Fails Of Pacifism

February 1st, 2012 - M. Shumann 

Pacifism only works if your enemies are pacifists. Imagine for a moment that your immune system is pacifistic. Instead of killing infected cells and viruses on contact, your Killer T Cells politely ask them to leave. The virus cares only about its own survival and procreation, mainly because it has no other choice. As soon as the virus stops caring about itself, it will die. It may refuse to leave your body and instead carry on with its mindless and primordial need to consume, destroy, and replicate; or it may deceptively pretend to leave for a moment before returning with a battle plan that is designed to exploit your weaknesses – one of which is your immune system's pacifism. Viruses and bacterias, like enemies, evolve by exploiting weaknesses. Pacifism is often touted as being a virtue amongst civilized beings. Humans, according to religion, are not animals or bacterias. We are more sophisticated; therefore, peace and pacifism should be our transcendental goals.

Unfortunately, not all human beings exhibit the virtues of pacifism. This creates a problem for the ones who do. This problem becomes a matter of survival. A pacifist cannot survive if his enemy is not a pacifist. Pacifistic prey is lunch to an emphatically instinctive predator. Whether the enemy is a wild, hungry animal or another human being, a pacifist will cease to exist once his aggressive enemy has acted on its instinctive or ideological impulses. Hollywood and the elite leftist media would have us believe that a pacifist will triumph if he stands still, recedes, or uses words rather than violence to deter his enemies. Our own experiences, on the other hand, will always tell us the truth. Fact always triumphs over fiction. Fiction reflects our desires; facts reflect our nature. One is idealistic, the other is true. Pacifism is idealistic and war and violence are necessary until pacifism becomes unanimous. Again, the idea of world peace and unanimous pacifism is an example of unrealistic idealism.

Given enough outrage and anger, pacifism is almost always destroyed by a more aggressive mode of conduct. In Ghandi's case, an aggressor named Nathuram Godse put an end to his life. In Martin Luther King Jr.'s case, James Earl Ray ended his life through an act of violence. The same has happened to other renowned activists and peaceful revolutionaries. Following MLK's death, many similar civil rights leaders called for non-violence in the wake of the tragedy. However, several cities across the United States erupted with race riots. The point is not that pacifism makes people who subscribe to it targets, as they would have been targets for their revolutionary ideas even as aggressors, but that it opens the door to vulnerabilities. In terms of competition, war, and stand-offs, pacifism creates pathways for opponents to strike. Ghandi and King would not have benefited from aggression or preemptive attacks because their enemies were everywhere and out of sight, but had they encouraged a more brazen and fearless position amongst their supporters, they may have had more defenses.

Pacifism only works in mutual agreement. When violence and aggression present themselves as viable alternatives to victory, they will always trump the values of pacifism, even if the actual outcome does not live up to the intentions of the aggressor. Pacifism becomes a lost cause to those with too much to lose and, more often than not, they are forced into aggression or defeat. In most cases, the pacifist is forced to act with aggression to protect himself, his ideas, and his cause. This is the case in Syria and it was the case during the Arab Spring of 2011. Although the Occupy Wall Street movement was a peaceful protest, it erupted with periodic and sporadic violence.

The American Revolution would not have been won with pacifism. Sadly, the Arab Spring would not have lasted long with pacifism. As long as there is an aggressor, pacifism will continue to be an idealist's pipe dream. In fact, considering pacifism when dealing with an overtly violent opponent is foolish. Non-violence is a good idea, but it's not one that everyone can live up to. Therefore, attempting to enforce pacifism on a larger scale, as a nation, is dangerous. On a small scale pacifism can work well, especially in a civilized society. Most of us can take comfort in knowing that our neighbors aren't going to beat us and rob us at any given moment, or assault us for our opinions. This is just as much a result of mutual trust as it is a result of forced obedience through law and punishment. On a larger, global scale, pacifism is not so easy to come by or to enforce.

On the chessboard of global affairs, pacifism is usually only enforced by the fear or threat of violence. A small hypothetical country with a small military and several powerful allies can exist quite well as a pacifist nation. However, minus the protection from its allies, pacifism becomes a gargantuan mistake in the long term, especially if this small hypothetical nation is rich with resources. While under the protection of a handful of allies and international friends, this country can indulge in its neutrality and peace-loving nature. When war strikes, the story changes. A pacifist nation cannot maintain its sovereignty by laying down arms and pleading with the enemy.

It would be an ideal world if nations could have staring contests instead of wars, allowing the winners to take as much oil as they needed. Unfortunately, like viruses, nations must act on their own interests and needs. An invading nation may agree to a staring contest, but only to create a distraction while they plotted to pillage your nation's resources and murder your ill equipped armies. Your only options as a pacifist nation, in that case, are to surrender your resources and sovereignty or to fight. The latter forfeits your status as a pacifist nation and proves the point that pacifism eventually turns to aggression or ends in defeat. Once your resources and sovereignty are gone, you are left questioning the long term benefits of your pacifism and your ill preparedness.

The problem with national pacifism is the tendency of a nation's leaders to fall into a state of complacency. Demilitarization becomes a common trend within nations that have strong allies and peaceful relationships. Over long periods of non-aggression and minimal conflict, pacifist nations begin to see less of a need for strong, advanced military capabilities. This is perfectly fine for the present, but completely absurd for the future. When the threat of war and invasion is minimal, leaders begin to feel confident that such trends will continue, infinitely, into the future. This seems to be the case with several, currently resource-rich nations.

Hostile nations that are greeted with pacifism are seldom sympathetic or respectful. It's doubtful that Hitler would have found any inspiration in pacifism and respectfully retreated from Poland in 1939. He had an agenda and his motives were unquestionable. Any pacifism by Poland would have led to the same result, except that Poland could have heightened some of Hitler's military strength and saved him lots of time by not putting up a fight. The Soviets also broke their non-aggression pact with Poland shortly after the Nazi invasion, proving that non-aggression means nothing when geographic strategy and self interest are a part of the game.

Threats are good indicators of an opponent's mood and intentions. Although threats are often empty and meaningless, they give good insight into what could happen if our opponents actually had the capabilities to strike us. In such situations, preemptive action is more logical than pacifism. All threats should be taken seriously. Even though most of them cannot be acted on now, they are clear examples of future possibilities. The security of a nation cannot depend on the virtues of pacifism. Not as long as there are enemies with homicidal and malevolent intentions. Enemies who threaten violence but do not necessarily have the capability to follow through should be dealt with to preserve future security. Complacency and unwarranted comfort should not supersede the need for strong defenses and advanced military capabilities. Hitler became a significant and overt threat to world peace almost immediately after the Reichstag fire in 1933, but little was done to address his rise to power. Had other nations caught on to Hitler's inflammatory rhetoric and obvious intentions to create a unified Europe under Germany, perhaps many of the tragedies of WWII could have been prevented. Today, we can only hope that the same does not culminate in the Middle East with leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, who has suggested that Israel and the West be wiped off the map.

In essence, pacifism is a pleasant and wishful idea. The sad reality of human nature and global affairs make such an idea unattainable, at least for the time being. For any nation with an abundance of natural resources to remain soft on foreign policy and military advancement is dangerous in a world of non-pacifists. Having strong and friendly allies is important, but relying on their long term sustenance and prosperity is a mistake. A military cannot be strengthened over night. Long bouts of military cuts, lowered spending, and lack of growth can be destructive for any nation. To create a long term strategy of military independence requires years, maybe decades, worth of commitments. Self reliance is an important strategy that can simultaneously be exercised with reasonable levels of pacifism, but such a strategy requires an immediate starting point and less procrastination.