Miracle of Peace

CONSERVATISM & MORALITY

THE PRICE OF PEACE ACTIVISM
by Nancy Meyer - July 2005

Nancy's sister-in-law was a victim of the September 11 attacks. Nancy  is a member of September 11 Families for Peace [www.peacefultomorrows.org] and supporter of Nebraskans for Peace [www.nebraskansforpeace.org], United for Peace and Justice [www.unitedforpeace.org] and Austin Against War [www.austinagainstwar.org]

One day, when I wore a T-shirt that said "War is Costly, Peace is Priceless", a young man who I knew to be in the U.S. National Guard challenged me on it, calling it my "political statement".

I didn't know it was political to state the obvious. War IS Costly. Peace IS priceless. Who could argue with this? Why is this necessarily political? If my T-shirt had said "Death is Ugly, Life is Beautiful" would that be political too?

A couple months ago several motorists gave my 8-year-old daughter the finger for holding up a sign in downtown Omaha that said "Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home".

What kind of people give an 8-year-old the finger? What kind of people disagree with bringing home the troops? What kind of people think war, any war, is better than peace?

Recently the U.S. Postal Service delivered anonymous hate mail to my home. It came from a woman who had gone to the trouble of looking up our rural Midwest address after learning that our family was involved in setting up an exhibit called "Eyes Wide Open" in Washington DC three months ago. This exhibit is a display of empty boots and shoes as a memorial to military and civilian war deaths. It is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). AFSC is run by the Quakers, a /notoriously/ pacifist religious group. Most Quakers are, by nature and by definition, some of the most non-threatening people you will ever want to meet.

The letter comes from the mother of a Marine who was recently killed in Iraq. The writing has all the hallmarks of an irrational author, with vague threats and excessive capitalization and rambling, emotion-filled, ungrammatical sentences. And that is exactly what makes it so disturbing. How would it be to suddenly find out that someone you don't know, but who is potentially unbalanced, and very, very angry with you, has your name and address, but you don't have hers? It sets up a scary scenario. In my own case, I am isolated miles from any town with two small children and a husband who travels for work. I'm sure it is nothing to worry about, but it gives one pause.

Ironic that pacifism can generate such hatred and fear. Especially here in rural red-state America, where bible-belters wear their Pro-Life beliefs on their sleeves, and go to church at least twice weekly to pray to the most well-known pacifist in history, Jesus himself. Yet these same life-lovers whole-heartedly support the Iraq War.

If my family has paid for our pacifist beliefs by risking animosity from strangers and even friends, so be it. But there is another price.

Peace activism exposes many people who purport patriotism and yet support a war that spreads anti-American sentiment worldwide, espouse Christian compassion and yet act out in antipathy, and passionately promote fetal life and yet passively accept foreign children and our own young people meeting violent deaths in war. Those people are paying a much higher price than I am for challenging my pacifism. They are living a hypocrisy that undercuts, not only their credibility, but their very morality.

These experiences make me even more deeply respect what peace organizations all over the world are doing, and they affirm how much courage it takes even today just to act out as a pacifist.

Like many people, I never placed a bumper sticker on my car before Sept 11. Now I put them on all my cars, including the first brand new one I have ever owned. After more than 30 years of driving, I bought myself a 2005 hybrid, but just four months later I had a fender bender that meant replacing the bumper. Well, I slapped on the replacement sticker before that car was out of the body shop garage, right in front of all the red-state mechanics.

The sticker says "War is NOT Pro-Life". And I'll display it proudly, whatever the cost.

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A COLONEL'S LETTERS: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, by Col. Joseph C. Kopacz, Army [retired]

RULE OF LAW
1.1 Conservative for Rule of Law - July 9, 2005
__First, I would like to state that I am a conservative, retired military officer, who - armed-forces-wise speaking - am probably to the right of Genghis Khan. I come from a family of warriors of the first order; we like war! But, even before that, I am an American citizen by birth, who believes with all of my mind, heart, and soul in the Constitution of the United States of America. I have read it, I was taught it, I know it, and try to live it to the best of my ability. That is why this "preemptive" war, as you call it, is both unconstitutional and illegal. It was never declared, per Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 11 of our constitution, and that is no little thing! That has to be, that is, our first rule of law! And we have broken it, again.
__Therefore, as with the results of police actions and conflicts (i.e. undeclared wars) in our recent past, we are wasting troopers, time, and treasure trying to kill ... Muslims in the Middle East, based on a Congressional resolution, legality notwithstanding. Plus, don't kid yourself into thinking that we can change the minds and hearts of the Iraqis, much less that of Islam, any other way. Didn't Mr. Lawrence write about that? Following our current use of armed force to execute our foreign policy in the Mideast will not work, we cannot kill enough of them to keep that pot from boiling over; much less bring democracy to the region. Didn't Korea Vietnam prove that rather conclusively? Isn't history a wonderful thing? - especially if you read it and learn from it?
__Conversely, what continuing this three-ring circus (political, military, civil) in Iraq is doing is: breaking our Army (if it has already not done so); fiscally bankrupting our country (total national debt since the beginning of our nation has doubled in just the past five years - look it up: 211 years, 5 years); and ... truly turning us into an international pariah, even among countries we consider our allies.
__Plus, as in the past, we are now training our enemies and providing them three hots, a cot, and pay to boot! - thereby making the war on terror more difficult to win, not easier, the longer we try to train Iraqis to kill each other - of that I am also sure.
__As I stated in the beginning, I am a warrior. I believe that there are St Thomas Aquinas "Just Wars", but Iraq does not meet the three-part test. Just cause: does anyone know why we are really there? Right motive: again, how can we know? It seems to change from time to time. Public authority: not by our Constitutional standards, not by a long shot - for sure. You have to meet all three tests, by the way. High "D" students, or low "C's," do not get it. Only an "A". Sorta like what we used to expect from our Presidents.
__The one thing that we do know for sure is that American warriors will go on dying and our country will continue to twist in the limp wind as our Commander-in-Chief executes his plan, whatever that is. Much like, if not exactly like, Mr. Nixon ..., who after five years ended his "war" by cutting and running. This President will do the same, hopefully sooner, a lot sooner. There really is no other choice. We will not win, again. May God have mercy on our souls.

1.2 How the Military Can Get Respect - August 17, 2005
__Re Mr. Tom R. Renteria's letter "Disrespect On The Phone" in the 22 August Army Times, as a parent of a young, vibrant, intelligent, hard-charging eligible dependent, plus, I'm the son of a career soldier, who also made a career out of the Army ( my brother, the Navy; sister married to a career soldier; and dead brother, Vietnam Airborne Ranger veteran), let me tell you your problem. Maybe, just maybe, the Army could create better relationships with parents if:
__* Congress declared war.
* The President got his own daughters to enlist, if the cause is so noble.
* Someone, anyone tell the truth about why we are in Iraq and don't give us that "terrorism" B.S.!
__See, it is as easy as one, two, three and it would not cost a dime, much less the hundreds of billions of dollars y'all are pouring down that rat-hole, Iraq, not to mention breaking my Army!!
__Of course, if someone did the last, we would know why the first and second were and are not going to be done. Then again, we would not be in Iraq, nor worry about having enough shooters there; would we, Mr. Renteria?!!!
__You are trying to sell a lie and the American people are not buying.
__By the way ... the above is a Trifecta, you gotta do all three, or - out here.

1.3 Oath to Uphold What? - August 21, 2005
__Thank you both! Mr. Lincoln Caplan for writing "The 'imperial presidency' expands" article and "The Courier-Journal" for publishing it on the 20th of August. Truly this is the most important issue facing our nation regardless of the lack of public "outrage" over this Congress's clear abdication of its duties and responsibilities. Not to mention the Executive Branch's ... illegal claim and use of "exclusivity" by attacking Iraq.
__After all, if the President could legally do what he did by invading Iraq, why did the framers of our Constitution *specifically* say that it is the Congress' duty, responsibility, and obligation to declare war - Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 11? Wasn't that their "original intent"? Isn't the Republican party the political party of Constitutional "original intent"? Didn't our founding fathers rest that power in the Congress - the people's house - exactly because other King Georges were forcing their populations to fight and pay for wars via taxation without representation, democratic consent of the people? Isn't what we are supposed to be all about?
__Isn't that the principle that all American warriors swear an oath to defend with their lives, if necessary? Not a president, the Constitution - We the People?
__My question is why haven't you, the media, made what this President and Congress did and are doing, which is unconstitutional by any stretch of that document's meaning and Supreme Court ruling, an "outrage"?
__No guts is my guess.

1.4 War or Murder? - August 4, 2005
__Mr. Roos's "What's in a word" editorial in the August 05 issue of Armed Forces Journal must be great. My only problem is that it has to be geared for and to individuals way, way above my pay grade.
__I am still trying to determine if we are at "war" in Iraq, or not, since the Congress never bothered to declare it from the get-go, but keeps saying we are. Plus, the President wants to be called a "wartime president". But, then again, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, now says we are not at "war," but engaged in some sort of "struggle" against terrorism (he is afraid some people might think that being killed, killing, and wasting 100's of billions might make someone think we were supposed to win something or another).
__Question, General Myers. If we are not at war in Iraq and our warriors are killing Iraqis (insurgents, terrorists, or civilians), what does national and international civil law say what they/we are doing? Does Doctor Lionel Festinger's psychological concept of "cognitive dissonance" ring any bells here? I sure hear them loud and clear! We cannot be doing one , if we are not doing the other . If you do that , I believe it is called murder. ...

1.5 Courage to Protect our Troops - Oct 23, 2005
__"The Fall of the Warrior King" (NYT magazine article, 23 Oct) my ass!
__* ...We, the Army, started planning for future low-level insurgency war in the late 1960's and 70's (during and after we lost in Vietnam). That is a fact. However, we did not plan on fighting it as an occupation army ever again (past the time limitations, anyway, of the Goldwater-Nichols War Powers Act) without a declaration of war by the Congress. The War Powers Act - WPA - was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President to prevent exactly what happened in Korea and Vietnam from happening again, ever. Obviously, Congress just ignored their own law. That is the crux of the situation ... that we are in now.
* Furthermore, the U.S. Army War College has been briefing its students (immediate-future senior military leadership) on TRADOC's (Training and Doctrine Command) "nation-building" training programs and concept of operations ever since 1989, before even the first Persian Gulf war. Been there, done that, heard the State Defense Department briefings.
* From Private to Colonel, we have all been subjected to various MOUNT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training programs and exercises. In fact, there are Field Manuals (FM's) for every level of command, both explaining the concept and providing operational plans. Plus, every major Army training installation - and most maneuver command home stations - has built mock towns with utilities, cobblestone/asphalt streets, ... and other urban terrain settings in which to conduct such training. We have spent 100s of millions of dollars, if not billions, just to replicate those conditions. It simply is not true, that we did not know what we were getting into, or were not trained for this kind of war.
__* The problem is, we are the wrong tool to accomplish this mission. It is the absence of war and occupying military forces that builds nations, not the opposite. Our job is to kill people and destroy things . Those of us, who spoke out openly at those briefings against the "concept", did not make the next "cut" and now are retired, watching those, who kept their mouths shut, ruin our Army, if not our nation.
__* "Getting wet" is not a new phenomenon.... Because of this kind of crap and many other stunts in or out of prisons POW camps, we ..., the U.S. Army, have a new name among the ... population in Iraq. They call us *Jews*. Now ain't that nice? There is no way now to win their "hearts and minds"; of that I am also sure, very sure.

1.5 Courage to Protect our Troops - Oct 23, 2005
__Lieutenant Colonel Sassaman is a traitor all he was accomplishing was getting his ticket punched so he could become a real Colonel, maybe even General, exactly like how many phony officers during Vietnam, too. But more important than that, for not having the real courage, even now, to speak out against the waste ... of his soldiers our nation. He does not have the right stuff! ...
__I do not weep for him. I weep for what damage he has done and others are doing to our troopers, our Army, and our country.

1.6 Pick a Supreme Court Genius - July 14, 2005
__Mr. Brooks is absolutely, 100% correct in his "Mr. Bush, Pick a Genius" article on the 14th of July. That is exactly the type of Supreme Court justice our nation not only desires but requires. Especially one like Mr. McConnell, the one described by Mr. Brooks in this piece.
__I wonder, though, if Mr. McConnell , with his Madison-like view of Religious "neutrality", would suit the White House. After all, it is nothing but a pure and simple fact that, all we are creating is the "establishment" of Islam as the official religion of Iraq by our invading and now occupying that country....
__Plus, all of the above at the direct cost of 10s of thousands of killed, maimed, and wounded American warriors; and, 100s of billions without even being Constitutionally "at war" with ANYBODY!
__It sure does not take a lot to convince me that we need some strict "original intent" "philosophical powerhouses" who would put some "meat" back into the rulings from the Court. I assume that you know what I mean by "meat", too, like read it and do what the Constitution directly says - Congress declares war!!!

1.7 Legal Matters That Judge Miers Knows - Oct 6, 2005
__I wish Mr. Hill would get a clue. It is payback time for services rendered. That is it. That is all his "Oyez! Oyez! Put my Mom on the court" article on the 6th of Oct ....
__Ms. Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court has nothing to do with gender, race, ethnics, legal (Constitutional, at least) acumen, or motherhood - not to mention ethics of any kind. She is the holder of the knowledge that our dear leader, our President, should have been Dishonorably Discharged from the Texas Air National Guard and, therefore, is serving as President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America in violation of the U.S. Constitution ..., as an unindicted felon! For sure, that is *one* legal thing that she certainly does know. Doesn't everyone know that, already?
__He, in his simple-minded way, is doing nothing more than taking care of her - a lot like Clinton tried to do for Ms. Flowers and a few others (well, o.k. a lot of others)....

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH
2.1 The Media in Bed - July 17, 2005
__Ms. Platt's "In war, clarity is hard to achieve" article on the 17th of July is exactly correct. Clausewitz calls it the "fog of battle". So what's new? Maybe it was written because her profession did not, has not, and evidently will not ask the right questions to help make this debacle in Iraq clear. It seems to me that if the press had not swallowed this regime's lies, hook, line, and sinker from even before the attack, everything would be a lot clearer now! ...
__Please, do not say you were not aware of different opinions. Right from the get-go some of us, a lot of us, were telling you that what this President and Congress were doing was not Kosher (... hint). You, the media, choose not to listen, both then and now - as your article clearly and unambiguously shows, regarding the facts of what was and is going on. ...
__It is very clear also that the press does not want to really find out why this regime is destroying America. Or is it that you know and will not report it? "The Plain Dealer," Cleveland, Ohio story, that they will not publish what would shake the foundation of our government or country (I paraphrase), or some other reason besides their fear of losing 1st Amendment guarantees, or perverted logic.
__Tell me what difference does it make to save those "guarantees," if in the process you allow the country to fall? Also, I can tell you one thing very clearly now. If the Press had done its job back then, we would not be in Iraq now. Period. Nor would we have to put up with such tripe as the article written by Ms. Platt and so many other journalists now trying their damnedest to find cover!

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WAR - AD NAUSEUM
by Murray Polner -
www.lewrockwell.com - January 4, 2002

Murray Polner is author of NO VICTORY PARADES: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, BRANCH RICKEY: A BIOGRAPHY and with Jim O'Grady, DISARMED AND DANGEROUS

... I ask: Can America's military might actually cleanse the world of terrorism? Hard-line war hawks in Washington - many of whom have never even served on active military duty - think so. They are articulate, have exceptional access to the media and are savvy about the Byzantine world of Washington politics. They demand that President Bush avoid repeating his father's role in not going after Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. With impunity, Washington-based warriors criticize Colin Powell and others seemingly reluctant to invade Iraq, while many mainstream editors and TV producers have generally ignored dissenters, pacifist and non-pacifist alike. If our homefront hawks have their way, who's next? Iran? Syria? Libya? Somalia? Sudan? Yemen? North Korea? America's potent military is quite capable of destroying a lot of terrorists (and a lot of guiltless civilians too) but may very well create a new generation of terrorists.

Sadly, with few honorable exceptions, the mass media seems to have become a transmitter of government statements. Small wonder, then, that for a long time relatively few Americans have heard or read little of options from right and left and pacifists too that might have prevented some of our wars, including those we've armed and supported, as, for instance, in Central and South America.

Where Israel is involved, she is hardly the ogre too often portrayed in some left and rightwing circles. Intifada 2 is an outgrowth of many mistakes on both sides and to me, a mutual tragedy. Had Palestinians adopted a policy of nonviolent civil disobedience rather than their disastrous Intifada 2, they and Israel might be closer to a political solution than now. It is also fair to condemn Arafat's refusal to meet Barak's unprecedented proposals. Had he done so, wouldn't there now be a Palestinian nation (truncated, but potentially viable) and far fewer dead, wounded and traumatized? But it is equally fair to point to Israel's harsh occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands while recognizing that these too played a crucial role in helping to create the hatred of a new generation of Palestinian bombers. The fact is, there is and always was peaceful and reasonable policies available in the Middle East -as there were and are in many of the world's wars today. But not many have paid heed. Neither Palestinian suicide bombers nor Israeli tanks and F-16s have brought peace. "War does not bring Peace," a sign at a Peace Now rally in Israel in December poignantly reminded us. It never has.

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ON PACIFISM - WHAT MAKES SENSE
by Bob Murphy -
www.lewrockwell.com
 - April 16, 2002

Now, most people probably respect the courage of the true pacifist, but nonetheless think that he's being na´ve. Most people would argue that cold hard reality makes (at least the threat of) defensive force necessary.

This is actually one of those situations that could benefit from formal analysis. So with apologies to any Austrian economists who may be reading, I'm going to look at this from a typical game theorist's point of view:

Let's suppose the world is populated by agents who can pick one of three "strategies": Hawk, Dove, and Snapping Turtle. If you're a Hawk, you spend your time enhancing your strength, and you use your power to intimidate those weaker than you. If you're a Dove, you are completely helpless in the event of an attack, and so you spend your days building alliances and learning how to avoid conflict. Finally, if you're a Snapping Turtle, you spend all your time preparing for your retaliation against any attack.

Now, to figure out what the "optimal" strategy is, we need to know how these agents interact with each other. If Dove meets up with another Dove or Snapping Turtle, they engage in peaceful cooperation and gain some utility. If Hawk runs into Dove, Hawk gets a lot of utility and Dove loses a little. If Hawk runs into Snapping Turtle, the stronger Hawk gains just a little utility (since even a successful mugging is stressful if the victim resists) while Snapping Turtle loses a moderate amount. Finally, if two Hawks run into each other they both lose a tremendous amount of utility.

Now if we chose "reasonable" numbers to plug into a model along these lines, we would find that a society of Doves is unstable. In a world of Doves, any individual could defect and become a Hawk, and thereby take whatever he wanted from anyone he met. Since there were only Doves around, he would never be punished for this aggression. Therefore (the standard game theorist would argue) pacifism as a universal code of conduct is impractical.

... But does this really stand up to scrutiny? Is it really the case that a child destined to be a peacemaker is expected to have the same fortunes in life as a child destined to be a bully?

To ask the question is to answer it. In purely "material" terms, the Doves of the world earn much higher "returns" than anyone else. Just because you are a Dove doesn't mean you need to advertise the fact, and so Doves are no more attractive to a mugger than a Snapping Turtle. And during the course of a mugging, the "safest" strategy we can recommend ex ante is to give the guy your money.

The reason many people would resist the mugger is to uphold the principle of the matter; but these are not monetary considerations. And the standard objection against pacifism is that it's idealistic. Well, what's more pragmatic than recommending losing face in order to stay alive? All of the "glamorous" professions of violence - such as politics and drug dealing - have a much lower life expectancy than the "weak" lifestyle of the schoolteacher or priest. In a sense, the person who lives the life of violence takes an incredibly risky gamble, a gamble where the odds are (at least in the modern world) heavily stacked against the player.

Not only does the average pacifist prosper more, but the most "successful" people the human race has ever produced are pacifists. Jesus and Gandhi will have a far greater impact on humanity than Hitler or Stalin. People have said that entire villages would change when Mother Theresa walked through.

Clearly then, the standard game theoretic analysis is leaving something out. And I think one neglected factor is that a true pacifist signals to others his integrity. People aren't really divisible into three broad types like Hawk or Dove; it would be more accurate to classify them on a spectrum ranging from evil to honorable. And there are certain types of cooperation (e.g. marriage) that can only work if there is a sufficient degree of trust in the character of the other party.

It would thus appear that the pacifists are sitting on one of the best-kept secrets ever discovered.

It's rather ironic, when you think about it. The basic idea of pacifism is so simple and intuitive, that skeptical humans reject it as too good to be true. But it clearly "works" if a few implement it, as proved by Gandhi (I leave out Jesus because one could argue that He had an "advantage" since, e.g. He could conquer death). Now surely pacifism can become only more "practical" as greater numbers adopt it. In the limit, if virtually everyone were a pacifist, then a group of totalitarians couldn't possibly hurt many of them, since the would-be tyrants would have no soldiers to carry out their orders.

In a very literal sense, the peacemakers shall inherit the earth.

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FURTHER THOUGHTS ON PACIFISM
by Bob Murphy -
www.lewrockwell.com
 - April 27, 2002

... Simply put, if you promise yourself that you will never, under any circumstances, cause injury to another human being, then that stance forces you to reevaluate your lifestyle. You choose which routes you walk home more carefully, you choose not to go to certain neighborhoods, you don't go to a poker party if you know your buddy cheats people, etc. And, I would venture, in the long run it's just possible that taking away the option of violence makes you safer.

(For the skeptics out there: You needn't adopt full-blown pacifism to see my point. Perhaps a simpler step would be to promise oneself never to kill another person, or never to use violence unless one's life were in immediate danger. Thus, shooting a thief as he runs away would be unacceptable.)

We see that pacifism is not nearly as crippling as the critics would have us believe. In fact, precisely because it is so underrated, its practitioners enjoy a tremendous advantage, when they interact with "normal" people. This is why Gandhi and others like him wielded such tremendous moral authority.

Does the Pacifist Philosophy Lack Integrity?

The above has demonstrated that pacifism can work on an individual level. That is, I have argued that someone who immediately switched from Snapping Turtle to Dove in the game of life would do much better for himself.

But doesn't this philosophy lack integrity? After all, the only reason pacifists currently avoid domination is their protection from others who are willing to use violence. Without police and armies, the argument goes, pacifists living in prosperous regions would soon realize the weakness of their approach.

I believe this argument is incorrect. As I explained in my previous article, surely pacifism can only become more practical as greater numbers adopt it. That is, as more and more people became Doves, the world would become a less violent place. It would seem less and less foolish to become a Dove and (supposedly) leave oneself at the mercy of Hawks, because fewer Hawks would be around. As more and more individuals unilaterally "disarmed," the cycle of violence (a trite but accurate expression) would be reversed, and pacifism would no longer seem to be "for suckers" as it now. Every succeeding generation would see less and less violence first-hand, and thus would be less likely to find it normal and "acceptable."

"But what if everyone became a pacifist??" the critic demands. I respond that that would be wonderful! In such a world, there would be no governments at all (since government relies on an initiation of force to collect taxes). There would be no need for armies or weapons. Such a world would enjoy prosperity and tranquility that almost defies modern comprehension.

But why wouldn't new Hawks emerge in such a world, to dominate the weak and establish a new government? Simple: a group of Hawks would be unable to do this. Without the ideological support for government given voluntarily by the masses, no government is sustainable.

And what of common thieves? Well, there are plenty of "defensive" measures that people can take, short of violence. Houses could still be locked, banks would still have safes, and police (unarmed, of course) could still track criminals. An extensive rating system could be developed, to notify areas when violent people entered their midst. Economic sanctions and other nonviolent responses could be used to punish violent offenders and thus deter their behavior.

Pacifism Is Practical

I hope the above has demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, pacifism is a practical lifestyle, and only becomes more so as more and more people embrace it. It is true, a world of pacifists would occasionally endure theft, rape, and murder at the hands of evil and sadistic individuals. But this happens in the present world, too. I am not claiming a pacifist world would be perfect, merely that it would be better than the current one.

Finally, let me reiterate that I am not claiming any flaws in the standard libertarian position, which claims that defensive force is justified. All I have shown is that a rival philosophy - that of pacifism - is internally consistent and also pragmatic. (In a sense, pacifism is like vegetarianism: You may think it a sissy lifestyle choice that's not for you, but you can't prove that those who adopt it - whether for moral or simply health reasons - are in any way making a "mistake.")

The power of violence is greatly overrated. Pacifism works.

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FINAL THOUGHTS ON PACIFISM
by Bob Murphy -
www.lewrockwell.com - June 29, 2002

Terminology

At this point, some distinctions are in order. I define a pacifist as someone who refuses to engage in violence. In arguments over my original articles, I realized that many people thought the "true pacifist" had to basically roll over and die at the hands of evildoers. But this doesn't follow at all. Although actual pacifists (such as Jesus) believed that you should love your enemies, strictly speaking the pacifist as such need only refrain from using violence against his enemies; he is perfectly free to resist and/or avoid them in any nonviolent way.

This definition of pacifism requires a precise concept of violence, in order to know exactly what sorts of actions are permitted. Although actual pacifists may disagree with me, I believe there is an important difference between force and violence. I take force to mean the application of physical pressure, while violence is force that causes bodily harm. And to relate to the libertarian reader, I can make another distinction and classify violent acts that violate property rights as aggression.

(In this framework, then, armwrestlers would use force against each other, professional boxers would engage in violence against each other, and barfighters would engage in aggression against each other.)

The significance of these distinctions is that it allows pacifist police agencies to use force against suspects. For example, suppose we have a community committed to pacifism. Nonetheless, a certain individual finds this philosophy absurd, and holds up a convenience store. As I have defined pacifism, it would be perfectly consistent for police to respond to the scene. Although they couldn't carry conventional weapons, they could still protect themselves with body armor. Moreover (and more controversially), I am claiming that they could use nets, foam spray guns, or other devices to restrain the suspect, or could even form a human shield (perhaps with bulletproof sheets of glass) to bring him into custody. The point is, I am claiming that a police department could get by without ever inflicting actual harm on anyone, that is, without ever using violence.

True Pacifism?

... In fact, it is only because historically there have been many pacifists who were just that committed in their refusal, that we hold "true pacifism" to such a higher standard than "true vegetarianism" or even "true libertarianism." (On the last point, I asked my critic - a self-professed anarchist - if he would rather allow the existence of government than allow his wife to be raped. He answered yes, and so I pointed out that he's therefore not really a "true anarchist.") The fact that many people have been willing to die rather than use violence shouldn't somehow discredit pacifism; it should rather strengthen it.

Now, there is a sense in which my critic's question was more legitimate than if he'd used the same technique against a professed vegetarian. Most people generally condemn the use of violence, except in certain situations. Therefore, if one is going to call himself a pacifist, the critic wants to know exactly how his stance differs from the typical one.

Gun Control

... For some reason, many people who read my original articles thought that the pacifist must advocate gun control. But this is quite false. The pacifist believes that violence is an unacceptable tool to achieve one's ends. And so, even though the pacifist would prefer a world without guns, he cannot condone the use of violent gangs of government employees to (attempt to) bring about such a world.

Private Defense

... And of course, those who embrace pacifism on religious grounds certainly shouldn't be accused of moral degeneracy. After all, God Himself allows evil things to happen.

Conclusion

My reflections on pacifism have led me to reverse my childhood opinion. There is no reason that a society of pacifists couldn't function. Even if they were occasionally prone to invasions, their superior technology and economy would allow them to ultimately outbreed rival cultures.

As I have stressed in each of these articles, I am not claiming that pacifism is the only way to live. I am claiming that it is an entirely practical option. The power of violence is greatly overrated. Pacifism works.
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