Is Pacifism Immoral?

According to Michael Kelly, it is.

The gist of his arguement is that if we do nothing, the terrorists will certainly strike again, killing more people. If we do something, we will at least hinder and may even stop a future attack. Therefore those who promote no response are in effect giving their tactic approval to the future death of more terrorist victims. He even manages to work in a Nazi comparison which I know goes over well here in the Great Debates.

I guess Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi etc. were immoral.

I don’t know that he was invoking Godwin’s Law there or anything, he was stating George Orwell’s commentaries on a circumstance that was somewhat similar. Context was all wrong, but it is a persuasive commentary.

You’ll note he is careful to say “objectively” but I think he should have said “pragmatically” or “effectively,” though the latter in normal usage may imply a stronger tie.

I think it is clear he doesn’t think that pacifists themselves consider that they are on the side of the terrorists, or the british pacifists of yore being on the side of hitler; he simply wants to point out that devoid of strict subjective contexts the end results are the same.

I agree completely, except that I think most people who are clamoring for peace do have ideas that we can handle the situation non-violently.

Practically speaking, absolute pacifism is definitely on the sides of fascists and agressors. We couldn’t even bring terrorists to justice if they didn’t want to come because we’d have to apply force.

So yes, in a certain light we could level a strong but contextually vacant argument that pacifism works against justice. If we’ve postulated that justice is moral then we could equate pacifism with immorality.

But this isn’t a contextually vacant struggle here, so I think we can safely say that people clamoring to not wage violent attacks do want forceful justice, just not military action. (I would again question the practicality of this, but whatever)

As usual, though, the case can be made that if more people were pacifist-leaning then it would be effective. Can’t argue that. If everyone were nice we wouldn’t need governments either. :wink:

I heard an interview with a guy who is the leader of a “Progressive” movement (I don’t know if it’s an actual political party or just a kind of lobbying group) on Wisconsin Public Radio last week, and he went into as almost-rant about “my country right or wrong” people and why that mindset is wrong, bad, dangerous, whatever. And it struck me as ironic that he lambastes this form of rigid thinking, when he praises his set of ideals and pacifists in WWII. He basically exposed himself as a “my doctrine right or wrong.” And then a few days later he led an anti-war protest in Madison (which isn’t surprising, Madison people will protest anything) and said any action taken by the US against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack will be racist. Yes, they chanted “1 2 3 4, we don’t want your racist war.” If pacifism is about baseless name-calling, I’ll have no part in it, thank you very much.

That said, pacifism is a good thing, but people need to understand when it will achieve a politcal goal and when it will not. Right now the Palestinians would do a lot better if they found a Ghandi than they if they continue the intifada. South Africa overcame its problems, and diffused future ones, through pacific means. Milosevic lost power through popular, mostly non-violent uprisings. It does work, but when you are dealing with people who will hijack planes and crash them, fully loaded with passengers and fuel, into large buildings, sit-ins and hunger strikes are not going to resolve the situation. No one is asking a pacifist to turn into Rambo and go on a rampage, but it would be nice if they thought about what cause they are really helping when go off like the guy I mentioned above.

Well, perhaps they were. Or perhaps they don’t actually support the position you are arguing for. You must first demonstrate that Jesus, Buddha, or Gandhi actually held the same position you do. Having done so, unless you are a Christian fundamentalist, or a Buddhist fundamentalist (assuming there is such a thing), or a Gandhian fundamentalist (which I’m pretty sure does not exist), then in order to defend Jesus/Buddha/Gandhi from charges of immorality you must demonstrate that the position shared by you and them is not immoral.

I don’t shelve my morals when they don’t match up with my “political goals”. I will always believe that peace is the ideal, and that not killing is better than killing. I have been called divisive, immoral and a lot of other startling names in the past weeks. I just don’t understand how people can speak so badly of the one value that has any chance of saving this world.

But sven, my lawn fornicating friend, peace requires both parties being willing and able to accept it in some form, or at the very least as a value to work towards. Don’t you agree? Now, what when one party doesn’t agree that peace is worthwhile?

Pacifism to the extent that one would disregard even self-defense is immmoral to me under almost any circumstance.

Notice that the US hasn’t done anything violent in terms of retaliation and yet look at the immediate results:

  1. Sharon-Arafat, who looked like they were months or even years away from one-on-one talks, are about to get together.

  2. Iran, supposedly the great banroller of terrorist organizations and sworn eney of the US and the Western world, held moments of silence due to the tragedy, and for the most part toned down the hate rhetoric.

  3. The Taliban government of Aghanistan is actually listening to the world turning against them this time, and for the first time ever are scrambling to avoid a fight. Of course to save face they made some threats, but their actions indicate otherwise.

When the snake rattles, it gets everyone’s attention.

I am not saying that the US is turning pacifist. I am saying that non-violent measures to combat terrorism is as essential, or even more essential, to winning the war as well as the ability to cammando fight the terrorists in hand-to hand combat. Pacifism is a weapon that must be used right to be effective. It ideally used to fight oppresion when the oppresor has an interest in your survival, but it is not as effective when the oppresor or the aggresor holds little or no value to your life.

Umm… just what position was I arguing for? You’re making huge unsupported leaps of logic here.

The most moral solution would be to focus on implementing security to stop future attacks. That would probably have a better chance of stopping future attacks than attacking the root of the problem. Which means that responding with attacks of our own is immoral because it gives tactic approval to the future death of more terrorist victims.

Michael Kelly is basically saying that the end justifies the means. Or in this case the means don’t justify the end.

The terrorists considered themselves moral and probably thought that not killing all those civilians would be more immoral than killing them.

  1. Title of thread: “Is Pacifism Immoral?”

  2. Chas.E posts “I guess Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi etc. were immoral.”

1st conclusion: Chas.E is stating that Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi were pacifists.

That one seems pretty incontrovertible. If you were saying that Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi were all immoral because they weren’t good Shriners or something (whether the statement is sarcastic or sincere), then I think you posted in the wrong thread.

2nd conclusion: Chas.E is attempting to cast doubt upon the position which answers the question posed by the title of the thread in the affirmative by a sarcastic reductio ad absurdam (“If you say pacifism is immoral, then you’re saying Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi were immoral! :eek:”), which (as I was pointing out) is essentially an appeal to authority. I guess you could just be matter-of-factly expressing your opinion that Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi were immoral on account of their pacifism, but I don’t think it was any “huge unsupported leap of logic” to think that maybe that wasn’t the argument you were making.

I think you need a refresher course in logic.

Think of it as another syllogism starting with the statement of the editorialists.

  1. Pacifism is immoral.
  2. Jesus, Ghandi, and Buddha were pacifists.
  3. Jesus, Ghandi, and Buddha were immoral.

This clearly shows the absurdity of the original statement, and it does not require any appeal to authority. Nobody could possibly claim that these figures were not pacifists. It would be extremely difficult to argue they were immoral. Go ahead and try (but stick to THEIR words and acts, not their followers).

Want to explain Jesus smashing things up in the temple?

Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking of it as.

With you so far. (I mean, I understand that you are making a statement for syllogistic purposes.)

Actually, I think there’s been a Pit thread raging about statement 2 with respect to Jesus. But we’ll accept if for the sake of argument; it’s certainly credible on its face to me, anyway.

Well, actually, it is an appeal to authority.

With the minor reservation noted above with respect to statement 2–some people do argue, rightly or wrongly, that Jesus was not a pacifist–okay, I’ll buy this one too.

See, this is where you’re going wrong. You’re stating this as a self-evident truth, when in fact it’s something you have to establish.

To the extent Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi were arguing for non-resistance to evil, they were immoral. There is actually a spectrum here, from Zealous Holy Warrior through Just War Theory to Non-Violent Resistance to absolute Non-Resistance to Evil. I don’t know about Buddha; I do know that Gandhi preached (and practiced) principled non-violent resistance to evil; Jesus said (or is recorded as having said) some things which (interpreted with strict literalness) seem to counsel not just peaceful resistance to, but actual non-resistance to evil:

Not “if someone tries to take your tunic, politely tell him no, or refuse to give in to your oppressor, but don’t bash his head in, either.”

I don’t really think very many pacifists (even Christian ones) really practice radical non-resistance to evil. Nor do I think that Gandhi or Martin Luther King were “immoral” to resist the British Empire or the USA by peaceful means only. In fact, under those circumstances I think they were both wise and moral to act as they did. However, I remember a science fiction story (I think it was by Harry Turtledove) in which, in an alternate history, the victorious Nazis occupy British India. Gandhi’s reaction is to say, “Oh well, just another bunch of foreign oppressors. We shall continue our policy of non-violent resistance.” The Nazis respond by taking hostages and shooting them until the general strikes end, the passive resistance ceases, etc. The story does not end happily.

The point is, there are circumstances under which violent resistance to evil is necessary, and refusal to abandon pacificism is foolish at best.

I am so thrilled to be debating with someone who supports their points with science fiction stories.

The logic I learned includes quanitfiers – little words that tell how often a statement is true. E.g., one might claim:

  1. Pacifism is always moral.
  2. Pacificism is sometimes moral.
  3. Pacifism is always immoral.

Chas. E. has made a case for #2, but appears to be claiming #3.

Sorry, I meant to say:

Chas. E. has made a case for #2, but appears to be claiming #1.

Gee, and I’m thrilled to be “debating” with someone who thinks tossing off irrelevant drive-by one-line posts is an “argument”.

Instead of “science fiction stories” how about “counterfactual hypotheticals”? That use enough big words for you?

Do you think that the same political response and tactics should be used against the Nazis (or the Stalinists or the Khmer Rouge or the Taliban) as were used against the injustices of the USA or the British Empire? Do you think those tactics would be practical? Do you think it’s moral to use tactics which have no hope of success in the face of great evil? Do you think it is immoral to use different tactics–including violence–against an evil as great as Nazi Germany?

Personally, I don’t think the same response is appropriate for all times and places. Nazism was defeated by force. Communism was contained by the threat of even greater force until it collapsed peacefully. I don’t think World War II was immoral, and I don’t think the Cold War was immoral (although I certainly think specific actions and tactics taken by the United States in both of those conflicts were immoral).

No. I don’t understand the logical basis of Pacifism but that doesn’t come close to believing that it is immoral.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
-Edmund Burke

Pacifism is immoral, in that it allows evil to be successful. In our society, if someone were to advocate violence as the solution to every situation they are looked on as crazy. As they should. However if someone advocates non-violence for every situation, people are hesitant to speak out against them. Pacifists seem to be on the side of good, so they are given far more leeway then they should be.

Pacifists always point to Gandhi & MLK as proof that pacifism always works. I don’t think that it ever occurs to them that there might have been a lot of pacifists in the Third Reich, Armenia, & Cambodia, who were crushed immediately by an enemy that doesn’t care.