Duquesne Law Review

Article Title

The Selective Conscience


Liane Norman


The odd-and possibly most instructive-thing about the Vietnam war is that while all the physical ruination has taken place in Southeast Asia, there has developed a sense of moral ruination in the United States. It is the sense of possibility unrealized, of high promise gone sour. The Vietnam war has upheaved fundamental questions about the obligation of the individual to obey his government, as against his obligation to obey his conscience. For the dead, maimed, homeless, displaced, and corrupted Indochinese, American introspection, of little comfort in any case, will come too late. Certainly the destruction of one society cannot be justified as a means of educating another: nonetheless, one of the few reassuring dimensions of this traumatic war is that it has penetrated to the very heart of some of our most cherished assumptions. Many citizens, for instance, are wondering anew what their relations as individuals ought to be with their government, and to what degree it is their duty to be obedient to that government. It is significant that the anguish felt by many Americans is not about war in general. Rather, it is this war .that has stimulated bitter disenchantment. It is this war that has made selective conscientious objection an issue.

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