“Pacifism” as “free-riding”:

A Few Moral Problems With Pacifism

Daniel G. Jennings

It is fashionable in our day and age to assume that pacifism is a doctrine of superior ethics and morality, and that pacifists are people of superior wisdom, ethics, and morality. The fact is that the practice of pacifism in the real world creates moral and ethical dilemmas that make the pacifist position a morally indefensible stand.

The first problem with pacifism is the obvious fact that pacifism involves hypocrisy. In order to survive in our world, the pacifist must live in societies that to at least some degree rely upon violence. Most pacifists live in free societies that were created in the past through the use of military force and are defended today by military forces, societies that only exist today because people in the past were willing to use military force to defeat and destroy their enemies, societies that only continue to exist today because governments are willing to use military force to destroy or deter present day foes, societies in which law and order is only maintained through the use of force by law enforcement officers. The pacifist can only survive in a society in which others are willing to fight and die to protect his right to be a pacifist. There is no more telling revelation of the impracticality of pacifism than this simple statement. The so-called morally superior pacifist can only practice his or her “superior morality” by letting others sacrifice themselves for him or her. This makes the pacifist a sort of moral parasite: he or she can only exist in a free society in which the majority is willing to kill and die for their freedom. Yet the pacifist refuses to do so, making the pacifists’ morality a sick and hollow joke.

The second problem with pacifism is that, when faced with the threat of violence from evil people, the pacifist has only two totally immoral courses of action. The first is appeasement, that is to give in to the evil doers, to cooperate and collaborate with them on some level and help them spread their evil. To appease evil is to facilitate the evil doer, a course of action which makes the pacifist at least partially responsible for the evil doers’ actions. The second course of action the pacifist can take is to simply commit suicide or let the evil doer kill him. This sacrifice usually proves nothing; the evil doer goes right on committing his crimes after the pacifist is dead. In the meantime the pacifist has facilitated another evil action: murder. Worse, the pacifist proves that violence is effective and a legitimate method of effecting change by giving the evil doer a concrete example of the effectiveness of violence.

The third moral problem with pacifism is the willingness on the part of pacifists to bring about circumstances that result in the deaths of others. Many pacifists go beyond refusing to commit violent acts themselves by attempting to deprive others of the means or right to use force to protect themselves, for example, attempts to disarm or demobilize military forces, or restrain their use. Since this would lead to the deaths of innocents at the hands of the evil doers, by imposing his or her values on others the pacifist becomes responsible for the very thing he or she tried to prevent: violent deaths.

Pacifism, then, is not a doctrine of morality and ethics. It is an ideology of hypocrisy and weakness that tends to facilitate evil and violence, thus destroying the very thing that the pacifist is trying to create: peace.



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