When I read this passage of Gandhi's, I experience a profound weariness. I have long felt that religions focusing on the transient nature of life on earth and emphasizing instead the glory of the world to come, although giving much comfort and joy to their adherents, run the risk of exhibiting just this sort of thing: a callous disregard of suffering in the here and now (not that they inevitably fall into that trap, of course).
Here Gandhi, with what I believe were the best intentions, does just that. He is casually suggesting the Jews use his method of satyagraha (which he developed and honed against the far milder British) against the Nazis, an example of an attitude that can at best be called naive, and at worst, fatally flawed.
I, too, feel a profound weariness at the rationalizations of Gandhi--and all others whose rigidity on this subject make them aid and abet tyranny and human misery. They think they hold to their principle of pacifism because they are compassionate and caring human beings. But the results of pacifism say something different.
Ralph Peters, in commenting about our recent crop of pseudopacifists (I say "pseudo" because I don't believe for a moment that they are against war--only against the U.S. waging war to defend its interests) has this to say:
A popular theme last weekend was, "War, what is it good for?" Well, the answer is that war's good for plenty of things. It freed and forged our nation. War liberated millions of black Americans from bondage. War stopped Hitler, if too late for many millions of his victims (peace at any price tends to have a very high price, indeed).
And our troops liberated 50 million human beings in Afghanistan and Iraq — who are far more grateful than the protesters or our media will accept.
In this infernally troubled world, war is sometimes the only effective response to greater evils. And there is evil on this earth. It would also be easier to sympathize with the anti-war protesters if they occasionally criticized the terrorists who bomb the innocent.
But the protesters don't really care about Iraqi suffering, or terror, or the Taliban's legacy. They're a forlorn mix of Bush-haters who reject election results that they don't like and drifting souls yearning for a cause to lend their failed lives meaning.
As for the pathetic Ms. Sheehan, since she insists on speaking in the name of our troops, let me suggest that she does not even speak for her own son, a man who joined our military of his own volition and who died for a cause far greater than any represented on the National Mall last weekend.
I must return to the quote I keep on my sidebar that is attributed to Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Gandhi was a good man, but when it came to the holocaust, he proposed that nothing should have been done. If we had followed his lead, how many millions more people would have died? How many today would live under the boot of the Nazi philosophy?
War is a terrible choice. No reasonable person could believe that it is benign or intrinsically "good" to wage war. Yet, it is sometimes a choice that reasonable people need to make simply because there is evil in the world and it cannot go unchecked--not if you truly care about other human beings.
Pacifists cannot deal with this simple truth, or having accepted it, believe that the triumph of evil is unimportant compared to keeping faith with their own peculiar fantasy of the world.