Many people support peace for the wrong reasons

Peace-loving” Spain has just sent a signal to al-Qaida that their tactics of terror do in fact influence politics. In the emotional aftermath of the horrendous bombings, the Spanish voted out the government that was tough-minded and supportive of U.S. policies. It is questionable whether true peace will come to Spain from such a change or that it will help defeat terrorism throughout the world.

Across the United States are many like-minded politicians who are wagers of peace politics. A typical activity of these politicians is to denounce leaders who have pursued war and to attribute to those leaders wicked intentions. The idea that there is such a thing as a just war often eludes them. Instead, they clamor for immediate peace and security. But seldom has anyone looked at the motivations of those who are promoting such a peace.

It appears that within the peace movement, thoughtful and sincere pacifists are in the minority. There are many more who have not given the matter of war and peace much thought. In spite of that, they revel in what they think is a superior moral position, even if what they advocate ends up being an unjust peace. (An unjust peace is a peace that responds to an evil with a policy of inaction and, often, the result is a greater evil.) Caught up in the fantasy of their self-proclaimed superiority, some even find themselves aiding and abetting the enemy, and justify it in the name of peace. Here are some of the less-than-noble motivations that come into play:

There are those who advocate such a peace to trip up a leader they want defeated. In their attempts to rise politically, they usually surround themselves with a group of malcontents and become the spokesperson for their cause. In all wars, there are many in the population who must bear a greater share of the sacrifices. Some do so valiantly, but others become embittered. These embittered ones often become an opposing political force. Peace to them is often a form of personal revenge.

Then there are those who are ethically very immature. Their sense of right and wrong is strongly attached only to what is right for them. Because war is very disruptive of their normal routine, they are automatically against war, regardless of any merit the war might have. They literally do not understand the idea of going to war to prevent a greater evil or to liberate an oppressed people. They only mock such ideas.

There are those who advocate peace out of sheer cowardliness. Their sense of self-survival is usually very shortsighted. They cut and run under any and all circumstances. Rather than supporting a strong, moral ruler who is willing to stand up to injustice and danger, these people usually end up placating and therefore supporting the bullies. Bullies come to power by intimidating such


There are those for peace who operate out of a spirit of rebellion. They are against those who are in authority because they are against authority. They are irked by the idea that an authorized official of a sovereign nation can declare war. For them, that is the ultimate exercise of authority. They refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of any such declaration, no matter how justified, and only speak of it as being a grab for power or economic gain. They oppose war not on moral grounds, but rather because they are fundamentally anarchists. They liken such democratically elected officials as having no more moral authority than, say, Adolf Hitler. The idea of smearing such a person with that type of characterization does not bother them at all. Incidentally, their “peace” protests are often of a violent nature.

Then there are those who favor peace only because it happens to be an attractive bandwagon. They live and work in a political climate where everyone is opposed to a war, and so they go along to get along.

Finally, there are those who oppose war because it gives them a chance to protest. The “street theater” aspect of protest often invigorates these people. Politics are of secondary importance to them. What is important is that they “star” in some drama. There is a certain thrill in blocking traffic, taunting police and generally making a spectacle of one’s self.

It is questionable how serious they are about the weighty matters of war and peace.

These are just some of the reasons many cry out for peace and security, but often end up supporting an unjust peace in the world today. The irony is that most would say that their intentions are nothing but good.

Michael J. O’Connor is a MacLaurin Institute associate. Send comments to [email protected]