Pacifism and nonviolence are ethical, political, and practical policy/strategy arguments that articulate alternative visions of politics, security, and social relations. They bring different perspectives to the problem of aggression and resistance to it, such as in the Ukraine war, and to the longer term climate crisis. Because pacifism and the potential efficacy of nonviolent action challenge militarist assertions about the morality and effectiveness of military force, they provide tools for an effective critique of the war system, not only at the fringes where one is debating policy alternatives, but at the core. Research should explore the spectrum of pacifism and nonviolence—from peaceful societies to nonviolent direct action and defensive defense. The non-participation of US soldiers in the Sand Creek Massacre illustrates both the bravery and limits of non-participation and the potential importance of the philosophical links between pacifism and cognate movements in shaping the motivation to resist violence.
This paper argues the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine institutionalised empathy and altruism, however incompletely and imperfectly, and began a transformation of the UN Security Council’s ‘organisational responsibility’ by shifting the organisation’s moral frame of reference from state to individual security. Second, the twin dangers associated with the misuse of the R2P doctrine—namely paternalistic interventions or the cynical use of R2P language and reasoning to justify interventions taken primarily to promote the interests of the interveners – can be ameliorated by even greater institutionalisation of empathy, a process that is already underway.