A Continual Struggle
In this violent and turbulent world, war and force are seen by many as necessary means to bring about future peace. In the United States, our leaders tell us their wars are spreading “freedom” and “democracy”, and that eventually (when exactly they never tell us) these things will lead to a more peaceful world. These leaders are mistaken. War begets war and violence begets violence. The two cannot ever lead to a peaceful world. In our nuclear age, the only end they can reach is the destruction of our planet.
“There is no way to peace – peace is the way.” These famous words spoken by A.J. Muste are at the core of what I believe. The way to peace involves love and compassion; it does not and cannot involve war. I believe that it is only through loving our enemies and overcoming evil with good that we can build a more peaceful world. These things are certainly not easy. When a person takes a position of non-violence they open themselves up. They become extremely vulnerable and risk their safety and security. However, in this action they also refuse to stop loving. They refuse to hate, and refuse to bring harm to another and these actions serve to further the cause of peace.
Yet, in some situations the use of force seems necessary. The Genocide in Rwanda or the Holocaust in Nazi Germany seems to make it clear that sometimes, war and violence are necessary and the right thing to do. How could one allow so many innocent people to be slaughtered without using some type of force to stop it? While the use of force does not lead to long term peace, in situations like these it seems necessary in the short term. In these situations, it looks like the position of the pacifist falls short of justice.
So how do I settle the two apparently contradictory beliefs I hold? The answer is I don’t. I have no easy answers. I hold both beliefs with equal firmness and conviction. For me, the best solution is a continual struggle. I will always straddle the borderline between a commitment to nonviolence and a belief that some wars can be just, and I would have it no other way.
Accepting a continual struggle between these two positions provides me with a perspective neither position could alone. For one, the struggle helps me to see that peace is a proactive stance. It involves more than just the opposition to unjust wars, but also involves working to create a more just world. More importantly, embracing the struggle takes war seriously in a way no other position could. It recognizes that there are circumstances where war is necessary, but also sees that these are rare. On the borderline between the two positions I hold an extreme skepticism towards all wars. Thus, when the drums of war begin to beat, as they recently have, my immediate answer is always no. The case must be made for war, and it must be very strong.
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