Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cosh on Religious Pacifists

I don't read the National Post since they decimated their Arts coverage. The reporting was never any good, and their best opinionators are all online anyway. And since I don't really believe that Canada is an anti-Semitic collectivist hellhole, a Weimar-with-blackflies, I find the sheer discipline of its political agenda exhausting. Also, while I can understand intellectually why so many of our fellow citizens are so much more emotionally invested in the Palestine-Israel thing than the bloodier and more interesting Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute, I can't really feel it.

The main downside is having to wait a bit for Cosh's more extended reflections. His latest seems to me a tribute to religious pacifists, designed to be misunderstood as a knee-jerk right-wing attack on them. The critical line is "To call the Peacemakers 'moral imbeciles,' as a Sun columnist did on Sunday, seems unkind to imbeciles." A good one-liner bound to please in Calgary watering holes. But the flipside is that the comparison while unkind to imbeciles, lacks the appropriate degree of respect for the Peacemakers' fanaticism.

The underlying intuition of pacifism -- that no expectation of positive consequences can ever justify the deliberate destruction of *this* human life -- is one that ought to appeal to the kind of conservative raised on tales of the unintended results of well-intentioned coercion. And secular conservatives always admire religious faith.

I think Cosh is ultimately right that serious pacifism requires a religious conviction that God will make the consequences all work out, and that the pride of man is inevitably humbled. I find the latter easy to accept, but have not managed the former.

What we might have learned from the pacifists is that war, like revolution, is not something to enter into because we have a plan of social improvement. It ought to be a last resort in response to aggression (or, in the case of revolution, tyranny). The pacifists are, in the last instance, hard-headed in realizing that war/revolution are not good instruments of policy because they are always bigger than we are, and so don't stay instrumental very long.

Update/Suck up: Cosh is apparently starting a roundup of world English-language press.

More Respectful Update: A few days after this post, William Sloane Coffin died. RIP.

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