Thursday, October 13, 2005

The varieties of pacifism: (Part IIB)--responses to 9/11

[See previous posts in the series: Part I (Gandhi); and Part IIA (Quaker history).]

For some reason, this post was much harder to write--and far longer!--than I ever expected it to be. So I apologize, especially for the length. I hope I haven't bitten off more than I could comfortably chew, or expect readers to chew. In it, I've tried to summarize the belief system of pacifists as a whole, and then to describe the varied Quaker responses to 9/11 in terms of that belief system.

BACKGROUND

Pacifism sometimes seems illogical and naive to those who don't espouse it. But the key to the logic of pacifism--and it definitely has its own logic--is that it is a belief system. As such, it's based on certain premises which are accepted as articles of faith and that, to pacifists, can stand outside the realm of proof.

Certain broad Quaker pacifist beliefs underlie their responses to 9/11. These beliefs are by no means limited to Quakers, so this essay should be relevant to the reactions of many other types of pacifists as well.

There are two main strains of modern-day Quaker belief about how pacifism would actually work in practice. The first approach (which I'll call the "love" approach) is both individual and transcendent: the pacifist refuses to fight, but understands that others will. The pacifist sees him/herself as serving as an example of another way of being in the world, an alternative and spiritual way. This is the sort of pacifist who might refuse to bear arms but would volunteer to serve as an ambulance driver in the theater of war. This first strain of pacifism also contains the hope that, by meeting hatred with love, and also acting as an example, the pacifist will effect a spiritual and emotional change in the hard heart of the violent person, a turning towards peace (this is also the Gandhian view). Often, as with Gandhi, this pacifist approach assumes that if a large group of individuals could make the decision to meet hatred with love in this manner, the whole enterprise would take on a different aspect and effect a very real change in the conduct of a war, including the possibility of ending that war.

Pacifists of this first variety fervently hope (and believe) that meeting violence with love will cause the tyrannical to have a change of heart. But what if it's tried, and the approach fails to work as planned? Then those who are nonviolent could easily end up being slaughtered by the violent. Most pacifists don't look on that prospect with anything like Gandhi's chilling equanimity.

So, if fighting in a war isn't allowed, what's to prevent a slaughter of the innocents? How can the problem of defending against tyranny be solved? What does the pacifist propose as a replacement for a muscular and violent defense to prevent this slaughter from happening?

As we found in Part IIA, many Quakers would answer that at that point, in a clearly defensive situation, it may be time to fight, even for Quakers. They would say that each person needs to make an individual decision about this after some intensive soul-searching.

But many pacifists have trouble with that approach. Absolute pacifists would say instead, as we saw with Gandhi in Part I, that it would be better to allow oneself to be slaughtered and meet death with exemplary courage than to fight and live another day.

Both alternatives can be problematic for pacifists, of course: the choice is between a bang or a whimper. So there is a second pacifist approach (which I'll call the "law" approach), one that emphasizes prevention and/or alternative resolution of conflict, and can either exist independently of the first approach or complement it. This second approach is both institutional and legalistic: the belief in the structures and rules of international law as the alternative to war. It constitutes a sort of safety net for pacifists: if it works, the pacifist doesn't need to make the hard decisions to either fight or be slaughtered, because the situation for that choice won't arise.


EXAMPLES

If you've read my history of Quaker pacifism in Part IIA, you may recall that the first approach has its roots in the views of Fox and Penington, the second in those of William Penn.

Here's an excellent and representative example of the Quaker "love" approach, a document entitled "Speak Truth to Power," published by the American Friends Service Committee in 1955. It fully captures the flavor of this approach--individual, idealistic, faith-based:

Our truth is an ancient one; that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden. This truth, fundamental to the position which rejects reliance on the method of war, is ultimately a religious perception, a belief that stands outside of history.

As "a belief that stands outside of history," the faith that love conquers all cannot be challenged or disproven by facts. That's what makes it a religious--or quasi-religious--belief rather than a proven approach, although I don't think pacifists would be adverse to proof if it were offered. But such proof is not required.

Here is more in the same vein, in which "reason" is explicitly rejected:

If ever truth reaches power, if ever it speaks to the individual citizen, it will not be the argument that convinces. Rather it will be his own inner sense of integrity that impels him to say, "Here I stand. Regardless of relevance or consequence, I can do no other." This is not "reasonable": the politics of eternity is not ruled by reason alone, but by reason ennobled by right...

The early Friends realized only too clearly that the Kingdom of God had not come, but they had an inward sense that it would never come until somebody believed in its principles enough to try them in actual operation. They resolved to go forward then, and make the experimental trial, and take the consequences. So we believe and so we advise.


So the "love" approach is a leap of faith into the unknown, an experiment based on a belief system. This message is considered to be a timeless one. Although the document was written in 1955 and intended in the fight against Communism, the website on which it appears specifically recommends it as still being relevant and timely in the post-9/11 fight against terrorism.

As for the "law" approach, here's a good post-9/11 example. It was issued by several Quaker groups around the time of the invasion of Afghanistan:

We regret the decision by our nation's leaders to launch military strikes against Afghanistan, and we call upon them to halt the bombing and other military attacks.

We recognize the responsibility of the international community to apprehend and try, under international law, those responsible for the recent terrorist attacks... History teaches us that violence leads to more violence. We expect that these massive military strikes by missiles and bombers against this already devastated, starving country will almost certainly make it easier for the leaders of this terrorist struggle to recruit more people to their cause. We must break the cycle of escalating violence.

The struggle against terrorism will indeed be long. To succeed, it will have to undermine the ability of those who would use terrorism to recruit new people to carry out such attacks. This requires ending, or greatly diminishing, the tremendous anger and hatred toward the United States and its allies felt, in particular, by many in the Muslim and Arab world. This can only be done with prolonged, nonviolent efforts for reconciliation, justice, and long-term economic development. It cannot be done through massive bombing and military attacks.


Here's another Quaker post-9/11 "law" response; this one quite divorced from reality, I'm afraid, since it calls for the UN to settle things in Iraq:

...the troop presence in Iraq has lost the support of the Iraqi people and, by most accounts, the U.S. public. All of these events confirm our long-held belief that violence can only beget further violence. The U.S. must give way, so that the UN and other agencies, working with the Iraqi interim government, can bring peace and stability. The AFSC believes that the United States has lost the moral standing to achieve the necessary healing, but remains responsible to support financially those institutions and agencies which can do so.

Here we have another example of the legalistic point of view, written by a Quaker named Mary Lord after 9/11. It calls for international tribunals, special courts, weapons trade limitations, stopping the financing of terrorists, and a host of other peaceful international cooperative approaches (curiously, Ms. Lord maintains that most of these things have not been done, although in fact many have been performed in tandem with the military approaches).

Here is Ms. Lord explaining the pacifist belief system:

Pacifism has been called naïve and unpatriotic. But I ask you, which is the greater naiveté—to believe that the frustrating but productive path of using and strengthening international law is the path of safety, or to believe that a never-ending worldwide war against loosely defined terrorism fought with weapons of mass destruction will make us safe and secure in our gated communities?

The path of war is always, as history proves, the more naïve. War almost never works. Even when it seems to, for a short time, or after a long struggle, it is with a horrific cost of life, and property, and treasure, and the fouling of the earth, and the killing if its creatures. Almost always, similar ends could have been achieved through negotiation or international law and peacekeeping, with far less cost.


This last sentence, which I've taken the liberty of highlighting in bold, I find extraordinary in its assertion of facts without any even an attempt to marshall evidence. But, as with the "love" approach, facts are not the issue here; belief is, including the oft-stated belief that war "doesn't work."

What is meant by this statement that war doesn't work--or, as sometimes put, that it never solves anything? On reflection, I've come to the conclusion that what is really meant is that war doesn't solve everything. In other words, no war eliminates all problems, or even eliminates every aspect of a single problem. For example, the Civil War eliminated slavery, but was followed by the anguish of Reconstruction and inequality. But the fact that a war hasn't solved all problems, or hasn't even solved a single problem (discrimination against blacks, for example) in its entirety, does not mean that the war didn't solve some problems, at least partially or in whole. Slavery is no longer with us. The concentration camps are gone. The pacifist belief that war doesn't solve things not only ignores evidence that it sometimes does (at least partially), but it also fails to take into account how much worse things might be if appeasement had been the order of the day.

As I've said, though, pacifism is a belief system, not requiring proof in the eyes of its adherents. But not all Quakers are uninterested in facts or proof. Some pursue them, no matter how upsetting the results. For example, Swarthmore Quaker historian J. William Frost undertook a lengthy study a few years ago:

aimed at finding an answer to the question, "has religion ever prevented or stopped a war?" Or as he put it more pointedly, "is there historical evidence that religious leaders have stopped wars from beginning or shortened their duration?" His sobering answer, in sum, is: No. There is very little such evidence.

The record of western history, as Frost reviewed it, shows that a church "cannot prevent war, because it has neither theology, mission, nor the leverage in society to do so." Even the largest, most "established" denominations have lacked real leverage, he found....


I could find no similar studies of whether international law had ever stopped a war. Perhaps the answer would be too depressing for pacifists to even contemplate. The results of Frost's study certainly must have been.

But pacifism has other benefits beyond the practical, at least to its believers. There is the wonderful feeling that comes from a sense of oneself as being spiritual, moral, kind, and loving; and of being part of a group of like-minded individuals engaged in working for a worthy and noble cause (see this previous post for a further explanation of this feeling of "circle dancing," especially the Milan Kundera quote on the subject.)

Here's a good example of this genre, in which the feelings of the pacifist about him/herself within the small group of loving Quakers, and the exaltation of the mission, give the author (who became a Quaker post-9/11) hope that such peacefulness is a possibility for all humankind:

I don't know how it happened. It could have been the anthrax that closed the Princeton Post Office that fall that made each mail day seem like our last. Or maybe it was simply that I liked the architecture of the Meetinghouse. It could have been how Irene, the woman who led the Young Friends Meeting, spoke in a quiet voice and the children listened. Whatever it was, I took to this place. I liked meditating in the creaky-benched silence of the meetinghouse, and how the people I met seemed to have light in their faces, despite the building's lack of wattage.

By spring, I felt that I'd found a spiritual home. I was so moved by a feeling of at-oneness, that on Easter Sunday, I peeled myself off my bench to stand up and thank everyone for being there..."Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me," is a song I probably sang too much as a child. I feel it happening, though, as I participate in Meeting. This spring, as with the Gulf War, I am writing letters to the government and joining protests. But it's different. This time around, it's not just my voice and that of a few friends. It's a whole community I've chosen to be part of. This time around, I actually feel the peace I want for the world, and because I feel it, I actually believe it can be possible for others.


Of course, the world is not composed of a circle of peaceful Quakers, a fact of which many Quakers are well aware. And of course, as we've learned, not even all Quakers are dancing in the same circle; Quaker belief and tradition allows for an individual response.

So I close with the words of another post-9/11 Quaker statement, this one by a Quaker who challenges pacifism and casts his lot on the other side of it for this conflict. NPR broadcaster Scott Simon says:

One of the unforeseen effects of being in journalism is that your first-hand exposure to the issues of the world sometimes has the consequence of shaking your deepest personal convictions. I happen to be a Quaker; this is known, I have written about this...I covered conflicts in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. None of them shook my belief that pacifism offers the world a way to foment change without the violence that has pained and poisoned our history...

And then, in the 1990's, I covered the Balkans. And I had to confront, in flesh and blood, the real life flaw—I am inclined to say literally fatal flaw—of pacifism: all the best people could be killed by all the worst ones...

So I speak as a Quaker of not particularly good standing. I am still willing to give first consideration to peaceful alternatives. But I am not willing to lose lives for the sake of ideological consistency. As Mahatma Gandhi himself once said—and, like Lincoln, the Mahatma is wonderful for providing quotations that permit you to prove almost any point you choose—"I would rather be inconsistent than wrong." It seems to me that in confronting the forces that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States has no sane alternative but to wage war; and wage it with unflinching resolution...

We are living in a time when we must remind ourselves of the imperfections of analogies. But let me press ahead with one that has recently been on my mind.

In 1933, the Oxford Student Union conducted a famous debate over whether it was moral for Britons to fight for king and country. The leading objective minds of that university reviewed the many ways in which British colonialism exploited and oppressed the world. They cited the ways in which vengeful demands made of Germany in the wake of the end of World War I had helped encourage the kind of nationalism that may have kindled the rise of fascism. They saw no moral difference between western colonialism and world fascism. The Oxford Union ended that debate with this famous proclamation: "Resolved, that we will in no circumstances fight for king and country."

Von Ribbentrop sent back the good news to Germany's new chancellor, Adolph Hitler: the West will not fight for its own survival. Its finest minds will justify a silent surrender.

The most intelligent young people of their time could not tell the difference between the deficiencies of their own nation, in which liberty and democracy occupied cornerstones, and dictatorship founded on racism, tyranny, and fear...

When George Orwell returned to England after fighting against Fascism in the Spanish civil war, he felt uneasy over finding his country so comfortable—so close to Fascism. His country, he said, with its fat Sunday newspapers and thick orange jam.

"…All sleeping the deep, deep sleep," he wrote, "from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs."


"The deep, deep sleep." Sometimes, in sleep, we dream beautiful dreams of peace. And then we wake.

54 Comments:

At 4:09 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very substantive observations.

My fear is that we live in a country where a significant portion of our citizens (a deep, deep sleep) fail to understand that there are men in the world that live in an entirely separate moral universe from our own.

 
At 4:45 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger Don Radlauer said...

The classic pacifist objection to war - that war "doesn't solve anything" - is, at base, tautological. The problem is that the word "solve" implies, to most people, a negotiated, mutually satisfactory resolution of a dispute. Armed conflict, by definition, aims to impose a result that is not satisfactory to one side; the loser in a war is generally not going to see his concerns adequately addressed.

The problem with the pacifist approach here is that it assumes that all disputes can be successfully resolved through some sort of compromise - in essence, that all actors are "reasonable" and willing to forego or curtail some of their demands. When one (or both!) actors is not reasonable, the whole paradigm breaks down: there was no point in negotiating with Hitler, nor do I believe there is any point in negotiating with Osama bin Laden.

* * *

Another problem with one of the Quaker arguments (specifically regarding the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan) is that it completely fails to grasp the nature of the motivation for terrorism. While it is true that poverty, oppression, and so on make it somewhat easier for terror organizations to recruit, it is not true that such factors are the prime motivation for terrorism.

Modern terrorism is, at base, an organizational activity; and the various terror groups carry out attacks not because they feel oppressed or downtrodden, but simply because perpetrating attacks is their way to keep themselves viable as organizations. Removing or reducing the obvious motivations won't work; the organizations can all too easily manufacture new motivations faster than the rest of us can alleviate the old motivations.

 
At 5:05 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Scott Simon says, regarding the Balkans, that he still thinks we should try peaceful means first.
He still thinks that differentiates him from the rest of the untercrowd.
Moron.

There was a guy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who was big in the Sanctuary hoax.
He went to the Balkans and decided that the US wasn't the worst thing in the world, after all.
The church listened. Because, when John Fife learns something, it's worth listening. Sort of a novelty.

 
At 5:46 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Richard, I give Scott Simon some credit for stumbling toward the truth, though I hope he comes eventually into your camp.

Neo, you have said much better what I have long maintained: there is a difference between the pacifist who knows she is impractical but believes nonviolence will work in the longest of long runs, and the current milk-and-water pacifist who believes against all evidence that her strategy of economic encouragement, gentle discussion, etc, will actually work in the years we actually live. That latter view is an idiocy which could make one weep. The former I can respect. In fact, your reminder of that different strain of pacifism, much less common now, renewed a respect for that group which I had shed over a decade ago.

A bit tangential: Jimmy Carter complained that Lord of The Rings, a work by a Christian of depths Carter apparently can't imagine, had undone his decades of work. I certainly hope so. Though Frodo's quest is ultimately spiritual and pacifistic, it can only take place in the context of others' military heroism, and both sides of the equation recognise the value of the separate struggles.

 
At 6:00 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger Shane said...

Robert Heinlein wrote about this very statement -- that violence never solves anything. He suggested checking with the city government of Carthage as to what they thought about that idea.

 
At 6:38 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger James Becker said...

Hi Neo,

It seems to me that pacifism and non-violence have a fundamental problem other than the ones you found.

If a person holds such a position, then that person probably says that killing a person breaking into his house or trying to attack him is wrong. If a person does not hold such a view, then the person really believes one type of violence is sometimes ok (protecting himself from a criminal), while another type of violence is never ok (military operations).

Assuming the person is against self defense as well, then what about self defense by proxy? The person probably votes, and thereby contributes to and gives his consent to various law enforcement agencies. These law enforcement individuals surely protect themselves with deadly force when confronted, and the pacifist voted for that, right? And they approve of it too, even if they wish it didn't have to happen, correct?

If the pacifist doesn't approve of the policeman protecting himself, and convinces a majority of the citizens to vote that way, all government stops. Taxes don't get collected, regulations don't get enforced, laws become nothing but words on paper.

I imagine a pacifist could say that law enforcement protecting themselves is necessary for creation of society - which is true, but then their position is no longer pacifist. They are really saying that some sorts of conflict and violence are ok, while others are not. To some extent, all political theories hold that to be true.

I expect that your average pacifist is deluded about these subjects. Lee Harris has noted that we live in a miracle society, where violence has been submerged beneath a layer of government - and therefore has become invisible - except in war. Its still there though, if you want to look. Since pacifists say they don't like violence, they choose not to see it, thus there delusion.

James Becker
Denver

 
At 7:43 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

I expect Scott Simon gives himself some credit, too.

The point is, it takes an up close and personal view of the Balkans to learn what normal people know all their lives.
He's saying he's been pretty thick all along. Really thick. But he figures he's still ahead of us, somehow.


Now he's a circumstance-judger like everybody else.

 
At 7:51 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Tatterdemalian said...

Violence should only be used when all other options have failed, but it's important to know when all other options have failed, because they often do. Inventing other options out of pure fantasy just to avoid having to use violence is both the height of arrogance and the depths of folly.

And my word verification this time was "shmuffin." Combined with the trippy font, I'll probably still be giggling about it tomorrow.

 
At 8:30 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

James Becker: In fact, Quaker pacifists have written quite a bit about what they call the distinction between the "cop" and the "general." See this for more.

Quaker pacifism has a lot of problems connected with it, IMHO. But some Quakers have at least acknowledged that there are problems inherent in their positions, and have done quite a bit of thinking about them.

 
At 10:42 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

I hope. I really, really hope that one problem the Quakers have gives them serious heartburn. That's the idea that without us knuckledraggers they'd all be effing dead. Not able to think their high thoughts.
Ditto all the morally incredibly wonderful.
I hope the results of this contradiction are beyond the power of Nexium to alleviate.

 
At 11:02 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous urthshu said...

Well, the root of Quaker pacifism is actually to 'remove the causes for all wars', whatever that might in fact detail. Pacifism is supposed to be the expression of that root, which is essentially external.

Spiritually I don't mind the Quakers, although their pacifism is something I'm not in concert with.

There is a blogging pro-war Quaker: Flea - who should be mentioned. Hopefully he'll pop in and comment.

I will grant them one thing I tend not to grant the average 'anti-war' sort: They generally mean it. By that I mean they don't antagonise, start fights or act like pricks then feign pacifism; instead they evince a decent good cheer and patience with those who do not hold their beliefs.

WRT Jimmy Carter: He did not say that. The original is here.

 
At 6:24 AM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

There may be nothing more dangerous to civilization than dedicated pacifists. Nothing emboldens thugs and terrorists more than people who will not resist.

 
At 10:07 AM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Goesh. You are moving toward one of the threads about how the sheepdogs look at the sheep.
I said that when the sheepdogs--who will be expected to face the wolves--see some of the sheep acting so as to encourage the wolves, the sheepdogs get angry.
They would prefer to deter. Having to actually fight is dangerous and can be fatal.
But as the bozo/sheep tell the wolves that all will be well, that there will be little or no resistance....
The dislike of the pacifists by the sheepdogs is a special class.

 
At 10:47 AM, October 14, 2005, Blogger N. O'Brain said...

"Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of
democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively, the pacifist is pro-Nazi."
-George Orwell

 
At 10:49 AM, October 14, 2005, Blogger N. O'Brain said...

"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay--and claims a halo for his dishonesty."

-Robert A. Heinlein

 
At 10:52 AM, October 14, 2005, Blogger N. O'Brain said...

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue--and thoroughly immoral-- doctrine that 'violence never solves anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The Ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more disputes 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 freedoms."
-Robert Heinlein

 
At 1:38 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Craig said...

Scott Simon was quoted: "But I am not willing to lose lives for the sake of ideological consistency."

If my Quaker pacifism were a mere ideology, then perhaps it would be easily discarded.

My pacifism stems from a deep faith and a firm trust in Jesus Christ to keep me safe. I find it interesting that more Christians seem to have more faith in the Bush war machine than the object of their worship, the Prince of Peace.

Certainly not everyone is going to be a pacifist any time soon. However, it seems that you and other neo-cons have declared war not only in Iraq but those of us who are pacifists, thus declaring war on my religion.

If you don't agree with our pacifism, so be it. But don't try dragging us into your world of war and faithlessness. For us, "to obey is better than sacrifice."

 
At 2:05 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Craig. You've got it exactly backwards.

We are not dragging you into any war or other unpleasantness. The sheepdogs are protecting you from those, while you--as Orwell said--make their job more dangerous and difficult.


And then you give yourself a halo for the whole thing.

Pardon me for being deeply unimpressed.

 
At 3:06 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Craig said...

Richard, what is your faith? Or shall I say, where is your faith?

 
At 3:19 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous craig said...

One more thing Richard. You don't have to be impressed with me, but it is Jesus you should be trying to impress. The only halo I have will one day be laid down at His feet.

Many Quakers have been killed for their stand. There is a better home awaiting those who obey. To be reviled is proof that we are indeed on the right road to see our Heavenly Father.

Richard, you're in my prayers.

 
At 4:10 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger James Becker said...

Hi Neo,

I read the link you gave me regarding the police protection. I found it generally empty philosophically.

I'm looking for the answer to the following question:

A Pacifist is unwilling to commit violence himself, correct? Even for self protection in a criminal situation.

Yet a pacifist is willing to empower a policeman to do the exact same thing. Somehow, the violence a pacifist finds immoral is ok when that pacifist votes another to do the exact act under the exact circumstance.

Direct contradiction, no?

James

 
At 5:25 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Actually, James, I think you're confusing absolute pacifism with relative pacifism (my terms--I don't know whether there's an official way to describe it). Some pacifists of the latter persuation believe in self-defense, even of a personal nature, and therefore their views present no serious contradiction. They just don't see most wars as being necessary for self-defense.

And Craig, I'm puzzled by your response. I tried to be fair in presenting the type of pacifism that comes from a personal and religious dimension and would allow a person, for example, to not fight but to be an ambulance driver or a medic. Take a look at comment #4, the one from assistant village idiot, and I think you'll see what I'm talking about.

Also, I'm not too expert on the ins and outs of this, but there is longstanding conflict among different Christian denominations about Jesus's position on the matter of war, and how to interpret it (for example, the Catholic "just war" doctrine). I'm not going to enter that particular fray here. But I know there is disagreement.

 
At 10:33 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

my suspicion is that craig has not read the post and comments closely, as all of his points have already been addressed.

I have been a Christian all of my adult life and was a churchgoer before that. I have a simple set of questions, Craig. If your brand of pacifism that equates Peace with peace is the obvious interpretation of Jesus's teaching, how did that fact elude Paul, Peter, Clement, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Newman, Lewis, and Bonhoeffer? I can see how you might disagree with any one of them, but all of them together? How have you penetrated the darkness that blinded them?

 
At 11:15 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Our truth is an ancient one; that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden. This truth, fundamental to the position which rejects reliance on the method of war, is ultimately a religious perception, a belief that stands outside of history.

Funny, that it brings up emotions. Since that was the basis for the answer to that question in Gates of Fire, an epic novel about the battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans died to the last man defending against 2 million Persian invaders, written by Steven Pressfield a former Marine and warrior.

Now what was the question? Pretty simple, it was about the opposite of fear. Not what is the absence of fear, not what can overcome fear and make people act bravely. In Spartan society, they counter-act fear with a greater fear, the fear of social ostracization, societal rejection. Including their own mothers, brothers, and family, should they prove to be a coward in the face of death and war. But the point of the question is that it wanted the POSITIVE of fear, not the negative, not the absence. Happy and sad, like that.

Pressfield writes it much better than I, he is after all a warrior himself. Now begins the long quote.

"All my life," Dienekes began, "one question has haunted me. What is the opposite of fear?"

"To call it aphobia, fearlessness, is without meaning. This is just a name, thesis expressed as antithesis. To call the opposite of fear fearlessness is to say nothing. I want to know its true obverse, as day of night and heaven of earth."

"Expressed as a positive," Ariston ventured.

"Exactly!" Dienekes met the young man's eyes in approval. He paused to study both youths' expressions. Would they listen? Did they care? Were they, like him, true students of this subject?

"How does one conquer fear of death, that most primordial of terrors, which resides in our very blood, as in all life, beasts as well as men?" He indicated the hounds flanking Suicide. "Dogs in a pack find courage to take on a lion. Each hound knows his place. He fears the dog ranked above and feeds off the fear of the dog below. Fear conquers fear. This is how we Spartans do it, counterpoising to fear of death a greater fear: that of dishonor. Of exclusion from the pack."

Suicide took this moment to toss several scraps to the dogs. Furiously their jaws snapped these remnants from the turf, the stronger of the two seizing the lion's share.

Dienekes smiled darkly.

"But is that courage? Is not acting out of fear of dishonor still, in essence, acting out of fear?"

Alexandros asked what he was seeking.

"Something nobler. A higher form of the mystery. Pure. Infallible."

He declared that in all other questions one may look for wisdom to the gods. "But not in matters of courage. What have the immortals to teach us? They cannot die. Their spirits are not housed, as ours, in this." Here he indicated the body, the flesh. "The factory of fear."

Dienekes glanced again to Suicide, then back to Alexandras, Ariston and me. "You young men imagine that we veterans, with our long experience of war, have mastered fear. But we feel it as keenly as you. More keenly, for we have more intimate experience of it. Fear lives within us twenty-four hours a day, in our sinews and our bones. Do I speak the truth, my friend?"

Suicide grinned darkly in reply.

My master grinned back. "We cobble our courage together on the spot, of rags and remnants. The main we summon out of that which is base. Fear of disgracing the city, the king, the heroes of our lines. Fear of proving ourselves unworthy of our wives and children, our brothers, our comrades-inarms. For myself I know all the tricks of the breath and of song, the pillars of the tetrathesis, the teachings of the phobo-logia. I know how to close with my man, how to convince myself that his terror is greater than my own. Perhaps it is. I employ care for the men-at-arms serving beneath me and seek to forget my own fear in concern for their survival. But it's always there. The closest I've come is to act despite terror. But that's not it either. Not the kind of courage I'm talking about. Nor is beastlike fury or panic-spawned self-preservation. These are katalepsis, possession. A rat owns as much of them as a man."

He observed that often those who seek to overcome fear of death preach that the soul does not expire with the body. "To my mind this is fatuousness. Wishful thinking. Others, barbarians primarily, say that when we die we pass on to paradise. I ask them all: if you really believe this, why not make away with yourself at once and speed the trip?

"Achilles, Homer tells us, possessed true andreia. But did he? Scion of an immortal mother, dipped as a babe in the waters of Styx, knowing himself to be save his heel invulner-


able? Cowards would be rarer than feathers on fish if we all knew that."

Alexandros inquired if any of the city, in Dienekes' opinion, possessed this true andreia.

"Of all in Lakedaemon, our friend Polynikes comes closest. But even his valor I find unsatisfactory. He fights not out of fear of dishonor, but greed for glory. This may be noble, or at least unbase, but is it true andreia?"

Ariston asked if this higher courage in fact existed.

"It is no phantom," Dienekes declared with conviction. "I have seen it. My brother Iatrokles possessed it in moments. When I beheld its grace upon him, I stood in awe. It radiated, sublime. In those hours he fought not like a man but a god. Leonidas has it on occasion. Olympieus doesn't. I don't. None of us here does." He smiled. "Do you know who owns it, this pure form of courage, more than any other I have known?"

None around the fire answered.

"My wife," Dienekes said. He turned to Alexandras. "And your mother, the lady Paraleia." He smiled again. "There is a clue here. The seat of this higher valor, I suspect, lies in that which is female. The words themselves for courage, andreia and aphobia, are female, whereas phobos and tromos, terror, are masculine. Perhaps the god we seek is not a god at all, but a goddess. I don't know."

You could see it did Dienekes good to speak of this. He thanked his listeners for sitting still for it. "The Spartans have no patience for such inquiries of the salon. I remember asking my brother once, on campaign, a day when he had fought like an immortal. I was mad to know what he had felt in those moments, what was the essence experienced within? He looked at me as if I had taken leave of sanity. 'Less philosophy, Dienekes, and more virtue.' "

He laughed. "So much for that."

My master turned sidelong then, as if to draw this inquiry to a close. Yet some impulse drew him back, to Ariston, upon whose features stood that expression of one of youthful years nerving himself to venture speech before his elders. "Spit it out, my friend," Dienekes urged him.

"I was thinking of women's courage. I believe it is different from men's."

The youth hesitated. Perhaps, his expression clearly bespoke, it smacked of immodesty or presumptuousness to speculate upon matters of which he possessed no experience.

Dienekes pressed him nonetheless. "Different, how?"

Ariston glanced to Alexandras, who with a grin reinforced his friend's resolve. The youth took a breath and began: "Man's courage, to give his life for his country, is great but unextraordinary. Is it not intrinsic to the nature of the male, beasts as well as men, to fight and to contend? It's what we were born to do, it's in our blood. Watch any boy. Before he can even speak, he reaches, impelled by instinct, for the staff and the sword—while his sisters unprompted shun these implements of contention and instead cuddle to their bosom the kitten and the doll.

"What is more natural to a man than to fight, or a woman to love? Is this not the imperative of a mother's blood, to give and to nurture, above all the produce of her own womb, the children she has borne in pain? We know that a lioness or she-wolf will cast away her life without hesitation to preserve her cubs or pups. Women the same. Now consider, friends, that which we call women's courage:

"What could be more contrary to female nature, to motherhood, than to stand unmoved and unmoving as her sons march off to death? Must not every sinew of the mother's flesh call out in agony and affront at such an outrage? Must not her heart seek to cry in its passion, 'No! Not my son! Spare him!' That women, from some source unknown to us, summon the will to conquer this their own deepest nature is, I believe, the reason we stand in awe of our mothers and sisters and wives. This, I believe, Dienekes, is the essence of women's courage and why it, as you suggested, is superior to men's."

My master acknowledged these observations with approval. At his side Alexandras shifted, however. You could see the young man was not satisfied.

"What you say is true, Ariston. I had never thought of it in that way before. Yet something must be added. If women's victory were simply to stand dry-eyed as their sons march off to death, this would not alone be unnatural, but inhuman, grotesque and even monstrous. What elevates such an act to the stature of nobility is, I believe, that it is performed in the service of a higher and more selfless cause.

"These women of whom we stand in awe donate their sons' lives to their country, to the people as a whole, that the nation may survive even as their own dear children perish. Like the mother whose story we have heard from childhood who, on learning that all five of her sons had been killed in the same battle, asked only, 'Was our nation victorious?' and, being told that it was, turned for home without a tear, saying only, 'Then I am happy.' Is it not this element—the nobility of setting the whole above the part—that moves us about women's sacrifice?"

"Such wisdom from the mouths of babes!" Dienekes laughed and rapped both lads affectionately upon the shoulder. "But you have not yet answered my question. What is the opposite of fear?


Our truth is an ancient one; that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden.

Their truth is an ancient one? Bah humbug. Their truth is a distillation of weakness, petty vanities, and cowardice. Their love is the love of the SELF, not of nation, family, or nobility. Despicable that they would call their fatuous emotion, by the name of "love".

I state that they do not love humanity or their country.
They state that people who fight in war only fight with hatred in their hearts.

Von Ribbentrop sent back the good news to Germany's new chancellor, Adolph Hitler: the West will not fight for its own survival. Its finest minds will justify a silent surrender.

The "finest minds"? Ha, give me a break. More like "the group with the highest deficiency in virtues".

The Greeks got it right the first time. The idea of the philosopher-warrior, he who writes poetry, verses, and literature than puts on hoplite armor and marches to war.

"Do you remember, Dienekes, when we fought the Thebans at Erythrae? When they broke and ran? This was the first rout I had witnessed. I was appalled by it. Can there exist a baser, more degrading sight beneath the sun than a phalanx breaking apart in fear? It makes one ashamed to be mortal, to behold such ignobility even in an enemy. It violates the higher laws of God." Suicide's face, which had been a grimace of disdain, now brightened into a cheerier mode. "Ah, but the opposite: a line that holds! What can be more grand, more noble?

"One night I dreamt I marched within the phalanx. We were advancing across a plain to meet the foe. Terror froze my heart. My fellow warriors strode all around me, in front, behind, to all sides. They were all me. Myself old, myself young. I became even more terrified, as if I were coming apart into pieces. Then all began to sing. All the 'me's,' all the 'myself's.' As their voices rose in sweet concord, all fear fled my heart. I woke with a still breast and knew this was a dream straight from God.

"I understood then that it was the glue that made the phalanx great. The unseen glue that bound it together. I realized that all the drill and discipline you Spartans love to pound into each other's skulls were really not to inculcate skill or art, but only to produce this glue."

Medon laughed. "And what glue have you dissolved, Suicide, that finally allows your jaws to flap with such un-Scyth-ian immoderation?"

Suicide grinned across the fire. Medon was the one, it was said, who had originally given the Scythian his nickname, when he, guilty of a murder in his country, had fled to Sparta, where he asked again and again for death.

"When I first came to Lakedaemon and they called me 'Suicide,' I hated it. .But in time I came to see its wisdom, unintentional as it was. For what can be more noble than to slay oneself? Not literally. Not with a blade in the guts. But to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin. That, I saw, was the victory you Spartans had gained over yourselves. That was the glue. It was what you had learned and it made me stay, to learn it too.


"When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life's preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. This is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. This truth is too holy, too sacred, for words. I myself would not presume to give it speech, save here now, with you."

Black Leon had been listening attentively. "What you say is true, Suicide, if you will forgive me for calling you that. But not everything unseen is noble. Base emotions are invisible as well. Fear and greed and lust. What do you say about them?"
"Yes," Suicide acknowledged, "but don't they feel base? They stink to heaven, they make one sick within the heart. The noble invisible things feel different. They are like music, in which the higher notes are the finer.

"This was another thing that puzzled me when I arrived in Lakedaemon. Your music. How much of it there was, not alone the martial odes or war songs you sing as you advance upon the foe, but in the dances and the choruses, the festivals and the sacrifices. Why do these consummate warriors honor music so, when they forbid all theater and art? I believe they sense that the virtues are like music. They vibrate at a higher, nobler pitch."

He turned to Alexandros. "That is why Leonidas chose you for the Three Hundred, my young master, though he knew you had never before stood among the trumpets. He believes you will sing here at the Gates in that sublime register, not with this"—he indicated the throat—"but with this." And his hand touched his heart.
Suicide drew up, suddenly awkward and abashed. Around the fire each face regarded him soberly and with respect. Dienekes broke the silence with a laugh.

"You're a philosopher, Suicide."

The Scythian grinned back. "Yes," he nodded, "week up to thees!"

A messenger appeared, summoning Dienekes to Leoni-das' council. My master motioned me to accompany him. Something had changed within him; I could sense it as we picked our way among the network of trails that crisscrossed the camps of the allies.

"Do you remember the night, Xeo, when we sat with Ariston and Alexandras and spoke of fear and its opposite?"

I said I did.

"I have the answer to my question. Our friends the merchant and the Scythian have given it to me."

His glance took in the fires of the camp, the nations of the allies clustered in their units, and their officers, whom we could see, like us approaching from all quarters the king's fire, ready to respond to his needs and receive his instructions.

"The opposite of fear," Dienekes said, "is love."


I do not expect pacifists to understand this philosophy, this philosophy of warriors and soldiers. In fact I would be quite surprised that someone of milder temperance would understand.

I do not falsely proclaim myself to be a warrior, but I do believe and adhere to the warrior philosophy.

This is why war is not the same thing to me, as it is to a pacifist, regardless of their stripe or denomination.

A pacifist sees the cycle of violence in war, a pointlessness, an utter degradation of humanity. That feeling, and it is only a feeling, is very common among all civilized (meaning decadent civilians) societies.

But I am not civilized, and neither are many of the defenders of liberty. There is just a basic difference in temperament, in behavior, and yes, in psychology.

Many civilians worried about how we could fight "True Believers" that would blow themselves up and use our aircraft as suicidal human bombs.

I lost that worry, which plagued me constantly, when I came to know the warrior philosophy and its tenets.

Because I came to realize, that all protectors of liberty, are True Believers of superior caliber to the idiots in the Middle East.

Our belief in ourselves and our goals, are as strong if not stronger than the terroists. Our character and virtues, are plentiful in comparison to Osama Bin Laden and his suicidal drones.

Some may say this is because we are war mongers on a level incomparable with the terroists, but I say with astute honesty that it is because we love liberty, we love America, and we love our brothers in arms.

It is love as it should be, not the decadent forms of civilized societies.

That is the core of the misunderstanding, many pacifists believe their love is the only love possible. It isn't.

 
At 11:23 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I would be far more inclined to proscribe facts and reason rather than medical drugs. From a psychological point of view, psycho-drugs don't really help in the permanent sense.

 
At 11:23 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Oh great, somehow I posted in the wrong thread, sorry.

 
At 10:34 AM, October 16, 2005, Blogger maryatexitzero said...

My pacifism stems from a deep faith and a firm trust in Jesus Christ to keep me safe.

However, it seems that you and other neo-cons have declared war not only in Iraq but those of us who are pacifists, thus declaring war on my religion.

The most amazing part of this "faith based" pure pacifism is its outrageous self-centeredness. Pacifists say "Jesus Christ will keep ME safe." I'm willing to sacrifice MY life for MY beliefs.

What about your friends and family. What about your community? They don't seem to be a big part of this whole issue.

If you refuse to protect them or defend them, do you expect Christ to pick up the slack?

For the pacifist, Christ and world events exist to confirm or confront MY life and MY beliefs. To a pacifist, war is a challenge to ME and MY beliefs. It the ultimate self-centered toddler-level philosophy.

 
At 10:47 AM, October 16, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Selfishness is certainly a part of any adherence to a religion, pacifism more so than others.

The elevation of the self (the enlightened), against the sinner (the violent people).

 
At 1:42 PM, October 16, 2005, Blogger David said...

Around here, one often sees vehicles with bumper stickers asking "Who would Jesus bomb?" Very often, these stickers are on high-end SUVs and other expensive vehicles.

Jesus probably wouldn't bomb anybody, because he said that his kingdom is not of this world. For the same reason, he probably wouldn't have worried a lot about getting tenure, or about making partner at the law firm, or about getting the kids into the Ivy League.

How do these people justify their advocacy of one part of the not-of-this-world philosophy, while simultaneously acting in ways quite contrary to the *overall* philosophy?
I think it's mainly about a feeling of superiority--they can feel superior on one level through the bumper sticker, and on another level through the financial success and the vehicles it makes possible.

Note also that the simplistic logic of the bumper sticker would prohibit the bombing of the Waffen SS just as much as it would prohibit the bombing of terrorists in Iraq.

 
At 2:05 PM, October 16, 2005, Anonymous Dishman said...

Craig said:
My pacifism stems from a deep faith and a firm trust in Jesus Christ to keep me safe.

A certain speaker said, "Thrown yourself down from the heights, and Angels will bear you up, lest you strike your foot."

The other responded, "... it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Craig, which of these do you truly follow?

 
At 7:45 PM, October 16, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Dishman. Quite right.

Craig. I'm a member--elder--of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I will be moving in a couple of years and will leave the church due to its anti-Semitism. That, I should say, is only one, the most recent, reason. Until then, I will remain loyal to my local congregation.

I should say, Craig, that Jesus doesn't have to worry about saving you until after the US military fails. Makes your talk kind of cheap.

 
At 10:54 AM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Paul L said...

As I suggested on Neo-neo's first post on Gandhi, I think her observation as to the fact that war may not solve everything is not by itself a condemnation of war; but neither is it of pacifism, if you grant that its literal meaning -- peace making, or peace doing -- implies positive action and not merely sitting on one's hands. (There are, of course, various degrees to which self-identified pacifists are engaged in political and social activity.)

Making just a few changes of words in one of your paragraphs makes the point:

"What is meant by this statement that [pacifism] doesn't work--or, as sometimes put, that it never solves anything? On reflection, I've come to the conclusion that what is really meant is that [pacifism] doesn't solve everything. In other words, no [peacemaking effort] eliminates all problems, or even eliminates every aspect of a single problem. For example, the [Abolition Movement created the contitions that force a confrontation with slavery], but was followed by the anguish of [Civil War], Reconstruction, and inequality. But the fact that [pacifism] hasn't solved all problems, or hasn't even solved a single problem (discrimination against blacks, for example) in its entirety, does not mean that the [pacifism] didn't solve some problems, at least partially or in whole. Slavery is no longer with us. The concentration camps are gone. The [militarist]'s belief that [pacifism] doesn't solve things not only ignores evidence that it sometimes does (at least partially), but it also fails to take into account how much worse things might be if [acquiesence to violence] had been the order of the day."

And as I wrote in response to your first essay on Quaker pacifism, the essence of religious pacifism (as contrasted with political) is a willingness to accept suffering oneself before imposing it on others. It's what Jesus did when he kept Peter from fighting in the Garden. It what the crew of the Golden Rule did when they sailed into a planned H-bomb test in the pacific. It's what the young students of SNCC and the Freedom Riders did when they patiently endured unspeakable violence rather than to acquiesce to segregation.

This kind of pacifism today requires us to continue to examine how others are being asked to suffer on our behalf and to find ways to take that suffering on ourselves. Not easy where war-making (or preparation) is so integrated into our economic, social, and political life. Or where we witness -- like the disciples at Calvary -- the deaths of innocent people from afar. But our call is to be faithful and to call others to faithfulness.

At least, we can say with Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem, "Conscientious Objector":

I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death. . . .
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?

 
At 11:01 AM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Paul L said...

As I suggested on Neo-neo's first post on Gandhi, I think her observation as to the fact that war may not solve everything is not by itself a condemnation of war; but neither is it of pacifism, if you grant that its literal meaning -- peace making, or peace doing -- implies positive action and not merely sitting on one's hands. (There are, of course, various degrees to which self-identified pacifists are engaged in political and social activity.)

Making just a few changes of words in one of your paragraphs makes the point:

"What is meant by this statement that [pacifism] doesn't work--or, as sometimes put, that it never solves anything? On reflection, I've come to the conclusion that what is really meant is that [pacifism] doesn't solve everything. In other words, no [peacemaking effort] eliminates all problems, or even eliminates every aspect of a single problem. For example, the [Abolition Movement created the conditions that forced an end to slavery], but was followed by the anguish of [Civil War], Reconstruction, and inequality. But the fact that [pacifism] hasn't solved all problems, or hasn't even solved a single problem (discrimination against blacks, for example) in its entirety, does not mean that [nonviolence] didn't solve some problems, at least partially or in whole. Slavery is no longer with us. The [apartheid and the Gulag]are gone. The [militarist]'s belief that [pacifism] doesn't solve things not only ignores evidence that it sometimes does (at least partially), but it also fails to take into account how much worse things might be if [acquiesence to violence] had been the order of the day."

And as I wrote in response to your first essay on Quaker pacifism, the essence of religious pacifism (as contrasted with political) is a willingness to accept suffering oneself before imposing it on others. It's what Jesus did when he kept Peter from fighting in the Garden. It what the crew of the Golden Rule did when they sailed into a planned H-bomb test in the Pacific. It's what the Buddhist monks did in Vietnam in 1962 and '63. It's what the young students of SNCC and the Freedom Riders did when they patiently endured unspeakable violence rather than to acquiesce to segregation. It's what the Danes did in the 1940s and the Czechs did in 1989.

This kind of pacifism today requires us to to examine how others are being asked to suffer on our behalf and to find ways to take that suffering on ourselves. Not easy where war-making (or preparation) is so integrated into our economic, social, and political life. Or where we witness -- like the disciples at Calvary -- the deaths of innocent people from afar. But our call is to be faithful and to call others to faithfulness.

At least, we can say with Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem, "Conscientious Objector":

I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death. . . .
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?

 
At 11:48 AM, October 17, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

I get the impression from Paul's writings that he presumes that for non-pacifists the move to violence is the first, rather than the last choice. Silly.

I should also say that the civil rights activities he mentions were clearly designed to bring Federal force to bear on the situation. Marshalls, prosecutors, FBI, and federal troops. If the violence got on the 6:30 news, it was a good thing. If it happened in an alley and nobody ever found out about it, it was meaningless, no matter how unresisting the victim might have been.
To put it another way, the non-violence was a lever designed to bring the threat, and if necessary, the actuality of violence to bear.
I would never consider that pacifism, and only consider it non-violence if you allowed it was a tactic to promote violence.

The H-bomb test issue was fake. The folks knew that we would not blow them up. It's why "human shields" actually demonstrate their faith in US morality. When they went to Iraq to defend, say, orphanages, they knew we weren't going to bomb orphanages, anyway. So, as it happens, did Saddaam. He asked them to shield facilities we might bomb, so the human shields went home. Twisted, maybe, but some things are obvious.

The Millay quote is heartwarming until you remember that the view--not of resistance to helping the enemy but of resistance to helping us--encourages the very aggression she implies she dislikes. Millay can tell us how brave she'd be, but she knew she'd never really have to perform. She was protected by those who weren't so wonderfully precious and self-absorbed.

I recall when Twain's "War Prayer" was read in all the right places as a view of how nuts it was to pray for victory.
I figured ol' Mark was having the Extremely Serious folks on.
If winning is this bad, we sure as hell don't want to lose.

 
At 4:28 PM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Paul L said...

No, I don't presume that non-pacifists always use war as their first choice. But they often use it long before it becomes "necessary" in a worldly sense. And now, using military force preemptively -- before it becomes the last choice -- is the official policy of the United States government.

This reality is where principled just war advocates and principled pacifists have common ground: Even if they set aside their disagreement over the theoretical possibility that there could be such a thing as a "just" war, as a practical matter in the modern age there simply aren't any (unless you drop some of the troublesome criteria, especially maintaining a strict distinction between non-combatants and combatants). And it is clear to pacifists and just-war theorists alike that the war against Iraq falls far short of being just in the historic Christian sense.

Furthermore, it is not fair to suppose that the pacifist only has something to say after the fighting starts. Had the pacifists' advice been followed at Versailles in 1918 and 1919, for example, and the US joined and supported the League of Nations, World War II might well have been prevented altogether. Had the US and Britain not looked aside at the tyrannical regimes in the Middle East in exchange for open access to its oil, the democratic tide might well have swept in decades ago will far less disorder or loss of life. But that would have forced us to take on the suffering of less oil upon ourselves; instead, we looked aside while these regimes oppressed their own people, with the catastrophic consequences we are now faced with.

And remember that the violence provoked by the civil rights demonstrators was aimed at themselves, not innocent bystanders or third parties. It was their willingness and capacity to invite and endure that suffering that touched the moral conscience of the nation and the world and changed things forever for the good.

Yes, they hoped (often vainly, it turned out) that the federal government would protect them with force, if necessary. If you consider it inconsistent or hypocritical for innocent victims of a crime to call for protection from the police just because the victim him- or herself would not personally carry a gun or even serve as a police officer, so be it. But the fact remains that the nonviolent civil rights movement largely "worked" in the political sense without resort to armed conflict because they were willing to accept unjustified suffering. Not eveyone is called to make that commitment, but neither should anyone denigrate it as being anything less than it is.

We don't say it's easy to absorb injustice ourselves rather than resisting it. But it takes at least as much courage to face death unarmed as it does with a loaded gun.

Nor do we say nonviolence always "works" in a material sense. But neither does war. As I stated before, the Quakers (and other religious pacifists) base our lives on principles that transcend the calculations of politics. As my Friend Chuck Fager pointed out on the Bill O'Reilley show some time ago :

O’Reilly: My last question for you is this: How would you defend yourself against Al Queda, should Al Queda actually step up their operations into the Unites States? . . How would you defend yourself?

Fager: Well sir, . . . we would defend ourselves the way we have for the last [360] years. We would follow the teachings of Jesus. You know that Jesus ended up on a cross. But his followers are still around, and the empire that put him on that cross is lost in the dust of history.

 
At 5:36 PM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The world is an upside down place. If we came up with time travel, we should be very careful about exposing historical figures such as George Washington, Bismarck, Jefferson, Jackson, and Houston to the present.

They might just go crazy.

 
At 7:50 PM, October 17, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Preemptive war need not be a war too early.
If the cost of waiting is worse, then preemption is better, by definition.
That somebody can think up some moonbeam scheme that he doesn't believe, let alone anybody else, about what will happen "if we just wait and...." doesn't mean that violence was premature.


If the US had joined the League of Nations, nothing would have changed unless it was the US who was the hammer of the League. Being one more viewer-with-alarm would have been no more useful than what really (didn't) happen.
Interesting that pacifists reproach the US for not being willing to go to war with Italy over Ethiopia.
Well, not interesting. Predictable.

The violence the civil rights workers invited on themselves was designed to shock the conscience of the nation, but conscience is a vapor without material action. And that was, say, paratroopers to Little Rock, marshalls to Ole Miss. Federalized guardsmen at Alabama.
Two disclosures: I had a company commander who was a corporal in Little Rock, commanding a gun jeep. The rules of engagement were pretty liberal and the morons apparently, dumb as they were, decided not to piss off the Airborne. Hence things calmed down. But that was because, among other things, Joe Best and two others were driving around with a jeep mounting a thirty-caliber machine gun. Not to mention several thousand of their closest friends.

I believe in just war and I don't have a problem with the invasion of Iraq. I am also, as I may have said, an ex-grunt, so talking about "shock and awe" in horrified tones as a substitute for facts isn't going to impress me.
Just to make one point. We could have flattened Fallujah from the air without risking a single American. Instead, we sent grunts door to door like the Fuller Brush man, getting many killed, to reduce risk to civilians. Ths sort of thing is clear to anybody who's worn the idiot sticks (okay, crossed rifles, emblem of the Infantry) So I suggest that you lose the syllabus you use to impress civilians and start with something else.

The other disclosure is that I did my time in Mississippi, so I don't take a lot of crap.


Great, Fager. How would you defend others?

Of course, there remains the oft-quoted Orwell observation that pacifism effectively favors the fascist. And encourages aggeression.

 
At 8:11 PM, October 17, 2005, Anonymous Dishman said...

One way to look at history is as a series of "choices". That is not a complete picture, though. It is also a series of "moments". A choice in one moment has different consequences than the same choice at a different moment.

At Munich, peace still appeared to be an option. In that moment, though, the cost of choosing war was still less than it ended up being. From the fall of '39 through the spring of '40, the Allies still tried for peace (the Sitzkrieg). There it is fairly clear that they squandered a moment. The choice ended up being the same, but the price was far higher for the interim.

In choosing war or peace, there are a number of costs to be considered. Some examples:
* How much is it going to cost to choose war later instead of now? (ie Hitler's increased armaments)
* How much does peace cost for the duration? (ie murdered Jews, Czechs, Poles, etc.)
* What is the probability that peace can be maintained? (in this example, slim to none)
In the fog of war, there is no good way to know the answer to this question. In hindsight, we can work out what the answers were.

In the example of WWII, it's easy (for me, anyway) to look back and say that war earlier would have been better. On the other hand, I see WWI as a really bad idea and say that there was no good moment for it.

To truly prevent war, I think you have to work to prevent it decades in advance. You have to be able to spot potential conflicts before they emerge, and either defuse them or raise the cost beyond what anyone would pay. I've nudged here and there. It's a bit harder than it appears.

Me, I was sound asleep on the morning of September 11th.
Sorry.

 
At 8:33 PM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

If you don't win the last war, then you're just going to have to fight it all over again next time. Doesn't matter if you fight it next time today or next year, regardless of how early the war is fought, it won't solve much if it isn't won conclusively.

History could easily have been about a WWI with the Allies being the US, Britain, and Germany against France and Russia. Then in WWII, Stalin would have still been in charge.

 
At 9:22 PM, October 17, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Had France not been riddled with pacifists, she might have resisted the German occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. They could have won, as Hitler and his generals knew. It was a bluff. That it worked convinced a good many German senior officers.
We knew the French could have won. What we didn't know until decades later that it wouldn't merely have stopped the Germans. The German generals were so ambivalent about Corporal Hitler that they had a plan to stop if confronted, return to Berlin and can Hitler.
So we'd have had a bit of a scrum in 1936, forever labeled as a battle for market share of something and we'd never know what we missed.

How many Rhineland fights would you be willing to fight if you thought that one of them, but you didn't know which one, would prevent a war one-tenth as costly as WW II?

 
At 7:15 AM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Craig said...

"Craig, which of these do you truly follow?"

Well, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I follow what He says over anything written in the Hebrew Scriptures or the Pauline Epistles.

Here's what Jesus said:

"You have heard it said, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." "But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil, but whoever slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:38

"You have heard it said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy".
But I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons
of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil
and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you , what reward have you? Do not the tax gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Matthew 5:43-48


" Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God." Matthew 5:9

http://www.iranite.com/the_philosophy_of_peace.htm

http://www.quakerfinder.org

http://www.afsc.org/

http://www.sojo.net

 
At 7:19 AM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Craig said...

Dishman, I know your quotes were from the Christian Scriptures. I have included links to some sites in my previous post that might help you understand the Christian position in light of what you wrote.

All I ask is that you pray and ask God what God would have you do. This life is short...we face choices for our eternal life here and now. To obey is better than sacrifice.

 
At 8:34 AM, October 18, 2005, Blogger maryatexitzero said...

Had the pacifists' advice been followed at Versailles in 1918 and 1919, for example, and the US joined and supported the League of Nations, World War II might well have been prevented altogether...


No, that's not true. Studies done by the Southern Poverty law center on the growth of hate-based organizations challenges the notion that hate crimes or hate groups are linked to economic hardship.

According to this study, hate crimes and the growth of fascism are caused by a combination of social change and systematic campaigns by political organizations.

Robert Paxton, in his book "The Anatomy of Fascism" observed that when a political group loses power and feels that they will not be able to regain power through the vote, they become more willing to abandon democratic ideals. The Nazis were not motivated by poverty and despair, they were motivated by a grasping need for power and control. They didn't want to share.

Pacifists can't fight aggression or crime because they don't know what motivates criminal behavior. They haven't done their research and they don't care about facts. They rely on faith.

Like other faiths, pacifism has a few stories about miracles, those rare instances where the laws of nature were magically, suspended and their faith appeared to "work." Like the farmer who sees the face of Jesus in a potato these miracles are oft- told, rare, and usually disputed by rational people. As always, facts never sway the faithful.

It's a fact that criminals, fascists and bullies around the world are violent and aggressive because they can get away with it. Pacifism and a refusal to defend your family and community leaves that community open to attack. It's destructive, not constructive.

As a religion, pacifism is fine, but, like most logic-free faith, it is immensely destructive when mixed with politics.

 
At 1:27 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Had the pacifists' advice been followed at Versailles in 1918 and 1919, for example, and the US joined and supported the League of Nations, World War II might well have been prevented altogether...

Actually, WWII would have been prevented had France and Britain shut the pock up, sat down, and followed the lead of the United States in the actions of the League of Nations.

But... we all know Britain and France did not follow the suggestions of America in being lenient towards Germany. No, France and Britain had to be vindictive frackers.

Which resulted in us having to save them from the consequences of their own actions, cause those consequences were starting to hurt us.

In effect, we had to save ourselves from the actions of our "so called" allies.

WWII would have been prevented if everyone had listened to the United States. Period.

 
At 1:48 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

People being people, they are inclined to act like people.

The French and British were horribly hurt by the Germans.

The Germans, for no reason anybody understood other than to speculate about early-twentieh-century land piracy, started attacking everybody they could find on a map.
The Brits lost a million. The French somewhat more.
The cloud in the silver lining of getting a handle on sepsis was that people who were so seriously wounded they'd have died in earlier wars survived. Unfortunately, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery was practically unknown. So instead of tens of thousands of honored dead, we had tens of thousands of hideously maimed walking around to remind us.
The French built resort villages for veterans who were so horribly disfigured they wouldn't come out in public. Imagine getting sort of lost on a motoring vacation in the French countryside about 1920 and seeing from a distance a neat place to stop for lunch....
Those who watch Masterpiece Theatre might think the interwar period was the Jazz Age, lords and detectives and butlers and country houses.
One American poet, in England, said that people seemed to be walking in a cloud of grief and despair. Kipling, in his poem, "The Witches of En-Dor" warned against seances. It's not clear whether he thought something might come if called from the vasty deep, but he thought the hundreds of thousands of women looking for their men were going to end up in "ruin and death".
We, who lost about thirty-eight thousand, could afford to be generous.
The Germans had signed the treaty ending the Franco-Prussian War in Paris--the Hall of Mirrors, if I recall. That's two savage attacks in a man's lifetime. Eventually, one gets tired of it. The French did.
But it wasn't until WW II that we really ended a war by flattening the offenders and occupying their countries for decades. That did the trick. Half-measures usually don't.
Recall that the German Army was everywhere on Allied soil when they asked the Allies if they wanted to stop fighting. The Allies did. The "loss" came later, after blockade and starvation forced the capitulation of the government. The Germans bought into the not-beaten-but-snookered argument.
Some historians actually said the Germans won WW I, having fought the Allies to a standstill and picked up some fat territory in the east under Brest-Litovsk. It wasn't until later they were forced to disgorge.
The Allies were probably correct not to feel they had decisively won and no further worries need be consulted.
People are people and they will take revenge and precautions.

 
At 3:27 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All left-wing ideologies become coercive, including pacifism. and that's what makes pacifism so toxic... pacifists aren't just uncomfortable using violence in self-defence, or the the defence of others - they're also usually trying to insure OTHERS won't/can't fight back.
(Gun-control is one example!)
If you can't survive by peaceful means alone, pacifists don't want you to survive...

 
At 8:35 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Dishman said...

But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil, but whoever slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also."

It is not your cheek I am concerned about. In the last century, something like 250 million people were murdered by their "own" governments. How do you stand for them?
"... whitewashed tombs and dirty mausoleums...". Perhaps you believe that because your hand has taken no part, it is clean. Perhaps you believe that the horrible stain on all of humanity does not taint you because you have washed your hands of it.

I, for one, cannot abide that.

 
At 10:21 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

The cheek thing always interested me.
If I am struck on the cheek and I have the choice to turn the other one, the guy didn't kill me or cripple me.
In other words, he dissed me.
I am to let him diss me again.
Fine.

The real issue for most of us--see the sheepdog thread--is the three-party problem.
Instead of me being the victim/choose to retaliate or not and another party being the aggressor, what if we split me into two parts.
One is the victim. One is the chooser whether to intervene by violence, and the third is the bad guy.
What do I do? I am to choose who dies. If I have to choose, I suppose I can decide that the aggressor is more worthy of being killed than is the victim. If I choose to do nothing and keep my precious hands oh so clean, the victim dies.
The cheek thing as a basis for pacifism fails by not being a lethal blow, and by not addressing the three-party problem.

 
At 10:32 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Dishman said...

Gulags, the Great Leap Forward, Kampuchea, the Ukraine, Halabja, all without war. Daschau and Nanking during war but away from the fighting. Rwanda, Congo, Srebrenica, Darfur, and many others, all names of defenseless peoples. Hundreds of millions of peaceful people, slaughtered.

"Blessed are the peacemakers..." You may call this peace if you wish. I call it genocide.

 
At 12:50 AM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using violence only as a last resort can be suicidal. Waiting till the eleventh hour before fighting back against an aggressor will be too little, too late. Appeasers, peace-protestors etc aren't neccesarily opposed to fighting back - they're just opposed to fighting back IN TIME.
Feh.

 
At 7:31 AM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Dishman.
Either we hear from different pacifists over the years, or they have a dual argument.

One is that pacifism works, here in the meat world. See the play "The Eleventh Mayor".
The other is that when it doesn't work--what did the Jews do wrong and unpacifistically?--is that being dead in horrible circumstances and uncountable numbers is better because you didn't fight back.
Switching back and forth may seem like good tactics since the other side gets annoyed and walks away, which may seem like victory, but it usually fails to convince.
Maybe there are two separate schools of thought and nobody uses both alternately. The confusion is on my part.

 
At 2:38 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Dishman said...

I think I've only seen the second arguement applied in third person, rather than first-plural. Curious, that.

 
At 6:15 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Well, Dish. It could be a logistics issue. Those who actually did it in first-person singular are waiting for us elsewhere, to tell us we were wrong.

But as a general rule, there's an analog to "let's you and him fight"
"Let's you let yourself be murdered because I think it would be the moral thing to do."

 
At 10:05 PM, October 21, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The actual situation in WWI wasn't that the Germans started attacking everyone for no good reason.

Austria activated the mutual defense treaty, Germany.

Germany was trying to forge an alliance with Britain, by building up its Navy. The Germany people, the Eastern Prussians to be exact, thought the British would respect strength just as the Prussians did. They were wrong, the British respected nothing but safety.

And a Germany Navy threatened British Naval Supremacy, hence British safety.

All the mutual defense treaties were called up on, webbing various nations to one side or the other.

Some nations thought that this would be a short and victorious war.

The winner as dictated by fate, if the US had kept out of it, was Germany. Their military virtues were the greatest among all of Europe. Their efficiency and national esprit de corps gave indications that they would rule well, and with great wisdom.

Their military efficacy, could have united Western Europe in time to face the communists in WWII.

But America did intervene, and it caused Germany to surrender. Nothing dishonorable about not wanting to fight fresh and unbloodied troops from a place you can't reach.

Regardless of the facts that lead to WII, the conduct of France and Britain were dishonorable in the extreme. They, bear the lion's share of the blame for both the war and the next one. America bears a minority, and Germany bears the least responsibility.
We, who lost about thirty-eight thousand, could afford to be generous.

We, who lost thousands to the Japanese, could afford to be generous?

We, who have had our troops strung up, dragged through the streets, could afford to be generous?

Don't mistake Honor with "generosity".

I would be inclined to exterminate the British and French, while siding with the Germans in WWI.

History didn't go out that way. I have more sympathy for the Germans, because the Germans were simply better people.

You may place your sympathies in the "Allies" simply cause we were fighting with them in WWII, or not. I don't care to place my allegiances to a bunch of idiots who would have lost if not for the help of Americans, and would have lost again when they reaped the consequences of their actions, again if not for the Americans.

Do not make excuses for the execution of Germany as a polis, state, and nation by the French and the British, simply cause they were "people".

They weren't any people I'd fight with.

 

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