Pauling & Ikeda’s False Dilemma of Absolute Pacifism

The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of PeaceThe second excerpt in The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace.from Linus Pauling & Daisaku Ikeda‘s 1992 book A Lifelong Quest for Peace forms the books twenty-first chapter. This dialogue continues the Post-Vietnam to the Present (1975-  ) section of the book.  In previous essay titled Immorality of War: Pauling & Ikeda, I discuss their credentials including Pauling’s Nobel Prizes both in Chemistry and Peace, along with Ikeda’s 1983  United Nations Peace Award.

This 3 1/2 page conversation does not make a cogent argument against absolute pacifism.  Both speakers make the obligatory reference to Hitler; discuss the difficulties of being a pacifist in a non-pacifist world; and determine that unsurprisingly that Einstein was not an absolute pacifist.  Paradoxically in an essay that argues against pacifism, they conclude with a discussion of how Japan has advanced quicker in economic and individual health due its not diverting national resources into a military economy.

The Hitler argument is that pacifism would be useless against the Nazis.  It is usually raised by those who are fearful of the concept of pacifism. I would not expect this argument from these authors or to be promoted by the editors of this collection. 

"Block der Frauen" - a sculpture by ...

The largest demonstration of the success of nonviolence against the Nazis was the Rosestrasse Prison Protest.  In early 1943, there was was a nonviolent protest  Berlin by the non-Jewish (“Aryan”) wives and relatives of Jewish men who had been arrested to be murdered in the Holocaust. The number of people rose to the thousands over a 8-day period.  At times, the crowds disbursed when there were threats of violence by the Nazis.  The protesters soon returned in increased numbers.  Goebbels ordered the  release of the 1700 Jewish men being held.

The Hitler argument itself contains the assumption that there has been no rhetorically defensible war in the last 50 years, despite many being fought.  That point is an argument in itself for absolute pacifist.  The world is full of millions of people who will reach for violence as the tool to solve any problem.  We need a countervailing chorus of those calling for nonviolent solutions.  Maybe if we had more support for absolute pacifists, then some of the useless wars of the last fifty years would not have wasted human life.

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