B-52 to a water landing, or destroy it. When their carrier was torpedoed and sunk, the abandoned the attack on the B-52, in favor of flying to a better ditching location.

It was quite dramatic. But it did highlight the concept. Captain Moreau didn't have the authority to determine legality of the orders her aircraft was given. She made a personal choice, got others to agree with that choice, and nearly got them all killed for it. Only lucky circumstance prevented it.

The movie ended with that B-52 heading for Bora Bora, flying off into the sunset. I have no doubt that in the real world, the surviving military would eventually look for that aircraft, and probably find it. If those pilots survived, they would be captured, and almost certainly court martialled for fleeing in the face of the enemy. They'd likely be shot.

But, back to Lt I-don't-want-to-go-to-Iraq. Similar concept. He defied a valid order that certainly included some risk. Some other bastard had to go in his place. What happened to that replacement, I wonder? How'd things turn out for him and his men?


"Someone else will do it." Is that really relevant to whether or not you should follow orders though? Does that make it okay to kill civilians for example (different exmaple, I know), if you know someone else is going to do it anyways?
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#59  Postby The_Metatron » Aug 06, 2012 10:07 pm

Kind of an apples and oranges dilemma. The attack orders for that nuclear armed bomber were lawful orders, as was the order sending Lt. Fuzznuts to Iraq.
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Re: When is it permissible for a soldier to refuse an order?

#60  Postby electricwhiteboy » Aug 21, 2012 4:51 pm

Weaver wrote:
Juliuseizure wrote:
Weaver wrote:
Juliuseizure wrote:He was fired for refusing to obey an illegal order to deploy. Refusing to obey illegal orders was his duty. All the soldiers who did deploy to Iraq should have been given the boot for obeying illegal orders.
The order to deploy to Iraq, in support of military operations ordered by our President and approved by our Congress and the United Nations, was most certainly not an illegal order.

You may disagree with the basis of the war - I certainly do - but it was not an illegal war.


I'm sorry, but when did the UN approve military action in Iraq? I thought they were satisfied weapons inspectors had a handle on the (non-existent) situation.

The UN never rescinded the use-of-force authorization which had been present since '90. It was an open-ended resolution, and was used by the Bush Administration with notice of intent. The UN could have rescinded the resolution, but they didn't.


UN Resolution 678 for the liberation of Kuwait.

A decade after Kuwait was liberated, and with the inspectors finding no evidence of WMDs a second invasion is started because Iraq did not fully comply with inspectors.

Most of the UNSC publicly said they would not support any sanction authorising war at that time, and France was going to veto. The UN didn’t rescind because they didn’t think America would proceed without further authorisation. America charged on knowing that it would be denied if it asked, so it simply didn’t.

The war was basically legal, but a gigantic dick manoeuvre by the states. “The limeys want to wait France is going to screw us. We can totally get away with this if we don’t ask. Iraq might just roll over in the mean time, so, hey lets get out and do this thing.”
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