Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Pacifism Will Never Work



1. opposition to war or violence of any kind.
2. refusal to engage in military activity because of one's principles or beliefs.
3. the principle or policy that all differences among nations should be adjusted without recourse to war.

In my post yesterday I mentioned that a so-called conservative friend on my facebook page had posted a video from The Iraqi Veterans Against War website which displayed an Iraqi veteran ranting about the illegal war he was forced to take part in and his belief that this war was some conspiracy by the rich corporate types to keep poor people in their place. I don't remember all of it off the top of my head as I was slightly agitated by the stupidity of his claims, but it did make me want to research his pacifist belief system and comment on it a bit.

Pacifism, in and of itself, doesn't sound like a bad idea. In fact, I would be happy to support pacifism and become a pacifist myself at the point that I could be assured all evil in the world had been eliminated and that every other member of this world was now also a pacifist. As soon as the U.S. Pacifist Party can confirm this to me I am onboard. Until then, I contend that the entire philosophy is dangerously flawed. The bumper sticker type logo displayed on the Party's website states:

"Defense By Nonviolent Resistance"

My question is this...what type of defense would this be?

Let's say that another country dislikes us, I know, I know, try to use your imagination. Let's say this country begins building up their armies and their weaponry...just for the sake of the purely hypothetical example, let's call this country...Iran. Imagine they start making threatening statements about our pacifist nation. We now, as a pacifist nation must implement our "defense by nonviolent resistance." Would this defense include attempting to speak to them and convince them that we mean no harm? I know this is a stretch, but let's imagine this doesn't deter their aggression.

They are now threatening to invade and/or destroy us with a nuclear device. What is our next step in the "defense by nonviolent resistance" ladder of escalation? Would we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya as they invaded, in the hopes that they might see us not resisting and feel guilty. I honestly have no idea how this would work, so I decided to take a look at the party platform for the last election. Certainly this will clear things up and show how pacifism will succeed. This is what they have listed:

"Preparation for nonviolent resistance against possible invasion and occupation attempts; This would include establishment of a national Department of Peace, and an unarmed service corps trained in strategic nonviolent defense and equipped for mobilization anywhere in the world"

Ahhhh!! Now I feel safer about the whole situation. We would establish a national Department of Peace. Maybe we would even have a Secretary of Peace that would certainly deter aggression. Furthermore, we would have a Service Corps which would be trained in strategic nonviolent defense and equipped for mobilization. My first thought is...what are they to be equipped with? Happy face stickers? Make Love Not War signs? Seriously, what does a nonviolent Service Corps deploy with? How well would you sleep at night knowing that an unarmed corps of peace advocates stand ready to defend you and your family? Furthermore, what type of training is included in their "strategic nonviolent defense" schooling? Strategic surrender 101? Laying in Front of Tanks 201??

As I stated before, pacifism itself is a nice idea, but it is based on the flawed theory that with enough education and enlightenment, human beings will eventually evolve to the point that they will no longer have any selfish desires which would cause a want of power or greed. I do not find this to be a realistic possibility whatsoever, and this is ultimately what will cause pacifism to fail in every setting.

I believe C.S. Lewis explained the flaws better than any:

"We must increase by propaganda the number of Pacifists in each nation until it becomes great enough to deter that nation from going to war. This seems to me wild work. Only liberal societies tolerate Pacifists. In the liberal society, the number of Pacifists will either be large enough to cripple the state as a belligerent, or not. If not, you have done nothing. If it is large enough, then you have handed over the state which does tolerate Pacifists to its totalitarian neighbor who does not. Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be no Pacifists."
~C.S. Lewis, "Why I Am Not a Pacifist", The Weight of Glory (1949)

Armies which stand ready to do battle in defense of freedom are the only deterrent to others who would want to take it away. That is the reality of it, whether you like it or not.

"The dustbin of history is littered with remains of those countries that relied on diplomacy to secure their freedom. We must never the final analysis...that it is our military, industrial and economic strength that offers the best guarantee of peace for America in times of danger." President Ronald Wilson Reagan


  1. Well said. We should have a powerful, well-trained army so we don't have to use it. History has repeatedly shown that weakness invites attack.

  2. Greetings:
    Thanks for your post on pacifism. I'd like to respond to some of the comments you made, and also respond to the comment by "Matt" who demonstrates the kind of thinking that has this country addicted to throwing our tax dollars down the bottomless pit that is the Pentagon. In "History has repeatedly shown that weakness invites attack," the writer is defining strength only in terms of our ability to threaten and destroy large parts of the rest of the world. The strength of a country is determined as much by its abiliity to care for its citizens, especially those who are the poorest, to provide high quality education, health care, transportation, etc as it is in our ability to destroy other people. In fact countries that you would describe as "weakness" because they have little or no military forces (Costa Rica, Switzerland, etc.) have not experienced attack in many decades and are not near as paranoid about other countries as US citizens are.
    Preparation for war often leads to war since participation in a war is the only way to justify the vast commandeering of tax dollars for warfare. Dunnigan and Martel in "How to Stop a War" write that over half the wars fought never resolve the issues that caused the war, so in that sense wars are a complete waste of resources. Also the fact that most of the victims of contemporary war are innocent civilians adds to the waste. The environmental destruction done by war should make it clear that the earth can no longer afford countries who refuse to solve their problems by diplomacy.
    You write that as soon as "every other member of this world was now also a pacifist," then you will be one too. Based on that I assume that you tell your children and others they don't have to follow the rules (or laws), or behave properly and morally at school and with friends unless everyone else is also following the rules. What a cowardly approach to morality -- to refuse to do the right thing unless everyone else does it first!
    I agree that education and enlightment will not eliminate selfishness and greed. Pacifism is not based on that and never has been. Certainly one of the foundations for pacifism is the Bible and Chrsitian teachings. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). It would not be possible for good to ovecome evil if evil were the stronger of the two. Therfore love is stronger than hate, kindness more powerful than cruelty and forgiveness provides more security than revenge or retaliation.
    I suggest that before abandoining pacifism, you read the writings of Gene Sharp in "The Politics of Non-violent Action" who documents scores of historically proven peaceful ways of resolving conflict.
    If weapons and military "strength" were so good at keeping the peace, and keeping people safe, this would be the most peaceful and safest time in all human history There are more weapons in the world than ever before. Unfortunately there is also more military violence and suffering as a direct result of the military "force" in which you put your trust.
    In response to your title
    Why Pacifism Will Never Work" the answer is... It already has worked! The pacifism of Jesus, Ghandi, King, and others have also resulted in positive changes in history not matched by warfare. The obsessive commitment to miltary violence seen in the US, that has us spending more on war-making than all the other countries in the world combined, is the greatest threat to US survival. It blinds us to the many other problems (education, health care, environmental degradation, etc,) facing the US that cannot be adressed adequately because our resources are being diverted to the Pentagon.
    Thanks again for your post.
    Leonard Nolt

  3. Mr. Nolt,

    Thank you for your well thought out response to my post. I certainly respect your opinions and the fact that you, for the most part, were respectful in your response. In responding to your comments I must take issue with a few of your opinions.

    First and foremost, when I stated I would become a pacifist when everyone else does first, I was displaying a bit of sarcasm based mostly in the idea that this will never logically happen. To attempt to draw a parallel from this light-hearted statement to how I raise my children, ending in the conclusion that I have a "cowardly approach to morality" is very ill-conceived, and quite honestly...offensive. Other than this personal swipe you took at me, I was impressed with your well thought response.

    I would disagree with the opinion that war is "a complete waste of resources, as their is no price you can put on protecting our liberties and freedoms.

    I would also like to clarify the point of my article, which I may not have made clear in the post. My statement is that a pacifist nation will never work, not an individual. Individual pacifism will work just fine in a nation that has a strong defense to protect the pacifists beliefs. As a nation, it will not survive.

    Gandhi was very successful in gaining India's independence through pacifist means. His followers acts of non-violence swayed the court of public opinion in his favor by contrasting with the Brits acts of violence. This worked because Britain was a nation that cared how other nations viewed it's morality. If it had been Hitler's Germany instead of Great Britain, the results would have been different.

    You reference that Switzerland has not been attacked in several decades, and I would offer that the demonstrated willingness over the decades of the United States to intercede in the evil aggression of nations' and terrorist groups' unprovoked attacks in the past are directly related to this. Anyone who would consider invading a peaceful nation such as Switzerland, does so with the knowledge that the U.S. and it's allies will be on the ground to stop the aggression in a swift manner.

    As previously stated, i completely respect your opinions and am an objective enough person to take them into account. As you can see I will post your comments on my blog whether I agree with them or not. I am completely respectful of personal pacifism as a choice, but as a nation, my contention remains that it will never work. Thank you for your comments on this matter.

  4. Mr. Williams;
    Thanks for posting my response. It's been my impression that conservative blogs, like most conservative magazines, refuse to publish or post anything they don't agree with, so you've dented my stereotype in that respect. I hope there are more like you. However refusing to do something until everyone else does it first, told with or without sarcasm, still represents an abysmal lack of courage.
    I actually agree with you that there is no price we can place on protecting our liberties and freedoms. I'm saying that war doesn't protect our liberties and freedoms. It threatems and destroys them. War kills people and dead people have no freedom of speech, religion, or press. If the only people whose freedoms we care about are our own, then we're a part of the problem, and a part of the threat to freedom and democracy in the world.
    The 3-5 trillion dollar Iraqi War has nothing to do with protecting our freedoms. It's about stealing resources from another country. The money spent is not available to provide US citizens with affordable education and health care, the lack of which is much bigger threat to US freedoms than Iraq ever was or will be. There is no guarantee that the US would respond to an invasion of Switzerland or Costa Rica. In fact in Central or South America, historically speaking, we're more likely to be the country guilty of invading or supporting an invasion of another country.
    Thanks again and keep writing.
    Leonard Nolt

  5. Mr Nolt,

    Again you have missed my point. It was sarcasm, as I do not believe that pacifism works; therefore, I would not be the first or the last to do it. This is not due to a lack of courage. On the contrary, it is the men and women that voluntarily serve in our nations armed services everyday that are courageous. They are the only thing protecting the pacifist and his/her beliefs.

    You stated that they have no freedom of speech, religion, or press when they are dead. You are correct. They voluntarily sacrificed it on your behalf so that you might be able to continue with yours. We differ greatly on this issue and I'm not sure either of us can find a common ground, as we obviously have greatly differing views on "courage." Nonetheless, I respect and will continue to take up arms in your behalf so that you may continue to be allowed to express that opinion.

    I have to say, quite frankly, that I am disappointed after your first post, which was very well thought out and written, to see that you digressed to the "No War For Oil" liberal talking points. Even most liberals have ceased with that rant by now.

    Exactly how many Iraqi oil fields are now owned by the US due to the war? The answer is ZERO!! Iraqi oil belongs to the people of Iraq. As a matter of fact, Iraq recently allowed bidding on the production of 7 of it's oil fields by outside corporations, and the big bidders were China and Russia, not the US.

    Imagine that...a fledgling democracy slowly building it's economy via the free market.

    To your other is not the US governments job to provide "affordable education and health care," see the Constitution for further details. It is every Americans responsibility to get those things for themselves, if they so desire.

    "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have."

    Finally, it is just simply naive to believe that if Iran invaded Switzerland today, that we would not come to their aid. From your writings I know that you are too intelligent to possibly believe that.

    We do not agree on a lot of things, Mr. Nolt, but that is what is so wonderful about our nation. We have the right to express these views without the fear punishment. I will continue to voluntarily take up arms to defend your right to your opinions, as it is what I believe in. I wish you the best, sir.