one to four
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The sixth objection to pacifism is based on moral grounds. 'War', we are told, 'is a school of virtues; peace, a school of effeminacy, degeneracy and vice.'
In his Philosophy of War Steinmetz went much further than this and affirmed that war was not merely a school of virtues, but actually the source of all the virtues, even the most unwarlike. How did early men learn to co-operate with one another? By making war on their fellows. Where did love and mutual aid originate? On the battlefield, among brothers in arms. And so on. Steinmetz's views are so manifestly absurd that it is unnecessary to discuss them. But our theoretical heckler's more modest attempt to justify war on moral grounds deserves to be treated seriously. For that war is a school of virtues is in fact true. Courage, self-control, endurance, a spirit of comradeship, a readiness to make the sacrifice of life itself - these are the qualities without which men cannot become good soldiers, or at any rate good subordinate soldiers; for history shows that a man may become a brilliant commander and yet be a moral imbecile. The two greatest military geniuses of modern times, Marlborough and Napoleon, were despicable human beings. There was something almost diabolic in the character of Frederick and Great. At the end of the world war almost the only member of the German High Command who displayed the military virtues was Hindenburg. The others disguised themselves and hurried across the frontier into the safety of a neutral country. such examples could be multiplied. 'Great soldiers' have often lacked all the good qualities which we associate with the military profession.
To return to the virtues of the subordinate soldier: these are intrinsically admirable. But do they justify war? The question cannot be answered unless we know, first, what is the price of these virtues in terms of individual vice and social ruin, and, second, whether war is the only school in which they can be learnt.
Now, it is obvious that the soldier's characteristic virtues are accompanied by equally characteristic vices. The efficient soldier must hate and be angry, must know how to be inhuman, must be troubled, where his enemies are concerned, with no scruples or sensibilities. Moreover, his way of life tends to encourage in him a certain recklessness. He doesn't care for anything or anyone except his fellows and the traditions of his corps. Recklessness is a soil from which some good and much evil may spring - acts of uncommon generosity, but also acts of uncommon brutality.
Nor is this all. Military discipline demands unquestioning obedience. The subordinate soldier is a man who has handed over his reason and his conscience into the keeping of another. But a man who has given up reason and conscience is a man who has given up the most typically human characteristics of human beings. The government of an army is a special and extreme case of that soul-destroying of all forms government, a tyranny or, as we now prefer to call it, a dictatorship.
War, then, exacts a gigantic price for the military virtues. Vice and crime are the conditions of their very existence. Can it be right to cultivate virtue by means of wickedness? Those who believe that there exists, apart from self-interest and social convention, a real and absolute goodness, will answer at once that it cannot be right. No man is justified in doing an evil thing that good, as he believes, may come of it.
This view of what ought to be is confirmed by our investigations into what is. For we find that the military virtues can and do exist in individuals devoted not to war, but to the furtherance of peace. The causes of religion and humanitarianism have had their noble soldiers - soldiers whose courage, endurance and self-control were not set off by any personal vice, any crime against society. War is only one, and that the worst, of schools in which men can learn the military virtues.
'You have made a good case against war', says the objector; 'but you have failed to show what is the practical alternative to war. Indeed, you can't do so, because there is no practical alternative. Pacifism doesn't work.'
The answer to this is a flat contradiction. Pacifism does work. True, there is no pacifist technique for arresting shells in mid-trajectory or even for persuading the airmen circling above a city to refrain from dropping their bombs. Pacifism is in the main preventive. But pacifism is also, as we shall see, a technique of conflict - a way of fighting without the use of violence.
If you treat other people well, other people will generally treat you well. It is possible to go further and to say that, if you have the opportunity of going on treating them well, they will at last invariably reciprocate your treatment. Suspicious people may start by reacting badly; but in the long run, trust, affection and disinterestedness will always be answered by trust, affection and disinterestedness. This fact, the truth of which we have all had occasion to demonstrate in our relations with our fellows, is the sure foundation upon which the theory and technique of pacifism are based.
The theory and technique of militarism are based on a psychological assumption that is self-evidently absurd. The militarist sets out to secure other people's good will by making war on them - that is to say by treating them as badly as he possibly can. But it is a matter of everyday experience that if you treat other people badly they will answer (unless, of course, they happen to be saints or trained pacifists) either by treating you badly at once, or, if the power to return evil for evil is lacking, by waiting in fear, anger and hatred for an opportunity to treat you badly later on. Unless followed by an act of reparation, war will always be answered by war. Hate breeds hate, and violence, violence.
In our relations with other human beings we have all of us, at some time or another, made use of the pacifist technique. By treating people well, we have prevented them from treating us badly or have persuaded them to change their malevolence into kindness. More consciously and consistently, preventive pacifism is employed by doctors when they treat lunatics, by anthropologists when they approach suspicious and unfriendly savages, by naturalists in their dealings with wild animals.
On a large scale the methods, not only of preventive, but also what may be called combative pacifism were successfully practised by the early Christians in their conflict with the authorities of the Roman Empire; by William Penn and the first settlers of Pennsylvania towards the Redskins; by practically the whole Hungarian nation when, in the sixties of the last century, the Emperor Francis Joseph was trying to subordinate that country to Austria in violation of the existing treaty of union; by Gandhi and his followers, first in South Africa and then in India. Furthermore, large numbers of industrial strikes have been conducted on strictly pacifist lines, often with remarkable success. There is enough historical evidence to show that the pacifist technique is unquestionably effective. Why, then, has it not been more widely used as an instrument of policy, a method for preventing the outbreak of disputes between individuals and groups or (once the conflict has begun) for conducting the struggle in a non-violent way? Once more it is a question, not of impossibilities, not of obstacles existing in the nature of things, but of our own free will. If pacifism had been used less frequently than war, the reason is simple. We have refused to take the trouble to anticipate impending evil, and so prevent its coming to pass; when the conflict has broken out, we have refused to control our passions of anger, hatred and malice, and have allowed them full rein in acts of violence. It is in our power to make a different choice.
It takes two to make a quarrel. Most men find that they can be violent only towards people who show the appropriate reactions - fear, rage, or a mixture of the two. One can use violence on a man who angrily resists and one can use it on a man who shows terror. But when someone turns up who reacts to violence without anger and without fear, it becomes very difficult to go on using violence. The non-violent resister is a man who refuses to play the part assigned to him by the rules of the game; the result is that the other player finds it difficult and at last impossible to go on playing his part. In mass movements of non-violent resistance, detachments of volunteers present themselves without fear and without anger to the forces sent against them. As one falls, another takes his place, until at last eve highly disciplined soldiers or policemen find it impossible to go on using the militaristic technique in which they have been trained.
A display on non-violent resistance has the effect of emphasising among all concerned the great truth of human solidarity. The fact that noble behaviour should have the power to evoke a response even among the enemies of those who are so behaving, is a most reassuring reminder that all men are at one in a profound spiritual unity.
'The Church does not condemn war', says an orthodox heckler. 'Why am I expected to be more pacifist than the bishops?'
The Church does not condemn war; but Jesus did condemn it. Moreover, the Christians who lived during the first three centuries of our era not only believed that Jesus had condemned war, but themselves repeated the condemnation in more specific terms. Here it is possible to give only the briefest summary of the historical evidence.
Among the Early Fathers, Justin Martyr and Tatian in the second century, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian and Hippolytus in the third, Arnobius, Eusebius and Lactantius in the fourth, all regarded war as organised iniquity. Here are a few characteristic quotations from their writings on the subject.
The first two are from the Divinae Institutiones of Lactantius. 'When God prohibits killing, He not only forbids us to commit brigandage, which is not allowed even by the public laws; but He warns us that not even those things which are regarded as legal among men are to be done. And so it will not be lawful for a just man to serve as a soldier...nor to accuse anyone of a capital offence, since it makes no difference whether thou killest with a sword or with a word, since killing itself is forbidden. And so in this commandment of God no exception at all ought to be made that it is always wrong to kill a man.'
'How can he be just who injures, hates, despoils, kills? And those who strive to be of advantage to their own country (in war) do all these things.'
Tertullian remarks that truth, gentleness and justice cannot be obtained by means of war. 'Who shall produce these results with the sword and not rather those which are the contrary of gentleness and justice, namely deceit and harshness and injustice, which are of course the proper business of battles?' (An excellent statement of the almost invariably neglected truth that means determine ends and that good ends cannot be achieved by bad or even inappropriate means.)
Origen writes of his co-religionists that 'we no longer take 'sword' against a 'nation', nor do we learn 'any more to make war', having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus who is our leader, instead of following the ancestral customs in which we were strangers to the covenants.'
In the Canons of Hippolytus we read that a solider who professes Christianity is to be excluded from the sacrament, until such time as he has done penance for the blood he has shed.
In the early part of the fourth century Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The cross was used as a military standard and the pious Constantine had the nails with which Jesus had been crucified converted into a helmet for himself and bits for his war-horse. The act was profoundly symbolical. In the words of Dean Milman, 'the meek and peaceful Jesus had become a God of battle.'
The new political situation soon found reflection in Christian theory. Already in the middle years of the fourth century, Athanasius, the father of orthodoxy, is saying that 'to destroy opponents in war is lawful and worthy of praise.' St Ambrose thirty years later and St Augustine at the beginning of the fifth century repeat and elaborate this argument. We find Augustine saying that 'many things have to be done in which we have to pay regard, not to our own kindly inclinations, but to the real interests of others, and their interests may require that they should be treated, much as they may dislike it, with a certain benignant asperity.' It is a justification in advance of the Inquisition and the wars of religion - indeed of war of every kind; for now that infallibility has been claimed by sovereign states, the rulers of each nation know exactly what is best for all other nations and feel it their duty, merely in the highest interests of their neighbours, to use a 'certain benignant asperity' towards them