The Other I

June 26, 2022

My peace-nik problem

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:51 pm

The following comment appeared in the NYTimes recently, and it has got me struggling once again with the absolute anti-war peace-nik position:

Carolyn aka Cookie | Pacifica, California
Endless war(s) seem to be the U.S. path since WW II. Have we as a country learned nothing from our past experiences, i.e. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan? Seeking “a noble war abroad” is harmful in multiple ways. I recommend Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents”. Available free via YouTube. He warned about the hubris of the super-ego….(society, political leaders, etc. projecting “evil” abroad, while feeling “better than those others” Freud longed to apply healing therapy to societies, as he worked to heal suffering patients. And Carl Jung’s “The Undiscovered Self” says similar things, warnings as Freud. Both books written in their last years. p.s. Poland etc. and the U.S. welcome white skinned blue eyed refugees more readily than dark skinned people fleeing oppression.

I certainly appreciate that many – maybe even most – wars, both by those who initiate them and those who respond – cannot be justified. But never justified? I lived during World War II and have been acutely aware of the huge evils inflicted on millions of innocent men, women, and children. I have seriously questioned some of the military attacks by the US like dropping the atomic bomb on primarily civilian targets. But I certainly support America’s role in that war.

I cannot see how anything but a military response to Nazi Germany would have brought an end to their determination to make themselves the superior world power by enslaving or exterminating all “inferior tribes.”

I was against the Vietnam war and demonstrated against it. I believe I was misinformed when I initially supported the US military action in Iraq. But Ukraine today? I do not think there is any hope that Putin will withdraw his troops from Ukraine as a result of diplomatic or economic pressure. I do not think peaceful demonstrations even around the world will stop the war crimes they are committing. Putin will continue to believe that the United States and Europe simply do not have the will to stop his deadly pursuit.

I also find myself asking a similar question about the use of physical force in situations that are not strictly-speaking “war.” There are a terrifyingly increasing number of situations like that today. A man with a gun possibly one designed solely for miliary use, starts shooting the passengers in a train, children in a classroom, the audience at a concert, potential candidates for political office. In the United States alone over a hundred people die of gunshots every day.

If I saw someone trying to kidnap a child or shoot up a grocery store and I could stop him by using physical aggression, including killing him, I would do it, or support someone who could. However, when possible, I do not support physical aggression as an equal alternative to listening to alternative points of view, to negotiating, or use of deplomacy.

And I see the huge dangers of trying to stop war by simply increasing our military might. As long as 100,000 years ago, the human species began trying to take over land by out-numbering those already there. Then we began to arrive on horses, then to use bows & arrows, then swords, guns, and bombs, thinking each time that nobody would attack us for fear of deadly defeat. But we have developed nuclear bombs and now nuclear missiles and we are in danger not only of destroying our putative enemies, but of destroying our very planet as a habitable place for homo sapiens.

It seems too important a question to say simply “I don’t know.” But I don’t. I would very much like to hear your thoughts.


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful message. I don’t know the answer, except to reflect what you referred to which is to stop thinking of us as the good guys and “them” as the bad guys


    Sent from my iPhone



    Comment by rayvoith — June 26, 2022 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

    • Ray – thank you for your thoughts. I’m sure that if you’d responded with some simple solution I wouldn’t have valued a word you said. But instead I know we share a great concern. Terry


      Comment by theotheri — July 24, 2022 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

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