In case you might've missed it on other blogs, Andrew Olmsted has died in Iraq. The name vaguely rings a bell from the early days of the blogosphere, but I don't think I ever really followed his blog. Here is his last post published posthumously. It's worth reading. One passage caught my eye:
Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.
Olmsted makes it clear in that post that he does not want his death to be used for political points. So I hope I'm not being tactless in discussing this. I don't think I am as long as we keep it at a general level, without mentioning this particular war or the circumstances around it.
Can militaries be effective if soldiers are allowed to opt out of missions they disagree with? Do soldiers have an obligation to carry out missions they disagree with after they join?