by Cecil E. Hinshaw
Originally published in 1956 as Pendle Hill Pamphlet 88

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Two contrasting truths dominate our human scene today. Perhaps never in the history of the world has there been so much generosity, kindliness, and sympathy expressed as is evident in the outpouring of aid and help to distressed peoples in the world. And surely the world has never before seen so much cruelty and barbarity as this century has witnessed.

Any attempt to evaluate the goodness in man must always take into account the evil from which no man ever escapes. And every proposal for meeting and curbing that evil must be made in the light of the goodness that God has ineradicably placed in man.

No responsible and principled person can dodge the necessity of attempting to deal adequately with the evil he meets. But he must always do it knowing that God works with him through the eternal forces of goodness, forces that survive every storm of barbarity as surely as seeds remain after fire and drought and floods to renew the gift of life in plants and animals and man.

Our first responsibility is to deal with the evil in ourselves. This life-long struggle, though, does not exempt us from the social problems that surround us and of which we are a part. And the attempt to lessen or eliminate the evils in our society is far more complex than our struggle with ourselves, difficult as the combating of our own selfishness and pride must always be.

Person to person and group to group relationships, however, are still not so baffling as nation to nation problems, where so much of both good and evil are inextricably intermixed. Even in Nazi Germany there was far more of good than we could understand during the passions of war. In fact, the evil of tyranny could not fasten itself upon a nation and be maintained were it not mixed with so much good. The dictator is dangerous precisely because of the extent to which he adds goodness to evil.

Answers to Tyranny

This problem of how we are to meet evil in national form is consequently so difficult that two contrary trends are often observed. Some attempt to see the enemy nation as totally evil, therefore justifying any means for elimination of it. Others, acutely aware that the tares and the wheat grow together, advise a policy of inaction in the faith that the harvest will ultimately be a triumph of good over evil.

Both of these answers are wrong. The first is not only incorrect in its judgment of the enemy but it leads us into self-righteous pride and into the acceptance of the very evil we oppose in the means we seek to use in defeating it. The second answer is also wrong because it means acquiescence in the evil, if not by action and word, at least by the consent that silence or inaction gives.

So it is that we as a nation, inadequate though we are in ideals or the practice of them, are morally required to oppose by some means what we conceive to be evil in another nation, provided that evil is directed against us or against those for whom we have some degree of responsibility.

Underneath and back of all the questionable motives that have supported national defense efforts, there remains this inescapable responsibility and it is the reason that moral and responsible men have again and again in human history, when peaceful measures have failed, taken up arms, though with heavy hearts, to defend their countries, against what they have believed to be aggression.

Sometimes they have been wrongly led into believing false charges against the enemy, but no listing of the misrepresentations in time of war fever and hysteria can do away with the hard fact that there have been times of terrible and unjustified aggression by peoples and nations —Genghis Khan, the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the slave trade, colonial imperialism, and Nazism, to mention only a few instances. And man has intuitively realized that the redemption even of the enemy requires that he respect his opponent, that mere weakness not be the answer to aggression.

The practical and moral necessity of some kind of national defense is therefore almost an axiom in modern society. Yet never have we had more doubts both about the moral basis and the efficacy of modern military defense.

The Irony of War

It will indeed be ironical if the elimination of military strength as a valid concept of defense should be the result of military developments. Yet that appears to be the prospect.

There are very few responsible leaders today, and their number decreases steadily, who believe that successful military defense, in the event of total atomic war, is possible. It should be even more clear that the coming development of guided missiles reduces such prospects even more. Without trying to prove the case absolutely, for we live in a world where we decide our choices largely on the basis of probabilities, let it suffice to state that a rational person who attempts to support the probability of successful defense in the event of total atomic war is assuming a terrifying burden of proof.

But many other people have not yet accepted what seems so evident. The reasons are two. Any change with such vast repercussions in thought and action can only come slowly in society, gradually penetrating into the consciousness of people as it is accepted emotionally as well as intellectually. The second factor in our present immobility of thought is that people cannot live in a vacuum and will continue to rationalize an old error until a positive and hopeful alternative can be found.

This pamphlet therefore proceeds on the assumption that there is no longer any necessity among thoughtful people of proving that national defense of a military nature in the event of total atomic war is an illusion.

Balance of Terror

The only real hope left to most people today is the gamble that the threat of terror through “massive retaliation” will prevent the coming of total war again. If our enemies know that, though we cannot defend ourselves, we can and will retaliate with weapons which they are equally powerless to resist, surely neither they nor we will ever start a war. So, this reasoning goes, an uneasy peace can be preserved by this balance of terror itself and we can live in the hope that changes in Communist countries will sometime reduce the tension and allow the building of genuine peace.

This argument is much more logical than the belief in defense and it deserves a careful answer. The answer ought not to be based upon the assumption that war will follow inevitably from an armament race, as has been the case in the past. Such radically new factors are now in the picture that it is possible no total war will ever again be fought.

Those who defend this thesis ought to realize, however, the gamble that is involved and should be aware that atomic war may come even though neither side intends for it to happen. Rather than a sudden outburst of atomic attacks, probably the greater danger is that we would slide gradually into real war from the starting point of a “little” war.

But now, having recognized the very real danger that a game of lethal bluffing may all too easily end in disaster, let us assume that such will not be the case, that we can avoid atomic war. Even on the basis of this optimistic analysis, we still face formidable problems.

One of those problems, too little faced as yet, is simply the matter of the experimentation for the making and use of atomic and hydrogen weapons. Scientific opinion is divided on the extent of this danger, but the most casual reader today can hardly avoid being aware of the statements by responsible scientists warning that atomic experiments may exact a terrible price from the world, perhaps even from unborn generations through the genetic effects that may be multiplied in our posterity. There certainly comes a point beyond which we do not have the right, even for peace in our time, to gamble the lives and sanity of future generations. Whether we have reached that point is debatable, but surely there is no argument about the fact of the danger if experiments continue indefinitely.

The Limitation of Limited Warfare

Some of those who maintain that we shall probably never fight a total atomic war argue that “little wars”—a kind of limited warfare like that in Korea—will be the pattern of the future. If this is true, we must ask more exactly what the nature of such wars will likely be.

If the wars of the future are to be similar to the Korean War, and if they can be so sharply limited, America faces a strategic problem of immense proportions. Conventional warfare requires tremendous manpower, especially when it is fought on the semi-guerrilla pattern to which much of the world is so well adapted. For America to engage in other such wars, especially in Asia, is to pit our limited manpower against the tremendous superiority of manpower of the Communist countries. The geography of Korea limited the possible use of large numbers of troops but no such limits would be imposed in most other places.

There should be no illusion as to help from America’s so called allies in such contests. Very little manpower is available to us from South America, Africa, and Asia and not even very much from Europe. For all practical purposes America will have to fight such wars alone if they are fought in the future.

Further, the rapidly developing peoples of other lands are going to equal or nearly equal us in conventional warfare technology soon so that we cannot continue to count on enormous fire-power superiority.

Still another disadvantage we face is the physical toughness of the Oriental soldiers and their ability to survive on rations and under circumstances that spell disease and weakened strength to us. This is particularly important in guerrilla warfare.

The logical consequence of trying to fight such wars with conventional weapons thousands of miles from home, handicapped by the problems of logistics across vast distances, is to bleed the United States of its strength, to court military and psychological disaster, and to align ourselves with questionable reactionary forces in far lands in order to try to strengthen a desperate military position.

It is at this point that we can most easily understand why military officials in the United States do not wish to fight a war on the plan just described and expect, instead, to use limited atomic weapons in such a war. The nature of those weapons that might be used can only be surmised but presumably atomic artillery shells and quite small atomic bombs would be included. Recent tests, however, indicate that these “small” atomic explosions approach the category of unlimited destruction in the area in which the struggle occurs.

If the enemy did not counter with similar weapons, we might secure military victory, though even that prospect can be considerably dimmed by guerrilla warfare and wide dispersion of the enemy. But there seems no particular reason why the enemy could not, if he should choose, use such weapons in return. If so, we might well be at a considerable disadvantage because of the need of concentrating troops more heavily at some points and because of reliance on ocean transport, which would likely be dangerously vulnerable, especially to atomic-powered submarines and to atomic bombs dropped from planes.

Few Americans have faced the extent of the psychological defeat we shall suffer in Asia if we initiate the use of any kind of atomic weapons. The resentment against America on this point is already very strong and Communists have successfully exploited the deep-seated fears of the people.

If we were to be the first to use atomic weapons, no matter what type, we would lose very heavily in prestige and support and would, in fact, alienate large numbers of Asian peoples.

Actually an announcement by the enemy in such an event proclaiming refusal to use barbaric atomic weapons on the grounds of humanitarian considerations could place America in such an extremely disadvantageous position as to make most improbable any support of significance from Asian and perhaps European sources. Further, it would produce an embarrassing position in which we might find ourselves unable to continue the use of atomic weapons, both because of world-wide disapproval and also because of internal dissension in our own country on the matter. For we have not really considered the moral position we would be in if we should use atomic weapons only to find that a presumably immoral enemy capable of using them refused on moral grounds to retaliate in like manner.

Perhaps the greatest danger of all in this concept of limited warfare is the terrible risk of the enlargement of the conflict. The temptation to the losing side will be very strong to use ever more destructive weapons. For we may be reasonably sure that such weapons will be available even to small countries in the future. Thus there is created the slippery slide down which the whole world may involuntarily go as the momentum of angers, fears, hatreds, and suspicions plunges leaders no longer rational into the abyss. Who can believe that Hitler, had he had the hydrogen bomb, would not have used it in the final hours, even though he would know it would precipitate world wide destruction? Winston Churchill has recognized that such a possibility is the chief weakness in his hope that the terror of atomic warfare will prevent the use of such weapons.

Underlying all of these problems is the haunting specter of the condemnation of our own consciences as well as the moral judgment of the world if we dare to begin an atomic conflict, even though it be limited. And, if the enemy precipitates atomic and hydrogen warfare, we still are faced with the terrible fact that our retaliation will surely involve us in the slaughter of millions of innocent people, young and old, who have not at all consented to the action of their government. The shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are long across the soul of America. Is the destruction of the enemy in retaliation, knowing that our own brutality can in no way defend us, justified by any standard of morals and principles we have valued and taught? If death is our lot in any case, would the meager satisfaction of knowing the enemy dies with us make our torture more bearable? Or is there a greater hope and glory that men ought to cherish in such an hour?

Losing Friends and Alienating People

To the degree that Communists become confident that atomic war is unlikely or impossible, we can expect them to devote increasing time, attention, and resources to the battle to influence the undecided portions of the world. There are two methods open to them for accomplishing this purpose. And they have demonstrated both willingness to use and ability to execute these means.

The inflammation of old sores scarcely healed over from the wounds of imperialism will be reopened, stirring strife and quarrels between factions and nations. Such intrigues slow the constructive work in underdeveloped countries and also keep the United States in the minds of millions of people as the successor to the imperialism they learned to hate in the days of white men’s domination. Nor will the Communists be reluctant to use such opportunities to wrest from us the control of natural resources, especially oil in the Middle East and, perhaps later, uranium in Africa.

On a rather more constructive basis, the second weapon the Communists will use in the psychological conflict for the loyalty of newly independent people will be the promise of practical aid in the vast projects and plans to which so many governments now look for relief from the crushing burdens of poverty, illiteracy, and hunger. Russia and China have a considerable psychological advantage here that is seldom recognized in America. Both of them are industrializing rather successfully without any considerable outside help, and the new countries in fierce pride want to do everything for themselves they possibly can. And neither Russia nor China is tainted in the minds of these people with the evils of European, English, and American imperialism. Further, both Russia and China are now engaged in the gigantic task of industrializing masses and they therefore seem much closer to the problems of Asia and Africa, the more so because the problems of village peoples in old cultures and overpopulated lands are so different from America’s problems in the industrialization of a new country.

But the really dangerous advantage Communism has is its eager alliance everywhere with the forces of revolution against feudalism and entrenched wealth. And the very nature of the struggle means that the opponents of change —the landlords, the large industrialists, the wealthy native rulers—turn to us for help and support. So, against our own traditions and, often, our desires, we are cast in the dangerous and unenviable role of defending the very forces and people we ought to be opposing. Our need for alliances with elements of military, political, and economic strength in order to oppose Communism is such that we join hands with dictators, corrupt political leaders, and the possessors of great wealth, for it is inevitably these groups who will most vigorously oppose Communism since it obviously will destroy them if it triumphs.

Americans find it hard to understand why our beneficence expressed in technical aid and distribution of surplus food is often so little appreciated and seems to have rather small effect. The answer is in what has just been said. So our motives are deeply questioned. And even the good results —increased agricultural production and industrial development—too often simply result in making the wealthy wealthier. This accentuates the gap between the poor and the rich and becomes grist for the Communist propaganda mill. It is for these reasons that Burma decided to refuse all offers of aid from the United States Government and to work instead only with our private agencies on a basis that prohibits any attempts to use the aid for political and military purposes. And India has shown some dispositions in the same direction. Further, the most casual observer can see that the governments accepting our aid most eagerly are precisely the ones that follow American suggestions on military policy and that tend to have the most blatant corruption.

Wise and understanding aid, given primarily through the United Nations to help people help themselves, coupled with far more willingness on our part to trade freely, is both essential and promising. And, if it were freed of the unfortunate results that flow from unholy alliances with corrupt military and political elements, it would benefit the countries many times more than is the case now. Then we would be free, too, to act in accordance with our own traditions and to support more fully those real elements of democratic strength that are striving to build truly independent, free, progressive national states and economies.

Positions of Strength

In the building of a concept and practice of defense that will not fall into the errors we have observed in present practice and generally accepted theories, we need to begin by a survey of the resources at our command. Even as a general whose forces have been shattered must take stock of what is still available as he plans for a new campaign, so recognizing the bankruptcy of present military defense, we must marshal all the elements of strength available and must find, if possible, new techniques and resources.

The Power of Freedom In spite of the painful fact that our practice of the principles of freedom still falls too far short of our theory, the measure of success we have achieved and the ideal we accept as our guide still stand as beacon lights to our world, the promise of a better future. The criticisms rightly made of our failures are actually a testimonial to the expectations that others have of us. The very fact that Communist governments are often only lightly condemned for more gross betrayals of liberty is an indirect, but eloquent, indication of lack of faith in totalitarianism.

That man is made for freedom is an article of our faith. While we perhaps can not prove it in scientific fashion, we can marshal considerable evidence that the nature of man is more responsive to freedom than to tyranny. And the evidence from history is irrefutable that he longs for freedom and will under some circumstances struggle desperately to obtain it. The upsurge of nationalism in much of the world today, even a great deal of the violence in our times, is striking evidence of man’s thirst for liberty.

Our own traditions and principles are in harmony with this fundamental drive in man’s nature. Our practice has not always been so attractive, however. But we have already observed that a prime reason for part of our failure in practice, especially in our relations with Asia and Africa, is the handicap and blight that the requirements of military defense produce. If we could be free of military entanglements, we would indeed have a major opportunity to help vast numbers of people express their natural desires and tendencies to move toward lives of freedom rather than to submit to tyranny.

Further, if we could find a way to deal effectively and creatively with racial discrimination in our own country, our position would be immensely strengthened. And it may well be that we shall witness a passive resistance program here that will succeed in purging our nation of this blot on our conscience and our record. Certainly America must be reasonably cleansed of this evil before we can hope to exert real leadership in a world predominantly composed of colored people.

Religion Nothing is easier than to point out the inconsistencies and failures of organized religion. The truly amazing fact, though, is the ability through the centuries of this weak human instrument, in the face of the greatest difficulties and in spite of human shortcomings, to produce the persistent rebirths of spiritual power and life that give men faith and hope, inspiring loyalty and devotion, and motivating deeds of mercy and love.

This is not to suggest that religious institutions are not subject to failure and misuse, both in Communist and non Communist countries. There is nothing magical about religious enterprises to insure their continuance or their success. And especially must we penitently recognize our present lack of spiritual depth and vitality, understanding that full churches and multiplied worship services cannot at all be equated with religious health and may even be a sign of sickness.

Religion answers to a deeply felt need in man, a need that can never be erased by any tyranny or materialism, else churches would not have survived and even flourished under the circumstances that have obtained in some parts of the world. And there is growing evidence that Communist governments, even while they still maintain many restrictions on the practice of religion, have been forced to recognize this elemental fact in man’s nature.

This power of religion to draw men and to hold their loyalty depends in very great measure upon the extent to which religious institutions and leaders truly embody and practice their ideals. Only a foolish person would say that charlatans and showmen in religion cannot gain large numbers of devotees and there is all too much evidence that people do not always discriminate wisely in their choice of leaders. Yet it cannot be denied that it is the truly great spiritual leaders—Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi, for example —who create the sustained movements that mold history.

Daring as the thought may be, perhaps any really successful defense of our values and ideals can only be the concomitant (and in some measure, the result) of a new outburst of religious life like those surges of faith that have sometimes marked man’s response to crises in past ages. I do not mean to suggest that we can manufacture such a development. We can only fulfill, so far as we know them, the qualifications for the working of God’s spirit in man. But this we can and should do.

Productive Capacity and Technical Knowledge No one can travel through the vast areas of human need that characterize most of our world without being aware of the inescapable and indubitable necessity of providing some reasonable answer to man’s material distress. To do this efficiently and rapidly, and to do it in a manner that means respect for the cultures and contributions of the people who are being assisted, is to create one of the most powerful weapons that can be forged in the struggle with tyranny.

For it is dangerously true that one of Communism’s chief attractions is the promise it holds out, not altogether false, that the organizational efficiency of a dictatorship can rapidly industrialize a country and remold the habits and attitudes that presently constitute tremendous barriers to successful industrialization. The fact that Communism has not yet found an answer to declining agricultural production among the peasants and the fact that Communism’s material progress is at great human cost do not mean that people in Asia and Africa will necessarily be deterred from choosing Communism. For they are willing to pay a very great price for industrial development, believing, whether rightly or wrongly, that they can sufficiently modify Communism later on to preserve the freedom they cherish.

Yet it should be abundantly clear that a system of more freedom and liberty can build a firmer foundation for material progress and human well-being. And there surely can be no doubt that we presently have in our hands the immense technological achievements and material resources needed to help underdeveloped countries realize their possibilities. If these resources can be used in harmony with our religious and political ideals, they will be like a blood transfusion to the world.

The Limitations of Tyranny One of the worst mistakes in American thought has been the easy assumption that totalitarian governments are as powerful as they claim to be. So it is common in the West to hear the Communist boast echoed—the assertion that dictatorships can completely mold and determine the life and thought of the people of a country. The falsity of this claim should be apparent to any thoughtful person by now. It simply is not true that now or in 1984 or ever in the future a government can or will be able to dehumanize men completely, transforming them into automatons.

To say this is not to minimize the very real dangers that dictatorship brings. Even a relatively mild attack of the disease can cause real damage to a country, as we should now know. Without doubt a dictatorship can use fear, brutality, psychology, propaganda, promises, threats, and bribes to achieve in measure some of its ends. In fact, it is because of this danger that we must steadfastly oppose the advance of totalitarianism in any form in our world.

The error has been to believe that a dictator could have steady and continuing success in all his nefarious plans. There is no evidence to indicate that tyrants can thus become gods, transforming men into robots or puppets. On the contrary, man, made in God’s image, has a point beyond which he does not go in accepting slavery, even though the cost of rebellion is life itself.

Two specific items of evidence here are most heartening. No longer can there be any doubt that religion is growing in extent and depth in Russia, even though the official policy still allows only worship services and choir practices, prohibiting church schools and other such functions. China, also, is showing similar encouraging signs. In the face of the official atheism of the government and in spite of every obstacle that could be put in the way, the forces of religion have not been eliminated but, instead, thrive with vigor today. This is not to deny that persecution can win victories, but it is to assert the limitation of those victories.

The index of agricultural production in Communist countries is the other evidence we have recently obtained. Despite all the government propaganda, threats, and persecutions, the peasants have not been successfully regimented. The Russian government has lately made astonishing admissions on this point, confirming the information we had already gotten in our Russian study programs.

Any law enforcement agent can verify the simple truth that is here involved. There is a limit beyond which no government, no matter what its nature, can go in enforcing laws that are contrary to the will of the people.

The Power of Passive Resistance What has been noted above becomes explicit and politically significant when we consider the meaning of mass, organized refusal of a people to obey a government. There is no power that can force the obedience of masses of people to laws and authority they have decided to resist simply by passive resistance.

Gandhi’s contribution at this point to our problem is monumental. He demonstrated that jails and concentration camps can never be used to imprison enough people to break such a program of non-violent resistance. Nor can the use of violence and terrorism thwart the intentions of a people determined and prepared to resist a dictator.

There will be those who will say that India is not a fair example, that the circumstances were so different as to make Gandhi’s experience not applicable to us. Admittedly there were differences, as always is the case between one historical situation and another. But the differences in this case are by no means so great as most people suppose.

In response to those who say that India acted only from weakness, that she had no other choice than passive resistance, two observations should be made. First we approach a period where the utter failure of armaments, as we have heretofore observed, makes us so vulnerable that we are presumptuous if we suppose we can move from strength because of military power; that we are, in fact, relatively any stronger militarily than India was in relation to England. Secondly, the assumption that India could have won her freedom in no other way is wrong. Events since then should amply vindicate the thesis that India could have won her independence by violence (as Subha Chandra Bose and others in India said in opposition to Gandhi) even more quickly than did Indonesia. Gandhi’s refusal to sanction military opposition was due to principle and not to any supposition that no other course was open.

Other critics will say that the British really yielded before they were forced to and that a more ruthless and less idealistic opponent could and would have maintained the hold upon India in spite of the non-violence campaign of resistance. This view magnifies the goodness of England beyond what the facts warrant and minimizes the evil in the English rule. Such people forget the Amritsar massacre when 1500 unarmed Indians were shot down in cold blood.

And a host of other brutal acts by the British forces should remind us that even good men can become cruel despots when they are caught up in a tyrannical system as in Nazi Germany or British rule in India. Further, the goodness in the British that resulted in yielding so generously may be attributed in part to the validity of the Gandhian method, aimed as it was precisely at this point—winning the British consent rather than simply forcing their removal.

But there is a deeper issue here and that is whether Communists from a country like Russia are so different by nature and training from the British that these methods would be destined to fail if used against them. So we must investigate what we can learn of the probable Communist response to such methods of resistance.

As to the “Russian nature,” if there is such, it is not very profitable to speculate. There is evidence that Russians can be terribly brutal. And there is proof that good church people in America could and did display a now almost unbelievable brutality toward slaves and toward American Indians. Then there is evidence that Russians, both in historical incidents and in literature such as that of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky could be gentle, merciful, and kind— even to a fault, if such be possible. And the same is true of Americans, as of English, and as of people everywhere.

But some will say that Communist rule over a long time so changes men that, regardless of how they personally feel, they will obey any order, no matter how revolting and cruel. But if this is the case, how does one explain the refusal of seventeen Russian officers and soldiers in the East German revolt of 1953 to obey the orders of their superiors, a refusal that they must have known would end in court-martial and death, as it actually did end? It is inconceivable that the Russian occupation army called in to quell that non-violent uprising would not have been composed of the most trusted, best disciplined, and most thoroughly indoctrinated Communists available. Why, then, did they pay with their lives rather than to obey the orders of their superiors?

Some critics will reply that, even so, this can happen with only a very few and we must not generalize on such a small basis. After all, most of the Russians did obey. And this must be admitted. Generalization here is impossible. But, by the same logic, no generalization is possible on the other side. For apparently genuine and trusted Communists have refused to obey orders, even at the cost of their lives.

Obviously the real question is whether there is reasonable prospect that such repudiation of Communism, if we used passive resistance on a large and organized scale, could develop into a powerful enough movement to defeat the attempted tyranny. No proof can be expected on either side. Here we arrive at what may properly be termed a “calculated risk.”

Perhaps the most reasonable conclusion is that the result would probably depend on the extent to which the passive resisters were able to persist, regardless of enemy persecution, in maintaining a united stand in a spirit free of hatred and largely imbued with friendship and love. That this is the proper way to state the case becomes most evident when we ask whether a nation composed entirely of Gandhis could succeed in such a program. Almost every one will agree that passive resistance would in that case defeat the tyranny. But it is right to point out that no nation will ever be composed of Gandhis. So the real question is neither whether the enemy is completely devilish nor whether we are completely saintly. Rather, it is whether a free people—ordinary free people—can, with proper leadership, develop, organize, and carry on a concerted, persistent, and effective program of passive resistance against tyranny. If there is reasonable hope that they can do so, we have at hand a weapon of resistance to evil that can replace the now antiquated, useless, and dangerous atomic warfare upon which we still rely for defense.

The Moral Equivalent of War

A half century ago, William James wrote an essay, pregnant with prophetic insights into the future, in which he called for a moral equivalent of warfare. For James recognized that men could never be expected to abandon warfare, however futile and vicious it became, until the moral equivalent of war could be evolved. And today we can add that our need is desperate for a practical equivalent of military warfare.

We have now to investigate whether the five “positions of strength” we have just reviewed can be welded together to form a workable and promising equivalent of war, able to replace the military program which no longer serves its proper purpose. The best manner of making such an investigation is to develop an hypothesis or proposed plan for a national defense program based on these principles. For it is in the attempt to make a specific, though theoretical, application of them that we can best determine the possible validity of these principles.

This approach requires the assumption that a country would decide to follow the course here to be outlined. Whether any country, and specifically our own, would ever make such a decision is obviously a valid question. But it should also be obvious that it is properly asked after the theoretical considerations are finished, after the plan has been presented and explained. For no one can act or vote intelligently on something of which he is in ignorance.

While this theoretical application of the principles we have been considering will be made in terms of our own country, it is obvious that our allies would be involved and that, ultimately, any decision we would make could only be taken after the most careful searching of our proper responsibilities to them. However, I am now eliminating that element from our present discussion, partly because of limitations of space in this pamphlet, but primarily because I am convinced that the development of public opinion in our own country in the direction I am suggesting would result in releasing powerful social and political forces in our allies that would move them in the same direction even more rapidly. For it is self-evident today that only our own country’s leadership and insistence, sometimes our threats and promises, keep the military alliances together. In a world sick to death of war the leadership of our own country in a radically new direction would release vast pent-up forces in most of the world, forces that would quickly ally themselves with us, producing an international alliance that would immensely strengthen the defense of any one country. So it should be apparent that the real test of a new concept of defense is in its application to one country. If that test is passed successfully, the major problem will have been solved. And, since we know our own country best, it is proper for us to begin by applying the theory here in the United States.

Another word of caution is in place. Let no one suppose that the plan here to be presented could be put into operation now in this or any other country. Even as military defense requires planning, research organization, drill, and time, so would this method of defense require the same opportunity for adequate preparation. No method of defense is any better than the skill, ability, dedication, faith, and courage of those who practice it. There is nothing magical in any method as such. So the mere agreement, if it were reached, that the new type of defense to be sketched out here should be adopted, would not justify hasty and unprepared action. And this means that no shift from what we are now doing, so far as basic principles are concerned, could be made immediately or even quickly. But this does not mean we cannot consider what we ought to do at some point in the future and begin now to plan toward it.

Still one more word of caution is in order. In so ambitious a task as we have set for ourselves, we must recognize our limitations. Our work can only be exploratory. Necessarily the hypothesis to be developed will sound much more concrete and specific than we have any right to suppose it can actually be at this stage. But, even as in a scientist’s laboratory, the proposals or theories must be specific rather than vague if they are to be tested. Actually it would take the combined wisdom of many wise people to evolve a really workable program of national defense along the lines to be suggested. But it is our obligation to go as far as possible in pointing the way. For such attempts, even when they prove to be in error in places, often are the necessary preliminary to later plans much wiser and better.

Finally, let no one suppose the answer here proposed is without risk. No such answers are open to us in any case. What we have to do is to weigh the risks and chances of success of the national defense plan here proposed against the prospects offered by any alternate plan. Precisely because there is so little hope in any other plan that can be offered, we have a right to assume that our plan will not be ruled out of consideration just because risks are involved.

New Weapons for Old

We begin now the difficult, dangerous, and tentative work of putting together our building blocks for defense, our positions of strength—The Power of freedom, Religion, Productive capacity and technical knowledge, The limitation of tyranny, and The power of passive resistance—into a pattern of national defense, a pattern that will rigidly exclude the element of military power we have previously seen to be the chief and immediate cause of our present dilemma, the block in the log jam that prevents us from releasing the flood tides of constructive energy in our world.

Having recognized that no immediate action of this kind is in prospect, we begin with our theoretical proposition at that time in the future when our nation would accept the necessity of changing its foreign policy and its program of defense. Presumably such a decision would have been preceded by a gradual change in public opinion as more and more people, especially among the leaders, recognized the futility and weaknesses of our present policy. The growth of such thought would mean that ultimately it would be embodied in a political program. And in order to consider this theory we must presume the victory (probably after initial defeats) of such a political force at the polls.

The first act of such a duly elected government would be to issue a proclamation in accordance with the promises it would have made in the election campaign, stating to the whole world that this country recognized the bankruptcy of military defense. Accordingly it would ask all nations to join in total disarmament down to police forces. But, the proclamation would continue, this government would proceed to take such action unilaterally if necessary. Further, all countries, without any exceptions, would be urged to send official representatives to observe the disarmament process here in order that there might be no doubt as to the sincerity and the execution of our proposal to disarm so far as our military defenses were concerned.

The proclamation would further state, again in harmony with the political campaign promises made, that our government would immediately develop a program of passive resistance to be used if any attempt were ever made to invade us. This would begin with the building of a new department of defense in the government, charged with the responsibility for the research, planning, and organization necessary for implementing the decision.

Finally, the proclamation would announce that our government, as rapidly as savings in manpower and resources were effected by the new plan, would make technical assistance and capital available on a very large scale to under-developed countries through the United Nations, the specialized agencies, and private agencies. It should be clear that such aid would be available to all countries without any political restrictions and that it would be the responsibility of other agencies than this government to administer the aid. For the effectiveness of capital for grants and loans and of technical assistance is greatly increased when it is administered through a third party or a multilateral arrangement. Further, the announcement should state that projects for exchanges of students and visitors of many kinds would be encouraged in an effort to build international good-will and understanding.

What would be the effect of this three-fold program of unilateral disarmament, the adoption of passive resistance as a policy of national defense, and of generosity in technical assistance, capital grants, and loans on an unprecedented scale? Certainly it would produce tremendous reaction throughout the world. For its boldness could not be ignored anywhere. The probable effects need to be considered in three separate areas: the effect on the non-Communist countries besides ourselves, the effect on the Communist countries, and the results in our own country of such a policy.

On Winning Friends and Influencing People

While there are more limitations than some idealists realize on the good that aid programs can do, nonetheless it should be apparent to almost everyone that one of the most powerful weapons any nation can possess in winning the vast uncommitted areas of the world to its side is the wise and judicious use of capital and technical assistance. For our world is dominated by one primary fact that no one can dodge — hundreds of millions of people are engaged in the most massive evolutionary and revolutionary development toward industrialized life that has ever been known. It cannot be stopped. It can only be hindered, or it can be helped and guided. And the nation able and willing to help and guide this momentous change, if it proceeds carefully and wisely, will be able to inherit a stupendous opportunity for creative relationships with these developing peoples. Clearly, no other nation closely approaches America in the resources available to perform such a task.

Yet we must understand that even good actions for selfish purposes can boomerang. Therefore such aid must be given because of genuine concern for the welfare of others, else it will not be even politically effective. And it must be given with very great sensitiveness to the culture and traditions of the other countries. Further, we must understand that it is a sharing process in which we also are enriched by the insights and contributions of others to us.

To those who pessimistically reply that our aid programs thus far have produced little evidence of increased friendship, I would point out several essential facts to consider. First and foremost, our aid programs have been so closely tied to a bankrupt military policy, as I have previously observed, that it is quite unrealistic to judge a completely non-military aid program by our past and present experience. Next, we have insufficiently realized the very great obstacles to success in any bilateral aid program such as most of our present technical assistance aid projects are. Yet this relationship followed necessarily from the attempt to make the aid programs serve military aims also. In spite of these limitations, our aid programs have made significant contributions toward helping to save a number of political situations in our world because the welfare of people has been genuinely advanced by the help we have given.

The possibilities in a truly great technical assistance program—perhaps ten or more billion dollars a year offered to the United Nations to be used as grants and as a gigantic loan fund for development purposes, plus the offer of technical advisers, and supplemented by other programs through specialized and private agencies—are almost unlimited in the results that could be achieved in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, parts of Europe, and South America. It is hopeless to expect we can feed and support the world, and any technical assistance program that attempts mere charity is doomed to failure. But a plan aimed at releasing the vast potential human and material resources yet unrealized, a plan that aims at helping people to help themselves by providing the particular assistance without which the resources of these nations cannot be mobilized, can produce almost immediate gains and the promise of vastly greater improvements in the future.

To those who believe that the elimination of American military might would mean the overrunning of these countries by the Communists before and even in spite of the accomplishments we visualize, I suggest these considerations. First, a people who have hope and faith in their future do not provide the internal chaos and disorder that Communism needs in order to take over a country without paying a heavy price. Next, there would be no military excuse that Communists could use, as they did in Czechoslovakia, that we sought to use these countries as military allies against Communist countries. And, most important of all, the example we would have set of reliance on passive resistance would greatly strengthen the forces in such countries desirous of following a Gandhian pattern. So the result would probably be the development of a united program of many nations, linked together in a passive resistance defense program, undergirded by a new optimism that democracy could effectively solve the problems of industrialization and land reform.

Without doubt we must admit that we still run risks that some of these countries might be absorbed by Communism. But it should be sufficient to point out that no military policy has yet been devised to stop the onward march of Communism when internal conditions in a country make possible the civil war which Communists can use to seize power. Our failure to save China from Communism by military aid ought to be a continuing lesson to all. Virtually every authority on the matter agrees that no amount of additional aid and not even direct American intervention could have prevented the Communist victory. Any attempt to guarantee we can protect all the world is the foolishness of trying to play God to the world. No policy—our present policy or any other—can guarantee that we can prevent the Communists from winning a temporary victory when the conditions in a country are ripe for it.

So it would seem that the probable effect of our projected foreign policy and defense program would be the winning of non-Communist countries as friends and co-workers much more effectively than we are now doing.

Moral Jujitsu

When we turn to the probable effect on the Communist countries of this passive resistance foreign policy, we see that it can be a kind of moral jujitsu, using the strength of the opponent to accomplish in him the desired changes. For such a course as we are describing is so completely contrary to Communist dogma that our action would catch the Communist world quite off balance. And the attempt, if it were made, to anticipate the results of our actions and to counter them would necessarily mean giving up the rigid Communist doctrines about the nature of capitalism and democracy. In fact, it is difficult to see how Communism could adjust to the revolutionary situation we would pose without making basic changes in its own structure, changes that would be in the right direction.

The possibility of a united world Communism would surely be lessened by our action. Already there is considerable evidence that Communism is faced with the hard fact that nationalism and the inevitable pressures within a country tend to separate one Communist country from another. Not even the attraction of a common bond of economic and political program is sufficient always to overcome these nationalistic tendencies, the centrifugal force perhaps ultimately fatally destructive of any plans for united world Communism.

With the possibility removed that the non-Communist world constituted a military threat, the naturally divisive forces that exist between Communist countries would assert themselves more strongly than they do at present, rivalries would tend to develop, and the military strength of the Communist countries, if retained, would tend to be divided into opposing camps.

This same kind of effect would also surely develop within the ruling dictatorship of a Communist government. It is already clear that a dictatorship is a naturally unstable political element. And that instability is due in considerable measure to the suspicions and jealousies that develop in the ruling group. As long as they fear an outside military power, these fears tend to be subordinated. But when there is no longer foreign military strength to fear, these internal dissensions are much more likely to develop. There can be little doubt that Hitler’s hold on his people was strengthened by military opposition to Germany. For many Germans were driven, howbeit reluctantly, to support Hitler as the only alternative to what they believed, although wrongly, would be much worse—the military defeat of their country.

Still another problem for the Communists would be created by our policy of unilateral disarmament, passive resistance, and technical assistance. The effect on the citizens of the Communist countries would be considerable. The news certainly could not be kept from the people there, though it would likely be misinterpreted. But in any form the information that we had disarmed would result in tremendous pressures for more consumer goods in the Communist countries. Justification of a military policy would be much more difficult and consequently the trend toward more consumer goods would be extremely hard to resist. And the chain of events that would follow from such a development surely leads more toward peace than war.

By the same logic any imperialistic venture of a Communist government into a country not armed militarily would be most difficult to explain to the people of the Communist nations, even with all the power of a great propaganda machine available.

All these considerations indicate that our proposed policy would tend to create confusion in Communist ranks, to keep them busy with their own internal problems, and probably would move them gradually, or even rapidly, away from some of the worst evils of totalitarianism. And certainly our policy would relax, even remove, the fears that presently help them to justify their military program. For this reason we would appear to have little to fear from an attempted Communist invasion of our (or any other) militarily disarmed country. On the contrary, it might well be true that the result of our policy would be that Communist governments, in order to compete effectively with us in technical assistance programs and in order to deal with pressures at home, would accept our proposal for universal disarmament and would move, though slowly, in a direction that would mean more assurance of peace in our world.

That such Communist cooperation in universal disarmament would then be possible, perhaps even probable, becomes evident when we consider the psychological position in which failure thus to cooperate would place the Communists. In the eyes of their own people and in the view of the rest of the world all their preceding peace talk would be proven to be hollow and hypocritical. The United States would become the protagonist of peace, the moral leader of the world. And this would lose for the Communist countries one of the most powerful attractions they now have for the masses of people in Europe and Asia. For Russia and China to remain armed when we disarmed (and probably most other non Communist countries with us) would cost the Communists very heavily in the esteem of the world. Would they be willing to pay that price? Or might they rather conclude that they should join in universal disarmament in order to compete more favorably with us for the support and loyalty of the rest of the world? For that relationship of trust and confidence between the Communists and other nations is far more necessary for the accomplishment of Communist expansion plans than most Americans suppose.

The Strategy of Passive Resistance

To think and plan politically in a responsible manner does not allow us, however, to assume without questions, that our projected policy would yield such admirable results so easily. Wise men need always to consider what course of action they will follow if the adopted plan does not succeed. So we carry fire insurance on our buildings, not because we at all expect them to burn, but as a last resort for financial protection in case of fire. Even so, we must ask what a nation adopting this policy would do if the Communist countries did not respond in accordance with the pattern here suggested. And we must therefore now deal realistically with the effect on our own country if it adopted and developed this policy, and if an attempt were to be made to take advantage of our disarmed state. The fact that such an invasion appears unlikely to develop does not at all free us from the responsibility for preparation to meet it.

Also, the prospect of having to face such an aggression would be very much lessened by adequate preparation to deal with it if it were to happen. To be prepared in this case is to lessen the likelihood of having to meet that for which we prepare.

To know what action we should take, we must first consider the kinds of aggression in which an enemy country might engage, keeping in mind that the answers we provide for our own country can reasonably be expected to apply to other countries that might face the same kind of assault.

One fear that some people may have can be disposed of quickly. That is the possibility that an enemy would, if we refused to accept an ultimatum to yield control of our country, respond by bombing and destroying our undefended cities. Such destruction would be meaningless in view of the obvious fact that there would be no physical barriers to the occupation of the country anyway, which presumably would be the goal of the enemy. If we credit the invasion forces with the degree of intelligence assuredly necessary for a projected occupation of another country, then it should be transparently clear to them that such wanton destruction would only increase the actual problems of occupation—problems of physical rebuilding and of psychological victory in the occupied country. Further, the horrified reaction of the whole world would create a gigantic problem in foreign policy and foreign relations for the government that was responsible for such an act. The obvious consequence of our policy of unilateral disarmament and generous aid would have been to remove utterly any idea that we were threatening another nation and thus the complete absence of any justification for the crime would mean an instantaneous and continued condemnation of and resentment against those responsible. It is scarcely conceivable that any reasonably sane people would thus involve themselves in such enormous problems with so little prospect of gain from the deed.

Far more realistic is the assumption that we would be invaded by an occupation army in much the same way that a militarily defeated country is occupied by a military force to secure control of the country. It is therefore against this kind of aggressive action that our policy of defense must be directed. And in order to describe this policy we need now to go back in point of time to the initiation and preparation of the policy of passive resistance that would be used in the event of having to meet such aggression.

As previously suggested, the governmental decision to abandon military defense would come at the same time as a policy of passive resistance would be publicly announced. Further, it would be a mistake to suppose that no actual planning had been done before that time. For no political party could hope to win an election on such a platform unless it had previously prepared a plan of defense to substitute for the military program to be displaced. So we therefore go still further back to the beginning of such planning—to the point, in other words, where we actually stand today.

Those of us who see clearly the futility of continued reliance on military defense must, in addition to the endeavor to win the consent of other people to our view, also assume two other responsibilities: the theoretical planning of a passive resistance defense policy in its general outlines and the organizational beginnings of such a force.

This pamphlet purports to be no more than an initial and modest beginning so far as theoretical planning is concerned. Obviously an adequate answer can only be given as a number of able people from different fields of training and experience correlate their knowledge into a unified plan. Even then it will necessarily evolve gradually as do all human enterprises. And such theoretical planning would actually never be completed entirely, any more than we stop thinking about other major human problems. So a government committed to this policy would therefore charge its defense department with the responsibility of initiating and directing programs of research in psychology, sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, history, and cultural studies. Obviously the resources of our universities and colleges should be utilized for this purpose, the grants replacing the present programs of research for military purposes. The results of these studies, besides being available for other purposes, would be correlated in the planning done for a continual strengthening of our program of passive resistance.

In the meantime, however, we now have the responsibility to think as clearly and accurately as we can about the means by which we would apply our principles to the problems of defense, recognizing that any plan now developed needs to be supplemented, corrected, and improved.

The second responsibility immediately resting upon us is the organization of those who share these convictions into a working and effective group. Both the winning of the nation to this policy and the successful operation of the program thereafter requires such organizational effectiveness. In fact, we would have no right to ask our country to follow such a policy were we not able at the same time to point to a corps of able, dedicated, disciplined people operating in a proven organizational structure.

It is at this point that we can learn much from Gandhi’s experience in India. As many as 400,000 people were there organized into such a group as I have described. The continuing effect in India today of that organization is quite considerable. Certainly the success of India’s passive resistance movement could not have been achieved without such an organization. But Gandhi came to see that he had not built a strong enough group. We ought, therefore, to think in terms of a larger organization in order that the influence on the country would be greater. As a rough estimate let us suggest a goal of one million people organized in such a group.

The functions of this organization would be: 1) the teaching and persuasion of the American people, winning them to an acceptance of a passive resistance policy, 2) the application of these principles to our own American problems, such as racial discrimination, 3) the development of a specific plan of operation for the nation when passive resistance is adopted, 4) the formation of a skeletal organization to serve as a pilot model of people willing to act as volunteers in a passive resistance defense corps, and 5) the continued purification and spiritual growth of the members.

If we now jump ahead in time to the point we were previously considering—the beginning of a new governmental program built on this policy—we are prepared to see more clearly the actual working out of these plans. With such preparation and with the education of the people that would have taken place in the course of the political campaigns leading to victory at the polls, the new government would be prepared to move rapidly in the direction of implementing the program.

Much of the planning and work for the program would already have been done. And there would exist a body of trained and dedicated people ready to serve as volunteers in the new defense plans. The organizational structure of this volunteer group would be somewhat like that of the present National Guard—people who hold civilian jobs but give a regular portion of time to training and who may be called upon for any kind of emergency. Obviously there must also be developed a smaller group of men in full time service able to provide the leadership and plans for the larger group.

This total organization would be scattered throughout the country and woven into many industrial, social, and educational institutions. For the function of such volunteers, as will be seen later, is in part the direction and guidance of still larger numbers of people, even as civilian defense workers in time of war serve to correlate and direct the activities of the total population.

A program of education and preparation of American people would be needed to help interpret the new policy to them and to enable them to see where they would fit into it. Through radio and television, newspapers and magazines, and with the aid of educational and religious leaders, we would teach the broad outlines of our policy and attempt to build the morale necessary to undergird it.

Weapons of love

At this point we now stand ready to answer the question previously posed: how would we meet an occupation army?

Our defense would rest on two principal “weapons of love” —civil disobedience, and the persuasive power of words and non-violent actions aimed at changing the minds of enough people in the occupation force to render it impotent in the attempt to rule our nation.

The civil disobedience program would have as its purpose preventing the occupation army from gaining effective control of the nation. No tyrant can rule if the great mass of the people refuse to obey. Prisons can not be large enough to hold them. Mass refusal to pay taxes can imperil the financial basis of the occupation army. And such a program can place the invader in a perilous psychological relationship to the rest of the world, as well as endangering the morale of the occupation army itself in a manner we shall consider later.

The civil disobedience program would also be expressed through strikes of various kinds—short total strikes, slow down strikes, and work stoppages in key places and industries to paralyze any attempt to rob the nation of its resources. Such a program can be particularly effective in a highly industrialized nation where the laborers have already learned how to act in concert together, using the strike as a lever to gain higher wages and improved working conditions.

The effectiveness of this type of campaign depends upon a number of factors: the wisdom of the original plans, the preparation of the people, the quality of the leadership, and the persistence of the people.

As to the original plans, these would have been made by the department of defense. There properly would be, as in a military campaign, many different plans, geared to differing circumstances and conditions. As much as possible, difficulties should have been foreseen and planned for, thus mitigating the problems and lessening the chance of failure.

We have already considered the preparation of the nation, but now we see more clearly the importance of such preparation and the form of the educational program previously needed. Much of this preparation would be the responsibility of the leadership, as it would be given by the defense forces. Each person in it would know what his responsibility would be in leading other people: where he would be expected to operate, the lines of authority, and the kinds of problems to be expected and how to deal with them. This would include provisions for a long chain through which leadership could be passed in the event that leaders were imprisoned or killed. We can learn much here from Gandhi’s experience in India and from the underground resistance forces in Europe during the Nazi occupation. And we can have faith that such leadership will keep replenishing itself in a time of crisis, as it did in India and in Europe, by the continual accession to the cause of capable leaders who are inspired and challenged by the example of those imprisoned or killed.

The persistence of the nation in the civil disobedience campaign would be essential. All the other points just mentioned would help strengthen this will to persist. But finally it must arise from the power and strength of the people themselves. And this can only be the product of a nation that is culturally and religiously strong. For this reason we must understand clearly that this is not merely a technique of defense—it is fundamentally a way of life. Such a defense would go ill, for example, with a practice of racial segregation such as is now all too common in our country.

The necessity of this unity and strength of the nation becomes quite clear when we consider how we would deal with the problem of dissenters and opponents of this policy within our own ranks. Although it is obvious that the very fact of political approval of the policy by the nation and the vigorous program of education would mean a basically united people, nonetheless we must assume that an occupation army would find some people willing to cooperate with it in the attempt to rule the country. Some would join the invaders through the enticements of bribery, some because of the expectation of gaining power, a very few because of agreement with the invader, and then there would be those who are psychologically maladjusted and would desire to express their resentments in this manner.

Such fifth columnists would be a serious problem only if their numbers were considerable. And we may reasonably assume that the tremendous social pressures previously created and largely sustained, perhaps even increased during the conflict, would keep most people inclined to be traitors from following such a course. For men ultimately value the approval of their friends and neighbors very highly and hesitate to take action that will meet with stern and continuing disapproval. In fact, it is this cement of desire for social approval that largely keeps society together at any time. This is the real power that makes laws workable, that makes a collection of people a society, a nation, rather than atomistic individuals. So it is that wise and judicious use of all the forces of patriotism, social approval, religious idealism, and economic advantage can serve to keep fifth columnists so small in number as to be of no decisive advantage to the invader.

No greater mistake could be made than to suppose that such a campaign as this could be carried out without loss of life and property. To be realistic at all, we must recognize that such an invading army as we have posited would have instructions to use cruelty and even barbarity on a considerable scale if necessary and if it appeared to offer any hope of breaking the resistance.

But before we consider this human and material cost in greater detail, let us remind ourselves that no kind of defense possible to us today can promise safety to the occupants of a nation, or even the hope of safety, without the acceptance of great risk and heavy costs. We live necessarily with insecurity in an atomic age. If the danger of losing lives and property is the criterion for judging foreign policy, then our present policy, with its record of a half century of mankind’s greatest wastage in human and material resources is condemned utterly. So an alternate program ought not to be refused merely because it will cost heavily. Men of honor and integrity have always been willing to pay this price. If the cost in human lives is the criterion, then modern war stands condemned far more severely than any program of passive resistance. But surely those who risked their lives in the Underground in Europe during the last war, as well as those who participated in military action, never judged the validity of their efforts merely by the prospect that it meant saving human lives. The values of freedom are not to be measured in these terms.

The real question is the calculated judgment as to which method of defense will cost least and be most likely to succeed in defending and preserving those values that we cherish more than life itself.

Even so, the price tag for passive resistance still cannot be easily dismissed. Any occupation army would certainly arrest the leaders of a passive resistance policy, or those leaders they would know about and be able to locate. It would be expected that government officials, industrial and labor leaders, communications officials, and religious leaders would thus be imprisoned. Some attempt might be made to imprison ordinary people, particularly in limited areas, but this could not be carried very far simply because of the immense problem of handling masses of people who persist in refusing to obey, even at the point of a gun.

Admittedly some of these hostages would be tortured and killed. How many, it is impossible to predict, but at the worst, it would not approach the loss in atomic warfare. For the tyrant, the chief value in such killing, as the public whipping in dealing with a wayward child in a schoolroom, is the expectation that others will obey more readily thereafter. If the brutality does not accomplish this intended result, the danger of its indefinite continuance is not as great as it first appears.

If we would deal with the irrational fears of some that this policy would simply mean the obliteration of the occupied nation—the merciless killing of millions—we need to consider several factors. First, this policy of passive resistance is not parallel to what was done by those killed in Nazi Germany or in the kulak rebellion in Russia. For the people killed in those cases—and there were millions killed—were not organized at all in the kind of program we are considering. Rather, we should look at Denmark and Norway under the Nazis, and East Germany in June of 1953 under the Communists, for the nearest parallels (even in those countries it was a very imperfect, incomplete, and unorganized program) to what we are describing. And it is remarkable in those instances how little killing did take place. These cases tend to show that human nature cannot become so depraved and mechanized that it is completely impervious to the appeal made by passive resistance. And this requires much more consideration of how passive resistance reacts upon an aggressor. But in order to understand this power, let us start with the most normal human reactions to suffering.

The first step in understanding this power of passive resistance is the recognition of the natural aversion of men to suffering. All normal men dislike to witness suffering. Even the mass fascination that makes men stare at the injured in an accident does not remove the distaste for pain, whether in ourselves or in others. Our attitude toward suffering animals also demonstrates this basic quality of our nature. The cruelty we sometimes show toward animals, as when we pass by an injured dog on the highway without stopping to aid, is probably due to our subconscious wish not to have to observe the animal’s misery. And it may well be true also that the unusual person who seems sadistic is ultimately to be explained by the inner civil war that drives him to extremes in an effort to drown his conscience.

The second step in the logic of passive resistance is the understanding that our natural repugnance to suffering is accentuated when we are the cause of that pain. Even if there is no intention of causing suffering, as in a highway accident, it is still true that remorse comes naturally and unaided. In the few cases where people evidence brutality and apparent unconcern in such cases, it is probable that the reaction is nothing more than veneer or an attempt to avoid the pangs of remorse by rationalizing responsibility to someone else. Psychologists unite in saying that sadism is explained by inner conflict in a person and not by the unmitigated brutality of a man’s nature.

The third step grows out of the second. If the pain we have caused in others is the result of evil in us, if we are the aggressors, the innocence of our victim contrasts with our own brutality and then our need becomes desperate to have some psychological justification for our action. Normally that justification is available either in the resentment and physical resistance of the enemy or in his cowardice. Thus when our evil action is met by violence or cowardice, or when we know that our enemy waits only the opportunity to use violence, when we know that he hates us in proportion to the suffering he has incurred, we use his responses to convince ourselves he is the kind of person who would have harmed us if he had had an opportunity. Somehow his hatred of us and his use of violence help us to achieve some measure of self-respect even though we have been aggressively evil.

The final phase in understanding the power of passive resistance is reached when the evil doer is met by forgiving, suffering love. Add this to the natural aversion to suffering, the horror at having been the cause of it, and the revulsion that comes from finding in the non-violence of the opponent no basis for self-justification, and the aggressor is left shaken and psychologically defenseless. To continue a physical attack upon one who chooses from courage to be physically defenseless, to be faced by firm refusal to yield to evil, yet to be met by steadfast love—this is simply more than human nature is prepared psychologically to face. No defense has yet been prepared, or can be prepared, for this kind of warfare. The manhood and character hitherto submerged in the aggressor rises to the surface and he is bewildered and confused—puzzled by the unfamiliar reactions in himself and by conduct in his enemy he cannot understand. Self-respect is no longer his, even the possibility of achieving it through his present conduct has been stripped from him.

If he carries his wrongdoing to the point of causing the death of his innocent, physically defenseless, yet spiritually unconquered opponent, he has posed for himself an unanswerable psychological problem—the same problem that has never been successfully met by those who have caused the deaths of martyrs. Actually the aggressor despises himself. Almost beside himself, perhaps temporarily insane, he may resolutely refuse to yield to the psychological pressure upon him. Even the death of Gandhi may not win the unrepentant heart of the evildoer. But neither can he ever escape from the civil war that rages within him, the kind of inner conflict graphically portrayed by Francis Thompson in Hound of Heaven.

Part of the strength of passive resistance as a national policy lies in the fact that success in dealing with an aggressor nation, as distinguished from opposition to a single individual, does not require that we convert all the members of that nation. Victory with even a small minority greatly weakens the morale and power of an enemy by creating internal division in his ranks. The greater the excesses of brutality by some, the more probability there is that some of the enemy forces will revolt.

For we may have considerable confidence that no occupation army becomes so depraved or so completely controlled as to be impervious to the power of passive resistance and love when the people of an occupied country live according to this principle. Especially would this be true when the occupation army did not come following military conflict with all the hatreds it engenders. War brutalizes men and that fact explains in considerable measure the atrocities that even good men commit and are ashamed of later. But in passive resistance we are freed from the necessity of overcoming the hatred produced by war and therefore we may properly assume a lessened tendency in the occupation army toward brutality.

Thus, after initial hesitations, it gradually becomes psychologically difficult or impossible for many of the men in the occupation army to continue in conduct that violates a moral integrity deeper even than their respect for the orders of their superiors. Thus the tyrant loses whatever hold and leadership he had over his followers. And the time comes when psychological civil war started in the enemy by passive resistance demoralizes his aggressiveness and the machine of cruelty and madness grinds to a halt.

At this point we are ready to make our transition to the second “weapon of love” that we would use against an aggressor. Actually we have already been considering it in part as we have dealt with the psychological impact of passive resistance upon the evildoer. For this second weapon is the power of all the means of persuasion at our command in leading the individual members of an occupation army to see both the futility and the evil of their policy. We seek to secure their own refusal to continue to obey unjust orders.

That such a goal is not at all impossible should become apparent when we remember the case previously mentioned of the refusal of the seventeen Russian officers and soldiers in East Germany in the June, 1953, uprisings to obey the orders of their superiors. And we call to mind the thousands of cases of defection and desertion from Communist armies.

Apart from all other considerations, a dictatorship would make one of the most daring gambles in history if it were to send a conscript army to a country like our own. The revelation of what life could be like, both in material abundance and in political freedom, coupled with the opportunity among friendly people to escape, would be a powerful motivation to desertion.

When one adds to this the psychological impact made upon an occupation army by a policy of passive resistance, even of acceptance of martyrdom, the reasonable conclusion would seem to be that few men could withstand such pressure.

But there is still to be added the result that would flow from a program—planned and organized before the invasion—of goodwill, friendliness, and appeals to reason and conscience directed by the people toward the occupation army in the inevitable daily contacts. We have hardly begun to understand what propaganda could mean on our side in such a case.

To those who doubt that our people could sustain such a policy, subduing the natural tendency to hate and fear, I would suggest the immense advantage we would gain by thoroughly instilling in the public the simple truth that the soldier of the occupation army, even when he acts brutally, is a human being, made in God’s image, and that his conduct is the natural, almost inevitable result of the environment in which he has lived, the training he has had, and the pressures of the dictatorship upon him. In considerable measure this knowledge of the enemy would undergird a nation-wide therapy directed toward the invaders that would be rather like the therapy we now use in mental hospitals. And once a person sees himself as the doctor in the doctor-patient relationship, it is far easier to practice self-control and to follow the Golden Rule.

At this point we can scarcely more than glimpse the possibilities. Only a few individuals have broken through the hate and fear barrier that causes so much mental and psychological illness, but those few pioneers who have done so are making it increasingly clear that love and goodwill can actually work miracles, that no man is ever totally depraved. It is fascinating to consider what a nation could do if it were to live on this basis. A whole new chapter in human relations waits here to be written. For the united impact of a society thus organized may well be powerful beyond our ability yet to understand in shaping and controlling the wills of those who seek to do evil.

What, then, would be the result of the use of these “weapons of love?”

At the worst, it would be a long and costly struggle over a generation or two, hurting the economy of the country badly (for strikes and civil disobedience are two-edged swords and we should have to be prepared to suffer ourselves, even though we would rightly expect the civil disobedience campaign to cost the enemy much more heavily), and resulting perhaps in the liquidation of thousands of our best people. But the continuance of a passive resistance policy offers real hope that the enemy would ultimately be conquered. For no tyranny is ever free from the immutable laws of change that operate throughout history, upsetting all attempts to perpetuate a static system, destroying the grand designs of all tyrants.

At the best, the policy of passive resistance, if we were to be invaded, would result in making a farce of the army of occupation, ruining its morale and resulting in it becoming a symbol of failure and disgrace to the world, as the members of it deserted and as the enemy government found the virus of civil disobedience and love of liberty spreading through its own troops, reaching the people at home and ultimately destroying the dictatorship there.

But even at the worst, who can believe that atomic war would be better? And surely we would have lived, and, if need be, died more as the human beings God intended us to be rather than as the human butchers He surely did not intend us to be.

It seems to me that the more favorable estimate is much more realistic. In fact, it is precisely because of the immense risk that would be run by an occupation army that it seems reasonable to believe such an invasion would never be attempted. Rather, having seen the obvious handicaps it would face, it appears now more reasonable to conclude that our earlier prediction of the peaceful change of Communism into a more desirable form of government would be the highly probable result of a policy of passive resistance, unilateral disarmament, and technical assistance.

“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”

Although we have been considering passive resistance as a defense strategy, it is necessary to point out that its maximum effectiveness rests upon its adoption as a proper way of life. Admittedly it has a limited value purely as a strategy and as a technique—witness the use of strikes by labor unions and the limited use of passive resistance by Norway and Denmark under Nazi occupation—but the value is much less this way and the dangers are far greater. And we must honestly recognize that our nation as it is can not practice passive resistance to any more than the limited extent to which it was used in Denmark and Norway. But our hope is in a revitalized and spiritually strengthened people able to derive the full benefits from a reasonably complete program such as has here been described.

Unless those who use passive resistance do honestly have love and goodwill in their hearts toward the invader, some of the most important benefits we have described are not likely to result. To understand this, we have only to ask whether the passive resistance of the early Christians, including their martyrdoms, would have conquered the Roman empire had the Christians not been possessed of that spirit which is able to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This is not to say that all the people of the nation must operate on this saintly level, or even that a majority must do so in order to meet our qualifications. As a matter of fact, a minority of such dedicated and selfless people can in measure carry a heavy part of the load of the whole nation, as has actually been the case time and time again in the past. This is due in part to the fact that the suffering inevitably falls on these few people, for they are inescapably the leaders whom the invader must deal with if he hopes at all to accomplish his purpose. And in part it is due to the fact that such a leadership lifts the moral and religious level of the whole nation perceptibly, resulting in varying degrees of improvement in the masses. As the number of people affected increases, the impact may be progressively less intense, but for almost all people the contribution of the dedicated leadership means a bit less fear and selfishness and a little more love and understanding. And history is made when the level of a nation’s religious life is thus lifted, even though the tide carries only a little higher than the normal level on which people live. Surely a concrete result would be the application on a wide scale of passive resistance to our own internal problem of racial discrimination, advancing us very greatly in finding a creative solution to it.

But for the few who are called or chosen for leadership, now or in the future, the challenge is complete and the requirements are breath-taking. History is remolded only by those who place their whole lives on the altar of dedication. No halfway commitment has any meaning here. Every religious leader in history, when he has called his chosen disciples, has insisted with an almost harsh sternness that there can be no hesitations, no compromises, no hedging. There comes a time when partial goodness is a terrible sin. Lukewarmness cannot here be tolerated, though we see its inevitability and even its limited value for the masses of people.

Let no one suppose, however, that such final commitment is to be expected unless and until the hope and plan becomes reasonably clear. We have had too much pseudo religion that calls for revival and religious rebirth simply on a basis of personal purification. Such personal purification is, indeed, desirable, but it should never be mistaken for the event we call Pentecost, for the history-making epochs when men have dreamed dreams and seen visions of God’s hand working anew to redeem a world. Men will give themselves in daring abandonment, forsaking all the security of this world, risking friendships and reputations, only when they believe they are called to work with God in the accomplishment of a divine mission. That is why the outlines of the work to be done must appear at least dimly before men can be asked or expected to make the irrevocable decision that such a life of dedication inescapably has to be.

The Art of the Possible

There remain the questions that must have been almost constantly in the minds of some: Is there even the faintest possibility that such a radical change in the foreign policy of a great nation can be accomplished? Is it not contrary to human nature and history to expect such revolutionary change? Does not the attempt to do the impossible, however desirable it may appear to be, take our energies and abilities away from the smaller tasks nearer at hand which we can actually accomplish? These are questions that require careful answers.

No greater error could be made than to dismiss any desirable objective simply on the ground of the apparent impossibility of its achievement. History is replete with the examples of the accomplishment of changes that the vast majority of people, even the overwhelming opinions of the experts of the time, have repudiated as beyond the limits of possibility. If we were to accept the simple belief of people, even the convictions of experts, that something is impossible, we should have to rewrite history so as to eliminate mechanical achievements like airplanes and advancements in human relations like the abolition of slavery. Therefore let us not be daunted by such superficial pessimism, but let us search together to see what reasons there be, if any, to justify a reasoned optimism.

We must, however, beware of asking for any assurance. The curtain of history is not drawn to vouchsafe to us any guarantee of success. A degree of risk is involved in all human enterprises and we must be prepared to live by faith to an extent. Those who accomplished the seemingly impossible in the past always had to take these risks. And it must be recorded that their way was beset by doubts and discouragements as well as by the ridicule of their times. Neither have we today any right to ask for assurance of success, particularly as to a definite time scale of achievement. But we can and must, nevertheless, seek for those evidences that suggest we are indeed in the realm of the possible. Otherwise, we can not hope to win any considerable following.

Whether any particular objective in the relations of peoples is possible depends in part on its importance. Necessity has resulted in many changes. And it is here that we see our first evidence to support the thesis that our nation (and others) might indeed adopt the course we have been describing. For the alternatives are increasingly so hopeless that more and more people can be expected to join the enlarging ranks of those few who now proclaim the utter futility and even the absolute danger of reliance on atomic weapons. Admittedly this is not, of itself, a decisive argument, as we have previously recognized, but it is nevertheless one of the factors in the growing possibility of achieving our objective.

The next encouraging sign we note is the increasing trend in our civilization to practice the principle of passive resistance and non-violence in more and more spheres of life. Modern education and psychology have adopted the principle to a rather considerable degree, with the most spectacular results being in the field of mental hygiene where love and non-violence have accomplished results that almost deserve to be termed miraculous. Prison reforms, too, have resulted from the same insights. And industrial relations have been remade by the use of the passive resistance technique of the strike and an increasing use by both labor and management of the method and spirit of non-violence. In the field of race relations some interesting developments also indicate the validity of the principle. So it is that we approach this crisis in atomic defense with the most fortunate paralleling of this preparation of masses of people for an alternate method of dealing with human problems. Perhaps, then, the transition to an international application of what we have been doing in personal and intra-group relationships will not be as difficult as first appears to be the case.

Still another harbinger of hope is the appearance on the world scene in our time of Gandhi and his application to the problems of a nation of the principle of passive resistance. He demonstrated that masses of people can be won to the use of the principle and he accomplished a measure of success. This is not to say that we should consider India a pattern for us, for conditions are in some ways quite different. In fact, we should be able, drawing on the experience of India, to go far beyond the Gandhian victory. As the airplanes of today bear little resemblance to the first means of flight, so should we look toward a refined and vastly improved passive resistance program.

One of the most encouraging reasons for believing that our nation can be won to this change is the simple fact that a very large percentage of the people who have had the opportunity to study this principle and program of passive resistance have accepted it. In view of the fact that the great majority of Americans have not had any opportunity at all to hear this message and have almost no understanding of it, we may therefore reasonably assume that a wider knowledge of the message would mean considerably more acceptance of it.

At this point it is important to see why any movement, and especially one capable of becoming a dominant force in a nation, must go through a time of slow growth at first. Even though people accept it intellectually, they refuse to align themselves with the reformers because of doubt that any considerable number of other people will also agree. What happens, therefore, is that such rather more timid souls must have demonstrated to them the fact that the appeal to others can be reasonably successful. As that success begins to become apparent, there comes a time when a kind of bandwagon movement develops.

This kind of result can be expected, however, only if the logic and evidence of the cause is persuasive. And it is this power of the logic of passive resistance that supports most of all our reasoned optimism. Ultimately the strength of this position rests upon the validity of the principles here developed.

If this program is based on truth, it will more and more commend itself to thoughtful people and will grow in its adherents. If not, it will not grow. Therefore the primary task before us is to meet in the arena of debate all the objections and questions that can be raised. We seek now not so much to make converts as to challenge people to look fairly at the argument itself.

I am convinced that the task before us is properly seen as an extraordinarily difficult one, but by no means impossible. And if politics is the “art of the possible,” then I believe this is an issue that all politically minded people must be willing to meet on its merits in open and fair debate.

To that end it becomes the responsibility of all who sense the futility of the nation’s present course to encourage every means of consideration and study of this proposal. Personal reading and investigation and presentation before all kinds of groups in American public life are needed. For the time may be short in which we have to work. We are not expected to guarantee that we can be successful, and it may indeed be true that catastrophe will overtake us. But, like a physician beginning a difficult case, it is simply our responsibility to do all that we are able, leaving the issue of our efforts in the hand of God to be worked out in the long history of mankind.

About the Author

Cecil Hinshaw graduated from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, attended the University of Denver, the Iliff School of Theology and Harvard University for his graduate work. After several years in pastoral work, Cecil Hinshaw was chosen professor of Bible and religion at Friends University, resigning three years later to go to William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa. At William Penn he was dean and later became president of the college, serving over five years in that capacity. He resigned in 1949 and since then has been lecturing for the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

© 1956 by Pendle Hill (now in public domain)

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