Chapter XIII


The question arises as to how effective in the interests of peace could nonresistance against an invading military enemy prove to be. Refusal to repulse by force such an attack would mean that the invader would take political control without bloodshed. There would be no war. If peace is the great desideratum, that is one way to peace. The natures of wars differ, but in general refusal to fight an invader might be thought of as applicable to all warlike attacks.

The outstanding result of war is change of political rule. Revolutions and civil wars have been largely for the purpose of changing political leadership, substituting one set of political rulers for another. However, this occurs in the republics at every election, showing that political rulers can be changed without war. World War I was a conflict between Great Britain and Germany primarily for the mastery of the sea in the interest of foreign trade. This fight for trade paraded under the banner of "war to save democracy and to prevent war." World War II was caused by War I. In War II the United States gave military aid to both sides. The war began with Japan's attack upon China in 1939. In time the war became dominated by the German nazi influence. The nazis took their basic idea from the Italian fascists, who had copied it from the Russian communist regime. Here was a different way of life, a method for the abrogation of democracy, based on brute force, and subjecting the individual to the tyranny of an autocratic leader with power over life and property. Fascism, like Russian communism, represented a one-party system under which all other parties and opinions became seditious. It was against this danger to freedom of the individuals of the world that the United Nations arose. Had the Axis Powers won the war, the people of the world would have lost much of what democracy they had and civilization would have been incalculably delayed. Civilization was also delayed by the war itself.

When the costs of the war in lives, money, property, and morals are considered, it is possible that the interests of society might have been best preserved by avoidance of war. Had no military resistance been offered against Japan, Italy, and Germany, there would have been no war. The struggle for democracy would then have had to progress slowly and against the reigning fascist authority. Germany would have become the dominating power of the world. Sixty-five million Germans would have had to spread themselves pretty widely to govern two billion people. It is doubtful if it could have been done. It has been attempted by other tyrannical powers throughout history, and never succeeded. One reason has been that resistance from the governed and dissentions among the governing have caused collapse of the ruling power. When the costs of war are considered, the slower process of nonresistance at least presents advantages.

A people conquered by the Germans would have had to suffer for awhile the pompous strutting, the brutal arrogance, and the unreasoning egotism of German officialdom. It would be hard to bear. It tortured to death six million Jews. But it could not last forever. It kills itself. The predecessors of Mussolini, in the swaggering legions of Caesar, conquered Great Britain and converted it into a Roman colony; but the Britons bore it until it came to an end. The Germans conquered Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark, Alsace-Lorraine from France; but the people survived and life went on.

Tyranny never survives. Slavery does not last forever. Tyrants disappear. Slavery came to its end in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Russian tyranny of the Czar collapsed. Mussolini was hung by his heels among the people whom he had tyrannized. Hitler's regime was split by internal dissentions which attempted his assassination. Stalin has some 10,000,000 subjects in prison who have opposed his regime. Revolts among the nations under Russian subjection are developing. Stalin's power will someday collapse if history follows true to course. Patience must characterize the proponents of democracy--patience, infinite patience--for time is long and generation succeeds generation. It is the impatient who turn to desperate and impractical methods of revolution and force. Patience resides in thoughtful minds.

The important fact is that it is to the advantage of a conqueror to have happiness among subject people. Contented people are more easily governed. Trouble for the ruling class comes from mistreating their subjects. Rulers and ruled find it advantageous for both to move on together harmoniously. Gradually conditions adjust themselves; changes come; the natural trend of society is toward civilization.

A conquered people who fought and killed the enemy before being overcome are in a less congenial position than a people who quietly succumbed without going to war. The attitude of the ruling class toward the former is one of resentment and hatred; toward the latter it may be contempt, but contempt can move toward justice more surely than hatred can.

On the other hand it might seem, if nonresistance were always practiced by the attacked, that brute force would always be in control of the world. This need not follow. Under nonresistance, the civilizing influence of nonbelligerency is operating all the while. The pattern of peace is being built. Economic methods of peace are promoting prosperity. The tax burden of war upon the cost of living is avoided. Public opinion favoring peace can grow. Where such opinion prevails widely enough and strongly enough, its violation becomes morally difficult and economically dangerous. Thomas Jefferson said public opinion is more potent in governing human conduct than all the punitive laws erected by governments. Men once looked upon the duel as the answer to personal insult. Public sentiment developed against the duel, and the man who now attempts it makes himself not a hero but an object of ridicule. This sentiment against the duel grew out of the idea of nonresistance. A few brave men refused to fight when challenged. The example spread until the duel is no longer thought of as a way to settle disputes. Some day, should civilization advance, war will be regarded as ridiculous. Our job is to hasten that day.

When the citizens of a few nations refuse to settle a dispute by means of force, when the sentiment becomes so strong that nations refuse to go to war, the beginning of the end of war may be seen. To compare war with the duel has its inconsistencies. War is for loot. The duel is for the thing called honor. The victorious dueler did not take his victim's watch as he lay prostrate on the ground; on the contrary, he swelled with pride and went home. After war, it is the swelling with pride, the drum sounds of the conquering heroes, the lands, loot and indemnities, the glory of victory, the emoluments of heroism, and the moral justification--these are the fruits of victory which the conquering nation once enjoyed. Now there is no longer much loot to be had. The financial costs are so infinitely greater than the gains that the victor in war is the loser.

The conscientious objector here plays his role. He summons a heroism all his own. He represents the lone voice protesting against war while he suffers at the hands of the prevalent hysteria. Whatever may be our attitude toward war and self-defense, the thoughtful anti-militarist who will not participate in war, who refuses to kill, is worthy of respect. His protests backed by his social and bodily sacrifices entitle him to consideration. If there were no voices raised against the futility of the slaughter of men, if everybody participated in war when war came, hope for world peace would be poor. Indeed, hope of civilization would be poor. In the days when peace falls upon the world, the objector to war, who backed his morals with action will be esteemed as the practical proponent of peace, and will be held up as the exotic symbol of civilization. If all men followed his example and refused to go to war, there would be no war. Contumely can not attach to an example which if universally followed would save the world from its greatest insanity. The expression and maintenance of an ideal must be esteemed.

An ancient philosophy has come out of the East which has been written into many religions, which extols the idea of nonresistance, and self-abnegation. In the prevailing world of injustice, it may be thought of as impractical. It has influenced many people, and offers a solution to the problems of war. Krishna, the Hindu Saviour, whose sayings are found in the Maha-barata, the bible of the Hindus (600 B. C.), preached a gospel of charity and forgiveness of enemies, which has been copied into other later religions. Krishna said:--

"Above all things cultivate love of your neighbor as of yourself."
"Never take delight in another's misfortune."
"It is better to forgive an injury than to avenge it."
"You can accomplish by kindness what you can not accomplish by force."
"Forgive your enemy."
"Do good to all, even to your enemies."
"My law is the law of mercy."
"Do good to them that hate you."

He also said: "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not intoxicate thyself. Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Buddha ( born 568 B. C. ), the Saviour of the Buddhist religion, whose works are preserved in the ancient Vedas and Upanishads and have been inserted into other religions, taught a philosophy of nonresistance and of peace. His teaching includes the following:--

"All concern about self is vain."
"By giving away food to those who need it, you yourself get more strength."
"Kill not, but have regard for life."
"Cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all living things with kindness."
"Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good; for hatred is not cured by hatred, hatred is cured by love."
"If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging friendship."
"Influence others not by violence but by love."
"Among those who hate us let us dwell free from hatred."
"The heart of the man who walks in the noble path is not defiled by desires."
"There is help for him who has compassion for others, but there is no help for him who has consideration for his own self alone."
"Steel not nor rob, but help every one to be master of the fruits of his labors."
"Look for the good in your fellow beings so that you may with sincerity defend them against their enemies."
"Covet not but rejoice at the good fortune of others. If they revile me, I make no reply; if they strike me, I do not strike in return; if they kill me, death is no evil in itself."

Confucius (551 B. C.), who perpetuated the ethical teachings of Lao-tse and still supplies moral guidance to many millions in the Far East, proclaimed a teaching of simplicity, justice, forgiveness, and of peace. His words are preserved and cherished. He said:--

"Desire not the death of your enemy."
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
"Do not unto another what you would not should be done unto you."

This last injunction has been incorrectly copied from the original of Confucius and is now much misquoted in a distorted and reversed form which causes it to lose its significance and its effect.

Of the moderns, Gandhi, the Indian leader, practiced and taught nonresistance, and by this means accomplished results that force could not have attained. In his contest against the subjugation of the Indian people, he met the tremendous man and gun power of Great Britain with the frail nonresistance of a sincere man with folded arms; and won. He aimed to prove that the wise are not fighters and the fighters are not wise.

The doctrine of nonresistance, as an ideal, should receive every encouragement from the cooperative world; but ideals can not always correspond with pragmatic conduct. Nonresistance and self-abnegation are foils against international power politics and ruthless acquisitiveness that characterize profit capitalism. Like conscientious objection to war, nonresistance holds up an ideal which in the present world is not acceptable to those who impatiently want to get things done at once and who proceed to accomplish their ends by destructive methods.

The dilemma resides in the unhappy fact that an idea can be suppressed by force. How earnestly we wish this were not true! The communist and fascist states throw discouraging light on this subject. The unscrupulous and cruel uprooting of ideas not sympathetic to the communist and fascist regimes has produced results inimical to freedom and democracy. Ideas reside in the minds of men and in the written records. If every man whose mind harbors a certain idea and every written record of that idea are destroyed, the idea is for the time destroyed. Inasmuch as this destruction is done not by means of ideas but by means of force, it would seem that salutary force must be used to meet destructive force. This is what most people believe. Most virile people when confronted by the situation instinctively, if not thoughtfully, resist force with force.

Although everybody harboring an idea and every record of the idea may be destroyed, still if it is a salutary idea it will appear again. The very same stimuli that once awakened the idea in one mind will again awaken it in other minds. Such an idea as that of freedom or of democracy may be destroyed but it will sporadically appear and reappear. It will constantly enjoy new birth. So whatever may be the attitude toward nonresistance and toward force, ideas can not eternally be overcome by force.

When a home-keeping man meets a burglar in the dark of his house, he finds it better to pit his intelligence against the force of the burglar. The fact that his intelligence has made it possible for him to accumulate property that the forceful burglar wants indicates also a capacity to keep by intelligence what he has succeeded in getting. Situations arise when the intelligence of resistance sees an opportunity to employ force at a critical juncture, in such a manner as to stop an invading force and save a situation. To strike down one man who would hurl a bomb to kill a thousand people, to stop a madman from destruction, or to blow up a block of buildings to check a fire are uses of force as instruments of the intelligence. There is no dividing line between physical force and force of mind. They can not be segregated and each treated with its kind. The important thing is that force, mental or physical, shall be used in the cause of justice and benevolence. With these purposes in view force justifies itself. For force is another name for action; and action is the road to results. Nonresistance is too often tinctured with indolence.

The problem is to be solved by eliminating need for force, either aggressive or defensive. Justice which produces a general prosperity and satisfaction of the people is the first essential. A prosperous and united people who believe they should repulse an invader are in a strong position to do so. Wars are fought and won by the morale of the people and by their economic strength. Militarism alone can not win wars.

At the beginning of World War II the United States was militarily unprepared. It was from the military standpoint a weak nation. But the single-mindedness of its people and its economic strength, expressed in stored wealth and power of production and distribution, did what the German militarists thought impossible. The United States won the war and at the end became the greatest military power in the world. While the nation that was the best prepared with force went down in collapse. Perhaps it was better to have been slow in repulsing attack than to have had the country saddled with militarism for a generation before the war--which might not have come. Cooperative democracy makes no provision for a military cast in its society. At the same time there is nothing about it to prevent putting up whatever sort of resistance or protection, by force or otherwise, the people democratically want.

Peaceful and cooperative methods ultimately get better results than force and conflict. If the Italians had wanted to settle in Ethiopia they could have gone there peacefully and settled there and ultimately they could have owned the whole country by simple economic means. Instead they sent bombing planes and an army and were defeated, humiliated and impoverished as a result of . using force. Germany was steadily gaining ascendancy in world commerce. She was enjoying the respect and admiration of other nations. Then she undertook to hasten the process by the use of force, with the result that her ascendancy was lost. She was impoverished and humiliated. The cooperative method directs the world toward the peaceful way which in the end may prove the quickest way.


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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.