The petty idea of peace at any cost

Article published on Feb. 28, 2003
community published
Article published on Feb. 28, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Can a democracy go to war?

At the time of the thirty years war in Rotterdam Erasmus gave us this historical quotation: “He who loves war has not yet seen its face!”

But we can’t accept a debate over war as the answer to the question “who loves war”?

We would find out that on this topic we really do all agree, nevertheless we would not be able to explain why despite universal unanimity wars persist and continue to produce desperation, deaths and terror.

In a certain way, then, we are all pacifists but universal pacifism affirms that war is evil (indeed the evil) and that under no circumstances can violence be used as a political instrument.

History and recent news show that wars exist and that they make up one of the features and paradoxes of human social relationships.

We shouldn’t ask ourselves who loves war, but who wants to restrict it and through what methods of force (or legitimate violence, as it might be referred to).

On these premises, like the warmonger, the pacifist “ it costs what it costs” doctrine has not got any arrows in his bow, except in emotional appeal to a good ‘kindness’ for all seasons.

Fortunately, nobody has the courage to publicly defend any interventionist “ it costs what it costs” theory, but a bunch of third-world activists, anti-capitalists, pseudo-human volunteers, and nice souls of any origin or source, is waving the flags of a blind neutralism that only helps the outlaws.

Just like the great 19th century utopias pacifism has a dream, an ideal of society, a utopia: a world without wars. For communism the dream was a world without social classes and without the state. For Nazism it was the illusion of the moral duty of the Arian race and of the hygiene of the world.

Who would not want a world without war? Who would not want a world of equals? Who would not want…? Who would not want…?

In all these cases, nothing is too costly compared to the accomplishment of the dream, of the final objective of the utopia.

Thus, just as the communist sacrificed individual liberty to idolise a society without classes, in the same way for the pacifists you can and you must sacrifice the defence, the rights of a people and of individuals as long as you are not ever tempted to pull the trigger, as if any aggression was so serious as to not deserve a reply.

In reality, the only possible outcome for peace is one of an open society, a society of civil coexistence between different cultures and views of the world, a society that rests upon the rule of law and not of violence. An open society is a society of tolerance but also of intolerance towards the intolerant. It is a society open to all except intolerance.

Pacifism does not account for the existence of wars, but neither does it help to prevent new ones and nor does it guarantee a better world.

Pacifism is the Trojan horse of intolerant views in order to destroy the basis of the open society.

Other than warmongers and pacifists a third way exists, the one of Ghandi: non-violence. A non-violent person has peace as his objective, (like the pacifist) but he knows there is no peace without liberty and justice. And he can distinguish between the peace of the cemeteries achieved through anticipated and unconditional surrender and the peace of liberty, the peace to guard open society.

For this reason open society has to and must (if necessary) defend itself. It can and must turn to all indispensable means, including force, including war, even if it might seem a paradox. Even if it might seem cynical. Even if we see some hawks mobilising in name of liberty.