How would a pacifist typically react to a Hitler, Adi Amin or Pol Pot?

A few years back, I had a discussion with a Mennonite gentleman who briefly spoke of his faith and adherence to unconditional pacifism. I didn’t have time to ask all my questions–he departed our flight during a connection–but it got me wondering how pacifism in the face of state-generated repression, violence and genocide.

I realize there are gradations of pacifism–that is, each person has his/her own tipping point at which non-pacifism becomes a consideration–but, typically speaking, how do Western pacifists of today propose dealing with brutal, murderous dictators? Is it prevalent among them to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to even the most egregious repression and barbarism?

How did pacifists of the WW II era suggest dealing with Hitler?

Temporarily suspend moral standards. Kill 'em. Resume moral standards.

I expect pacifists would ask you where all these brutal, murderous dictators come from.
Who arms them?
Who fights for them?
Why do they do it?

Why do you suggest that pacifism means ‘turning a blind eye and deaf ear to even the most egregious repression and barbarism’?

In the movie about Gandhi a lady reporter asks him about this very subject.
He didn’t believe in violent opposition to tyranny. He did believe that we had a moral obligation to not cooperate with unjust laws. He remarks to the british that eventually they will realize that they cannot govern people who refuse to recognize their authority.
asked “Would your non violent non cooperation work with a man like Hitler.”

not without much pain and suffering, but is there not pain and suffering now?

heavy man!!

And also a trained lawyer… which is evident in his non-answer.

Gandhi was damned lucky to have the British to deal with, and not some other European nation.

Yeah It’s not like they just machined gun people who dissented or nuttin’
They didn’t throw people in prison for years without proper reasons.

That sounds exactly like the formula I am advocating regarding the war on terror.

That seemed to be the Dalai Lama’s view in one of his books. I don’t know if he is an avowed pacifist though, but he mentioned that dictators do not come from nowhere. They buy their weapons on the international market before they use them to repress the population.

I would guess pacifists would support ending international arms trades to deal with dictators. Probably economic sanctions too. Thats not much different than what we do now.

They would support ending all arms trades. Right now. That’s the difference - a pacifist sees no possible justification for a continuing trade in weaponry.

How would they enforce this ban?

Pacifists support ending such trade. If you want to talk about the viability of a pacifist government, then it’s a different topic entirely!

But to partially answer your question with another - how do countries prevent the trafficking of chemical weapons? They’re fairly easy to make, not too difficult to disguise, borders are porous…

Perhaps. But perhaps not.

There were a great many Mennonites in the south of the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution. Some abandoned their pacifist principles and joined the armed parties fighting for one side or the other, but many did not, and faced marauders, Reds, Whites, and random brigands with Ghandi-esque tactics. Some were killed, but often enough they were not. Had they resisted with arms, some would have undoubtedly also been killed. I have no idea if they came out ahead using nonviolent means, but I think we can agree that the various armed parties roving about Russia at that time were not conspicuously virtuous in any respect whatsoever.

But everyone, even (I would guess) the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants a more peaceful world. If pacifism is simply the desire for peace, most of us are pacifists already. I think the OP was asking how pacifists would respond to brutal outlaw regimes that regrettably do in fact exist.

As far as chemical weapons, sure there is illegal chemical weapons traffic as there is illegal traffic in all sorts of weapons. But at least with traditional force-based law enforcement, some of it is halted.

My grandfather was a Mennonite, and had ‘conscientious objector’ status in WWII. Instead, he left his family and farm and went to Ontario to build trucks for the war effort.

There are pacifists who maintain their pacifist standards even in the face of pure evil. They usually wind up under the treads of tanks. But I admire someone who is willing to stand by their convictions even in the face of death. It may not be smart, but it’s honorable.

I watched tonight several documentaries about Tibet. One was adressing the Chinese repression. A journalist recounted the ordeal of a nun. Following a protest they held in their monastery, they were arrested, detained, beaten, raped, and some died. What did they do once released? They held a protest in the monastery. They were arrested, beaten, raped, and some died. Asked by the journalist what she intended to do know, she stated : “I m going to protest. I will be beaten and raped again, and some day I too will be killed, but I won’t give up”.
By the way, I think there’s a contradiction between being a pacifist and participating in the war effort by building war material.

Whether this tactic works depends on the nature of enemy. Ghandi’s nonviolent resistance worked because the British were essentially good people and he attacked their conscience. Had he tried it against Hitler, the result would have been a lot of dead Indians and no effect.

But some people, like Tibetans you mention above, simply stand on principle. They do what they see as right, whether it results in death or not. You have to respect that kind of conviction.

Me too. I guess everyone draws their line in the sand in a different place. I don’t understand how building a truck that takes soldiers into a war zone is any different than being one of those soldiers. FWIW, other members of my family refused to do even that.

And of course, I’ve seen a number of people argue that, had the British not had to fight for their lives against Hitler, Gandhi’s tactics would not have been so successful against even them.

I suggest nothing. I am repeating what this elderly fellow told me. He insisted he and his community would never bear arms, never even defend themselves in the face of “brutal, murderous dictators,” thieves, killers, or any other circumstances. He was quite sincere, if equally idealistic, yet it’s difficult to gauge authenticity what he lives in a peaceful community within a relatively peaceful nation.

BTW, the questions you pose are hardly unique to pacifists. Most of us wrestle with these questions and have no more control over the arming of said thugs than the Mennonite chap does. But playing 20 questions with a sadistic, genocidal dictator isn’t likely to get produce satisfying answers.

I’m not so sure. They didn’t leave because of a guilty conscience. It took over 20 years. Gandhi’s principle was that by useing non violent non copperation the injustice of the situation would become clear to the average citizens of britian and the whole world and the british government would lose support of it’s policies. Then it’s political.

In Hitlers case we don’t know. It’s hard to conquer and control the world if no one cooperates. Eventually you lose the support of your own people and your resources are stretched too thin.

Me too. I guess everyone draws their line in the sand in a different place. I don’t understand how building a truck that takes soldiers into a war zone is any different than being one of those soldiers. FWIW, other members of my family refused to do even that.

There is a really good story from Harry Turtledove called “The Last Article” which has this as it’s premise. If I recall correctly, Gandhi and Nehru are simply executed by the Nazis at the end of the story. Turtledove basically came to the same conclusion you do.