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George Orwell Exposed Pacifists' Political Motives
frontpagemag.com ^ | October 28, 2002 | Jeff McMurdo

Posted on 10/26/2002 11:12:04 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

It is not an easy process when democracies debate going to war. Nor should it be. At the least though, discussion should be rationale and informed. And yet once again the world is witness to the spectacle of anti-war activists, intellectuals and celebrities as they agitate against President George Bush Jr. for his declared preparedness to use unilateral force in the likely event UN arms inspections in Iraq are, once again, unsuccessful. Recent anti-war manifestos issued by Hollywood actors, 12,000 American professors and prominent Canadians including such luminaries as Margaret Atwood recall the righteous protests of wars past.

A year ago it was opposition to U.S. support for the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the start of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 a group of Toronto law professors at York University found their anti-war voice and attracted considerable media attention in Canada. Similar demonstrations were manifested in the lead-up to the Gulf War. And of course there was the mother of all anti-war movements during the Vietnam War.

There are two characteristics common to all of these protests. One is a single-minded attention to conflicts involving the U.S. The other is a lack of personal, on-the-ground experience of the issues and the brutal nature of conflict and oppression.

George Orwell knew war. He was not only a novelist and political theorist who first embraced and then rejected pacifism and socialism. He lived a life of action rich in worldly experience; colonial policeman in Burma, labourer, waiter, and volunteer soldier with the anti-fascist Republicans in the Spanish Civil War where he was wounded by a shot through the throat. During World War II he directed his attention to the critics of the Allies' prosecution of the war against the Axis forces. We can only speculate what Orwell would have thought of the current outcry against Bush's Iraq policy. But perhaps his writings on pacifists - today's anti-war activists - can provide some useful insights.

Pacifists, he said, had no understanding of what they preached against, "To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it." In his experience, they acted primarily in support of their own domestic political motives and propounded a moral relativism that echoes what we are hearing today. Prime Minister Blair is assailed as misguided and President Bush - not Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden - is declared the greatest threat to world peace, and - in the Canadian manifesto - a "thug" to boot.

It has been heard before. "Pacifist propaganda," Orwell wrote in the 1940s, "usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defense of the western countries."

Anti-war movements have always had an impact far beyond internal debate in the West. In one-party states that denied freedom of speech such as the Soviet Union, Milosevic's Yugoslavia, Taliban Afghanistan and Saddam's Iraq of today, peace activists' very public words and actions have been critically helpful to dictators' diplomatic efforts to stymie or blunt international interventions. It is a consequence the anti-war movement dissociates itself from with a willful blindness.

Most significantly, there was the paralytic silence regarding atrocities in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in the years following the communist victories of 1975. More civilians were killed by their communist liberators than died in the decades of war in Indochina the Vietnamese communists now candidly admit they instigated to achieve power. According to Hanoi's leading general, Vo Nguyen Giap, the impact of the western media's reporting of the anti-war movement during the long war was critical to North Vietnam's ultimate success. Giap candidly described them as his most effective guerrilla force.

George Orwell attributed pacifists' contrarian arguments as a manifestation of their separation from the roots of the common culture of their country and in particular the resolve of their own governments, and the people, to resist aggression. "The average intellectual of the [pacifist] Left believed," he wrote, "that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred of the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind."

Ordinary people who face the realities of daily life under dictatorship have, of course, their own unique perspective on the question of the use of force. During a tea break in Taliban-ruled pre-September 11 Afghanistan, an international aid worker asked his Afghan colleagues how long they thought the hated Taliban would remain in power. "Until the U.S. comes and drives them out" was the immediate reply. Everyone laughed at the inconceivable notion. But these Afghan relief workers had an acute appreciation of their situation. Only an exercise of violent force greater than the Taliban's could be of any help to them, their families and their country.

Living safe, comfortable lives in the West, the anti-war movement decries as senseless, immoral and impractical any suggestion of the use of force against Iraq. No doubt Saddam Hussein is counting on their success. One wonders though if they fear the risks war poses for Iraqi civilians as much as they may fear another military success for George Bush.

Orwell clearly had neither patience for such follies, nor any doubts of the need for democracies to be prepared to use force in their defense, pre-emptive or not. "Civilization," he said, "rests ultimately on coercion. What holds society together is not the policeman but the goodwill of common men, and yet that goodwill is powerless unless the policeman is there to back it up. . . . Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it."

This was plainly evident in an incident on the remote Philippine island of Basilan. Upon the completion of a six month U.S. military advisory mission in July, a contingent of Manila activists arrived to mount a demonstration during the troops' media-covered departure. To their surprise and consternation, the activists' buses were met by local Basilan residents who greeted them with a hail of rocks and invective. The counter-demonstrators later explained to journalists that they liked the American soldiers and they were grateful for the logistic and advisory support which had helped the Philippine army establish a measure of peace and security not known for many years. These simple people were not going to allow their more worldly countrymen from the metropolis of Manila to undermine any future need of U.S. assistance.

As the debate over Iraq approaches resolution, the voices of these ordinary people will not be heard as loudly as those of activists, academics and celebrities in distant cities and countries. Yet in facing oppression and the risk of terror in their daily lives, they have a far better understanding of the real world we live in. Even in a utopia of peace and understanding, force - and the threat of force - is the reality underpinning civilization. No doubt liberated Afghans, ordinary Iraqis, starving North Koreans, and the people of New York City and Bali appreciate this more than most. George Orwell certainly did and of pacifist ideals he was quite clear. "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: balkans

1 posted on 10/26/2002 11:12:05 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
You might be interested that we discussed Orwell's "Homage To Catalonia" here a few weeks ago. This is the book he wrote about his experience in the Spanish Civil War.
2 posted on 10/26/2002 11:15:45 AM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76
Oooooooh the humanity! War sometimes regrettfully is the only resort. Push push push, what the socialist left is really afraid of is a resurgence of patriotism. It will set back it's global goal of world dominance.
3 posted on 10/26/2002 11:33:11 AM PDT by STD
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To: Tailgunner Joe
You know, George Orwell -- socialism and all -- is not really thought of as one of the great conservative writers, like Edmund Burke for example. Isn't this an oversight?
4 posted on 10/26/2002 11:36:34 AM PDT by d101302
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: Destro
Where were the 'pacifists' and multilateralists when their darling Clinton was raining missiles on Serbia? I don't remember hearing them. Only conservatives can be warmongers in their warped minds.

I opposed the war on Serbia, but I never would have argued that Clinton, as President of teh United States, had no right to do what he did.

This article isn't really about Kosovo. The War on Terror and the Axis of Evil are the issues at hand.

6 posted on 10/26/2002 12:02:41 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
TJ, that was excellent. Thanks.
9 posted on 10/26/2002 12:12:28 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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To: rightwing.wacko; Texas_Jarhead
Pacifists and socialists: Exploiters of the wretched
10 posted on 10/26/2002 12:15:58 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: d101302
In Paul Johnson's book Intellectuals, he refers to Orwell as a "Man of Letters" to diffenentiate him from Johnson's rogues gallery of idiot intellectuals including Tolstoy, Marx and several others. Orwell's distinction was that he put in his years as a leftist but he never denied the human truths that were revealed to him in his life and travels, and his recognition of those truths is what made him into a conservative.

Orwell was a hero of his time and an inspiration to me and many others.
11 posted on 10/26/2002 1:14:57 PM PDT by SBprone
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To: Tailgunner Joe
just one quick question: of the darling hoolywood types who swore on a stack of Mao's little red books that they'd emigrate from the United States if Dubya won the 2000 presidential election, how many actually held to their plighted word and did so?
12 posted on 10/26/2002 1:24:05 PM PDT by demosthenes the elder
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To: rightwing.wacko
I saw it too. When I saw that Cynthia McKinney, I almost kicked my T.V. in. We are going to have to fight for our country right here.

Sworn enemy of Islam
13 posted on 10/26/2002 1:25:17 PM PDT by bulldogs
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To: Tailgunner Joe
sir, you are rapidly becoming the chief god of my idolatry. your writing is superb.
14 posted on 10/26/2002 1:33:56 PM PDT by demosthenes the elder
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The President, no matter who it is has no right to commit armed forces in offensive capacity without explicit consent of the congress as per the constitution. Being against a war is not the same thing as pacifisim as this neo-con article is trying to imply on the sly.
15 posted on 10/26/2002 1:46:17 PM PDT by Destro
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To: rightwing.wacko
Let's add Jesus to the list of the deranged. Offer the other cheeck, my ass!

PS: No, I am not a pacifist but the retort to rightwing.wacko was too good to not type it!

16 posted on 10/26/2002 1:50:28 PM PDT by Destro
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To: Destro
This article is about pacifism.
17 posted on 10/26/2002 1:56:30 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: SBprone
When you consider pacifism, it is not necessarily so as in taking this position you are are cleverly allwoing others to do the heavy lifting that freedom requires. I see passive agressiveness in this stance as well. I suspect that there is a genetic/cultural basis for this just as we have a warrior caste in society. The 60's was a case study where anti-war activities were only a will to power for the likes of Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, etc in the simple furtherance of their own agendas.

In many ways the 60's was a despicable generation. Lastly Borks book points out that there were and are simply some who cannot or will not accept the freedoms which this great country affords them (and us) and are therefore rowdy children.

18 posted on 10/26/2002 2:11:37 PM PDT by Helms
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To: Helms
A friend of mine reminded me of the greatest example in the movies of how foolish a philosophy Pacifism is, and it's this: in the movie "The War of the Worlds" , (circa 1960's) a priest walks out to the newly emerged green martian ships, and he's waiving a white flag, stating: "we want to communicate with you , we mean you no harm". He is stating that over and over, and the Martian Ship takes aim, slowly, and then obliterates him into dust.

Same thing happens in the 1950's movie "The Thing".

19 posted on 10/26/2002 2:21:18 PM PDT by Chuzzlewit
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The Discovery Channel recently ran an excellent documentary about Reagan and SDI. There were interviews with all of the principles involved, including the Russians. One of the Russian military people said that, during the period when the Americans wanted to put intermediate range nukes in Europe, that the Russians would not negotiate with NATO because they knew the probability of the peaceniks allowing the nukes in was slim.

Consequently, instead of eliminating the weapons category, as Reagan wanted, we ended up with American and Russian missiles in Europe. Only years later were these missiles finally removed as part of a larger deal.

The pacifists seems to have no understanding of bargaining from a position of strength or worse yet they do and don't care.

20 posted on 10/26/2002 2:28:43 PM PDT by Straight Vermonter
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To: Destro
The President, no matter who it is has no right to commit armed forces in offensive capacity without explicit consent of the congress as per the constitution.

The constitution is what ever the judges say it is. Presidents have committed troops to War in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Kosovo and Afghanistatn with out a declaration of war. And the Supreme Court has refused to even hear a case about it. The supreme court will hear cases it thinks have constitutional issues. (See presidential election in Florida 2000) That was a constitutional issue and the justices heard it. War with out a declaration of war is not an issue and the justices refuse to even consider it.

The beltway snipers think they are God. You think you decide what the constituion says.

You need to figure out your real name. You apparently think your first name is Supreme and your last name is Court


21 posted on 10/26/2002 3:24:13 PM PDT by Common Tator
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To: Common Tator
You need to learn to read. I said The President, no matter who it is has no right to commit armed forces in offensive capacity without explicit consent of the congress as per the constitution.

I never once said "declaration of war" was required.

22 posted on 10/26/2002 6:30:59 PM PDT by Destro
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To: Tailgunner Joe
You apparently don't know much about Orwell. When Hitler threatened Europe, Orwell felt pacifism was a bad idea. In 1949 (a year before he died) Orwell wrote this:

"It seems doubtful whether civilization can stand another major war, and it is at least thinkable that the way out lies through non-violence."

Also, Orwell was a left-wing socialist until he died, he never rejected socialism as you said.

Research a little more before you post.
23 posted on 10/26/2002 11:35:33 PM PDT by Floz
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To: Destro
In the first few sentences of this article the writer addresses that the decision to go to war should be predicated on sound, rational argument. Thats what the government is supposed to do. I don't think the writer is being sly about it. He is saying that protest is not always good for the public discourse. It can actually do a lot of harm. People are supposed to write their representatives in Congress if they have a beef. Instead, they skip over that step and run into the street and raise hell. Some of us believe that American government, despite its problems, can still work. Is that being a neo-con?
26 posted on 10/27/2002 9:54:40 AM PST by virgil
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To: virgil
You got that from this article?
27 posted on 10/27/2002 10:11:20 AM PST by Destro
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To: Chuzzlewit
There are two or three such scenes in "Mars Attacks".
28 posted on 10/27/2002 6:17:13 PM PST by metesky
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To: Destro; What is the bottom line
The Two Antiwar Movements: Libertarian and socialist
29 posted on 11/05/2002 2:38:34 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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To: What is the bottom line
Are there any good reasons for opposing entry into a war, and if so, how do we differentiate between good reasons for opposing war, and pacifist reasons?

First of all, a lot of the peacenik groups reflexively oppose ANY American military action in defense of its own interests. So it's OK to intervene somewhere where the US has no vital interests, but not OK to go into Afghanistan and kick some Taliban butt because they are hosting Al Queda. That is the most telling indicator of invalid war opposition.

There should be a debate going on right now - President Bush has rightly declared that the United States can act premptively against a terrorist group or nation that poses a significant threat to the United States. The debate should be, at what point is that threshhold reached? I'd like to see it being discussed, because it's critical. But the left wants only to appease, pass UN resolutions and push papers around - a method soundly discredited by recent events in North Korea. So they have largely marginalized themselves from the debate, and have abandoned any possible honorable opposition to the possible Iraqi intervention. If you are going to oppose something, you have to provide a better alternative than approaches that have already failed.

30 posted on 11/05/2002 2:48:57 PM PST by dirtboy
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To: virgil
People are supposed to write their representatives in Congress if they have a beef. Instead, they skip over that step and run into the street and raise hell.

I can't say that is a bad thing, having done a fair amount of it myself when the government refuses to listen. But you need to present an alternative, instead of pushing for discredited policies and getting into bed with terrorist fronts like many of the Palistinian advocacy groups.

31 posted on 11/05/2002 2:51:56 PM PST by dirtboy
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Where were the 'pacifists' and multilateralists when their darling Clinton was raining missiles on Serbia? I don't remember hearing them.

Well, that war wasn't about protecting American interests (at least on the surface), therefore it passed their warped morality test. Plus, the NY Times was pushing for it big-time, so that gave libs a warm and fuzzy feeling. Of course, so does having a dog pee on your leg, and for the exact same reason.

32 posted on 11/05/2002 2:55:46 PM PST by dirtboy
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Where were the 'pacifists' and multilateralists when their darling Clinton was raining missiles on Serbia? I don't remember hearing them.

Most of them didn't care a fig that 2000 innocent Serbs were slaughtered, in a phony and fabricated cause, of course -- because it was done by a Democrat. But I think I remember Ramsey Clark and Noam Chomsky did speak out against Clinton's war on Serbia.

Must've been the stopped clock phenomenon.

33 posted on 11/05/2002 3:05:16 PM PST by shhrubbery!
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Christopher Hitchens' new book is on Orwell.
36 posted on 11/05/2002 3:28:31 PM PST by my_pointy_head_is_sharp
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Comment #37 Removed by Moderator

To: What is the bottom line
The End of An Era - The bankruptcy of the anti-Americanists
38 posted on 11/11/2002 5:41:23 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
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