The common attitude which thoughtlessly proclaims that everything on one side of a case is good and everything on the other is bad, cannot be adopted by a philosopher. For it is dictated by the unconscious complexes of egoism. It brushes aside what is unpleasing or unselfish. It is not honestly concerned, as he is, with truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A wise student, therefore, will not accept the demand to choose between two extremes. He will take something from each but tie himself to neither. The part of a fanatic who forces all questions into an "either-or" steel frame is not for him. These sharp divisions into two opposite camps are uncalled for. There is a third alternative which not only combines their own best features but also rises superior to them both. Philosophy seeks this higher view as the outcome of its refusal to take a partisan one, for partisan views contain truth but, because they are too prejudiced or too exaggerated or too one-sided, they also contain untruth.
Thus he will never make the common and harmful error of confusing sentimentality with spirituality. The propagation of the doctrine of pacifist nonviolence as a universal ethic arises out of such an error. Pacifism is a dream. The only practical rule is to meet force with force, to deal firmly when you are dealing with ruthless men, and to renounce the use of violence only when you are dealing with nonviolent men. So it is that while mystical ethics lend themselves to conscientious objections to war, such an attitude is defective from the philosophic standpoint. The philosophic student must be guided by the ideal of service and should not hesitate about the form of service whether it be soldiering or otherwise. Nevertheless, it is necessary to be tolerant and respect the inner voice of others.
There is nothing reprehensible about holding conscientious objections to the draft for military service at a certain stage of his growth for it grows out of his fine ideals. It is not a matter where anyone should attempt to dictate what he should do, for such a view is to be respected and the practice of tolerance is advisable in such an instance. Nevertheless, he should also realize that it is nothing more than a milestone from which he will one day move on. There is a higher possible view but if he cannot see its rightness or hasn't the inner strength to take it, he should not worry but do whatever he thinks is right. And this higher view is to sink his personal feelings, to realize that having been born among the people of his country and shared its life, he has incurred a karmic responsibility to share its protection too. If their ideals are different, that does not absolve him of responsibility. Only a deliberate renunciation of citizenship and transfer of residence to another country would absolve him--and once war has been declared, it is too late. As to taking up arms and killing an enemy, if need be, here again if it is done in defense of one's country against an aggressive nation, it is not a sin but a virtue. For he is not doing it merely to protect himself alone but others also. To that extent it is quite unselfish. Much depends on his motive. If a soldier fights selflessly as in a spirit of righteous service against a ruthless aggressor, he is acting egolessly. Again, the mere killing of a physical body is not a sin but the motive which brought about that killing can alone turn it into a sin or not.
-- Notebooks Category 6: Emotions and Ethics > Chapter 7: Miscellaneous Ethical Issues > # 40