• _db
    3.6k
    When Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukraine imposed a general mobilization of all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60, and banned them from leaving the country. Irrespective of their own opinions, Ukrainian men have been forced into a butchery of a conflict in which violations of human rights are frequent. The savagery has been escalating continuously. Just yesterday, footage was released showing a Ukrainian man being castrated with a box cutter. Heads have literally been put on spikes. Women, children and men have been raped, dismembered and executed.

    I am not disputing who the aggressor here is - clearly Russia carries the responsibility of starting the war by invading Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have every right to fight back.

    But when a country imposes conscription on its citizens, it begs the question, for whose interests is the country acting? Is the country mobilizing to save its citizens, or is it mobilizing to save the existing power structure?

    A person might prefer to live under a Ukrainian rather than a Russian government, but might also think that they would prefer to live in general; that both governments are bad and that the Ukrainian one is just the lesser evil; that whatever evils come with Russian dominion, that the real potential for torture and death out in the battlefield are worse, etc.

    I guess the logic is that by living in a country, you enjoy all the benefits provided by it, and that if the country's existence is threatened, you owe it to the country as your duty to fight and possibly die in order to preserve it. You're a selfish cowardly traitor if you don't.

    Yet the conflicts that arise between countries are not the fault of individual citizens. The soldiers and citizens who are fighting and dying on the front lines are doing so not because of anything they themselves did. They are pawns in a power struggle between larger institutions.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    But when a country imposes conscription on its citizens, it begs the question, for whose interests is the country acting? Is the country mobilizing to save its citizens, or is it mobilizing to save the existing power structure?_db

    Simple answer: Those countries where armed forces are there to protect the existing power structures don't have conscription, usually. The last thing they would want is for their people to be trained to use arms and fight in a disciplined manner. Remember that the largest threat to existing power structures comes from the society itself.

    Countries that face an existential risk usually do have conscription (and a reservist army). The question you asked is then quite easy to answer. Think about Israel. If Israel in the Six-day war or in the Yom Kippur war would have lost, been utterly defeated by the Arab armies, you really think it would just have been "a change in existing power structures"?

    I'm pretty sure that if now it was the Palestinians that have endured their Nakba and have become second rate citizens in their homeland, or in Gaza inmates of a huge concentration camp, the same or worse fate would have happened to the Israelis, if the Jewish state lost a war.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    you really think it would just have been "a change in existing power structures"?ssu

    The question was not about the nature of the change (that was a proposed explanation) the question was about the need, and justification, for the imposition.

    Let's take your assumption for granted. Israel would have ended up under the Palestinian thumb had it lost. That's not the question the OP is asking. The question the OP is asking is why does a state feel compelled to decide in opposition to those citizens, which state of affairs is preferable - war, or Palestinian rule.

    Normally such monumental decisions are even considered too much for representative democracy to handle and are given over to referenda or personal choice. The oddity the OP is picking up on is that in the case of war, the decision (of literally life and death magnitude) is not only removed from any democratic process, but removed from personal choice too.

    To argue that the decision can be explained by a beneficent concern for quality of life is ridiculous.

    Think of the quality of life improvement if nonessential car journeys were simply banned. Millions saved from early death.

    Think of the quality of life improvement from banning the consumption of excess sugar. Again in the millions.

    And on... Dozens of impositions a government could make, of far less impact than conscription to war, which would have far greater impact on quality of life than a change in government.

    So I don't see how concern for the outcome of regime change could possibly be the motivating factor, such concern would manifest in a whole slew of far less dangerous impositions first.
  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    The oddity the OP is picking up on is that in the case of war, the decision (of literally life and death magnitude) is not only removed from any democratic process, but removed from personal choice too.Isaac

    Not really. People can volunteer to fight in Ukraine, and they do, so it's not like it's totally removed from personal choice.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    Not really. People can volunteer to fight in Ukraine, and they do, so it's not like it's totally removed from personal choice.Olivier5

    Usual garbage.

    Conscription removes personal choice. It's literally the definition of conscription.

    It's not complicated.
  • Agent Smith
    7.4k
    In the era of the so-called global village, there simply is no room for nationalism. Conscription? Pfft!

    In fact, the first philosopher in the West to give perfectly explicit expression to cosmopolitanism was the Socratically inspired Cynic Diogenes in the fourth century BCE. It is said that “when he was asked where he came from, he replied, 'I am a citizen of the world [kosmopolitês]'” (Diogenes Laertius VI 63). — Cosmpolitanism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    It is always more complicated than you cretins think.Olivier5

    Your comment had nothing to do with complexity. It was just a very basic error.

    That some people choose to be involved has no bearing on the question of why a government would want to force others to be.
  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    A government may need to impose general conscription for the same reason than it may impose taxation: so as to avoid free wheelers having access to a public good they don't pay for.

    National defense is a collective good, which means it is non-excludable: the benefits that a given person derives from national defense do not depend on that individual’s contribution to the effort. Everyone benefits, including those who don't contribute to the cost in blood or treasure.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    National defense is a collective goodOlivier5

    This is the matter we're discussing, so just asserting it is begging the question.

    National defense is good. Fighting in a war is bad. So if national defense requires fighting a war one must weigh the good and the bad and decide which outweighs which.

    The question is why the government forcibly imposes its conclusion on that weighing exercise when it doesn't do so in many other far less impactful decisions.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Let's take your assumption for granted. Israel would have ended up under the Palestinian thumb had it lost.Isaac
    Actually under Egyptian and Syrian rule. In 1948 the Arab countries didn't give a damn about the Palestinians, they were trying to conquer as much of the former British Mandate as possible. But onward...

    That's not the question the OP is asking. The question the OP is asking is why does a state feel compelled to decide in opposition to those citizens, which state of affairs is preferable - war, or Palestinian rule.Isaac
    I'm not sure I get your point here. The state always tries to do what is the best for and understandably there always will be some who oppose it's policies.

    Rarely but sometimes states have decided voluntarily to join another one. For example East Germany and West Germany uniting. Or North Yemen and South Yemen uniting (which later didn't go so well).

    The oddity the OP is picking up on is that in the case of war, the decision (of literally life and death magnitude) is not only removed from any democratic process, but removed from personal choice too.Isaac
    This is the utter fallacy of people living in countries which go to war without any repercussions or effects on the country's own people AND have a paid volunteer army.

    The fallacy is that it makes a big difference in war that if you have conscription or not. Well, in wars the city you live can be targeted by the enemy where you live, and you can die even if you would be totally against the war or any policies your state implements. Once war means that you are going to fight it on your own background, the question of mandatory or volunteer service is a simple manpower issue.

    Yet if your country just fights "colonial wars" in other continents without any threat posed to your civilian population, you have no need for conscription. Or that conscription in the end will backfire, just as it did for the regime of Portugal in 1974.

    The question is why the government forcibly imposes its conclusion on that weighing exercise when it doesn't do so in many other far less impactful decisions.Isaac
    We live in representative democracies. In these, the decision to go to war is usually done by the Parliament or a similar institution. These institutions already decide what we can do and can't do on a daily basis. Hence you can argue that the government forcibly imposes it's agenda on to you at a daily basis. In things that it considers dangerous for the collective, these regulations can be far more drastic than otherwise. Just think about the limitations you were forced to live under the pandemic. And wars typically are the most dangerous things for the collective.

    So what's the problem?
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    In things that it considers dangerous for the collective, these regulations can be far more drastic than otherwise.ssu

    Just ignoring the counterargument and restating your position is not discussion. This is a discussion forum.

    I've already addressed this with examples. The government frequently ignores even minor impositions which would provably reduce harm to the collective. So the question remains why war is considered an exception. Massive imposition (risking death), uncertain danger (some citizens actually want foreign rule). Where's your precedent for such behaviour?

    wars typically are the most dangerous things for the collective.ssu

    Wars are, not the consequences of not fighting, those are much, much harder to judge. So with a clear and definite harm on one side, and an ambiguous, uncertain harm on the other, by what precedent does the government consider forcing people to take a very high risk of torture and death to avoid such an uncertain outcome.

    If you think this is normal behaviour for governments, you shouldn't have any trouble coming up with a similar action. Something where the harm is near certain injury, torture and death, the benefits are not even agreed upon, and the government gives no choice.

    There are, in fact, a very small list of things governments actually force their citizens to do. Most government interventions are proscriptive, not prescriptive. Those that are prescriptive are either harmless or justice-based.

    I can't think of a single example of a prescriptive government intervention which risks the death or torture of the citizen concerned, so I find the idea that this is just normal government behaviour in no need of special explanation completely absurd.
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    0
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  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    The question is why the government forcibly imposes its conclusion on that weighing exercise when it doesn't do so in many other far less impactful decisions.Isaac

    Like what decisions?
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    Like what decisions?Olivier5

    Every single other decision. There is no precedent at all for forcing people to risk their lives for a gain they might not even agree with. None.

    There's not even a precedent for governments forcing fairly minor impositions on otherwise innocent people for gains they might not even agree with.

    I can't even think of a non-choice imposition a government makes on free, innocent adults at all, let alone one which carries such a high cost.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    So with a clear and definite harm on one side, and an ambiguous, uncertain harm on the other, by what precedent does the government consider forcing people to take a very high risk of torture and death to avoid such an uncertain outcome.Isaac
    Why do you assume that not fighting a war the other option is "an ambiguous, uncertain harm on the other"? What are your examples for this idea?

    OK. The Baltic states decided not to fight the Soviet Union and ended up annexed. Let's look at what that meant for example for Estonia:

    War (WW2) and occupation deaths listed in the current reports total at 81,000. These include deaths in Soviet deportations in 1941, Soviet executions, German deportations, and victims of the Holocaust in Estonia.

    In 1939 Estonia had a population of 1,1 million hence that means that 7% of the population died. Nearly all Estonian officers and the political and economic elite were purged immediately by the Soviets. Over 100 000 were forced either to the Red Army or to the German army and bitter battles were fought in Estonia during WW2. Over the course of the war, Estonia lost a fifth of its population as compared to its pre-war population. Several Estonia’s traditional ethnic minorities, Germans, Swedes and Jews, had left the country or were exterminated.

    If you think this is normal behaviour for governments, you shouldn't have any trouble coming up with a similar action. Something where the harm is near certain injury, torture and death, the benefits are not even agreed upon, and the government gives no choice.Isaac
    War isn't normal.

    Certain injury, torture or death is also very possible when the government chooses to surrender when faced the threat of war. Where do you get this idea that countries that invade others are somehow very benign and friendly to the people they conquer? Hasn't been so in history, isn't so in the present.

    You have very strange ideas about war and just in what conditions nations choose to defend themselves with military force.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    Why do you assume that not fighting a war the other option is "an ambiguous, uncertain harm on the other"?ssu

    Because more people disagree with war than disagree that death is bad.

    It's quite simple. Take a population like Ukraine. How many would be happy to be ruled by Russia? We know it's at least a notable portion. How many don't care either way? Again, we know from interviews it's a not insignificant number.

    Now conduct a survey on how many want to be shot or tortured. Do you think you'd get anything less than a unanimous 'no'?

    So when weighing the two (we have to risk being shot to avoid Russian rule), the former is unambiguously bad, the latter isn't.

    Let's look at what that meant for example for Estonia:ssu

    It's irrelevant. No one is claiming that being invaded is good. We're talking about the weighing of that badness against the badness of war. So...

    Where do you get this idea that countries that invade others are somehow very benign and friendly to the people they conquer?ssu

    Where do you get this impression that war is nice and harmless?
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Let's look at what that meant for example for Estonia:ssu

    It's irrelevant. No one is claiming that being invaded is good.Isaac

    Apart from you, who just above asked "How many would be happy to be ruled by Russia?" and answer yourself "it's a notable portion".

    Well, the Sudetenland Germans were enthusiastic about the German annexation too. But the Czechs and the Slovaks weren't for some reason.

    When it comes to Ukraine, I think we have seen just where some people are happy with being ruled by Russia and just in what parts of Ukraine they aren't. Yet this isn't a topic for this thread.
  • Isaac
    8.4k


    How is any of that related to the discussion. Are you claiming that more people want to be shot than want to be ruled by Russia? Because unless you're making that claim then it remains the case that forced foreign rule is a more ambiguous harm than being shot.

    As such it remains the case that when weighing the risk of one against the risk of the other, the risk of war is the less ambiguous.

    I'm still waiting on those examples your argument requires of government action which impose a risk of death for a non-unanimous gain.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    How is any of that related to the discussion.Isaac
    It's very related, because war can cause such immense destruction and death, it is something you cannot easily relate to peace actions of the state. You should understand that.

    Are you claiming that more people want to be shot than want to be ruled by Russia?Isaac
    I have no idea what you are talking about here.

    I'm still waiting on those examples your argument requires of government action which impose a risk of death for a non-unanimous gain.Isaac
    I don't understand what you point here is.

    Or is it just why would countries and their people defend themselves with military force and opt for war rather than surrender?
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    I have no idea what you are talking about here.ssu

    Do you understand the concept of weighing two bad things trying to decide which is the least bad?
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Well, I've tried to give examples of that (to fight or to surrender) when it comes to war, but you respond that it's irrelevant. So that's why I'm a bit confused what your point is.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    Well, I've tried to give examples of that (to fight or to surrender) when it comes to war, but you respond that it's irrelevant. So that's why I'm a bit confused what your point is.ssu

    You gave examples of how bad it was to surrender. We already agree that's bad. So is war. Hence the weighing exercise.

    The question is why, in this specific case, the government does that weighing and then forces it's decision on its people.

    It doesn't seem to behave that way in any other case. I can't think of a single thing people are otherwise forced to do with such a massive risk of harm, on the basis of the government's idea of the pros and cons.

    Hence...

    I'm still waiting on those examples your argument requires of government action which impose a risk of death for a non-unanimous gain.Isaac

    ...that might counter my claim of uniqueness.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    The question is why, in this specific case, the government does that weighing and then forces it's decision on its people.

    It doesn't seem to behave that way in any other case. I can't think of a single thing people are otherwise forced to do with such a massive risk of harm, on the basis of the government's idea of the pros and cons.
    Isaac
    The simple fact is that there is in war a massive risk of harm and to be defeated in a war the whole society takes also a massive risk. And the people also understand this. You are making a separation with the government and the people here as if the threat would not be extremely dangerous for everybody in the society.

    The simple fact is that especially in case of war "the government" isn't some different entity from the people making decisions to fight a war totally independently from the people. It's delusional to think any government or regime would contemplate war or to defend itself by military means if there is no support for this from it's people for this. If there's not the will to fight, whatever the government decides is irrelevant. The soldiers will either surrender or will shed their uniforms and run away and simply go home. In war not only the army of the opposing side becomes the enemy, also the people are under intense scrutiny from the attackers.
  • Agent Smith
    7.4k
    No soldiers better than coerced soldiers. — Confucius

    In some weird way, conscription is, well, rape! :snicker:
  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    I can't even think of a non-choice imposition a government makes on free, innocent adults at all, let alone one which carries such a high cost.Isaac

    Taxation would be the obvious candidate.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    the people also understand this....

    ... "the government" isn't some different entity from the people making decisions to fight a war totally independently from the people. It's delusional to think any government or regime would contemplate war or to defend itself by military means if there is no support for this from it's people for this. If there's not the will to fight
    ssu

    Then conscription is unnecessary. So why instigate it.


    as if the threat would not be extremely dangerous for everybody in the society.ssu

    As would the threat of war.

    You're just completely ignoring the issue. War is bad, being taken over by a foreign power is bad.

    Two bad things. You can't have neither, you have to choose which.

    The question at hand here is simply why does the government decide and force its decision on the people?

    Governments simply don't behave that way in any other area. People can be living lives of utter destitution, on the streets, living out of a cardboard box, the government doesn't even force anyone to give up a Sunday afternoon to help.

    Citizens are harmed in all sorts of ways all the time. So what is so special about the harm from foreign rule that gives a government the right to force its citizens to risk torture and death, to mitigate it?
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    Taxation would be the obvious candidate.Olivier5

    Not even funny as a joke.
  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    I can't even think of a non-choice imposition a government makes on free, innocent adults at all, let alone one which carries such a high cost.Isaac

    Taxation would be the obvious candidate.
  • Olivier5
    5.6k
    Good, because it is not meant to be.
  • Isaac
    8.4k
    because it is not meant to be.Olivier5

    If you don't want to pay taxes, don't earn above the tax threshold.

    Now what am I supposed to do if I don't want to be conscripted. Change age?

    Not to mention that the first half of that comment was clearly rhetorical, the second half is the content of the argument. So unless you're going to argue that taxation is as harmful as war I don't see you've got anything useful to say.
  • Tzeentch
    1.9k
    Of all the evils of government, forcing individuals to kill and die is by far the worst.
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