There are a variety of different philosophical interpretations of the idea of war, even what it means to be at war. Engaging in war is generally described as being the resort to violence in order to attain political ends. War is described by some as being a tyrannical crime, in that power hungry individuals lose sight of their morals and resort to unethical violence committed against others (Walzer, 2006). From this perspective, one notes the assertion that there is never a good reason to engage in such brutal behavior as to harm another individual.
However, there are supposed potential weaknesses in this theory, due to the fact that nonviolence at all costs can be viewed as a complete lack of self defense (White, 2008). In any regard, the pacifist philosophy holds that there is never a good reason to engage in combat with other people, that true solutions are found solely through peaceful means. In light of the pacifist ideology, the idea of war has no place, even in the face impending and actual violence, and the best route in the face of danger is to resist participating in the cruelty.
It is not always easy to attempt to manage a violent situation in peaceful ways, non-harmful ways, yet there are a myriad of creative ways to address the problem of violent people, ways which do not support aggressive thoughts and actions. In order to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the pacifist position, it is essential to engage in comprehensive research and thought about the meaning of peace at all costs. Pacifism
The principle ideas which serve as the conceptual framework of the pacifist movement center on the assertion that war is dictatorial cruelty derived from evil thoughts and actions and that peaceful behaviors are the only way in which to effectively diffuse this brutality. Practical pacifism affirms that resorting to violence is not the answer to the problem of violence in the world, that violence should be absolutely avoided and peaceful means of solution oriented action should be taken (Fiala, 2004).
In other words, there is the example of the country who supports the death penalty as a means of supposed just punishment for people accused of the crime of murder. From a pacifist perspective, the idea of using violence as a means to eradicate violence is simply unreasonable and points to an illogical frame of thought and action. The pacifist would be likely to condone a means of arrest and rehabilitation rather than arrest and kill. The idea of peaceful interventions is paramount and supercedes all options deemed to be harmful to people.
On a more personal level, one can take the interaction between and husband and wife or mother and child. When a person becomes angry enough to yell or hit, then the answer is not to yell or hit back in response, but rather to be calm and communicate with the other person in figuring out a solution. This kind of civilized action and communication can go a long way in ensuring that the violence does not continue, and this kind of civilized communication and action is able to be successfully translated to the public and political sphere as well.
Strengths There are many strengths of the pacifist movement, in that the people who support peace at all costs are able to devise a great many solutions to violence which are centered on ensuring the absolute safety and wellbeing of all people. It is important to consider the ideas generated by pacifists, as they directly speak to the absolute moral concept of non-harm.
Jesus Christ himself is quoted as saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘Do not resist one who is evil; but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’”, described as one of the most revolutionary sermons he ever gave (Ellens, 2007). This powerful commentary demands that people utilize the supremacy of restraint when faced with violence, even at a time, like today, when major religions condone the use of brutality.
There is not one major religion in the world which absolutely forbids the use of violence, to the detriment of all people in the world. There is not one country which expressly forbids the act of war and supports the command for love, the command to offer one’s cheek to one’s aggressor. With all of the available options for peace, including communication, protest, boycotting, arrest, and rehabilitation, there is a known and certain positive effect which can be produced through the use of more gentle modes of action than violence.
The media today is full of popular artists who tout violence as a masculine or commanding way of settling a score. However, when a person resorts to violence in an attempt to eradicate violence, the end result is simply another person who is drawn into the problem itself. The only way to end the violence in the world is by commitment to faith in the inherent goodness of humanity, to staunchly support the idea that solutions can be found which do not cause harm to other people. Criminality is basically defined as causing harm, and it makes no sense to become a criminal in the desire to ensure justice.
Weaknesses There are those people who claim that there are weaknesses in the pacifist philosophy, that absolute peace defies the need to defend oneself from harm. People who do not support absolute pacifism claim that one of the only ways to address the problem of rogue states is to resort to war (Jacobson, 2007). Engaging in the violence of war is supposedly justified as an unfortunate effect of having no other option but to defend oneself and one’s country from the violent actions of others. To some people, pacifism may seem to be weak.
In response to an event such as the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, many people believed that the best solution was to violently enter into the home countries of the terrorists and to take over through the use of brutal force. To some people, there are terrorists, offenders, on one side of the war, and defenders on the other. From this perspective, there are two teams in the war game, certain people who are committing evil and need to be stopped at all costs, even through harm and loss of life, and people who are engaged in righteous self defense.
This philosophical viewpoint stems from a bipolar system, where some people are engaging in violence for bad reasons and some people for good reasons. This simple yet convoluted way of thinking is highly selfish and negative, in that one person, or one team, is the victim, the oppressed, the suffering agent, the other person or team is the tyrant, the oppressor, the harmful agent. In this mode of judgment, there is only one guilty party, and the guilty are deserving of cruel punishment.
However, the essential problem is always the same, in that there is supposedly never a good reason to cause harm to another person. Although the determination for war may be convenient, especially when people are actively engaged in the violent activity, there is still the basic problem of violence as a moral problem rather than a solution. Dividing couples, families, societies, countries, and political systems into warring teams of bad versus good does little to solve the core issues of the criminality of causing harm to others.
Rebuttal Although some people believe that the pacifist ideology is weak and perhaps even a pathetic mode of political action, a powerful case can be made in support of peaceful decision making, decisions which are strong and influential while also being relatively calm and diplomatic. There is no government which has successfully demilitarized their country, no political system which has shifted to a purely diplomatic strategy for achieving peaceful end results (Djerejian, 2007).
Due to the fact that all countries in the world are suffering from some form of violence, the case can certainly be made that policies which promote violence simply encourage the violent behaviors of citizens. What a different world this would be if the response to an attack was to demilitarize a region, to offer one’s cheek. What an interesting phenomena it would be to witness a region where guns were systematically removed from all persons, homes, and cars, even if it meant being shot in the process.
Although an initial, primal, or habitual response to an attack is to harm one’s attacker, there is the ever present possibility of changing one’s response, to commit to the idea of peaceably reacting in the face of impending danger. When a child is hitting a parent, often the best reaction is to let a child hit until the child realizes that the parent is not going to hit back, to allow the child to realize that the parent is totally loving and totally dependable. Conclusion The political solution for all policy making is always going to be a peaceful solution, whether politicians realize it or not.
The leaders of the world are going to be the ones who quietly offer their cheek, who are committed to helping their neighbors, even when these neighbors are seeking revenge. It takes a smart person to realize that one is participating in an immorally violent society, and it takes an even smarter person to realize that one is responsible for being an agent of change in support of pacifism. There are very few truly innocent people out there, if any, no countries which are politically perfect.
From this perspective, people need to humble themselves in the face of their neighbors, to be aware of the shameful past and current atrocities being committed by governments across the globe, and to resolutely stand for the implementation of peaceful solutions. Policies can only be effectively changed by people who are committed activists in the name of peace, and these activists are the leaders of the world, pacifists in the name of the goodness of humanity.
References Djerejian, E. (2007). Changing Minds, Winning Peace: A New Strategic Direction for U. S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab & Muslim World. Lulu. com. Ellens, H. (2007). The destructive power of religion: violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Greenwood Publishing Group. Fiala, A. (2004). Practical pacifism. Algora Publishing. Jacobson, A. (2007). Nonviolence as a Way of Knowing in the Public School Classroom. In Factis Pax 1(1), 38-54. Walzer, M. (2006). Just and unjust wars: a moral argument with historical illustrations. Basic Books. White, J. (2008). Contemporary Moral Problems. Cengage Learning.