As a young man I was a soldier in relatively peaceful Norway, serving in northern Norway where the "ruskies" were supposed to attack. (It was during the cold war, very cold for me, as I had to stand out in the dark Norwegian winter guarding the kitchen tent against the "enemy" at an exercise. The next morning we found a note on the tent saying that the "enemy" had blown it up without us guards even noticing them. Oh, well, we said to ourselves, and started to prepare the morning coffee ...)
But that was just a distraction. I became a conscientious objector, as they call it, and joined a Norwegian peace organisation, the local affiliate of War Resisters International (WRI).
At that time my war resistance was not total. I therefore had to go to a trial before I was accepted as a lawful objector. (Some people even went to jail for the same reason, this was the late seventies.)
As the years have gone by, my pacifism has become stronger, contrary to what one should believe. As people get older and supposedly "wiser", they tend to become more pragmatic and "realistic", don't they?
Well, even young people now argument that pacifism is naive. Sometimes it is easy to counter their argument, as it follows the usual line: What would you have done if someone came and raped your wife and killed your children?
The answer to that is of course that this is not what the soldier is up to. He is in a trench very far from his family, shooting at people who probably never will meet any of them. And too often, he will be emotionally ruined by participating in war and go ahead and rape some women whose husband also is in another place, shooting at some other irrelevant men ...
The bottom line is: As a soldier, you are not defending the people that really mean something to you personally. You are not yourself in command, deciding if this battle is worth fighting for people that mean something to you.
You are under command, a "killing machine" being used by cold intellects in high places far away for some purpose you cannot be sure of. They say pompus words about "fatherland" and "freedom", but more often than not mean their own power and wealth. This has been so from medieval kings until the last Iraq war.
The more clever anti-pacifists usually bring in World War II to make their points. Should we all sit down and sing hare krishna and let Herr Hitler roam the world without resistance?
Well, the answer to that seems obvious. "We" won WW2, and Hitler died. But what was the price? Has anyone been able to ask the victims of the bombing attacks in Dresden, London, Hiroshima?
Could there have been another way of resisting nazi-Germany? The theory of non-violence has a rich literature describing dialogue, non-collaboration, passive sabotage and other methods. The problem with these methods are that they rely on a highly motivated, diciplined civil society. Therefore, I agree that they are not easy. On the other hand, if some of enormous labour and financial resources of warfare had been directed towards such training, they might have been more achievable.
And even if diciplined, civil resistance was not possible, what would ultimately have happened to Hitler if he had been able to pursue his aspirations for world rule? I believe that his Third Reich had rotted from inside, like all other totalitarian regimes. As time went by, people from the closest circles around him with more sense would have taken power, as it would become clear that is mad ideas could not work in the long run. (Remember, in Great Britain, even that madman Churchill was silently disposed of as the war ended and other, more constructive goals for the nation needed to be pursued.)
And what about the jews? Yes, what about them? Why did no one see the warning signs before it was too late, and silently helping them out and accepting them as immigrants while the German bordes were still open. Because, I fear, the hatred agains jews was more widespread than we care to think about today. We let the nazis do the job, but did not care enough to prevent it - maybe with an exception for USA?
The final questin from me to all those who say that war is necessary and pacifism is naive is: Are YOU prepared to give up your critical abilities, your personal ethical judgement and become a "killer machine" under external command? Are YOU prepared to see innocent civilians suffer for the "cause" that commands you? Yes, the overwhelming majority of casualities in modern wars are civilians, not soldiers. Are YOU able to make that cold calculation whose bottom line is that innocent lives should be sacrificed in order to reach more "long term" supposedly "good" goals?
As I see it, it would be better to die for peace than to die in war. If I die in war, I die with other innocent people's blood on my hands. If i die in peace, I die sacrificing only my own blood. For me, that is the final sacrifice I can give.
As a Norwegian psalm says (translated):
Fight for all you have dear
Die, if so is needed
Then, life is not so difficult,
nor is death
And that fight is not a fight with weapons. It is a fight with life, for life. A much more difficult, and maybe even more dangerous fight. But a fight worth living and dying for.