do you think it is morally wrong for young people to fight in armed conflictdo you think it is morally wrong for young people to fight in armed conflict

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like the previous post, I think that the clarification of the question is going to be critical.  I think that "young people" is probably referring to someone under the age of 18.  I think that there is a level of moral repugnance in employing children to fight in adult causes.  No doubt these causes are questionable by different standards. Regardless, to make children as soldiers in these causes, preventing them from the chance to live a life on their own terms is something that I would consider morally wrong.  This being said, I am not sure what to say to a child to enlists in a cause out of vengeance.  There are children who are forced to see egregious violations committed to loved ones such as parents, siblings, family members.  They might choose to join the fight to avenge the death of these loved ones.  I am not in favor of this, but I think that it is something to bring into this equation.  I can still believe it is morally wrong for children to be involved in such causes, but I also understand that there is a profound level of hurt and anger involved in any child who witnesses wonton acts of cruelty to one's family and loved ones.  In terms of those who are 18 and over, I am not in favor of them fighting as well, but if there is a legally acceptable standard that "of age" is 18, I think that moral opposition might have to be weighed against this legal acceptance.

islandmarsh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As somebody who watched a 17 year old class mate hauled out of math class by the recruiters because he was failing in school and then 6 weeks later wound up in Viet Nam, I am in the category of 18 years old is too young to fight in a war in ground combat.

The third soldier to die in Iraq was a former student of mine.  I still grieve even though as a junior high student, he was a royal pain.

Having said that, my father, like many others, enlisted at a young age to defeat Japan and ultimately end WWII.  The war claimed my father in law, leaving my husband fatherless forever and altering his life in ways too numerable to speculate on.  But I am so grateful that they defeated Hitler and Japan.

I think what it boils down to is is the war worth fighting?  If it is,then I think we should all get our collective rear ends into the war in what ever way we can. When the Iranians were holding our people hostage, I was ready to enlist myself.  After 9/11, had we immediately gone after the attackers instead Iraq, I think more of us would have enlisted, regardless of age.

But, how can we answer this question?  The more I think about it, the crazier it makes me.  Because how do you determine if a war is just if a President is lying to you about what our cause is?  Ok - I give up.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I assume you are talking about young people like people who are 12, not people who are 18.

I am torn on this question because I am not sure why it is any more cruel to make kids of that age fight than it is to make people of any age fight in wars.  When I say "make" I mean force people to fight who would otherwise not have even been in the military.

My first reaction is that it is wrong because kids do not really understand what they are getting in to and have no choice in the matter.  But I wonder if that is any different than the experience of a 21 year old who gets drafted.  People I know who have been in combat say that there is nothing that prepares you for it.  So I do not see how the draftee has any more understanding of what they are in for or any more choice than the child soldier does.

So, in a sense, I think I'd say it's generally wrong to force anyone to enter the armed forces and fight.  This is true regardless of their age.  (But I'm not sure about that because the draft in WWII doesn't seem all that wrong...)

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Child soldiers are completely immoral. If you are talking about young adults fighting in armed conflict, the answer is "it depends." I have a serious problem with a government filled with draft dodgers, like we had with GW Bush, sending soldiers of any age into armed conflict without clear provocation by an enemy. I consider GW Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al, to be war criminals for what they have done in Iraq. They have blood on their hands that can never be washed away.

As far as a military draft, I think that if we are going to fight any war, a draft is the best way to staff our armies, as long as everyone of draftable age is subject to it and cannot use influence to get out of danger, like GW Bush did with the National Guard during Vietnam.

I also am not opposed to requiring a few years' military service of all young people, similar to what Israel does. I believe that that would go a long way toward building responsible, informed citizens.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that it is moral for a child to become involved in war. I do not think that children (and most adults for that matter) are prepared for the horrible things that occur during times of war. I do realize that some countries begin preparing children at a young age for war but I still do not think it is right.

bulmabriefs144 | Student

The fact of the matter is, we take our fittest, our strongest (and apparently our stupidest) to go to war. These people are picked at an age where they should be making babies, and instead we pull these people away from their loved ones by notions of "patriotism", blow their arms and legs off (or kill them) and then give no options for them afterwards, because of tight job market.

We should be recruiting people 25-60, as a career, not trying to work on teenagers that equate war to video game, and haven't the sense to know that they could build a career. We should pay them better, so it's a matter of no finding jobs, girlfriends, or other options. These would be people who would likely fight hard, because they realized they weren't drafted, and weren't tricked. Because they wanted to fight, or it was their best option.

joylumb | Student

This is a very tricky question.  The moral issue is blurred. The answer might be very different if you were discussing a child who was being oppressed and abused as part of, say Apartheid.  Does that child then have the right to take up arms and protect itself and its family? If we prevented this, we could be justifiably accused of violating the child's rights.   What if the child lived in a war torn society where the choice is starvation or a regular job?  Every fibre of my western cultural upbringing says it is wrong for children to fight, but in truth, war is a fact of life, and protecting children from this is not always possible or acceptable.  Until we can eliminate war, I think that children will fight in some form or other.

mudiver | Student

The problem is, not at what age do we send our youth off to war, the problem is we should not fight a war for greater gain or economy. We have two wars going on now, one that is justified, used to cover the one that is totally unjustified.

We can easily end all wars that are not necessary. This can be done by drafting all 18-year-old females as well as the males.

The death toll of the high value female will bring us to a higher level of conscience in such matters. This is the check and balance that is needed.

How can anyone justify an appropriate age to kill, to savage and to be savaged and to killed our fellow human beings,  that is insanity total insanity.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Armed conflicts as well as making very young people work in paid employment are undesirable. To that extent the combination of armed conflict and employment of young people is even more undesirable under normal situations. However if some one says that armed conflict, or employment of young people, in isolation is fine, but only the combination of the two is bad, then I will beg to differ.

I believe, armed conflict is justified when people are forced to fight for their survival and for other worthwhile causes. Such conflicts often require great sacrifices. So when the choice is between survival of the young and their participation in an armed conflict, fighting in the armed conflict is a better moral choice.

kostaglatov | Student

i just reread my post and realized a rather embarassing error which i cannot edit. so I will correct it now. I wrote mute instead of moot. If the error were not mine , I would laugh out loud.


kostaglatov | Student

As is the case with most questions requiring philosophical analysis, the answer that comes to mind iimmediately is, it depends.  You are not sufficiently specific in your question. If as pohnpei points out ,if  childen are forced to fight, then the question becomes mute . The question would then become, "is it morally wrong to complell children to fight". I suggest there is little debate on that score.  Since I cannot think of anywhere in the world where children are in the position of freely making an informed decision to enter an armed conflict, your question again becomes somewhat of a non issue.  One may find an excepiton for instance in the case of Northern Ireland perhaps 30 years ago, where children have been raised to understand the injustice of occupation, and who then took it upon themselves to take part in small scale "raids". The same might be said for children within the occupied territory of palestine.  But even these exceptional cases do not seem to fit into the category of armed conflict  which we generally except as conflict between two or more established and recognized nantional entities. One last point, The term children is so vague as to make your question nearly impossible to answer in anyway that is meaningful.

lit24 | Student

Armed conflict whether by young or mature adults is indeed morally wrong. All the religions of the world preach love and not war, but ironically religious groups because of their bigotry are responsible for so  many armed conflicts in different parts of the world.

There is so much of distrust, hatred and bitterness amongst the various nations today, one fears for the future of the human race itself. Weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms spell the future doom of humanity.

One of the most pitiable and shocking incidents in today's world  is the sight of  selfish and corrupt politicians exploiting small children by arming them and letting them loose in the battlefield.

Young people when they ought to be in school and college are today out in the streets fully armed and fighting fierce gun battles.

One wonders whether the end of the world is at hand.