Dissent by military officers and enlisted personnel

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Officers and enlisted personnel, in the U.S. Armed Forces and elsewhere, regularly take an oral oath to support and defend the primary convening document (i.e. constitution, articles of confederation, ruling laws and statutes) and/or the supreme leader of the nation-state. There have been countless cases throughout human history where commissioned military officers and enlisted personnel—as individuals or small groups—have chosen to question and disobey the orders of their superior officers or the supreme leader of the state.

Forms of dissent[edit]

Dissent by military officers falls into two main categories: violent and non-violent. In essence, when a military officer, military leader chooses to oppose the orders given to him by his superior officers or national leader, he/she must decide whether his counter-action will be violent or non-violent in nature and in aim.

Violent or forcible dissent or opposition among military officers against their superiors or national authority is further broken down into the following categories:

Non-violent actions which are designed to dissent from the command authority come in the following formats:

Dissent versus conscientious objection[edit]

Conscientious objection commonly refers to those who are being drafted into military service, who are not currently in military service. However, there are cases in history where an officer or enlisted member of the military has volunteered for military service (or is drafted) and they find later on that they do not agree with their government's war policies or orders.

Dissent in the case of war crimes[edit]

There are countless examples in recent history where military officers have refused to execute the orders of their superiors because they felt their military was party to war crimes.

Several German generals during World War II either refused orders, modified orders, or mounted coups or assassination attempts against the German leader Adolf Hitler. Many of these generals were highly respected by the German people and within the German High Command, notably Erwin Rommel, Claus von Stauffenberg, and Otto von Stülpnagel.

With respect to recent history, United States and UK involvement in the War in Iraq has produced notable dissenters who, in their words, feel that war crimes have been perpetrated by American and British forces in Iraq.[citation needed] Ehren Watada and Malcolm Kendall-Smith—an American officer and British officer, respectively—have been court martialed for refusing to deploy with their units. Both Watada and Kendall-Smith dissent on the grounds that their respective governments are party to war crimes in Iraq.

Notable military dissenters[edit]


United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jail for Iraq refusal RAF doctor". BBC. 13 April 2006.
  2. ^ ""Love thy enemy" -- U.S. soldier gets discharge". Yahoo! News. Reuters. 16 October 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Buddhika Jayamaha; Wesley D. Smith; Jeremy Roebuck; Omar Mora; Edward Sandmeier; Yance T. Gray; Jeremy A. Murphy (19 August 2007). "The War as We Saw It". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Dao, James (3 August 2005). "Republican Beats Iraq Veteran in Ohio Vote". The New York Times.