Is pacifism admirable, immoral, or just impractical?
Is pacifism virtuous, admirable, impractical, immoral or stupid?
War and militarism are in the news every day. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced an extra £11bn in defence spending over the next five years, to counter threats from hostile states. It comes alongside news of a new defence pact with the US and Australia in response to Chinese military power. The war in Ukraine has seen advanced weapons rushed in by Western countries to support the fight against Russia. But alongside the talk of battles and territory won and lost, there is also talk of the horrors of war. There are renewed demands for peace, and some say it should be peace at any price. In Germany, protest marchers assert that sending more weapons to Ukraine pours fuel on the fire, causing more death, misery and destruction. They claim to detect a change of mood and point out that the latest film adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, a 1929 novel by the German pacifist, Erich Maria Remarque, has just picked up four Oscars to add to its 14 Baftas.
Western leaders insist that Russia most lose the war, and be seen to lose, but is it really better to create more bloodshed, sacrifice more lives, in order to achieve something closer to justice? Forcing Ukraine to negotiate now and inevitably cede territory could bring the violence to an end and start the process of rebuilding. Or is that “giving in” and encouraging further aggression by Russia and others? Is pacifism virtuous and admirable? Immoral and stupid? Or is it, perhaps just impractical? What is the moral case for choosing peace over justice?
Producer: Jonathan Hallewell
Presenter: William Crawley
Editor: Gill Farrington