For more than thirty-five years the American Friends Service Committee has worked among those who suffer, recognizing no enemies, and seeking only to give expression to the love of God in service. Out of this experience, gained under all kinds of governments and amidst all kinds of people, has come some appreciation of the problems of peacemaking in the modern world. This has led the Committee to issue over the past five years a series of studies on possible ways to ease tension and move toward international peace. The series began in 1949 with the publication of The United States and the Soviet Union. It was continued in 1951 with Steps to Peace and in 1952 with Toward Security through Disarmament. This is the fourth of the series, while a fifth, dealing with the future of the United Nations, is now in preparation.
All of these reports have been prepared for the American Friends Service Committee by study groups convened especially for the purpose. They have been approved for publication by the Committee's Executive Board-not as official pronouncements, but in the interest of stimulating public discussion of the issues raised, and in the hope that such discussion will contribute to the formation of policies that will bring peace.
The other studies have been developed on the assumption that reliance on military power is so integral in the policy of every major nation, that the most practical approach to peacemaking is to suggest specific next steps to reduce tension and thereby move gradually away from the reliance on force. Many other individuals and organizations have made similar suggestions, so that discussion of such alternatives to present policy has been fairly widespread. A large area of agreement has indeed been reached, and many Americans both in and out of government concur on the kind of constructive measures needed.
Yet American policy has continued to develop in the opposite direction. This study attempts to discover why this should be so. It finds its answer not in the inadequacy of statesmanship or in the machinations of evil men, but in what seem to the drafters of this report to be the unsound premises upon which policy is based. Most Americans accept without question the assumption that winning the peace depends upon a simultaneous reliance upon military strength and long-range programs of a positive and constructive character. They accept also the assumption that totalitarian communism is the greatest evil that now threatens men and that this evil can be met only by violence, or at least by the threat of violence. We believe these assumptions cannot be sustained, and therefore that the policies based on them are built upon sand. We have here attempted to analyze our reasons, and without denying the value of proposals that might ease present tensions, to suggest another and less widely considered alternative built on a different assumption, namely, that military power in today's world is incompatible with freedom, incapable of providing security, and ineffective in dealing with evil.
Our title, Speak Truth to Power, taken from a charge given to Eighteenth Century Friends, suggests the effort that is made to speak from the deepest insight of the Quaker faith, as this faith is understood by those who prepared this study. We speak to power in three senses:
Our truth is an ancient one: that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden. This truth, fundamental to the position which rejects reliance on the method of war, is ultimately a religious perception, a belief that stands outside of history. Because of this we could not end this study without discussing the relationship between the politics of time with which men are daily concerned and the politics of eternity which they too easily ignore.
But our main purpose is not to restate the many prophetic expositions of the pacifist position. Beginning with The Sermon on the Mount, the Christian tradition alone has produced a library of enduring religious statements, and the same can be said for the literature of other great faiths. The urgent need is not to preach religious truth, but to show how it is possible and why it is reasonable to give practical expression to it in the great conflict that now divides the world.
In recent years, outside of theological circles, and infrequently there, there has been little able discussion of the pacifist point of view. Pacifism has been cataloged as the private witness of a small but useful minority, or as the irresponsible action of men who are so overwhelmed with the horror of war that they fail to see that greater evil sometimes exists and that the sacrifices of war may be necessary to turn it back. Whether condemned or in a sense valued, pacifism has been considered irrelevant to the concrete problems of international relations.
This study attempts to show its relevance. It is focused on the current international crisis. It begins with a survey of the same concrete problems with which any discussion of world affairs must deal. It is concerned with problems of security, the growth of Russian and American power, the challenge to American interests presented by Soviet Communism. It recognizes the existence of evil and the need to resist it actively. It does not see peacemaking as the attempt to reconcile evil with good. It speaks to the problem of inevitable conflict.
We believe it is time for thoughtful men to look behind the label "pacifist," to deal fairly with the ideas and beliefs which sustain those whose approach to foreign policy begins with the rejection of reliance upon military power. We speak to the great majority of Americans who still stand opposed to war, who expect no good of armies and H-bombs. Their reluctant acceptance of a dominantly military policy has been based on the belief that military power provides the necessary security without which the constructive work that builds peace cannot be undertaken. They are for a military program because they feel they must be. "There is no alternative."
We have tried to present an alternative and to set forth our reasons for believing that it offers far greater hope and involves no greater risk than our present military policy. Our effort is incomplete, but we believe it is a step toward the serious examination of a nonviolent approach to world problems. Is there a method for dealing with conflict which does not involve us in the betrayal of our own beliefs, either through acquiescence to our opponent's will or through resorting to evil means to resist him? Is there a way to meet that which threatens us, without relying on our ability to cause pain to the human being who embodies the threat?
We believe there is a way, and that it lies in the attempt to give practical demonstration to the effectiveness of love in human relations. We believe able men, pacifist and non-pacifist alike, have taken this initial insight, developed it, demonstrated it, and built understanding and support for it in field after field of human relations. In view of this, it is strange that almost no one has made a serious attempt to explore its implications in international affairs. There is now almost no place in our great universities, few lines in the budgets of our great foundations, and little space in scholarly journals, for thought and experimentation that begin with the unconditional rejection of organized mass violence and seek to think through the concrete problems of present international relations in new terms. It is time there was.
New conditions demand new responses. We have tried here to suggest a new response. We hope the reader will bring to it an open mind, and if in any way challenged, will join in a serious effort to explore farther the lines of thought we have suggested.
Submitted to the Executive Board and approved for publication March 2, 1955.
STEPHEN G. CARY, Chairman
JAMES E. BRISTOL
A. BURNS CHALMERS
WILLIAM B. EDGERTON
HARROLP A. FREEMAN
CECIL E. HINSHAW
A. J. MUSTE
CLARENCE E. PICKETT
NORMAN J. WHITNEY
A description of the world scene. America's dominantly military response and its recognized inadequacy. Constructive proposals which many agree would strengthen American foreign policy. Our failure to put them into practice.
Why we fail to implement these hopeful constructive policies on which there is widespread agreement: an analysis of the nature and meaning of a Twentieth Century commitment to organized mass violence.
First essential in a pacifist analysis of the present power struggles: a redefinition of the situation we face.
Second part of a pacifist analysis: the perception of alternate methods for dealing with the situation. An introduction to the idea of "non-violence" as a way to resolve conflict and overcome evil.
The choice between a policy based on military power and one which attempts to give practical expression to the idea of love and understanding among men. Reasons for accepting the latter choice. The risk. Rejection of "anti-warism" and utopianism.
The practical meaning of an acceptance of the non-violent approach. Immediate and long-range implications: for the individual, for the state.
The politics of time and the politics of enmity.
"For perhaps the first time in history reflective men have had to grapple with the pacifist's question: Can national interests and human values really be served by waging a war with atomic and hydrogen weapons?"
-The New York Times column of non-pacifist James Reston,
director of the Times Washington Bureau.