Essay on Pacifism as a Practical Matter

Published: 2021/11/17
Number of words: 1449


A country’s response to war or violence among its people determines the peacefulness of the nation at large. This Political Science essay discusses how the pursuance of peace instead of waging war affects a nation in its international relations, in a phenomenon hereby known as pacifism. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2021), pacifism is “a commitment to peace and opposition to war.” Similarly, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2021) defines pacifism as the theory that advocates for peaceful relations instead of violence among people. The source further vouches for “arbitration, surrender, or migration’’ as viable ways of resolving disputes. This paper will discuss pacifism from both a conditional and a religious point of view. The conditional pacifism will focus on the Just War Theory. Primarily, the theory addresses the ethical ways in which warfare may take place or fail to as governed by the existing national or international laws. Under religious pacifism, the essay will highlight the relationship between religion and pacifism, and how the possible outcomes of a nation choosing to be pacifist would vary in its international relations.

The Just War Theory

As nations work to pursue peace, there are instances where war is inevitable. In the context of pacifism, the Just War Theory seeks to justify “how and why wars are fought” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2021). Wills (2004) adds that the theory covers three main areas, namely: the cause of the war, how the war is conducted, and the associated consequences. The scholar observes that there is a legal challenge in addressing how certain offenses are identified yet, sometimes, offenders go unpunished. Military personnel often find themselves in related dilemma. For example, a soldier may find himself in a war situation where the cause of the war is unacceptable, yet they conduct the war in a relatively honorable manner (Harbour, 2008). However, the consequences of the war may be deemed immoral if there are innocent victims.

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Realism and the Just War Theory

Realists tend to hold contrary perspectives from the just war theorists. In simple terms, realism deals with concepts about “how the world is”, while the Just War Theory pertains to “how the world should be” (Morkevičius, 2015).The scholar notes that realists believe that there are three primary causes of war. The first one is that human beings are aggressive thus bringing out their flaws in starting conflict. Secondly, the organization of states contributes to the possibility of internal wrangles among residents. According to Paskins (2007), every state aims at maintaining its survival at the expense of other states’ interests thus raising inter-state conflicts. Thirdly, the lack of a standard authority at the international level (anarchy) creates an unhealthy competition for power, security, and survival among people from different nationalities. In the context of pacifism, advocates of realism argue that the power to foster peace lies in the hands of the interstate systems (Morkevičius, 2015). On the other hand the proponents of the Just War Theory advocate for the establishment of universal moral norms towards realizing universal justice (O’Driscoll, 2015).The underlying research, therefore, challenges both national and global lawmakers to consider developing peace interventions that foster good international relations.

The United Nations take on Pacifism and the Just War Theory

The United Nations (UN) champions for peace at the international level. According to Lango (2015), the UN Charter charges the Security Council with the mandate of ensuring that nations do not engage in aggressive activities that threaten people’s peace. The Security Council fights against the misuse of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). More specifically, the UN considers the possession of WMD by nations as a threat to world peace. In general, the UN fosters the ethics of preventing war by endorsing pacifism and discouraging the unfair application of the Just War Theory.

Religion, Pacifism, and the Just War Theory

The Catholic religion opposes the Just War Theory as it advocates for peaceful interventions that exclude war. According to scholarly evidence, the Catholic religion does not support the use of violence as a justification of pursuing peace (John & Terry, 1996). The scholars further observe that the concept of pacifism does not exist in the New Testament, a biblical collection of books that acts as a major guide of Catholics. The believers view peace as a gift from God, through the birth of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, which brings about reconciliation among individuals and communities.

The Islamic faith has a relatively controversial take on the Just War Theory. In particular, the term jihad is associated with struggles or wars carried out in the name of God (Amjad-Ali, 2009). Jihad is commonly referred to as ‘Holy War’. Over the years, the international media has covered many instances when Muslims have been in war with Christians. In the context of pacifism, the religious differences between Muslims and Christians do not justify the deadly consequences of the war between the two entities. The Quran discourages violence by promoting peaceful relations between Muslims and their aggressors (Ahmad, 2006). Therefore, despite the adverse effects of jihad, the Quran, just like the Bible among Christians, acts as solid foundation and guide for morality among Muslims.

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In the Jewish religion, war is not viewed as a negative concept. According to Cohen (2013), Jews perceive war as a mode of self-defense, liberty, and pursuit of independence. As in the Islamic jihad (Holy War), the Jews argue that war is a military concept that has been endorsed by God (Blankinship, 2011). The Jewish people look up to their biblical patriarch, Abraham, a man who exercised righteousness even in times of conflict. The patriarch may be viewed by some Jews as controversial, as he is a peace-loving man, contrary to their advocacy for war.


Pacifism fosters peace within a nation and across the international borders. The essay has highlighted the merits that a nation enjoys when it chooses to be a pacifist in its international relations. In essence, nations are able to resort to peaceful interventions instead of waging war against each other. The paper has also discussed the conditional and religious types of pacifism. Under the conditional pacifism, the essay has focused on the Just War Theory. Primarily, the paper has noted that there are situations that justify a war. Nevertheless, the United Nations discourages the abuse of the Just War Theory. Instead, the Security Council campaigns for peaceful global relations and discourages the possession and misuse of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Lastly, the paper has presented the different religious viewpoints of pacifism and the Just War Theory. Despite the varying viewpoints, the reviewed religions value peace among believers, as opposed to war and conflict.


Ahmad, A. (2006). The Evolution of Just War Theory in Islamic Law: Texts, History, and the Purpose of “Reading”. American Foreign Policy Interests28(2), 107-115.

Amjad-Ali, C. (2009). Jihad and Just War Theory: Dissonance and Truth. Dialog48(3), 239-247.

Blankinship, K. (2011). Parity of Muslim and Western Concepts of Just War. The Muslim World101(3), 412-426.

Cohen, M. (2013). War and peace in Judaism and Islam. Israel Affairs19(4), 679-692.

Harbour, F. (2008). A just soldier’s dilemma: facing a war that does not meet jus ad bellum criteria. Cambridge Review of International Affairs21(3), 421-435.

John, F., & Terry, N. (1996). The Ethics of War and Peace in the Catholic Natural Law Tradition. The Ethics of War and Peace.

Just War Theory | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2021). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from

Lango, J. (2005). Preventive Wars, Just War Principles, and the United Nations. The Journal of Ethics9(1-2), 247-268.

Morkevičius, V. (2015). Power and Order: The Shared Logics of Realism and Just War Theory. International Studies Quarterly59(1), 11-22.

O’Driscoll, C. (2015). Rewriting the Just War Tradition: Just War in Classical Greek Political Thought and Practice. International Studies Quarterly59(1), 1-10.

Pacifism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (2021). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from

Pacifism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2021). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from

Paskins, B. (2007). Realism and the Just War. Journal of Military Ethics6(2), 117-130.

Wills, G. (2021). What Is a Just War? The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 12 April 2021, from

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