I just got done with my small group discussion session for my "War & Christian Conscience" class. In my discussion group, I'm the only pacifist, or at least the only pacifist who talks. (I think there is one other but that person hardly talks during the group time.) Anyway, so I get to defend the pacifists we read--or try not to defend them, just state more clearly what they're actually saying instead of the distorted ways others read them--and also poke holes in the just war theory. But of course I can't respond to everyone's comments because then I would be talking too much, so you all will get to hear my further thoughts that I didn't get to share in class.
Our group leader today (leadership rotates) said at the very end, when no one could respond, that a lecturer he heard on the just war theory said, "Pacifism is a nice ideal, but it just doesn't work. And pacifists always, whether they like it or not, have to rely on the Gentiles around them to keep them safe, so they're really not pacifists at all." Our group leader also referred to a quote that was in one of our readings, a quote by either Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr., I can't remember which and I don't have the book with me. Anyway, the quote is something like, "The Bible talks about the lion laying down with the lamb, but if we live like that in this world, the lamb will have to be replaced frequently."
So: to discuss this last quote first, what I wanted to say but couldn't because class was over, is that, "Yes, the lamb has to be replaced frequently, but it has to be replaced frequently even if it comes at the lion with weapons, assuming the lion also has weapons." The funny thing about just war theory and other theories when discussing pacifism is that they assume that 1. war works to achieve its ends, and 2. pacifism doesn't work because people might die. Well, if not dying is the desired end, war does not work any better (and sometimes worse) than it would if we did not resist at all, or resisted using nonviolent methods. In war, each side feels justified to continue fighting because the other side is using violence against them, so they have the "moral obligation" to continue defending themselves. This leads to more and more violence and loss of life. If we didn't resist at all when someone tried to invade our country (not that I'm saying that would be a good thing), it is likely that not that many people would die. Of course there are cases where this is not true, where genocide is occurring or where (like the Europeans when we came to the New World) desire for land and conquest means it is necessary to kill those living on the desired land.
But if we resist nonviolently, the justification for reacting with violence is taken away. If the enemy has any sense of decency and justice they will not shoot an unarmed civilian, or at least they won't shoot thousands of unarmed civilians, who are intentionally putting themselves in a position to show the injustice of what is occurring. Soldiers might kill thousands of unarmed civilians who are not resisting (e.g. Nazis killing Jews), but they are not likely to kill those who are nonviolently resisting in an effective way so that the soldier must face directly into the injustice of his/her action.
I think pacifism is a good idea, and I think it WOULD work, if we actually tried it. There are many examples of nonviolent resistance succeeding, from the Civil Rights Movement in the American 1960s to the Indian salt incident with Gandhi, to lesser known examples of groups resisting Nazism and succeeding as well as labor unions resisting communism and succeeding in receiving fair wages, etc. Had these groups resisted violently they would have been wiped out by superior military forces. But by showing the superior morality of their situation, the other side couldn't get anyone to fight for them.
The other question is where I think it gets the most problematic, and yet I don't think it's fair. To say that pacifists must always rely on Gentiles to fight for them is not a fair way of looking at it. First of all, if we had a state of pacifists who did all they could to show love to other nations and to pre-emptively (and nonviolently destroy the causes of war, would this nation need to be defended by "Gentiles" who were willing to fight? Perhaps other countries would invade it, but this hypothetical pacifist state would be organized and committed enough to resist nonviolently so that the other nation may succeed in taking them over in some ways, but would never succeed in taking them over mentally and spiritually, and would probably eventually give up.
The fact that there is no such state means that those of us who are pacifists must live in the world in our various states, which do not live in a pacifist manner, so they must defend themselves violently because they have not shown love to others and have instead acted selfishly, so other nations respond in kind. We have no choice but to live in these states (or I suppose to kill ourselves...), and I don't think it's a good idea to separate ourselves out into a pacifist state anyway. But the argument that we have to have others "do our dirty work for us" is unfair, because the nations that are "defending" us are also creating situations from which we must be defended.
So there, there's my refutation, too bad we didn't have an extra 20 minutes of class so I could lecture on all these things. Someday I will have a captive audience and my students will have no choice but to listen to my opinions! *evil chuckle*