Donald Hank
Informed consent for war time volunteers
By Donald Hank
April 27, 2014

From a reader:

Here's a question, Don. Two actually. In the unlikely event the US gets in a shooting war with Russia over Ukraine, whose side would you be on? What role would you play publicly in that event?


Thank you for the challenge to respond, Trevor.

A war is always a test, to see which side is stronger. In that respect wars resemble clinical trials that may or may not have untoward effects on human subjects.

When clinical tests are done in hospitals to see whether a drug is efficacious or what side effects it has, every test subject (usually young med students) must by law be given an informed consent form to read and then sign in the event he still wants to proceed with the test once he understand the goal and risks. That is, he must understand the risks involved and also the value of the drug he will be taking experimentally. This way he can decide intelligently whether the risk is worth the potential benefit of the drug to humans and hence whether he wants to proceed.

Any hospital that tried to administer such a test without first obtaining this informed consent form signed by the prospective test subjects would be liable for a lawsuit that could run into astronomical numbers.

This law was made because the public and their lawmakers understand that a moral issue is at stake: human life is sacred and should not be risked without the subject knowing what he is letting himself in for.

Oddly, there is no analogous informed consent required for sending young boys to war, and yet these young people are the ones most woefully uninformed, almost entirely so, and the risks are much higher than in a clinical trial. Morally speaking, choosing sides should not be the decision of old men with most of their lives behind them because they are not at risk of going to war themselves. Yet older politicians and their enablers in journalism are the ones who usually shape or make the decision and then send the young and uninformed to risk life and limb, often for ulterior motives that are unclear to the public but later come under suspicion once the war's devastating outcome is obvious to all. Judging by the results of our foreign military engagements, the old men who send our young to war do not make an airtight case by any means or measure, simply preying on emotion instead. This is supremely immoral and ultimately, there is no other word for it but evil.

In contradistinction to this status quo, a young person eligible for recruitment should have the full right to decide whether a foreign war is worth risking his life for. And, like the subject in a clinical test, he has the full moral right to decide this based on informed consent, not just because he was told by Washington politicians, who are notorious liars, that fighting on a foreign battlefield is his duty or is good for his country. In other words, he should have to understand the issue thoroughly before making the decision. That is the only way informed consent could work.

Hence if my boy asked me whether he should go to fight for Ukraine, I would ask him if he thought that an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU would keep America safer and would it be worth his life.

And you know what my son would say?

EU? What does that stand for, Dad?

Asking him that and then doing my best to explain what it implies for America, and also explaining international law and its application to America and Russia, as I hoped to do by translating an interview of Foreign Minister Lavrov, would be my main role in the event, and it would be mostly private and not public.

My public role, if there were one, would be urging all parents and all who support the war to make sure all "test subjects" know exactly what could await them and the precise issues at stake.

If the older wiser person, parent for instance, truly believed that the war was occasioned by a direct attack on his country, and could prove same, he would be free to tell the younger people it was, in his or her opinion, a just and necessary cause to protect Americans. But he would have to have cogent arguments. The potential recruit would have to hear both sides of the argument.

The informed consent form in my case is constituted of every word I have written in my published and unpublished commentaries regarding foreign relations, particularly as regards Russia. I have tried very hard to share mostly facts and information and yet I constantly hear from certain readers that I am sharing opinions and that they are wrong. No one seems able to pinpoint the faults of my thinking, however, because of the abundance of facts that I marshal.

The purpose of my writing is to help parents and older adults with decision making power – life and death power – to make the right decisions that will keep both our country and our boys safe.

In concrete terms, if I see the Russians coming over the hill in my home town with bayonets fixed, I hope and pray to God that my son and I will have our powder dry and our weapons ready because we will slug it out together and if necessary, die together, or Lord willing, somehow prevail.

Likewise, I pray that our politicians will not deliberately provoke such an attack.

It remains to be seen whether or not the politicians and journalists who urged the rebels to shoot the police officers of an elected government in Kiev and replace that government with an unelected government have already done the damage.

If they have, I hereby give them and their children permission to pack their bags and their guns and get their butts over there and fight the enemy of their own creation.

I have informed them. They have consented. They go at their peril.

Don Hank

© Donald Hank


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Donald Hank

Until July of 2009, Don Hank was operating a technical translation agency out of his home in Wrightsville, PA. He is now retired and residing in Panama with his wife and daughter.

A former language teacher, he holds an undergraduate degree in French and German from Millersville State University (PA), a Master's degree in Russian language and literature from Kutztown State College (also in PA), has studied Chinese for 3 years in Taiwan at the Mandarin Training Center, and is self-taught in other languages, having logged a total of 8 years abroad in total immersion situations.

He is also the founder of Lancaster-York Non-Custodial Parents, a volunteer organization that provides Christian counseling for non-custodial parents.


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