Originally Posted by Ocean
I've been reading your amazing analysis of the internal contradictions of pacifism but I keep shaking my head thinking that this is the wrong approach.
Pacifism is an attitude, a philosophy which points in a certain direction, even when it's difficult or impossible to follow every bit of detail. So when you point out the inevitable dilemmas that are implicit in it, I feel like you're missing the point. Pacifism is a proposal, an attitude, and the hope of being able to conquer our own aggressive tendencies. It offers a morally higher alternative to conflict resolution. So in many ways it's an ideology of good will, from the heart. You can't fragment it in pieces because it can't be manualized.
I don't consider myself a pacifist, but I'm certainly pro-pacifism. What does that mean? Well, just that, I recognize the dilemmas and inconsistencies. And yet I believe you can work towards that end, in spite of the many wrinkles that we'll have to deal with before getting there.
There's an old quote from JFK that I'm fond of:
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions - on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace, no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems.
That's my pacifism. Unilateral pacifism, the you-can-punch-me-and-I-promise-to-not-punch-you-back kind, is both noble and effective when used against the right opponent (eg, the civil rights movement). But its flaws are obvious when applied to the wrong opponents. The darkly condescending "war will always be with us" types love to punch the hippies on this point, but in doing so reveal that they're not interested in peace at all, only the thill of war and victory. To the warmonger it's never a good time for peacemaking because there's always a war to fight or another to prepare for.
Too much attention to the Christian ideal of pacifism (turning the other cheek) causes people to ignore the practical pacifism of arms control agreements, intrusive nuclear inspection programs, Keynes's "Economic Consequences of the Peace," the Marshall Plan, cultural and economic exchanges, etc. We can dedicate ourselves to a world without war, to eventually solving the great prisoner's dilemma of international relations. Just like Horgan writes about, we're actually making pretty good progress at this so there's no reason for pessimism or fatalism about the abolition of war.