Would you say that pacifism was tried and failed in the early years leading up to WW2? There's a fine line between pacifism & appeasement, or rather they're not mutually exclusive I guess.
It seems to me that you're saying you in principle oppose all wars but realize that sometimes reality dictates war as a necessary evil(like WW2). Is that a fair summary?
Pacifism is not appeasement of bullies, and it's not surrender. Pacifism is avoiding violent conflict by communication and mediation. I'm not enough of a historian to make a judgement as to whether it would have been possible to stop the Nazis by non-violent means. To really prevent World War II would have required negotiating Germany's surrender at the end of WWI on more favorable terms, such that the population might not so easily be swayed to vote in the Nazis.
Just as this Iraq war was engendered by the mistakes made in dealing with Iraq before the first Gulf War, World War II precipitated (in Europe at least) out of mistakes made after the previous war.
> It seems to me that you're saying you in principle oppose all wars
> but realize that sometimes reality dictates war as a necessary
> evil(like WW2). Is that a fair summary?
Pretty much. But more than that. I'd say that Wars are a failure of imagination and humanity. Saddam Nussein was 'our guy' in the region, even when he was committing attrocities like gassing Kurdish villages. The USA increased food aid to Iraq after he gassed the Kurds. Supporting brutal dictators when it's politically expedient always has blowback (see Iraq, see Iran), as does bankrolling and training violent insurgents (Guatemala, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc).
The only people that win a war are the arms dealers, and apparently independent contractors.
In my view, pacifism of the sort of john lennon/quaker/hippie variety can never work (yes, I know that's a stereotype, but bear with me). The reason is not that some people are irrational or fundamentally evil, but that in a world of (hippie) pacifism, being warlike will confer an advantage.
If you're willing to use force to take what you want, and your neighbors aren't, you win. You will take what you want, either through force or through threat of force. and once others see that force worked for you, some of them will take up force as well.
In my opinion, the only "pacifism" that could work is not one based on a "war is unthinkable" hippie philosophy, but one based in strength and willingness to use force. Only when it is to every actor's disadvantage to use force can you guarantee that they will never use it. and the only way to guarantee that is to make sure the community is strong. that's not really pacifism, that's a system of laws and enforcement based on a willingness to punish those who transgress.
I don't believe this is a bleak view of humanity. I believe that laws and enforcement can create the circumstances for the growth of a mutually beneficial society in which everyone gains. I believe that's what civilization is about, and I believe it's a righteous thing to be willing to use force in order to make sure that force is never used.
People respond to incentives. People seek their own happiness, their own gain, and the good of themselves and those they love. But they also have the intelligence to see when ever-widening circles of cooperation are to their own benefit and to everyone's. The way to create peace is make peace in everyone's best interest. I would rather live in a world where only half the people are "selfless" but all believe in the rule of law than one where 99.99% are selfless but the others know they can take advantage.
> the only "pacifism" that could work is not one based on a "war is
> unthinkable" hippie philosophy, but one based in strength and
> willingness to use force.
Well what you're talking about is every bit as unrealistic as pure pacifism. The United States is so heavily armed no one has ever tried to invade us, yet we have spent the last 50 years getting into wars, or aiding one side or another in wars, or selling arms to both sides of a war. Perhaps some day we'll have government leaders who are willing to restrain themselves, but right now and for as long as we've both been alive, we've elected mostly paranoid war mongers.
There is a long tradition and literature for peace-making and aside from encouraging conscientious objection to war, it is all about communication and conflict resolution. If you're curious, you can read a pretty realistic idea of what peacemaking is:http://www.fcnl.org/issues/int/sup/ppdc_booklet.htm
> I would rather live in a world where only half the people are
> "selfless" but all believe in the rule of law than one where
> 99.99% are selfless but the others know they can take advantage.
Pacifism isn't self-lessism, or a complete unwillingness to defend yourself. People who are predatory need to be defended against, and predatory people won't go away until people go away.
The big problem is not to convince people war is bad. The problem is to get politcal leaders to stop seeing war as just another tool in their toolbox. Or in Bush's case, the only tool he knows how to use.
And, in more general terms, I think an analogy from computer science is apropos: When you write a program, code for nominal operation, and handle pathological cases as exceptions. If you have the majority of people in the world willing to do what it takes to live together peacefully, figure out how the exceptions can be dealt with, without dragging the majority into a general conflagration.
And I don't know whether to be insulted or gratified to be called a hippie in this context.
but the point is that if you have a system whereby force is a tool to be used to stop those who won't follow the rules, then inevitably what you end up with is a series of debates about whether or not force is the appropriate response to this or that situation. that's what we have now. my understanding of pacifism (at least, say, quaker-style pacifism) is that force is off the table. and that, I argue, won't work.
if all you're arguing is that bush (or the US in general) turns to force too often, then fine. but what you're advocating isn't really some magical new political system called pacifism, it's our current system but with someone else in charge. well sure.
I have a personal, deeply felt conviction that war is wrong and abhorrent. I have no objection to defensive capabilities for any country, I think starting wars is immoral, in addition to being deadly and expensive. If someone else, without provocation, starts a war with you, then you had better have something in place to defend yourself. Perhaps, in the 'real' world you can never take force off the table. But you can be proactive and positive in addressing the root causes of conflict.
I don't think pacifism is a magical new political system. Pacifism is looking for ways to avoid violent conflict, by solving the real problems engendering conflict. Again, if you look at what the AFSC does, they aren't in the President's waiting room cooling their heels, they're educating people, working to mediate conflicts, feeding refugees, and working with indigenous NGOs to help them be more effective.
In other words, by taking the moral stand that war is wrong, and then doing what they can to prevent war in the real world, they're doing good. I don't think that pacifism needs to be a political system -- it needs to be an informing idea in the minds of people who decide who lives and dies.
sure but it seems like you've softened your position from "war is wrong" to "war is less good than peace" which is both weak and uncontroversial. that's not what I'm arguing against. so yes, working to make war less likely is a good thing, but that's not what I (or anyone?) understands to be the meaning of the word "pacifism".
wasn't really calling you a hippie in this context, but referring to a particular strain of pacifism. I about half expected you to respond by saying that a system of international rule of law, enforced by strength, was pretty much what you were after.
2006-07-18 12:44 am (UTC)
Non-violence will always fail with the masses because it requires brains, which the majority doesn't possess.