A companion-piece post to my essay about Israel’s morality — the Gandhi edition

GandhiYou’ve probably noticed I have very few links in my essay about the morality of Israel’s conduct. I was really in the groove, and didn’t want to slow myself down with links. Now, rather than retrofitting, I’m just being lazy.

What I also didn’t include in the essay was a Gandhi-riff. I am not a fan of Gandhi. True, he led the Indian people to freedom from colonial occupation, but he was able to do so less because of his greatness and more because England was both a moral nation (those were the days!) and a nation utterly exhausted by WWII. With a less moral, exhausted opponent, Gandhi would have been seen for what he was: a fanatic who was willing to let hundreds of thousands or even millions of people die for his extremist beliefs.

When I met up day-before-yesterday with Neo-Neocon, I told her about the Facebook debate I was having and we discussed how some of this guy’s positions reflected an attempt at Gandhi-esque pacifism. Neo remembered this conversation and was kind enough to send me links to some past articles she wrote about Gandhi. I, of course, want to share those links with you:

Already in 2005, Neo was finding disturbing the Gandhi-esque approach to pacifism, one that requires that as many people as possible die in order to make a point. Gandhi’s view, of course, was more nuanced than that, and Neo gives it the attention and analysis it deserves. But it still boils down to something today’s pacifists refuse to understand — pacifism taken to its extreme doesn’t mean less death, it means more death.

In 2007, Neo wrote the almost prescient Dying to leave: Palestine, Lahore, and fanaticism, which discusses the tragedy of ordinary Palestinians trapped behind terrorist lines. Even better, it touches upon the fact that Gandhi was perfectly willing to let people die and suffer for his principles. That Gandhi-esque willingness to sacrifice others is reflected in the high moral tone taken by the person with whom I was debating on Facebook.

And finally, in 2010, Neo again checked in with the Gandhi believers, this time pointing out that Obama’s admiration for the man was possible only because his admiration was equaled only his ignorance.

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  • Jose

    I listened to a Ricochet.com podcast this morning with Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger. Mona pointed out that only in the British Empire could Ghandi accomplish anything. In fact he shamed the British into submission, something only possible with a moral and liberal people.

    In North Korea, China, or present day Iraq he wouldn’t amount to an afterthought.

  • JudithL

    When I was about 3, my father returned from the Army and shortly thereafter, my mother became ill. Instead of day care or a baby sitter, my father took me with him on his professional appointments. Once he had an extended conversation with a Quaker. Afterwards, my father explained to me what Quakers believe and what pacifism is. He said something to the effect, the man was a very good person and he had a right to his beliefs. But all the men and women who had actually fought in the war were the ones that guaranteed that man’s right to follow his conscience. It’s one of my earliest memories and it inoculated me against pacifism, even during my sojourn on the Left.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      What a good man your father must have been.

      • JudithL

        Thank you, Bookworm.

        He was one of the Greatest Generation who actually deserved that title. He had great moral and physical courage.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Ghandi was waging war using psychological weapons, relying upon the basic human tendency not to kill other humans whom they recognize as human (or equal). Western civilization recognizes a lot of people as being equal or human. Islam, not so much. Nazis, less so.

    Few, if any, people know what a real pacifist looks like.

  • Mike Devx

    I think Gandhi truly believed his pacifist philosophy and approach to an aggressive, hostile foe would be universally successful. I also think he was dreadfully wrong.

    AS others have pointed out, it only works against a modern, civilized military foe. One that doesn’t automatically merely see you as “The Other”.

    Take another look around the world at current and recent conflicts. You’ll see a lot of what I think of as “The Throwback Savage”. These are predators as much as they are military forces.

    The “Throwback Savage” will go through a bunch of pacifists the way a lawnmower goes through grass. It will chop and rend mercilessly, level everything, and just keep on going. You can look at ISIS and you can look at Hamas for the Throwback Savage. If you don’t fight back, if you CAN’T fight back, they will grind you up into nothing, your blood will soak away into the soil or sand, and you will, simply, completely disappear, and become nothing more than a historical footnote. Gone. Goodbye. Completely.

    I think this partly explains some of the European and American reaction to Israel vs Hamas. Israel is one of the few modern, civilized cultures, and they are fighting the Throwback Savage. Many of us Westerners hold Israel to the standard of the Modern Civilized, but hold Hamas only to the standard of the Throwback Savage. Strategically and tactically, the Modern Civilized is in an almost impossible situation when held to that different standard against the Throwback Savage. Then, of course, you must add virulent anti-Semitism into the mix.

    I think Throwback Savagery is the rule of the day, except for those parts of the world influenced most by Western philosophy – Europe and in particular England. America, Australia, Israel. Certainly not Russia and China. I’m unsure of the Hindu influence on India.

    I’m also cynical about the nature of a Modern Civilized fighting force. For me it’s a thin veneer. If we ever again see a war that actually is an existential fight to the end for your very existence, I think it goes out the window very quickly, and total savagery returns.

    I guess, in recent events, I’m surprised the Kurds didn’t arm themselves more effectively in preparation against something like ISIS. For some reason I thought they knew what an extremely dangerous situation they were in, and they’d been getting ready for anything… and I was wrong.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      You might as well be on the same boat as those who support Hamas’ use of human shields as being pacifist. IT’s based around the same principle and concept, humans as weapons.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      Really excellent analysis, Mike Devx