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Pacifism is a Naive Belief System

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/7/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,658 times Debate No: 38607
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I've issued this challenge to Cermank based upon a healthy disagreement located in the forums:

(the relevance of this debate to the forum topic of "self-defense" is that "violence is justifiable", which is another interpretation of the root disagreement between me and Cermank)

Cermank insists that pacifism, in and of itself, with no other significant factors, is a viable political strategy. I argue that it is a moral platform, and that moral platforms are invariably trumped by realist concerns, including economics and force of arms.

I will focus my arguments on one specific quote from Cermank that I do believe succinctly summarizes her position:

"Once you have *cause* on your side, you don't need force."

It is clear in this statement the Cermank believes that with a morally compelling stance, that force (what I label the realist considerations of politico-economy) is simply irrelevant. I argue the opposite, that Cermank has it backwards, and that it is politico-economical considerations that matter, and that a morally compelling stance, while certainly morally compelling, is largely irrelevant as a primary mover in international relations.


I have nothing to hide in regards to how I will argue this as I have been verbose on my views on this topic on multiple threads and debates, so I will simply state exactly how I will go about arguing this now.

I will be taking a realist stance on this issue, one that recognizes that force of arms is the primary instrument through which change occurs in the international system. In our modern industrial economy, economic production directly contributes to the veracity of a military force, and so economy is also extremely important to effectual use of arms. I will label this "hard power".

I am also cognizant of something called "soft power" which entails much of what Cermank is advocating, but is not limited to simple moral persuasion. Any and all forms of persuasion not linked to force of arms would constitute "soft power" - this would include concepts like moral persuasion, cultural superiority, and higher standard of living. I will note that soft power is materially different than Cermank's position, as soft power does take into account economic factors, whereas Cermank's position on pacifism is purely an appeal to morality.

In my view, hard power is primal, soft power is secondary. Without hard power, soft power considerations are irrelevant - one will be impotent in the international arena. Without soft power, one may still (at times very easily) enact change in the international arena. Soft power would then "soften" the innate coercive proclivities of a hard power projection incident, thus making it more palatable to outside observers. This would make power projection more cost effective, as resistance to an outside nation's powers of persuasion would be lessened.

This viewpoint is debatable, I merely post it here to explain the mechanics of whatever constitutes my interpretation of realism, which will be my primary argument going forward.

If Cermank finds this objectionable, that I am arguing in the first round, then I will remove these comments and reserve them for the next round. Or, she is more than welcome to state a brief overview of her own strategy for this debate in her first round.


I will also challenge Cermank's sense of morality. I do believe morality is subjective, and that if it is so, then any position based upon a moral standard will be a false standard.


Pacifism is a Naive Belief System


Pacifism - opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds

Naive - marked by unaffected simplicity; deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment

A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs of any such system can be classified as religious, philosophical, ideological, or a combination of these.

Realism is an international relations theory which states that world politics is driven by competitive self-interest.

Hard power is the use of military and economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other political bodies. This form of political power is often aggressive, and is most effective when imposed by one political body upon another of lesser military and/or economic power.[1] Hard power contrasts with soft power, which comes from diplomacy, culture and history.

Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion.


I welcome any additional definitions Cermank may seek to define before this debate begins (i.e. please notify me in comments or in PM of any you would like to add so that we do not debate over too many semantical interpretations).


I will adhere to my own standard of NO SCORING on debates I initiate. The main purpose of this debate is to encourage and clarify dialogue and discussion on the matter, and of course to see which position is more compelling. I would like to keep horse-trading and fluff RFDs to a minimum, and would also like to encourage further discussion by the audience by any views they may hold on this subject. I've found that people tend to adamantly stick to their RFDs and find them not subject to debate - one of my aims through NO SCORING is to make people more malleable in their beliefs as expressed through their RFD.

4 Rounds
1st round acceptance
2/3 rounds arguments and rebuttals
4th round closing, no new arguments or sources

10,000 characters


I thank Wrichcirw for the debate. I'm sure this is going to be one of the illuminating ones :)

I believe Pacifism has been a field that has simply not been discussed well enough for people to consider it a viable alternative. I hope to address that in this debate, and as wrich said, I welcome questions and queries and possible scenarios (which I'm sure there would be).

I'm going to focus a little more on America, since that is the demographic that would read the debate- and war industry IS pretty huge in America, not without support. During the aforementioned conversation, there was a huge focus on how things happened in history- and how they happened for the good. I'm not sure if we would go into that in the debate, but I might touch upon it if situation arises. The premise remains 'How it happened and how it has always happened doesn't imply it was the right way, or that there was no possible alternative'- although people (esp. elite class) would like you to believe that.

There are basically two approaches to prove that Pacifism is indeed possible AND is more powerful than violence. The pragmatic approach that deals with how Pacifism is better than Violence- objectively, and there's the moral approach. In this debate, I'd go into the definition of power, and look at the debate from a pragmatic point of view rather than a moral point of view. The moral approach to this belief (for me, personally) comes from Gandhi- who got it from Hindu Vedas, although there's Bible that preaches Pacifism too, but I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the teachings of the Bible. I understand that morals would be subjective, hence it would not enough to convince anyone.

I would also go into the blueprint of a non-violent attack, and about how to respond to different possible circumstances, possibly taking on the situations Pro discusses in his contention.

Personally, I'd prefer if we make our cases in the next round, rebuttals in round 3 and conclusions in the last one- since both arguments and rebuttals in a single round curtail the clarity of the case.

That's it. I await arguments by Pro :)
Debate Round No. 1



I thank PRO for the interesting introduction. As PRO has chosen not to advocate any moral merits of pacifism (which is unexpected since the operating definition of pacifism is specific to religion or morality), I will put that argument on ice and instead pivot to a discussion on violence in general and bring up a scenario that will encapsulate and demonstrate my arguments.



V1) What exactly is violence? Merriam Webster ( gives several renditions:

1. exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse
2. injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation
3. intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force
4. undue alteration (as of wording or sense in editing a text)

As one can see, violence is quite broad. There is the typical politico-military usage present in #1 where there is some sense of "harm" or "wrong-doing", violence in the natural sense in #3, and then the more commonplace usages that can pervade everyday life as found in #2 and #4 (example: "violent language"). I will argue that there is simply no reason to confine a discussion of violence to physical force, that #1 and #3 are inadequate for this discussion and that #2 and #4 must also be taken into consideration.

Why is such a broadening not only appropriate, but absolutely required for this discussion? Consider any international conflict. Those that are typically found "most guilty" of war crimes and etc typically do not ever fire a gun. They do not ever engage in any "violence" per #1 or #3. Are such people truly "non-violent"? That is where #2 and #4 comes in...these generals, bureaucrats, and politicians do injury by distortion, infringement, and especially in the case of someone like Hitler, profanation.

You may say that these people caused the physical force to come into being, and so they are part of the violence, regardless of whether or not they actually fired a gun. This then creates an exceptionally grey line in regards to separating violent from non-violent behavior. What about auto workers, who manufacture Civics and Cadillacs one day, only to manufacture tanks and humvees the next? Is this not a "distortion" of the auto worker's labor to cause injury? What about the restaurant owners who feed these auto workers? Where do you draw the line between violent and non-violent behavior, once you remove the requisite condition of direct "physical force"?

V2) A more existential analysis reveals even more problems with advocating non-violence. What about breathing? Eating? Drinking? Are these not also, at an extremely basic level, exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse? You may ask, what are they injuring? Even if we were to exclude whatever organisms are being destroyed by the act of consumption and digestion, the answer lies in asking "what about other people who were thus denied food, water, and air due to our selfish needs?" Is their deprivation not injury? Is this not violence?

You may say "this is absolutely absurd, I don't deprive anyone of anything just by eating or drinking or breathing." Is this true? Food markets are global, and food is an absolute necessity - without food, people will die. When the US and other nations manipulate food prices, people on the other side of the world die:

"Oddly, there had been no drought, the usual cause of malnutrition and hunger in southern Africa, and there was plenty of food in the markets. For no obvious reason the price of staple foods such as maize and rice nearly doubled in a few months. Unusually, too, there was no evidence that the local merchants were hoarding food. It was the same story in 100 other developing countries. There were food riots in more than 20 countries and governments had to ban food exports and subsidise staples heavily."

The explanation offered by the UN and food experts was that a "perfect storm" of natural and human factors had combined to hyper-inflate prices. US farmers, UN agencies said, had taken millions of acres of land out of production to grow biofuels for vehicles, oil and fertiliser prices had risen steeply, the Chinese were shifting to meat-eating from a vegetarian diet, and climate-change linked droughts were affecting major crop-growing areas. The UN said that an extra 75m people became malnourished because of the price rises." [1]

This is violence. Even had these poorer countries not rioted, not even lifted a finger in resistance, the people in these malnourished countries still would have either died of starvation, or would have "voluntarily" reduced their own populations by not having children, since they would not have been able to afford to have them, as they couldn't even feed themselves.

Now, if it is ever found that such policies are deliberate efforts to starve developing countries, then there would be another word used for this behavior: "genocide". Unfortunately, the goals of such policies are known:

"emerging policies in the US and the EU are having the opposite effect; they are protecting and raising incomes for their farmers at the expense of fair prices that would help raise incomes among poor, smallholder farmers in developing countries." [2]

Farm subsidies have a long history, and are not confined to any nation nor any period in the last century. [3]

The conclusion we must reach here is that trade is violence. Trade, when it injures or abuses others, results in material harm and causes violence, delivered by the physical force that is the internal combustion system within our own bodies, which are also inherently violent.

As you can see, the issue of violence is broad indeed.

V3) What isn't violent, then? I contend nothing. Every single human action, reaction, and interaction is inherently violent. To demand non-violence is thus to demand non-existence. To advocate a policy of non-violence is naive and absurd, because it ignores the inherently violent nature of our being as well as our natural surroundings. It is akin to advocating mass suicide and precludes procreation for any reason.


I will now change course from the philosophical mindset into something a bit more practical. I will proffer a simple scenario to illustrate the inevitability of violence:

Imagine two villages situated on two different rivers 50 miles apart; we will call one river Salmon River with the village Salmonville, and the other River O' Plenty with the village called Agri-town. Both are "peaceful" with no military or militias.

Salmon River rarely, if ever, floods; thus the residents of Salmonville live a peaceful and tranquil life. However, the population of Salmonville is restricted by the salmon in the river. River O' Plenty on the other hand floods often. The banks and surrounding lands are perfect for agriculture, and so Agri-town has indeed built intricate levees and irrigation canals to take advantage of the rich soil. This town can grow almost without bound...all they have to do is redirect more water from their river, which seems to be almost bottomless. Thus, Agri-town is 10 times the size of Salmonville.

One day, a massive storm hits the area, which causes unprecedented flooding on River O' Plenty. All of the levees are compromised, the town is destroyed, and most of the irrigation works are destroyed. Furthermore, it was a flash storm, so many of the residents of Agri-town die in the storm and subsequent flooding.

Agri-town is now a gigantic pool of refugees. They have nowhere to go but Salmonville, so they go. The residents of Salmonville cannot support these refugees. They do their best to ration their own food out of generosity, but even this is not enough. People are going to die, no matter what happens at this juncture. The only question is how they will die.

How will we deal with this problem?

1) Libertarianism: The libertarian solution to this problem is that the residents of Salmonville did nothing wrong and are not obligated to support any of the Agri-town refugees, so the refugees slowly but surely die off.

2) Realism: A realist solution is that both sides will see their existence threatened. By advocating for their own respective existences at the expense of the other, they reach a disagreement. They settle this disagreement...but they cannot do it legally since Agri-town is not subject to the laws of Salmonville. There is no law that can determine who is right, so they settle it through some sort of competition, some sort of conflict. This competition, this conflict, is called war.

Some practical considerations are that if all of the denizens of either village completely die off, so will the accumulated knowledge of that village (i.e. fishing and farming). Therefore, it is in the interests of both villages to have some villagers from both villages survive this ordeal. The libertarian solution thus becomes rather impractical, as it would call for the complete and voluntary extermination of Agri-town by starvation and suicide, lest the property rights of Salmonville are infringed.

3) Pacifism: How does pacifism fit in to this scenario? I will challenge my opponent to offer her case. As it stands, I contend that if both sides were pacifistic (given they did not already commit mass suicide per [V3]) , then Agri-town refugees would die off in a libertarian-like solution. If only one side was pacifistic, then that side will get enslaved by the other. If neither are pacifistic, there will be war, per realism.


Pacifism is impractical and naive on at least two levels:

1) Our very natures are violent - to advocate non-violence is to advocate non-existence.
2) If one does not account for the philosophical argument, pacifism still results in enslavement or death.

I await CON's argument and look forward to an interesting case.



I thank Pro for the arguments. In order to prove that Pacifism is not a naive set of believes, I need to prove that it IS effective- and has been so in the past. [And it is more effective than the corresponding alternative of a war.]

What IS pacifism? Pacifism refers to a set of beliefs where people pledge their allegiance to no war and no violence. They resist solely through non violent means. [Here, Pro made an interesting case on the definition of violence, but I'll get to it later. For the purpose of discussion, here, violence refers to violation of the non aggression principal]. Pacifism is not impotency, it is not non action. It is resistance with a caveat. There's going to be no persuance of killing anybody- no war, and no 'strategic killing of your opponents'. Pacifism is a strategic resistance, it is not merely showing the world that the opponent is horrible, it is cutting off the sources of power of the oppressor.

I'll elaborate on this later.

Is this possible? A common refreain is that it sounds too 'theoritical'.

If history sets any precedent, then yes, it is indeed possible. The Indian independence struggle against the Britishers, the toppling of the regime of Marcos, the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the Danish fooling the Nazis and protecting their Jews, the similar (but different) struggle and success in Norway, all are a legacy to Pacifism. It is, indeed possible, and it has (indeed) happened in the past. An interesting fact about these examples is that these happened across different time periods, across different political conditions. They did topple dictators too, who technically are not answerable to the public and should be able to crush their opponents. []

Is a non violent struggle more powerful than a violent struggle? What IS power? Power, as Hannah Arendt contends, is not a property of an individual. Even dictators, presumely one of the most powerful people in the country- depend on military, on police, on a beaureucratic system to carry out its whims. Alone, the dictator is powerless. Even Machiavelli, the Godfather of realism agrees that the price of a violent struggle is high and paid for by both the vanquished and the victor. The victor pays in terms of his own power. Power of a head of a country depends on obedience and cooperation of the public. In the long run, government systems cannot be held together by the force of pressure, but they are by belief in the truthfulness with which they represent and promote the interest of the public.

In case the government fails to look at the interests, why would a non violent struggle be more effective than a violent one?

1. Those who threaten based on violence are relying on the fear of people. They need people, and more often than not, they agree that killing everyone is not the option. They want to kill a few, and set a precedent- of what would happen if others continue on the same path. Once this fear is overcome, a pandora box of opportunities opens. Note that this does not means that we are going to be killed, walking unarmed into a grenade mine/ machine gun system is but one of the strategy that Pacifists can use. There are other, often more effective solutions.

2. Government, usually, controls the means of violence. what this means is that usually- people are revolting using the oppressors weapon of choice. Which is ineffective for the obvious reasons.

3. Violence begets violence. It legitimizes further violence. Taking historical examples again, During the Algerian revolution, 1 million out of the total population of around 10 million died during a violent struggle. Just 8,000 of a total population of 350 million were killed in the Indian independence struggle. Some say that this was because Britishers were inherantly more moral than the French. But then the same Britishers killed 11,503 Kenyans out of a total population of around 100,000.

Once the revolters use violence, it is legitimate for the government to use it 'to protect the sanctity of the government'. And the government (oppressor?) is usually better at it. Violence takes away focus from the issue, and focusses it on the violence- which is a big loss to the revolutionaries. They stand to gain nothing, and lose a lot.

4. Violence excludes a lot of people from the struggle, because of the virtue of their method- which means it is not necessary for the violent people to have a cause that resonates with the people. The people who forward their 'issues' are the ones who have the strength, and the one with larger ammunitions win. It sets up a dangerous precedent, the precedent whose effect has been felt time and again in the world power struggles.

What strategy? The strategy to counter an unjust system (very) broadly consists of two steps. First, we identify the source of power in the system. The source might be moral, or economic, or might be a mix of the two. Hitler, for example, relied on his diatrab against the Jews- and used the extermination of Jews as a political tool to stregthen his own power. In case the power source is economic, like in British India, the source was economic strength, among other things. The second step, is to cut off that source. Economic sanctions. Basic level sensitization. Protests. Petitions. Cutting off the source of the power is a multi pronged approach, part of which has been explained in the diagram given below.

Thus, just showing the world that their opponent is terrible is not enough. The opponent isn't going to stop just because of that- you need to *move beyond that*. Spreading information about the injustice is necessary, part of the sensitization, but certainly not sufficient.

> A part of having a successful non-violent revolution is to have a concrete objective in mind. You can't herald a revolution 'bcoz d govt is ebil', even though it might resonate with a lot of people.

> There needs to be a conscious thought of what exactly you want, and how the government laws/ actions are preventing you from achieving the goal.

> What is the source of power of the government legitimacy in the specific sector.

> And how YOU are going to target that particular source of power. []

> Thus, once you have *cause* on your side, and you successfully resonate with a lot of people- you have a legit revolution in your hands. Harnessing that power and achieving the objective is the obvious next step.

Now, coming back to Pro's case, he gave an interesting definition of violence. According to it, violence is inherant in any being, thus any belief system relying on non violence is self refuting. That, I believe is a rather simplistic belief. Just because our existence is violent, (and according to the definition provided, it is) that doesn't divide the world in a yay or nay revolution strategies. THAT would be rather naive, I should think. Pacifism ensures that their strategies do not kill their opponents, there are no weapons used that'd aim to kill their opponents, or injure them. It aims to cripple the opponent, not kill them. Killing them is easy and counter productive.

Secondly, going over the scenerio, How would a pacifist deal with refugees? An interesting proposition. Pacifism doesn't really relate to economic philosophies, so you can be a Pacifist while simultaneously being a libertarian. IF you are a Libertarian, you have complete property right over Salmon-ville. You aren't required to give any of your Salmons to Agri-town. However, you may, if you are a pacifist and value human life (a moral pacifist, if you will), you might want to give any of your extra produce to the agri-town people- for free OR for future payments, as you wish to. However, given that the Agri town people are 10 times the Salmon-ville people, this should not be enough. It is now that they ask for help from people outside their little bubble. In fact, this is the solution that Pacifist organizations routinely take in case of refugee distress ( They collect funds, and assist people.

This solution is obviously inherantly better than the solution involving deaths, given that people did survive on both sides, and the flood is anyway temporary. Once the water subsides, and they go back to their land and rebuild the ruins, they be better off. Also to note, is that in this case- GIVEN the realist solution, when exactly would the sparring stop? Once the Salmon-ville kills some of the Agri town's people, would the fight still remain about having sufficient food? Would it not transform into a fight for 'revenge'? Living together peacefully with the murderers of their kins and families seems a little far fetched.

I await an interesting case by Pro :)


Not specific, but this interview is interesting, for anyone interested in Pacifism-;
Debate Round No. 2


I will dive straight into the rebuttal.


R1) CON's discussion on whether or not pacifism is possible is baseless. CON's 200 page source is ridiculous. I could source the entire New Testament to support the assertion that "Jesus is the Son of God" or the Quran to support "Muhammad is the Last Prophet" and it would be similarly meaningless.

As it stands, a refutation of her examples:

a) The Indian independence of 1947 was much more a result of the British being annihilated in WWII than anything Gandhi did. Gandhi began his moral campaign in 1920, yet there was no abdication of power by the British until 27 years later, whereas independence was achieve less than 2 years after the end of WWII, i.e. pacifism was largely irrelevant to Indian independence. [1]

b) There were several riots and armed insurrections stemming from Apartheid resistance, so for CON to use this as an example for advocating pacifism is contradictory and actually supports PRO's argument. In fact, Mandela frames Apartheid in the context of violent revolution, as he "described violence as the responsibility of the apartheid regime and said that with democracy there would be no need for violence," thereby justifying the violence of the oppressed. [2] Mandela clearly knew of the limitations of a pacifistic stance.

c) I'm not sure how Danish Jews fleeing Denmark is a triumph of pacifism. It simply a case of refugees fleeing from death - there was no "Jewish non-violent resistance" in Denmark. This point is irrelevant to pacifism.

R2) CON's discussion of power is simply inaccurate. CON asks "what is power?", yet never defines it. Joseph Nye, who coined the term "soft power," aptly defines it:

"Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants, and that can be accomplished in three main ways -- by coercion, payment, [i.e. hard power] or attraction [soft power]." [3]

CON believes power "might be moral, or economic, or might be a mix of the two." She is describing soft power. Soft power alone is ineffectual in enacting only makes such change more palatable once enacted. For example, America's takeover of Japan following WWII was heavily reliant upon winning over the emperor of Japan in order to placate the populace (soft power). However, the emperor would have had absolutely no reason to accede to US demands had it not been for Japan's defeat in WWII (hard power).

Gandhi advocated a soft power approach in India because he knew that India would lose to Britain in a hard power engagement prior to WWII. It was WWII, when Britain lost most if not all of its hard power capacity, that enabled Gandhi to achieve his goals.

In the accompanying video (just the first 5 minutes), Nye describes "smart power" - an approach that combines the methods of hard power and soft power to achieve goals, and recognizes that one needs the other. As already demonstrated through Japan and India above, this theory is easily supported by historical precedent, and is a complete refutation of pacifistic theories, which eschew hard power.

R3) CON asks "why would a non violent struggle be more effective than a violent one?" and then proffers four answers:

1) CON states that "Those who threaten based on violence are relying on the fear of people," and then readily admits that "walking unarmed into a grenade mine/ machine gun system is but one of the strategy that Pacifists can use. There are other, often more effective solutions."

CON refutes her own point here - people who threaten violence will indeed carry out the threat. If life is not important to you, then by all means use this "tactic".

2) CON believes that "revolting using the oppressors [sic] weapon of ineffective for the obvious reasons," failing to explain why the American Revolution succeeded, the French Revolution following, the Bolshevik Revolution, etc..., even though they were using the "oppressors [sic] weapon of choice", i.e. force of arms.

3) When CON says "violence begets violence" and that "it legitimates further violence", all she is talking about is setting a precedent. For example, I set a precedent for brushing my teeth in the morning whenever I brush my teeth in the morning. "Brushing my teeth begets further brushing of my teeth".

The real question CON is posing is "is violence immoral?" CON has already unequivocally conceded in her opening that she will lose the moral argument, hence we have absolutely no reason to think that "violence begets violence" is in any way wrong or unacceptable. CON must first demonstrate that violence is immoral for this point to have any validity.

I have already demonstrated that violence is pervasive, and that to abolish violence is to abolish life. Therefore, CON's statement "violence begets violence" is synonymous with the statement "life begets life."

If you think "life is good", then "violence is good", which means that all CON is saying here is that "good begets good".

Now, if you're a pacifist, then you think that "violence is bad", which means that "life is bad". Of course the only solution to such a quandary to life is that we all kill ourselves now and never procreate. This is absolutely and utterly ridiculous, as is the advocacy for pacifism in general.

As I have asked CON countless times, is she advocating mass suicide with her ideology? If she continues to dodge the question, I will answer it myself - of course she is, she and anyone else who holds pacifism as a core belief is just too naive to realize it. I don't mean this to be insulting; this statement is the focal point of this resolution, and it was CON in the forum discussions that challenged me on the point of naivety...I did not bring it up originally.

4) CON believes that "Violence excludes a lot of people from the struggle," which totally ignores my point about auto-workers switching to manufacturing humvees and tanks being intrinsically and definitionally "violent", along with the restaurants that feed them, etc. CON already agrees with PRO that people who do not fire a gun (generals, politicians, etc) are still considered violent. Thus, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be "excluded" from participatory violence.

a) CON's strategy and chart is reliant upon a definition of power; I addressed this in [R2].

b) CON's use of Hitler's propaganda is an example of German soft power, which would have been totally and utterly ineffectual without the German war machine and the economy that fueled it. One must keep in mind that when Hitler was elected, Germany was at the brink of collapse - it had already experienced hyperinflation, and was looking at 30%+ unemployment rates. Germany was also being economically suffocated by the Treaty of Versailles, and France had invaded parts of Germany in response to German defaults on debt. [4]

Hitler solved all of these economic problems, rebuilt the German military, and reasserted German national pride during a time when Germany had no pride. Had it not been for the Holocaust, Hitler would have been regarded as someone rivaling FDR in regards to the accomplishments one statesman could do for his or her country.

Indeed JFK for one lauded Hitler despite JFK's awareness of rampant anti-Semitism in Germany. [5]

c) I already addressed British India in my [R1] and [R2] rebuttals.

R5) On violence, CON even goes so far as to say that "Just because our existence is violent, (and according to the definition provided, it is) that doesn't divide the world in a yay or nay revolution strategies. THAT would be rather naive..." This statement is a direct refutation of CON's own case. I agree that "yay or nay revolution strategies" are inherently naive, and indeed pacifism advocates a firm, unequivocal "nay" on violence. Right here, CON concedes this debate. Pacifism is indeed naive, and this according to CON.

R6) On the scenario, CON does not seem to understand that people are going to die regardless of whether or not pacifism is adopted. There simply isn't enough food to feed everyone. Therefore, it is impossible to "give any of your extra produce" because there is no extra produce to give. To give at all would result in death.

a) PRO/CON agree that libertarianism realizes this predicament and prioritizes the property rights of Salmonville, thus killing off all of Agri-town as well as the farming technology they may have. This is not optimal and is highly impractical.

b) Realism acknowledges that both sides must make impossible decisions, and that these decisions will result in war.

c) The pacifist is oblivious to this reality, and thinks that by giving food that one cannot afford to give, life will turn out just fine. This is naive.


C1) CON's case hinges on whether or not one believes that "violence is wrong". If it is, then her pacifistic solutions would bear closer examination. As it stands, CON does not make a moral case, therefore there's nothing inherently wrong with violence, and so there is no inherent reason to advocate pacifism. To do so would be naive.

C2) CON largely ignores my philosophical assertion that violence is pervasive, and to live is indeed to be violent - the two are inseparable. To insist upon a separation of violent and non-violent behavior through an advocacy of pacifism demonstrates extreme naivety of this simple fact.

C3) PRO does not put a moral qualifier on violence. Realism is bereft of moral judgment. For PRO, it is a simple recognition of force <-> counterforce. It's that simple. Violence is neither "good" nor "bad".


I thank Pro for his arguments.

A qualifying distinction before I go into defense and rebuttals is that the debate is not about the morality of violence or murder or death. It is about the effectiveness of a belief system.

1. Even if murder is not immoral, IF we have a course of action where there would be lesser deaths of people on your side and the method would lead to fulfillment of your objectives, it is effective- and definitely not naive. Death is a collateral damage, AS long as the objective of a revolution gets fulfilled, the lesser damage the better.

2. Also, we are not arguing that violence can't be effective. The debate is solely about the merits of non violence, and its comparison to non violence.

Now onto arguments.

R1) The 200 page source was quoted because that explained the different historical examples where Pacifism lead to victory. The modern examples portion was merely page 15-43, of which I quoted further fewer examples. I'm not sure where the ridiculousness comes from, but alright.

a) Britishers colonized India because it was an asset to their own country. The 'strength' of Britishers in that sense came from the economic strength India provided to Britain. Gandhi ensured that the India ceased to be just a source of strength for Britain. He asked people to boycott British goods (India became a bad market for British produce), and to resign from government offices, which was a dart direct to the heart of the colonialist. That is exactly what Pacifism is, identifying a strength and neutralizing it so that it ceases to be a strength. Even though they lost in WW2, (along with countless pawns in the system on both sides), they LEFT India because it ceased to be an asset. It ceased to be an asset because Gandhi made sure it ceased to be an asset. India ceased to be an economic asset to Britishers WHILE still being self reliant and not blown up by bombs.

Regarding WW2, the contention is discussed in R2 (b).

b) Apartheid is actually the perfect example of the victory of a non violent protest over a violent protest because it chronicles the movement from a non violent protest to a violent protest, and after realizing the futility of using arms against the continent’s most powerful military and a highly armed white citizenry fearing a racial war. Violence harmed the movement, as Zunes (1999) observed,( by justifying the repression of all the subsequent resistance efforts.) [;] It was only after the uselessness of a violent protest was recognized that by the early 1980s, the anti-apartheid forces united around a non violent protest which achieved maximum participation, bringing in the whites too along with international pressures on the government. The chronicling is why I chose this example.

c) Danish Jews were helped by the Danes in their fight. This is where subversion of moral authority and its impact comes into the picture. The Nazis were NOT powerful in Denmark (Or Norway or Finland) because Danes refused to be ruled by them. There orders weren’t carried out, and there was an open flouting of laws and civil disobedience happening. Only 477 of the 8000 Jews to be captured were captured, and even these were stopped from being sent to Auschwitz. Danes also consolidated their power after successfully thwarting the Nazis and overthrew their government, which again, points out to the similarity in the successful revolutions. (;)

R2) a) Pro attacks my explanation of power (I didn't exactly set out to define it, but I thought the explanation was pretty clear.) Joseph Nye, insofar he defines the term, is partially correct. Power IS the ability to affect others to get the outcome one wants, but he then goes out to explain HIS view on how that power can be achieved. That is exactly the contention of the debate.

Power, as I explained in the previous round, is not something that can be imposed from above, but is instead a relationship formed by the granting of power from below. And what has been granted can just as surely be withdrawn. Thus the power of any ruler, whether we are talking about a democratically elected official or a tyrant who has seized office, is extremely fragile. His/her power depends on the consent or compliance of the ruled. If the relationship breaks down, the ruler is left with no one to rule. This is starkly visible in the Danish example.

b) Moving on, the *source* of the power can be moral, or economic, or a mix of both, true. The American- Japanese war, for example, weakened the economic foundations. It also lead to death and destruction of centuries of generations of Japanese people. Was it the best solution? A pacifist solution would have been based on a nuanced understanding of the specific situation- in order to subvert the source of this economic power. The tools vary from economic sanctions, abolition of trade with a country (IF its significant ), refusal of using products produced (that grant them economic power), mass resignations, trade unions, etc. Achieving objective without the collateral damage.

Secondly, Pro frames his argument as if to laud the war, as if the war helped the people/ disadvantaged and thus was acceptable. The deaths were acceptable in the *context* of the war- both of them agreed to play a game and Japan lost. That agreement to the game is the point of contention, however. The contention is- *would* the world have it better if the individual countries had responded to the warsin a different way? The WW started because of assassination of an Austrian archduke and his wife by Bosnian revolutionary. Notice how one small incident, and the declaration of war over war by countries so thoroughly messed up generations after generations. War breeds war. Peace breeds solution.

R3) 1. I don't think Con really understood this point. Why would they carry out the threat? Because they believe the threat would scare people. What if it doesn't? What if they showed through active revolution that they don't fear the government. Machine guns are powerless against people protesting from their homes, for example. You don't need to walk into a grenade mine to herald a non violent revolution was the point of the example. That is subversion of their power.

2. The examples depict that cases where the government didn’t employ force, because it was too costly for them to. For example, The American colonies already had largely won their independence from Great Britain before there was violence in 1775. ( ,pg 7-9) Even Michael Stratford agrees with this. The war, in fact, postponed the independence rather than speeding it up.

3. All I'm talking about is *definitely* not setting a precedent. I'm talking about legitimacy. If people kill government forces, government can, within its power, respond by force. It's legitimate. They have *no other option*. That's what happened back when apartheid revolution occurred, for example. The government is usually better at it.

I never conceded that I'd lose the moral argument- I believe morals are not the appropriate lens to view Pacifism. When we're talking of efficiency, I believe I speak for most people when they say they'd like to see fulfillment of their objectives with fewer deaths. Pacifism does that. That's efficiency. And that should be the parameter to jude. The problem with violence begets violence is that it focuses the revolution around violence, rather than the objective, as was demonstrated in the refugee example.

Of course I'm not advocating mass suicide with my ideology- which I believe I addressed in C3(1). There are better ways to carry out a non violent protest.

4) I think I already challenged Pro's definition of violence as being too broad. What violence entails in Pacifism is any action carried out with the intention of killing/ injuring. aka taking up weapons and going on a rampage. That excludes a lot of people. Notice that by sanctions/ mass resignations, the people according to Pro's definition, are being violent. However, that is the fault of the definition, in the context of Pacifism.

R4) a) I do not see how bringing in someone's definition of power addresses the chart. The entire contention is that it IS possible to subdue a power by cutting off his sources. Bin Laden, for example, relied on moral power, by recruiting naive individuals through his hate speech. Much like Nazis. 'Soft power' worked in Denmark, Finland and Bulgaria. Laden loses power as soon as he loses his moral upper ground. He gains power as he legitimizes force. And killing his people does that. That is exactly what people like him thrive on.

b) True. However, I don't see how his economic poweress affects the resolution. The very reason Hitler *could* commit the atrocities was because he was given the power in form of validation from the public. Hitler had a moral hold over the populace. Had this been cut off, like what happened in Denmark he’d be powerless. What was needed was an effective persuasion of the general public towards the moral cause- something that would have been possible only through a non violent protest.

R5) I really don't see how. Just because our existence is violent according to the vague definition Pro provided, it doesn't mean that every form of violence is effective. We are refusing to adopt violent practices that affect the revolution negatively.

R6)That is a rather specific claim, but okay. I did keep it in mind and professed the substitute strategy. Of asking help from the third party- people outside their little bubble. That is how Pacifist organizations have routinely helped people- and Pro largely drops the rather detailed analysis of the situation I gave. I would prefer him to respond to that in the next round. Also he drops the contention of the impact of war on the people- which is the 'realist solution'. He still has to prove how its better than Pacifist solution.

Over to Pro :)

Debate Round No. 3


I will first proffer a very quick rebuttal of specific points, and then collapse the rest of my rebuttal into a summary of this debate.


R7) CON's rendition of the American occupation of Japan is incomprehensible. I cannot even analyze her statements to pull out any cogent arguments.

The bottom line in Japan - hard power (bombing Japan) was primary, soft power (co-opting the emperor) was secondary. Both were absolutely necessary to forward US interests in the region.

R8) CON drops that Mandela framed Apartheid as a justifiably violent struggle. Mandela sought to minimize damage to the productive elements of society, namely its people, but recognized that when push comes to shove, you shove back.

CON's source on this point triggers my anti-virus software, so my first (and only) reaction is that the source is dubious. Apologies if I am mistaken, but I will not risk bringing down my firewall for a source in a debate.

R9) CON drops the fact that in India, 27 years of implementing soft power through Gandhi's non-violence campaign failed to accomplish what 2 years of cold, hard power reality accomplished. The British left only because after WWII, they no longer had the requisite hard power to hold a country the size of India.

R10) CON drops the fact that the Jews in Denmark did not resist the Nazis. They fled. Regardless of whatever arguments CON brings up about this point, it is still totally irrelevant to the resolution.

R11) CON thinks that "[PRO] drops the contention of the impact of war on the people- which is the 'realist solution'," failing to realize that PRO has demonstrated the impact of "peace" on the people - peace can easily result in tens of millions of people dying from wholly preventable starvation.

Therefore, especially considering the lack of a moral position by CON, there is nothing uniquely "right" or "good" about a pacifistic position or a platform based on "peace"; CON does not have a case.

R12) Just to note, CON's approach, by thinking she can just ignore my points, is indicative of her "non-violent" resistance paradigm - she seeks to avoid direct confrontation, thinking that her supporting arguments would be enough to win while ceding the primary, substantive point.

In a debate, if you ignore arguments, they are dropped and conceded. It's really that simple. If you drop primary points, then you lose whatever you think you may be supporting.

CON needed to address my arguments portraying very real hard-power concerns before she could even begin to discuss pacifism, which eschews hard power. She failed to do so, and has thus dropped a slew of arguments and examples that make up the bulk of her case.



I thanks Cermank for a spirited defense of her position and for participating in this debate, which has been interesting. Regardless, this debate has saddened me a bit. I'm not certain if CON even realizes that PRO/CON agree on a good amount of CON's case, as woefully incomplete a picture as it paints.

I believe PRO/CON agree that people are inherently productive, and it's generally not in anyone's interest to destroy what is productive. Warfare does prima facie seem to do exactly this, to destroy the productive elements of society. Esteemed writers on warfare, whether it be Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, or modern practitioners like Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, all, like CON, despise the violence and destruction that unlimited war causes. HOWEVER, all of these figures also are cognizant of the absolute necessity of warfare, and it is here that they demonstrate wisdom. Any position that denies the necessity of violent warfare, such as CON's pacifistic position, is naive.

Keep in mind that PRO's position utilizes both violent and non-violent means to project power. CON's position eschews violent means, and is thus naive.


I have demonstrated why violence is not limited to only warfare. Violence is absolutely necessary for life; violence is inherent in our being and cannot be divorced from any human endeavor, whether it be pulling the trigger of a gun, espousing propaganda through a microphone, assembling a tank instead of a car, or cooking food for factory workers regardless of what they produce.

Violence is also pervasive even in activities that are absolutely basic for survival itself, namely eating, drinking, and breathing.

I have also demonstrated how the inherent violence that fuels our humanity, namely our hunger and how we go about satiating it, makes a seemingly "non violent" endeavor like trading food on a global marketplace extremely violent, in that seemingly harmless market fluctuations will cause death, starvation, and malnutrition for tens of millions even without a single shot being fired. This is violence.

To deny the existence of violence is to deny life. CON does not contest any of this and has even explicitly agreed with PRO's description of violence:

"...our existence is violent, (and according to the definition provided, it is)..."

CON may think such a portrayal of violence may be "vague" - this is the core problem with CON's pacifistic position, not with PRO's realist position. For PRO, sometimes violent behavior is the appropriate solution for a problem; sometimes it is not. CON however unequivocally denounces any and all violent behavior, without really figuring out or communicating what she means by violent behavior.

PRO/CON thus agree with PRO on the nature and definition of violence - violence is integral to life itself and is pervasive. This ends any effective debate on the resolution and completely refutes a pacifistic position. Pacificsm (in CON's words) is a "yay or nay revolution strateg[y]" with a firm "nay" on violence, a position which PRO/CON both agree is "rather naive". It is PRO's opinion that CON has all but conceded her case with such statements.


Regardless of the inherently productive nature of humanity, somewhere, someday, humanity will encounter a problem. My scenario delves into how two peaceful, "non-violent" societies encountered such a problem and were thus met with an impossible choice - kill, or die. Why did these societies face such a choice? It is because they no longer were able to produce enough food to survive. Due to the evils of scarcity, they were not able to be productive; the flood described in the scenario destroyed an entire village's productive capacity. This village could not produce what they needed for survival, and thus their survival was forfeit. The only question remaining was who would survive, and who would die; Agri-town could either die without a fight, or could die fighting for the real hope that some of them may live. That some from Agri-town would live would have been optimal for both villages even if it involved a war with Salmonville, as the highly valuable technology developed by Agri-town would thus survive.

Scarcity is the primary problem for an entire field of social science, namely economics. It is pervasive, as pervasive as violence is to human nature. You cannot ignore scarcity, nor can you ignore its impact on violent conflict. To do so would be naive.


Much of CON's case, especially the strategy and chart that she wants me to address, rests upon a conception of power, a word she does not define and actually leaves it to PRO to define for her.

Power, as defined by the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Joseph Nye:

"Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants, and that can be accomplished in three main ways -- by coercion, payment, [i.e. hard power] or attraction [soft power]."

CON has the credulity to say that Nye is only "partially correct" without bothering to bring up any corroborating sources anywhere close to being as credible as the dean of public policy at Harvard; it is CON who is only "partially correct". All of what CON deems to be "power", i.e. "a relationship formed by the granting of power from below," that could be "moral, or economic, or might be a mix of the two," is why Nye terms "soft power", something I defined in round #1.

Soft power is only the bottom board in the 3D chess board described in the first 5 minutes of the video I posted, the top two boards being hard power, i.e. political economy. CON's explanation of power, as well as her strategy and chart, is thus inadequate, incomplete, and totally ignores political economy, and how it can be marshaled to project physical force.

I have not only brought up specific examples (Japan, Germany), but also turned all of CON's examples (India, Apartheid, Denmark) into support of this point, that hard power matters.

Bottom line, you need both hard AND soft power to be effective. CON fails to realize this, and thus CON's position is naive.


CON completely drops the moral position, as "[CON] understand[s] that morals would be subjective, hence it would not enough to convince anyone."

Without the moral position, CON doesn't even have the ability to make a simple statement like "violence is wrong". Therefore, there is nothing inherently wrong with violence, and this according to CON.

Without a moral position, CON's advocacy of pacifism loses "cause". Without a moral position, there is no reason to think pacifism is in any way inherently "good".


CON has not forwarded a compelling case for pacifism - it is rife with critical omissions and does not address or even recognize hard power considerations. Ignorance is not bliss...ignorance is naivety.

PRO has painted a realistic picture of how power works, one that does not dismiss violent alternatives when necessary. Thus:

Pacifism is a Naive Belief System.

I thank CON and everyone who read this debate for participating, and remind all that this is a NO SCORING debate. Feel free to leave an RFD, engage in discussion, and offer feedback and constructive criticism...just don't assign points. Thank you.



I thank Pro for the debate. It was enjoyable for me.

I'll go through the select contentions Pro contested, and then go on to provide a summary of the debate.

R7) I'm sorry Pro couldn't comprehend the argument. In layman terms, the point was that the war relied on dynamics that the Pacifist position already recognizes- and could have achieved without killing the millions of people. And afflicting them with cancer to date. The mechanisms that could have been used to counter Japan had been outlined in all the previous two rounds. Then there was questioning of the entire premise of the war, which could have been easily avoided had people responded to the killing of the archduke in a different way.

Just because something happened in the history in a certain way doesn't mean that was the best course of action.

R8) Mandela was a person. His opinions weren't infallible. Responding to an analysis of the entire dynamics of the Apartheid revolution by forwarding the opinions of a person is just an appeal to authority. It is equivalent to me saying that because Gandhi said independence can be achieved through non violence, it is true. Even when you provide me with the facts to the contrary.

R9) Pro here merely reiterates his point. When British came to India, it was an asset to them. Had there been no non-violent movement, British would have used India as a balancing stick. Pro could have (and I was certainly expecting him to) argue that the same could have been achieved through violence- but violence would have lead to scores of death, brutal clampdowns, and extinguishing of the economic powerhouse of India, making it all the more difficult for India to stand up after British left. It would have left India like Pakistan, to draw a parallel. Pakistan WAS a result of a violent uprising to secure the interests of the Muslim population.

R10) Again, I'm a little let down that Pro resorted to merely repeating his points rather than engaging. One of the defining powers of a non violent movement is that it encompasses a larger population into the struggle. It WASN'T about Jews vs Nazis in Denmark, it was Denmark against the Nazis, which is exactly the power of adding people's conscience into the revolution. Jews were a small minority, they could never have won even a violent revolution. [Something Pro did accept in the discussion which started the debate].

R11) Not sure which starvation Pro is referring to here, but I'm going to assume he is referring to the scenerio. I that, Pacifist solution does NOT lead to killing of people, whereas the realist would. Since the war that started with being a fight for food would almost definitely transform to a fight for revenge. Pacifist solution leads to availing of fuds from a third party and sustaing themselves for a short while till the flood subsides- and then going back to how things were before.

Then he goes on a bit about morality, which I'll address in the summary.

R12) A little pot- kettle thing here, but I'll let the audience decide this one.


The debate started with Pro asserting that since our existence is inherently violent, any belief system based on us eschewing violence is inherantly contradictory and hence, naive. I contended the violence, as described, was all encompassing, and so stating that all types of violence were justified just because our existence it violent (according to a broad definition) was what was naive. It is similar to saying that just because we are omnivores, being against cannibalism is naive. There are different degrees of violence, and Pacifism recognizes that.

Pro also in the last round accuses the defence of not defining violence.Which was perplexing, since I have defined violence in context of Pacifism in both the rounds:
Round 3: "...What violence entails in Pacifism is any action carried out with the intention of killing/ injuring. aka taking up weapons and going on a rampage...",
Round 2: "...Pacifism ensures that their strategies do not kill their opponents, there are no weapons used that'd aim to kill their opponents, or injure them...".

There needs to be a gradation of violent behavior in order to have a rational discussion about Pacifism, something that is severely lacking in Pro's case.
Pacifism is a firm NO to the violent strategies that have a negative impact on a revolution. Saying that because we are inherantly violent, we should not be averse to any kind of violence regardless of its impact on the revolution is what is naive. If violence leads to a negative impact on a revolution, and a non violent action could have complemented the power struggle more efectively, it should deinitely be discarded as a possible revolution tool.

This brings me to substantiation of the last line. I explained four reasons why violence (as defined by CON) negatively impacted a revolution. Paraphrasing, the reasons are- Violence being a tool of oppressors choice for the oppressed- thus increasing the chances of failure, violent oppressor relying on fear of people (which when overcame, renders the enemy powerless), violence legitimizing further violence AND a violent struggle being selective, which increses the chances of it being not representative of people's wants and rather just two power blocks fighting. Non violence on the other hand, relies on people power. Pro completely dropped the contentions in the fourth round, (after engaging with them in the third) chosing to go back to the fact that since I am not holding up the immorality of murders, any argument delegitimizing murders is useless. And naive.

Before going over the morality, I'd reiterate that a Pacifist case would be woefully incomplete if we do not recognize the strategies of Pacifism and have a particular objective in mind. The strategies were briely outlined in the second round. The basic reiterating theme remains recognizing the source of the power and weakening it. Why violence is often poor in weakening the source of power was already explained.

Now the morality. The entire premise relies on 'effectiveness' of a belief system. Morality has no role to play in it. Death, even in a realist scenerio, is a collateral damage. As long as the objective is fulfilled, the lesser deaths the better. If killing leads to a worsening of the revolution and delay in attainment of the objective, that is ineffectiveness. And thus is not desirable. There is no reason to bring morality into the picture when we are talking of eectiveness. And I already explained how violence does indeed lead to worsening the revolution. Even explaining it within the context of apartheid and other revolutions.

Pro did address some of the arguments regarding the supporting examples, but almost completely dropped the defence of the examples in this round. The basic premise of the defence is- just because something happened in history in a certain way does not mean it was the most effective way to handle the situation. That IS how an alternative course of action is proposed, we argue why our course of action would have been better with dealing with the situation, rather than the solution used till date. We explain the problems with the present course o action, and go about explaining how our method overcome those problems.

Regarding Power, I really don't understand how bringing up the credentials of a person help with the analysis of a definition. Power IS "the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one wants". I agree. But going about the definition stating HOW to achieve this power is the entire contention of the debate. I explained how my definition collaborated with the first part of his definition. I don't understand how bringing up a person of " ...close to being as credible as the dean of public policy at Harvard" would help the case in any way, credibility being as subjective as it is. Would Mahatma Gandhi count? He was the 'father of the nation' (of India). Would that be credible enough?

In closing, I explained HOW exactly a Pacifist solution is inherantly better than a violent revolution, outlining the deficiencies of violence as a revolution tool, both theoritically and by engaging in examples. Thereby explaining that it is DEFINITELY not Naive.

Debate Round No. 4
70 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
To further analyze this and fold it into my framework, if you consider hunger to be violence, then hard power is absolutely pervasive in human activity. However, so is soft power - any persuasive idea and what not would be soft power, and ideas are also pervasive.

Relevant to the debate, I do clearly state this kind of symbiotic relation of the two:

"Bottom line, you need both hard AND soft power to be effective."

The way I framed pacifism in this debate was that pacifism was a very strong advocacy of soft power, and ONLY soft power. My advocacy then went that given that pacifism did not recognize hard power to be valid, pacifism is naive.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"Only if you equate violence with hard power, which I don't. I thought you'd already conceded that."

Ok, let me clarify on this.

- "Violence" is any use of force to injure or kill.
- Soft power unquestionably does not use ANY form of violence.
- Hard power is not restricted to ONLY violence, but out of the two (hard vs soft power) the domain of violence is wholly encapsulated by "hard power".
Posted by rross 2 years ago
Only if you equate violence with hard power, which I don't. I thought you'd already conceded that.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
Now, given that both hard power and soft power are persuasive, I would then fully agree with your statement, that

"For example, the best way to PERSUADE people is by hard power. "

...I would also consider such a statement to be a huge endorsement of the PRO position in this debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
Ok, and back to the billboard question (which was very interesting):

1) The billboards exist because of hard power, no question. Hard power is what created the space in that political system where the billboards reside. However, the building of the billboards, and the placing of the ads on the billboards, are IMHO clearly soft power. A bad advertisement could easily deter an audience from the product, so the goal is indeed to co-opt and attract rather than coerce. Both hard power and soft power are "persuasive".
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"Cooking dinners for people who may commit violent acts is more iffy."

Why? Are you saying that hunger is not violent, that hunger cannot be used as a violent weapon? That was established in round #2, and CON did not ever engage with that argument. When I brought it up again, CON was not even aware the argument existed.


"In terms of this debate, you didn't argue that Gandhi was not a pacifist, only that he was assisted by external events. So I'm kind of confused."

I argued in the debate that given Gandhi adheres to CON's vision of pacifism, what Gandhi did was ineffective, and that without the HARD POWER considerations of the collapse of the English economy following WWII, Gandhi would have never succeeded in achieving his goals.

I don't deny that pacifism as a belief system doesn't exist - I argue that pacifism is wholly unworkable and requires hard power or "violence" in order to be feasible. As pacifism eschews "violence" in any form, pacifism is not only naive, it is non-sensical and absurd.


@Cermank - " Plus, even if it is moral, it being non effective would actually cement the notion of its naivety."

I agree with this notion.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
1) "It's like, there are all kinds of strategies available to gain power: war, sanctions, persuasion, avoidance, bribes etc. And there's this one strategy called "non-violent resistance" that can work when you have the numbers but no economic or military strength. The strategy is not of itself more or less moral than other methods although it might be in particular cases."

a) It's common to say that out of your list here, war and only war would not be "non-violent resistance".

b) I think I satisfactorily proved that any and all cases of ONLY "non-violent resistance" were wholly ineffective, because you absolutely have to have HARD POWER in order for it to be effective. The most evident use of hard power is indeed warfare and the means to wage it.


"Therefore I think it's legitimate to draw a line somewhere, as Con did. We do the same in criminal law and in various moral systems."

I drew that same line, and analyzed it in detail. That line was "hard vs soft power". That line is as clear, if not clearer, than a line created by "violence vs non-violence". You yourself are also having trouble figuring out the line between "violent and non-violent resistance". The way it was defined in round #1, it was clear that soft power eschewed "use of force" of any kind.

IMHO I would be more convinced that CON had a substantial case if she either analyzed the effect of either "violence" or "hard power", but she didn't. She ignored the effects of both. She did not determine how "non-violence" would be more effective than "violence" in achieving goals. I made it clear even in her system that without "violence", those goals CANNOT be achieved.

My advocacy was clear - soft power alone is ineffective in initiating change in the system. Hard power MUST be used to some effect. CON did not engage in my framework. IMHO it's naive to think she won.
Posted by Cermank 2 years ago
I'll respond to the other point later.
Posted by Cermank 2 years ago
I loved the convo. To answer rross, a belief system doesn't really have to have morals to sustain it. It has to be effective, that was the premise of my argument. I have come to be really agnostic about the morality behind actions off late, in the sense I don't really think any action is inherently moral or immoral. To prove that a Pacifist system is naive, I believe it was sufficient to prove that it is effective- for if it is effective, it does not need to be moral. Plus, even if it is moral, it being non effective would actually cement the notion of its naivety.
Posted by rross 2 years ago
About the Pol Pot example. The way I see it, there's no clear line. Everyone is in a big complicated network of cause and effect with everyone else, and I fully accept that my nice, clean suburban lifestyle issomehow causing children to die somewhere and I'm not innocent. OK fine.

Nevertheless, distinctions can be made. Taking a gun and killing someone is violent. Making guns that you know will be shipped to a warzone is violent. Cooking dinners for people who may commit violent acts is more iffy. At some point we lose the thread of cause and effect.

Therefore I think it's legitimate to draw a line somewhere, as Con did. We do the same in criminal law and in various moral systems.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Beverlee 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro tries to explode the definition of "violence" to include all things, which does not convince. Con offers good, logical reasons for pacifism that are entirely pragmatic. Even if she is wrong, she is still not "naive" in her support for nonviolence, only incorrect. Part of the difficulty in a debate like this is that words such as "naive" are used as insults rather than objective terms. The definition for naive that was given can indicate any situation where anything is learned, and so it was not helpful by itself. Con offers very good and very well informed reasons for pacifism, which satisfies the requirement for this debate.