This post started as random thoughts about pacifism, and the war at home over the wars abroad. Everyone knows the liberal view about the illegality, waste or stupidity of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The paleo-conservative view contains some of these ideas and a strain of isolationism. We know the standard conservative view.
Buried in the politics is something else - doctrinaire or convenient or ideological pacifism - or just the decadent unwillingness to fight for liberties that seem self-evident and self-generating to millions of people. I want to know what Nickie's readers think. The subject covers a lot of ground, from the two-legged jackal yapping at the man or woman in uniform, on up to the philosophical summit of Gandhi.
Gandhi is a special case, but he teaches the class. His satyagraha, or "firmness in the truth" (widely thought of as passive resistance) was combat without violence. It wasn't the limp sogginess of passivity, because Gandhi was fighting for something; it mattered which side won. He fought against the British Raj at great risk to himself. Within his campaign for Indian independence was also the calculation that violence against him or his followers would highlight his moral cause.
He also endured terrible condemnation for his misunderstood 1938 essay, where it could be inferred that he proposed that European Jews commit mass suicide rather than violently resist German anti-Semitism. Orwell was partly responsible for this interpretation, and the story is more complicated than can be told here. The point is, pacifism, non-violence, anti-war-ism involves risk and an unyielding moral strategy. If it's to be taken seriously, neutraility about winners and losers, and old saws about violence never solving anything, are not sufficient. Whether or not you have to fight, you should have a philosophy about it.
Without checking this fact, I think we've had legal standards for Conscientious Objection since about the time of World War I. For most young men this only matters when there is active conscription. For every other man, for the conscientious consenter, the world isn't an easier place, it's a world as cold as frozen steel.
It's simply not true, as the moral prig would have it, that violence is the easy way. It's the hard way; there's nothing harder. In millions of unmarked and marked plots, and in the rusting shells of blue-water vessels on the sea floor, lie as many conscientious consenters as a wing of Heaven can hold. They came from everywhere, and every nation honors them not because its people love war, but because we grieve for a world which made their sacrifice necessary.
Can't we ask the man or woman who knows a better way to tell us what that is? The freak protest, the wail in the legislature or the pie in the face of a returning Marine? Is that the best they can do?