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Is it wrong to use child soldiers?

It seems totally wrong to begin with but it has been the case in the past for example in the Armenian genocide that children have had to fight alongside their parents just to ensure their own survival as their capture would mean death. Is it therefore morally acceptable that in a last stand against their certain death to hand them a weapon and tell them how to kill with it? But beyond that if that is in principle ok then is it reasonable to send them on the offensive to secure their own existence and finish off an enemy who would otherwise kill them? A friend of mine put this to me the other day and I can't seem to find a concrete, fool proof answer.

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Gabriel 4 Jan 30

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Even if the children survive a war they will be casualties even if their bodies are unharmed. It's morally reprehensible. Anyone pushing a child into war should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Gohan Level 7 Jan 30, 2018

War is wrong

Funny that, we've been doing it for thousands of years. I guess the human race just hasn't caught on to the message.

Also not all war is wrong, war is a natural process whereby human beings engage in partial natural selection. The strong live and the weak die, but nowadays it's more like "whoever survives was lucky" since modern weapons don't rely on strength, only numbers and locations of the damage.

@Lancer I somewhat disagree. War is not a natural process. Aging is a natural process. War is a nurtured process that males have embraced. As a matter of fact, I remember a National Geographic article once about a couple of African tribes/groups who fought in a horseshoe configuration. Retreat was honorable for them. That, it seems to me, is natural. Killing isn't. Also, "[t]he strong live and the weak die," sometimes. We do have the Darwin Awards. ????

@EllenDale ah, you think men start wars? That's very gender specific. Are you saying women don't have a place on the battlefield? I would disagree but my opinion is worth less than 1 Zimbabwean dollar.

If war is unnatural then explain why it occurs so frequently and why it has become more efficient as time goes on. If it was unnatural then we would have stopped doing it centuries ago. I choose to accept reality, hence I accept the existence of war.

Retreat is a legitimate tactic and I accept that it is better to run than die. But if running away causes the death of your tribe then honor means nothing. Who would want to be honored by the dead?

@Lancer I think we have a communication problem. By embrace, I mean men have said they will fight the wars. They are trained to be successful, they are all incredibly brave, but they pay a heavy price, even if they survive. The physical and psychological scars are tremendous for our military. I think we are actually close to saying the same thing here. Not that they love it, but rather they take their military training as extremely important and get behind it as you do, whole-heartedly.

The nature vs nurture that I refer to is the nature vs. nurture debate within psychology ... concerned with the extent to which particular aspects of behavior are a product of either inherited (i.e., genetic [nature]) or acquired (i.e., learned [nurture]) characteristics." So the opposite word of nature really can't be termed "unnatural." With that said, I say that I too accept the existence of war and that retreat is a legitimate tactic.

Thanks for writing. We agree on about everything.

@EllenDale Okay, I can agree with you on that.

I personally despise war, but I understand why countries fight them. Countries grow and expand at unsustainable rates (Japan, China, US, UK, etc) which is why they run into a shortage of resources. Rather than increasing the efficiency at which they utilize their resources, they do the easier solution. They invade foreign nations and take everything from people who are weaker militarily than they are.

The old age of expansion during the industrial revolution and also the modern wars in the Middle East and Africa are clear examples of this.

Aggression is wrong. Going to war, unprovoked, certainly is wrong. Attacking first is generally the first clue as to who is in the wrong between two sides morally.

However, the blanket statement "War is wrong" implies that going to war to defend yourself against an aggressor is also wrong. I disagree. It's well established in international law that nations have the right to defend their integrity and people against attacks. In the face of an attack or an imminent attack, self-defense is a right for nations as well as individuals.

@Paul4747 I understand. The death penalty is legal in some states, but it's still wrong. It is an archaic choice to today's problems.

@Paul4747 and the US never strikes another country unprovoked. Its called "first strime" and that is supposed to make it palatable. They can't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

@EllenDale My suspicion is that the first war occurred because Ugg's wife said to him "Ogg's cave is drier and warmer than ours and it is closer to the stream where we get our water and catch animals for eating. If you kill Ogg we can have his cave". And so the first war started and is still being undertaken to this day around the world. Only trouble is people have largely forgotten why it started in the first place.

@FrayedBear I'm a '70s child. MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

@EllenDale Exactly. But most intelligent people will forego pleasure to avoid a lifetime of pain. Think Nazi atrocities, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Libya, Pol Pot,
Allow me to remind you of Professor Cippolla's laws of Human Stupidity

@EllenDale You've addressed different issues and therefore I will respond to them separately.

The death penalty has nothing to do with war. The death penalty results from a trial process long after a crime is committed. There's no analogy between a criminal execution and a death in combat. The nearest analogy to combat in the civilian world would be a person being assaulted. That person has the right to defend themselves. This basic right, by extrapolation, is what gives nations a right to defend themselves against attack by other nations.

By the same analogy, a person does not have the right to make a preemptive attack on another, in the absence of some imminent threat, merely because they fear being attacked. An "imminent threat" like a gun pointed at someone's head can justify shooting first, but this is a very fine line. On a national level, a preemptive strike can only be justified by clear preparations for an attack by another nation. This is even harder to define, but sometimes the circumstances exist. And I agree that it's often used as a flimsy pretext. But generalizing from "some nations do things in war that are wrong" to "therefore all war is wrong" doesn't follow.

war is literally natural and practiced by all kinds of primates. whether it is wrong or not is out of the question, its inevitable wherever people are in groups. Jane Goodall even saw it and it took her decades to accept it because she was pretty much a hippie.


It is one of the most immoral acts possible.

Well put @wordywalt


Is it wrong to bite the heads off of new born kittens? Of course its wrong and using children as soldiers is just as wrong. Keep the children safe from harm. Send them away to hide or live with people you trust to care for them. War is wrong. Killing other human beings is wrong. Using children as soldiers is a war crime.

Explain to me how old a soldier has to be before he is no longer a boy and it is then alright to consider him an "adult" soldier.

@dahermit The legal age for adult hood varies from 18-21 depending on the issue. An emancipated minor can be as young as 15 in some states.

@Dwight You seemed to have missed my point. I am not talking about the "legal" definition of a minor. What I want to know is what is the physical difference between a "child" soldier and an "adult" soldier. I will give you a hint: There is no difference. A soldier is a is wrong for anyone to be forced into that role. It if is not, please tell me why there is a difference.

@dahermit you are quite right. No one should be forced to be a soldier. However, enticing a child to be a soldier is just as wrong.

@dahermit the appropriate age for soldiering is the age at which age is no longer the primary factor in determining respect. In most Western cultures, there is no inherent hierarchy between the ages of 18 and 60. "Respect your elders" is not an appropriate dynamic for soldiering. So although there is some variance, there are some common dynamics across cultures.

My Dutch friend was entering his teenage years when the Nazis invaded his home country. His father joined the resistance and by the age of 14 he was also a fully fledged member of the resistance. He experienced the death of numerous relatives either through reprisals, in conflict or because of marriage to a Jew. What sort of respect would he have for himself now if had followed your adult edict and sat on his hands doing nothing to liberate his country? There was no where to run to. Although laws may exist restricting the rights of non adults they do have the moral right to express their opinions, and have them heard, from a very early age. @dahermit

@FrayedBear I am sure if we dig deep enough we can find exceptions. I wish your friend's life could have been different. War sucks no matter what age you are.

@Dwight No exceptions. War against civilians is not humane or acceptable. If countries wish to fight go and do it in the middle of unoccupied deserts or on passing asteroids. American driven atrocities since the end of WWII have been getting worse... think firebombing Dresden, Hiroshima, depleted uranium contamination in the Middle East, defoliation Cambodia and Vietnam.

@FrayedBear lying about civilian casualties has become Pentagon policy ever since we began the forever wars.


Wrong-many child soldiers are kidnapped vs their will.


Ages at which we allow citizens to do things are largely arbitrary, so I can't say that it's categorically wrong. Maybe something you should avoid as much as possible, though, because there will likely be geopolitical repercussions and certainly some mental health consequences for the children.


I do not divide the world into good and evil or right and wrong. I try to discern between wise and foolish. In answer to your question, I would have to decide on a case to case basis.


Hell is inhumane! A sacrifice of the innocence!


In almost all cases, it is wrong to use ADULT soldiers. Resource and territory grabs, ethnic cleansing and imperialism are all wrong motivations for war...but the overwhelming majority of armed conflicts are rooted in those motivations.

Must even children sometimes defend themselves? Yes, unfortunately. But the wrong there is on the part of the aggressors, not the defenders.

@Atheopagan well said, mature, and great use of cognitive complexity.

Thank you.


I think fiction deals with many dilemmas we can face. In a scenario like the world of the Walking Dead, the kid had better learn to defend itself and be on the offensive when needed. It’s not too far a stretch of the imagination to insert wartime parallels into the question.


Well that's today's society it is considered unthinkable an immoral, but history shows us different. A child was a man by 12 and had to fight and hunt. As time went on it changed as did many things.


look war is wrong period.



The Nazis used boy soildiers to defend the Fatherland at the end of WWII and the Hitler youth fought very bravely in the last stand battle in Berlin.Shocking to see the pictures now. The Russian army moving in was in no mood to take prisoners or behave in a civilised manner to the German population,the rape of German women after the fall of Berlin showed that the last ditch attempt to save Berlin was a real desperate backs against the wall fight,can you blame them?

A tragic time in our world history.

It's funny how other people like to treat kids as weak and useless when the German boys back then probably had more strength than the average man nowadays

@JoelLefkowitz,that's really uncalled for,no one deserves to be raped.

Child soldiers died for a cause they had no understanding of,buyt it does not lessen the bravery. It was a tragedy.

The German soldiesr committed terrible atrocities on Russians and every nation they invaded at the time,so this was payback I would agree,war is never good.

They started it. And isn't that the situation that America now finds itself in?


I’ll only accept if if we start making the Spartans from Halo. Other than that, there is no reason to be using children to kill people.

Remember Reach.


In general yes. In the situation you described it might not be depending on the age and capabilities of the child and the real danger involved.

I'm talking handing a 4 year old a revolver and saying squeeze if someone enters the room

This reminds me of The Patriot with Mel Gibson.

@Gabriel "send them on the offensive to secure their own existence and finish off an enemy"... Sounds slightly different up top...


If soldiers under 25yo are at risk, how much more so children?


A soldier is someone else who will do the fighting for you and protect you from foreign aggressors. If you are a child and your survival is directly threatened (they kill civilian children), you are really fighting for your own personal survival and not a soldier, just self preservation.

John McLean said something like "war is fought with weapons (rifle and bayonet) with a working class man at either end!" WWI Glaswegian communist who was greeted by 250,000 people on release from imprisonment and torture in British prison system.


A child being handed a gun and told to defend themselves against those who would do them harm isnt intrinsically wrong or right. Its a necessary action but beyond that morals do not enter into it.

A child being enslaved, handed a gun, and told to kill others or they/ their loved ones would be killed is about the closest possible example of pure evil that exists.


I read some comments here and I thought I'd share some quotes/statements that seem to be quite well known. What do you make of the statements?

Agreed. Sheeple. Look and compare to how many want to believe in a god.

Look how many believe Trump the traitor! @Treasurehunter @FrayedBear

@EllenDale I'm not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me @EllenDale

@FrayedBear I didn't mean to be ambiguous. I'm referring to the second half of Goering's quote. As you said, those who believe without question are sheeple.

@FrayedBear It's easier said than done to give children a gun and tell them to point and shoot. Children don't have equal rights as adults under our laws because they have not developed enough (generally) to have cognitive complexity or emotional maturity. Look at Sandy Hook and Parkland.

@EllenDale Same much of the world over. However 1992 saw the release of the Covenant on the Rights of the Child which if Australia and boy soldiers in Africa are anything to go by, is totally ignored.


Are you asking if it is better to be morally wrong and alive or to be dead right?


Dude. I don't think people can read the question correctly.

They think you actually want to turn all children into soldiers when you're talking about it as a last resort when the choice is either fight or die.

Or be sex or labour slave. Why do you think many places are poisoned with fluoride in the drinking water?

@FrayedBear haha nice. I see you have a good sense of humor

@Lancer No humour. It is a question that assumes that people know that fluoride is reputed to make them docile and less questioning. Its consumption by human's forced consumption has long been a method of waste disposal for the aluminium and radio active material processing industries. A waste product that I understand the U.S. EPA will not allow to be dumped. I have just been reading the following fascinating paper which quotes from some interesting government records. Wikipedia decries much of the information as part of the communist conspiracy but does not back it up with evidence. Hmmm Sounds like your last election. 8)


@FrayedBear You are a well-read Bear!

@EllenDale Not these days. By the way how did you achieve 100% pink heart compatibility with me?

@FrayedBear Sorry and thank you. I'll have a read

@FrayedBear Luck or stalking, whichever makes your heart beat faster. Lol

@EllenDale rofl I didn't expect that! Bribing Administration yes 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂


All citizens who are fit to serve must be ready, willing and able to defend their nation. Regardless of race, gender or religion.

Any person who would not defend their nation in a time of crisis is irresponsible, reprehensible and morally void of the basic qualities found in a strong and committed citizen.

So then, the Germans were right in defending their nation against the alies? What about the Dutch and the Dains...they only put up a brief fight before capitulating. Were they "void of the basic qualities found in a strong and committed citizen? Should they have fought on despite their governments capitulating?

Yes. All citizens must be ready to defend themselves and the people they love. Otherwise their lack of resolve, weakness and lack of integrity show that their nation which failed to make them strong no longer had a right to exist.

The laws of nature dictate. The strong survive and the weak die. Natural selection.

If a nation breeds weak vermin and mongrels, they must accept their fate, be it death or slavery.

This is why I find it strange that modern societies are accepting weakness more and more. We no longer value strength because we have mistakenly misinterpreted tolerance and understanding.

@Lancer Evolution demands 2 opposed factors. Randomness and natural selection. In times of ease it is beneficial for a population to keep as much diversity as possible. Diabetics and autistic people may have genes valuable in different situations 100 generations from now. Your ego says that you know what nature will demand 100 generations from now, but not the laws of nature.

@DJVJ311 I have to be honest, I just made this comment using the ideas in the novel "Starship Troopers" which is a very philosophical book which discusses ethics and morals of citizens and soldiers.

I don't really have an opinion on child soldiers. I'd use them as a last resort because they have just as much reason to fight as any adult. But personally I don't think they would make very good soldiers. They would make for good espionage agents but that's it really. They couldn't fight to the same standard as a fully grown man or woman.

@Lancer You commented as an advocate for child soldiers based on evolutionary principles. You don't seem to want to defend your position at all. I guess this wasn't supposed to be a discussion.

@DJVJ311 I just interpreted his question correctly. He wasn't saying that we should have child soldiers, he was saying as a last resort, of you have no more adult men or women to fight. Was it right to teach the children how to defend themselves, thus creating child soldiers out of necessity and not out of preference.

Also evolution would be in favor of child soldiers. But I don't care either way. It's just that in this situation, child soldiers makes sense.

@Lancer You only brought up one aspect of evolution. One that is useless without the other. Evolution requires randomness and then selection. It is in the best interest of a species to care for "the weak" and to allow "the weak" to exist because "fittest" is not "strongest" and it's not constant. When you impugn the weak, you should not use "evolution" as a defense.

Yes evolution requires diversity and strength. However when wars are waged and you have no other option, you either fight or you die. That is the natural order of things.

In an instant, the child must decide if they want to live by becoming strong or if they resign themselves to their fear and allow their weakness to be the end of them. Strength doesn't ensure success, but it increases the probability of survival.

@Lancer You make reference to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers", child soldiers are neither used or discussed in that novel. I wonder where else you get your morality here, some seems harsh but somewhat understandable if a situation, such as WWII, happens, but then you make a quote like, "If a nation breeds weak vermin & mongrels, they must accept their fate, be it death or slavery." What eugenics tomes from WWII Germany are you reading to give you a slant like that???

A nation should surely defend itself at need, but one would hope, especially with International Courts & the United Nations, * even NATO, weak tho they may be, that we are moving away from a world in which might is the only right & that a country like Denmark should have to worry about a stronger nation attacking them.

Appreciating strength is one thing, appreciating naked aggression is quite another. "Globalism" has taught us at least one thing, usually co-operation & trade work better in most cases vs war. Are you a proponent of Social Darwinism? Something even Darwin did not espouse. Do you believe war is the only way forward for our species? If so, I foresee a very dim future "strength" or no. We have moved ahead more by the open sharing of knowledge & ideas than by wars. True strength is in not abusing it.

@phxbillcee I only referenced Starship Troopers for the "ideology of what a citizen is" I am aware there are no child soldiers in it.

Also that thing about mongrels was just a joke. I mean if we were in the jungle it would be true but since we value human life equally (and rightly so) we do not annihilate the enemy military and civilians, just the military. This is illogical but it is humane.

Also I wasn't using Germany as an example of mongrels. There is always a risk of the strong attacking the weak, that is why wars start. For economic, strategic or social gain.

True that countries prefer trade and globalization. However I have mixed opinions on globalization. I don't know anything on social Darwinism so I can't comment on that.

Most humans want to live peacefully, however time and time again as history has shown us. It doesn't matter how peaceful the majority are, it only takes a small organised group to begin a war. 9/11 is a great example of this. Personally I value peace and want to uphold it, however this is not a shared sentiment among humanity. The meaning and purpose of life explains why wars continue to reoccur and why this will be the case until we can evolve beyond war with ourselves, the only way for this to happen is if we have a common enemy.

Also if everything goes as planned, in about 500-900 years we should have that common enemy.

@Lancer Baden Powell the hero of Mafeking had a battalion of boy scouts trained ready for combat in WWI. The Boy Scout movement grew internationally and in 1939 BP was a hot contender for the Nobel Peace prize... Adolf stymied that by invading Poland. WWI - the English parliament threw the lunatics idea out.

@FrayedBear Well at the end of the day, age, gender, politics and religion don't matter as much as being ready, willing and able to defend ones friends, family and nation from foreign invaders.

@Lancer I have a 90+ yo friend who at the age of 14 was in the Dutch resistance fighting Adolf's boys. He sibsequently became a mercenary for his government who then reneged on his contract and ultimately used him along with his fellow soldiers as scapegoats for regular servicemen's atrocities. Guess what he thinks of defending his country?

@FrayedBear I know of the atrocities that countries commit and am aware that most governments are corrupt and will sacrifice their soldiers and citizens in order to maintain the idea that they are morally and ethically justified.

Every nation abandones its own people sooner or later. I know the history of around 5-10 nations that have done this in the last 100 years.

I would never fight for my country but I would fight for my friends and family.

However I hate that the government controls the military. They use soldiers like their personal clean up crews. Whenever something goes wrong, soldiers are deployed.

My condolences for your friend. They sound like they had a very tough life.


Lol SO to all the people who voted no


I went 'yes' but there are some caveats...I don't find using children to be immoral because of their children as much as using all people is offensive. I would never ask anyone to kill or die to protect me because I'm unwilling to kill or die to protect them; however, if someone is willing to throw their life away, I probably wouldn't try to stop them.

IOW, I don't hold children's life to be of more value than anyone else's. I actually would say I value parents of young children the highest but only because I don't want to get stuck taking care of their kids.


The use of child soldiers is (hopefully) the last symptom of a failed state. I say hopefully because I presently cannot conceive of a more drastic state of affairs. In the face of possible annihilation, the only rational course is flight. The fact that you've distributed a bunch of AKs to some preteens would not alter the outcome. So the use of child soldiers is wrong.
It boils down to consent as it would with the course of all adult matters. Contract law, sex, driving; it is never rational to put these things in the hands of children.


Now that is interesting, a great question ! I was going to say it is totally wrong, but your reasoning has made me reconsider......For the " tribes survival " yes, but for the likes of civil war, No......

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