Bask in the Crazy: Pacifists — Frank Soto

 

Though the bulk of a conservative’s time engaging liberal arguments is best spent addressing their most pointed and nuanced positions, I believe we should occasionally indulge ourselves by reveling in their worst arguments and fringe elements. Today, we tackle those who believe that violence never solves anything.

 And by tackle, I mean literally run up and tackle them, since we know they won’t fight back. I was reading a Washington Post piece recently that contained an interview with Hamid Karzai, when I stumbled upon this gem of a quote.

“In other words, I am a pacifist, I am a total, absolute pacifist. I don’t believe in war, and I don’t believe in guns, and I don’t believe in politics. I think it’s dirty.’’

Putting aside the safe assumption that Karzai was the victim of many wedgies as a child, one suspects that if he ever finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun, his defense will not be to respond “Oh a gun… I don’t believe in guns.” What a powerless feeling it must be for the aggressor holding a gun, to find out that your intended victim doesn’t believe in them.

pascifists01

In an effort to truly understand the pacifist, I searched high and low for an organization that provided serious policy research in support of their world view. After that search turned up nothing, I looked for any crackpots that were willing to defend the pacifist mindset. Enter the Peace Pledge Union. 

“Many people believe that violence is necessary for survival or to defend oneself; but the fruits of violence overwhelmingly consist of pain, suffering and devastation. Despite this, people go on believing in its efficacy.”

A theme can be detected in the above paragraph that will repeat itself in almost all pacifists writings. It can be summarized as “What’s the difference if you are killed by someone attacking you, or if you kill them in self-defense? Either way someone ends up dead.”

Of course, to most people, who ends up dead is of paramount concern. Survivors of Nazi concentration camps, for example, will have a different opinion on the efficacy of the Allied war efforts than your average pacifist.

“To be sure there are plenty of villains and murderous megalomaniacs around (some of whom are Britain’s ‘best friends’), but ‘enemies’ are in large part a social construct.”

Do not dwell on the above sentence for long. I will not be held responsible for the aneurysm that follows. 

“Pacifism is the belief that violent conflicts are by and large preventable without recourse to armed violence, and that major wars are entirely preventable. It is also a commitment not to partake in war or preparations for war, and to help make the world a less violent place.”

Here we are treated to their first true pacifist policy proscription: Stop making preparations for war.

“Wars don’t happen by accident. To wage war, you need weapons, many of which take a lot of time, money and people to produce.” 

Follow me down the rabbit hole for just a moment here. If you don’t have effective weapons of war, you won’t be able to wage war, because you lack the needed tools. Really it couldn’t be simpler! 

Of course I suppose that everyone else must also disarm themselves of their effective weapons of war, meaning that fists again become an effective weapon. That is, until someone thinks to grab a baseball bat. Or some Canadian ties a piece of broken glass to the end of a hockey stick…

It’s actually amazing how close to a useful revelation about the necessary conditions of peace they accidentally get to in this statement. Few leaders are willing to engage in a war where their opponent completely outguns them. To steal the PPU’s phrasing: if they lack the tools to fight effectively, they are unlikely to fight. This leads many of us to a rather simple conclusion about the nature of peace: It requires a hegemon who cannot realistically be challenged in open warfare. Pacifists envision a world with no capability to make war. In reality, their plan leads to perfect parity of war-making capabilities and, presumably, more war as a consequence.

Endeavoring to give peace a chance however, I soldiered on to the PPU’s plan to resolve all global conflicts non-violently. Their “Understanding Conflict” teaching resource is equal parts banal and cringe-worthy. Some highlights:

“Some peace-makers and teams concentrate on spotting areas in which conflict looks likely to break out, and then monitoring them closely. At the same time they help the conflicting sides to work out their disputes without use of violence.”

“Although this work may well prevent the outbreak of violence and the spiral into all-out war that can follow, it cannot resolve the conflict until the underlying causes have been dealt with. This requires long-term projects to identify the causes correctly and provide the sort of support needed to put things right. The right kind of support also needs to be imaginatively perceived and given. (One kind of support, of course, is training in peaceful problem-solving.)”

“Assad, we use our words when we are upset, not chemical weapons! Go stand in the corner. What are you doing with that AK-47? Haven’t we trained you in peaceful conflict resolution?’

“Conflicts arise when people’s beliefs clash. Religious and political views are particularly sensitive, because people often depend on these for a sense of identity and belonging. Sometimes the conflict is caused by a religious/political group being attacked; sometimes it is because the group is eager to spread a particular belief and even enforce it on others…”

“… Advanced problem-solving means looking at the conflict and its solutions in the light of human needs – a perspective that helps the combatants to come together in a joint effort to put things right. This begins with patiently establishing the aims that they can share.”

“If I understand you correctly, Abbas, what you want is for the Jews to not be alive any more? Now Bibi, you’re going to have to meet them halfway here.”

“Some conflicts ‘go to arbitration’. This means that the dispute is studied by an independent individual or group, who act like a judge in a law court: they decide how the conflict can be fairly and justly settled, and the conflicting sides may be bound by law to accept the terms.”

I do not think “bound by law” means what the PPU thinks it means. All courts of which I am aware back their rulings with the threat of violence. In fact, every (effective) court in the history of the human race has done so. But I guess every human being who has ever lived was wrong about human nature, and the pacifists have finally figured it out.

pacifists04

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the PPU’s love affair with conscientious objectors (more commonly known as cowards.) To pacifists, these are the true heroes of the two world wars. If every young man had just done as they did, there couldn’t have been any war at all!

In a world where only one man is willing to kill, he can rule with absolute impunity as long as all others were to hold to pacifist ideals. Somehow I doubt an effective recipe for peace consists of lowering the threshold for murderous men being able to commit murder. I’m not the first to make this point.

Surely there are some who would rather die than kill. As a courtesy, they might want to get on that at the start of conflicts such as World War II. Otherwise they appear to be nothing but a bunch of spineless jellyfish, who are happy to let other people do the dying for them. 

Non-violent action heroes courtesy of Thumbs and Ammo.

 

There are 34 comments.

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  1. Done Contributor
    Done Post author

    I give up trying to format this post correctly. It’s not happening.

    • #1
    • March 31, 2014, at 9:15 AM PDT
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  2. tabula rasa Member

    Great post, despite formatting issues. My favorite thought on the subject of pacifism is a little couplet of Hillaire Belloc (despite his French name, he was British to the core–friend of G. K. Chesterton):

    “Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight, But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.” 

    Until they can answer the problem raised by the couplet (that your lack of a will to defend yourself will never stop someone else from destroying you), pacifists are just silly people whistling past the graveyard.

    For a longer, reasoned response to pacifism, I suggest C. S. Lewis’s essay, “Why I am Not a Pacifist,” (which he presented to a society of pacifists: he was never afraid of engaging his opponents). It’s included in the collection of Lewis essays entitled The Weight of Glory. Here’s a short sample: “I find the Pacifist position weak. It seems to me that history is full of useful wars . . . . ”

    • #2
    • March 31, 2014, at 11:05 AM PDT
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  3. SkipSul Moderator

    My oft-referred-to Mother in Law is, aside from being a socialist, also a pacifist. She blames all wars on the “Military Industrial Complex”, which to me, sounds like a disease. “I caught Military Industrial Complex.”

    To her, all wars are conspiracies of both sides to profit from human misery. I’ve given up rational discussion on this issue with her.

    • #3
    • March 31, 2014, at 1:37 PM PDT
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  4. DocJay Inactive

    “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms” ― Robert A. HeinleinStarship Troopers

    • #4
    • March 31, 2014, at 1:44 PM PDT
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  5. Done Contributor
    Done Post author

    skipsul:
    My oft-referred-to Mother in Law is, aside from being a socialist, also a pacifist. She blames all wars on the “Military Industrial Complex”, which to me, sounds like a disease. ”I caught Military Industrial Complex.”
    To her, all wars are conspiracies of both sides to profit from human misery. I’ve given up rational discussion on this issue with her.

     How does she explain this?

    • #5
    • March 31, 2014, at 1:46 PM PDT
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  6. SkipSul Moderator

    Frank Soto: How does she explain this?

     Evil Chimp capitalists goading the masses.

    • #6
    • March 31, 2014, at 2:54 PM PDT
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  7. Done Contributor
    Done Post author

    skipsul:

    Frank Soto: How does she explain this?

    Evil Chimp capitalists goading the masses.

     Big profits to be had in tree branch clubs.

    • #7
    • March 31, 2014, at 2:59 PM PDT
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  8. SkipSul Moderator

    Frank Soto:

    skipsul:

    Frank Soto: How does she explain this?

    Evil Chimp capitalists goading the masses.

    Big profits to be had in tree branch clubs.

     It’s just 342 short steps from clubs to nukes, then it’s like, game over man.

    • #8
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:03 PM PDT
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  9. tabula rasa Member

    One more Lewis ironical quote, which is a variation on the same theme as Orwell’s quote in the main post:

    “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.”

    • #9
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:32 PM PDT
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  10. tabula rasa Member

    Here’s the quote I tried to put in the prior post: “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.”

    • #10
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:38 PM PDT
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  11. tabula rasa Member

    One more try (Ricochet is a bit unstable today): “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.” N

    • #11
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:39 PM PDT
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  12. tabula rasa Member

    Take my word for it, it’s a great quote, but Ricochet must be trying to censor C. S. Lewis.

    • #12
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:42 PM PDT
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  13. Rapporteur Inactive

    To steal the PPU’s phrasing: if they lack the tools to fight effectively, they are unlikely to fight. 

    Clearly these good folks have never watched an episode of MacGyver.

    • #13
    • March 31, 2014, at 3:47 PM PDT
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  14. Concretevol Thatcher

    This post reminds me of my least favorite bumper sticker “war is not the answer”, to which I always respond “it depends on the question”.

    • #14
    • March 31, 2014, at 4:08 PM PDT
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  15. Concretevol Thatcher

    I have a different take on conscientious objectors but that is based on Desmond Doss, the only one I actually know about. No doubt many of them used that status to remove themselves from danger. Desmond however, refused to carry a gun for religious reasons but did not refuse to participate in battle, being one of the few conscientious objectors to win the medal of honor as a medic. He didn’t shirk his duty but never carried a gun. It’s an interesting story that I would link to if I knew how from this tablet. lol

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    • March 31, 2014, at 4:17 PM PDT
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  16. Percival Thatcher

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

    • #16
    • March 31, 2014, at 4:19 PM PDT
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  17. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Frank Soto:
    I give up trying to format this post correctly. It’s not happening.

     Don’t sweat it. Great post. And yes, I have the same formatting problems when I try to post something.

    • #17
    • March 31, 2014, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  18. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Frank Soto:

    skipsul: My oft-referred-to Mother in Law is, aside from being a socialist, also a pacifist. She blames all wars on the “Military Industrial Complex”, which to me, sounds like a disease. ”I caught Military Industrial Complex.” To her, all wars are conspiracies of both sides to profit from human misery. I’ve given up rational discussion on this issue with her.

    How does she explain this?

    Easy. Military Industrial Complex.

    • #18
    • March 31, 2014, at 5:05 PM PDT
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  19. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Percival:
    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

     A good friend of mine from high school wrote an essay on specifically this, for some senior class paper we had due. We loved it (his friends), the teacher (who was a great woman, and I loved her as a teacher) asked some questions about it, but some other classmates gave it a sneer. This was in 1985/6 or so.

    The friend went on to graduate from West Point. The point being is that it’s pretty easy to sneer at the things that you’re 100% sure will never, ever impact you.

    • #19
    • March 31, 2014, at 5:10 PM PDT
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  20. Jimmy Carter Member

    So, one of these here “pacifists” have never called 911?

    As to Karzai, let’s take Our toys and leave Afghanistan. If one single act of terrorism is acted out toward any American or Allie and is found to have originated in Afghanistan, then We nuke ’em.

    • #20
    • March 31, 2014, at 5:13 PM PDT
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  21. Done Contributor
    Done Post author

    Chris Campion:

    Frank Soto:

    skipsul: My oft-referred-to Mother in Law is, aside from being a socialist, also a pacifist. She blames all wars on the “Military Industrial Complex”, which to me, sounds like a disease. ”I caught Military Industrial Complex.” To her, all wars are conspiracies of both sides to profit from human misery. I’ve given up rational discussion on this issue with her.

    How does she explain this?

    Easy. Military Industrial Complex.

     The Chimpanzee military industrial complex?

    • #21
    • March 31, 2014, at 5:22 PM PDT
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  22. Qoumidan Member

    Is there a way to ‘like’ a post? I can ‘like’ the comments, but sometimes it’s just nice to be able to show that I appreciate a certain post itself when I have nothing to say. And I rarely have anything to say. Although, this time I really want to know what Tabula’s quote from C. S. Lewis is…

    • #22
    • March 31, 2014, at 6:38 PM PDT
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  23. SkipSul Moderator

    Frank Soto:

    Chris Campion:

    Frank Soto:

    skipsul: My oft-referred-to Mother in Law is, aside from being a socialist, also a pacifist. She blames all wars on the “Military Industrial Complex”, which to me, sounds like a disease. ”I caught Military Industrial Complex.” To her, all wars are conspiracies of both sides to profit from human misery. I’ve given up rational discussion on this issue with her.

    How does she explain this?

    Easy. Military Industrial Complex.

    The Chimpanzee military industrial complex?

     She doesn’t monkey around with her opinions, they are her own and she does not like accusations of aping others.

    • #23
    • March 31, 2014, at 7:13 PM PDT
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  24. SkipSul Moderator

    Qoumidan:
    Is there a way to ‘like’ a post? I can ‘like’ the comments, but sometimes it’s just nice to be able to show that I appreciate a certain post itself when I have nothing to say. And I rarely have anything to say. Although, this time I really want to know what Tabula’s quote from C. S. Lewis is…

     There was such a feature in the beta. Shame it was dropped.

    • #24
    • March 31, 2014, at 7:14 PM PDT
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  25. tabula rasa Member

    Here’s the Lewis quote (I’m typing it in rather than cutting and pasting): “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 neighbour who does not. Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be no Pacifists.”

    • #25
    • March 31, 2014, at 8:32 PM PDT
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  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I have always wanted to go up to pacifist protesters and ask them to sign a form agreeing that they no longer have the right to call the police and ask someone to do violence on their behalf. I wonder if they would even get it.

    Pacifists simply reject fundamental reality. Not sure if they are that crazy or just that stupid.

    Then again, most Americans are pretty ignorant about reality.

    • #26
    • April 1, 2014, at 4:59 AM PDT
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  27. KC Mulville Inactive

    Alright, let’s have a little fun.

    I’ll state upfront that I’m not a pacifist. I believe you have a right to defend yourself, and you have the right to repel aggression. That said …

    I don’t think the message of pacifism is entirely wrong. If there’s a problem between two people, violence may settle the dispute but it doesn’t solve the problem. Further, just because you win a violent contest doesn’t mean your side is right. After all, if the Nazis won, no one would have said that slaughtering Jews was therefore OK. Violence may make the conflict go away, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

    Of course it’s true that if someone shows up and points a gun to your head, pacifism won’t make him put the gun down. (However, if people frequently pop up to point a gun to your head, there may some other problem you’re overlooking.)

    • #27
    • April 1, 2014, at 6:25 AM PDT
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  28. KC Mulville Inactive

    While I agree that my weakness invites aggression from others, Vladimir Putin displays the flip side of that coin — his strength also encourages him to use aggression. Why accept compromise on any issue if you have sufficient strength to win a battle outright? The more strength you accumulate, the more unlikely it is that you’re willing to settle disputes through compromise and negotiation … which creates the possibility that you can just bully your way through a dispute, but it may just be that the other guy has a legitimate complaint.

    While it’s in everyone’s self-interest to have sufficient strength to deter aggression from others, overall, it’s just as important that no one has excessive strength that enables them to trample over legitimate grievances.

    I’m no pacifist, but violence has to be balanced as well. Being unprepared for war is stupid, but trying to resolve conflicts through war is also stupid. When people take the phrase “violence never solved anything” and object that “wars do indeed resolve things,” they’re missing the point — wars only settle the disputing, but they don’t fix the problem that started the dispute.

    • #28
    • April 1, 2014, at 6:38 AM PDT
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  29. Tim H. Member

    I’m no pacifist, and I find the arguments of pacifists dangerously naïve. They think that we will be safer if we are unprepared for war and unwilling to fight. I believe that their objections to fighting are a mixture of moral (that fighting is wrong) and pragmatic (that pacifism will make us safer).

    But! I have respect for that tiny, tiny minority of Christian pacifists who don’t believe in war or fighting or even self-defense. Those who think it’s morally wrong, period, but who recognize that pacifism will not make us safer. Rather, that it’s likely to mean our subjugation or destruction at some point, but that this is what God wants us to do, anyway.

    I don’t know that I have met any of these people, and it’s possible that they don’t exist in any recognizable numbers. But I would respect them if they did exist. I think they would be the only pacifists who have really thought the issue through and who have the kind of bravery to face a dangerous world as it really is.

    • #29
    • April 1, 2014, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  30. Done Contributor
    Done Post author

    KC, On an individual level, I suspect you are correct. If I am far stronger then you, I am likely to use my strength more frequently to get what I want from you.

    However, I see no evidence that a great power is more likely to engage in war against lesser powers then equal powers are to engage in war with each other.

    For hundreds of years in ancient Greece, city-states of roughly equal strength were at war for 2 out of every 3 years. You see similar behavior in medieval Europe.

    On the flip side, America embodies the best of both worlds. Difficult to challenge in open warfare, but with no territorial designs on other nations.

    If we existed only on par with foreign powers, we’d still have no designs on their territory, but they would have designs on ours. Benevolent hegemon is the way to go.

    • #30
    • April 1, 2014, at 9:40 AM PDT
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