Explaining the use of force

Explaining the use of force

By Oliver Del Signore

Oliver Del Signore
October 7, 2001

I used to be a pacifist. It was way back when I was young and eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam to kill a whole lot of people I neither knew nor cared anything about. What I did know was they were not about to march down my street with guns and murderous intentions so I didn’t see any reason why I should similarly march down theirs.

I was quite full of myself in those days, having received enlightenment by virtue of reaching my majority. Fresh out of high school, I knew it all and was not shy about sharing my knowledge with others both willing and not. Today, over 30 years later, armed with the knowledge of how little I really knew back then, I still believe I was right to oppose our “police action” in Asia.

And I believe I’ve been been right to oppose most of our “police actions,” and foreign policy in general, since then. As I see it, the proper application of the combination of moral certitude and dollars is far more powerful than any weapons could ever be. Not that I would just give our money away, as we have done by the bucket full, with virtually no long lasting positive effect, these past 50 years or so. I would clearly state the principles for which we, as a nation stand. Then I would invite any nation that is willing to adhere to those principles to share the wealth via truly free trade. Those who do not, get nothing. Period.

But that is fodder for another column, another time.

I began to move away from pacifism soon after I got married and abandoned the notion completely when my first child was born. I still believed one should avoid confrontation and violence whenever possible, but I realized one night, as I sat in a chair with my infant son sleeping on my shoulder, that if anyone were to try to hurt him, or to hurt my wife, I would not think twice about killing him. It was a sobering moment.

Since that time, I am pleased to say I have not found it necessary to employ violence in defense of my family, although I remain ready, willing and able to do so if the need arises. I have, occasionally, been drawn into conversations about the use of violence with “true believers” in pacifism. I’ve generally found that no intellectual argument can penetrate the wall of righteousness they’ve built to support their beliefs.

Which is why I was so pleased to receive an email, passed on to me by one of my nieces, that lays out the perfect method of teaching pacifists why it is sometimes necessary to employ violence. Some of you may have already seen it, and will recognize that I altered it a bit to make it more general in scope.

Here it is, reproduced for your education and amusement. Employ it only at your own risk.

What to do if you happen upon a peace rally to teach the naive participants why force is sometimes needed:

1) Approach someone talking about “peace” and saying there should be, “no retaliation.”

2) Engage in brief conversation, ask if military force is ever appropriate.

3) When he says “No,” ask, “Why not?”

4) Wait until he says something to the effect of, “Because that would just cause more innocent deaths, which would be awful and we should not cause more violence.” Or “America has brought it on itself, given its imperialist actions and has angered the people of…”

5) When he’s in mid sentence, punch him hard enough to knock him down.

6) When he gets back up to punch you, point out that it would be a mistake and contrary to his values to strike you, because that would be awful and he should not cause more violence. In addition, tell him his actions angered you and that he brought it on himself.

7) Wait until he agrees that he has pledged not to commit additional violence and that it would violate his principles to strike you.

8) Punch him again, harder this time.

9) Repeat steps 5 through 8 until he understands that sometimes it is necessary to punch back.

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