What is Anti-War?

If I was to be asked what my position on the military is the most honest answer would be that I am anti-war. Despite its honesty and simplicity, this is not a good answer, for many people understand “anti-war” and “anti-military” or “anti-soldier” to be the same thing (and anti-military has a whole host of its own ugly connotations). This seems to be in fact the opposite of the truth, for perhaps the most fundamental way of being pro-soldier would be to desire they not be killed if at all avoidable.

When I say I am anti-war, what I mean is simply that: I believe war to be a bad thing. People should not kill each other. However, this is not the same thing as pacifism. The latter is a noble endeavor and does in fact solve many problems (the American Civil Rights Movement was, fundamentally, a pacifist movement). But it is incapable of dealing with others (Hitler was building an empire on what essentially amounted to the pacifism of others). Then how is saying ‘people should not kill each other’ different than strict pacifism? In the ‘should not.’

The dueling phrase here would be ‘people ought not kill each other.’ By this is suggested a moral imperative: it is always wrong to kill another person, even in defense of your self or of others. By ‘should not’ I mean that it is always desired that another way than killing be used if at all possible to save yourself or others.

Thus we can say that certain wars, eventually, had to be fought. The Second World War is a prime example. Hitler found himself in a rather nice position, where the Western Powers had shown a distinct lack of backbone on several occasions (the Rhineland, Austria, half of Czechoslovakia, the other half of Czechoslovakia) and believed that would continue with his conquest of Poland. And so he invaded.

What happened next vexed him. France and England escalated the conflict. There was no particular reason they had to go to war (the treaty with Poland was not particularly more potent than the ones they had already ignored with Czechoslovakia) but they finally decided that at this point peaceful options had been exhausted. Men killing men was the only way to stop the Nazi program.

In hindsight, the matter was even more serious than the Western Powers thought. Hitler’s intense disregard was not simply for land rights, but also for people. Any decision to not fight would have left at least the same twelve million dead in the camps and likely many more. Peace would not bring peace.

Thus when I say anti-war I do not believe wars ought never be fought, nor do I think they can only be fought after every conceivable peaceful option has been exhausted (France could have agreed to uphold their treaty with Czechoslovakia and, while there might have been conflict, Hitler was in no place to win that war, particularly as England and Russia would have come in). Rather, the key to this idea of anti-war is to never desire war, to always hope that a solution develops which requires no men killing men. There are no easy practical ways of pursuing this, but to desire otherwise is a position that is, frankly, anti-Christian.

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