No pragmatic peaceBy Andy Alexis-Baker Elkhart, Ind.
Readers should be aware of an issue in David Cortright’s book Peace, particularly in its positive vision of “pragmatic pacifism.” Cortright argues that “absolute pacifism,” which rejects defensive war and humanitarian military interventions, is not a proper response to the shift in the nature of war that he outlines (which includes human rights abuse). Instead, he argues for “pragmatic pacifism,” which is open to “the use of force if it is constrained, narrowly targeted, and conducted by proper authority within the rule of law.”
He cites theologian John Howard Yoder, who made a distinction between war and policing, as an example of a pacifist who could accept “multilateral peace operations to protect civilian populations.” Further, Cortright claims Yoder supported this kind of pragmatic pacifism, which combines pacifism and just-war theory. This distorts Yoder’s view and is a shallow reading of what he said about the police. It essentially turns Yoder not into a dialogue partner with the just-war tradition but a practical advocate of that position under another name.
Combining pacifism and just war and then renaming it (whether we call it “pragmatic pacifism,” “just policing” or “just peacemaking”) is still just-war thinking and a Trojan horse for broader acceptance of violence within the Mennonite church.
Comment on the article No pragmatic peace
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.