|"The Fog of War"|
Matt Hinsta via Flickr/CC license
Our Partial Pacifism - Which starts out with the bold statement, "I am inclined to blame pacifism for our embrace of torture."
I say it's an unusual piece because it took me numerous readings and conversations with a number of (pacifist) friends to figure out just what Schmitz was trying to get at in his brief post. My initial reaction was confusion. Granted, it was early this morning when I started reading it so my coffee hadn't perhaps kicked in yet. But I was profoundly bewildered as to how one could connect the dots of a claim like that, i.e. blaming pacifism for "our" embrace of torture. (The collective "we" obviously being the entire United States of America, which was my first red flag.)
So here's what my friends and I came up with on Schmitz's reasoning:
- There is a utilitarian "ends justify the means" frame being used to discuss torture in the post-9/11, GWOT context, especially now in light of the recent senate report on CIA torture released this week.
- We need a different moral vocabulary to make better judgments about what is and is not just conduct in war. (Implication being that torture is morally wrong, at all times everywhere. Which I of course agree!)
- The Christian just war tradition is one such vocabulary about making sound moral judgments, including that torture is wrong.
- Christian pacifism is a form of moral absolutism ("all war is evil—that it is hell, so we must stay the hell out of it") and is therefore unable to make nuanced moral judgments about action in war.
- While many/most may not embrace pacifism, "we" seem to have generally embraced the "pacifist conclusion" that "all war is hell...so we must stay the hell out of it," including in any and all attempts to make moral judgments about conduct in war.
Therefore, pacifism (albeit a partial one) is to blame for our inability to make nuanced moral judgments about conduct in war. Pardon me for being colloquial and crude, but WTF?