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.
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.
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.