When is peace not enough?

I needed to ask this question outside of the more “radical” Marxist and Anarchist spaces I’ve found myself frequenting lately. This isn’t a question about the logistics of a “revolutionary” war. It’s not a question about whether or not something like that would work. This is a question about when does peace become detrimental? When does war become a better option?

Until a year ago I was a pacifist and definitely would’ve described myself as “Anti-War”. Long story short someone close to me went to go fight a war they felt was worth fighting. This led me to researching that conflict and the history before it broke out. And I can’t call describe myself as “Anti-War” anymore. I’d rather not get into the specifics here as it would only serve to distract from the question.

When is relative peace worse than a state of war? When does peace only serve to protect those in power and the way things are the way they are.

And if it’s not clear where I am with all of this, I’m extremely conflicted. So much so that I don’t feel like identifying as “Anti-War” is a thing I can do anymore.

This question seems to be what even is peace (or war, in an era of constant military operations that are not officially part of a declaration of war). When there are militarised officials on the streets enacting extrajudicial punishments (which may later be rewritten to be semi-judicial as they are never prosecuted for their actions) then is it meaningfully different from a low level state of war? Even when officially sanctioned, does an enforcement of “peace” operate to reinforce power vectors and is that materially different from violence if peaceful protest would be met by violence? (This “peace” as suppression but also as the implicit threat of violence and history of violent reaction to anyone who refuses to comply.)

Is being anti-war blind to the horrors of a more “civilised” war (eg enacted by militarised officials who are not officially part of a military force or enacted by “remote” warfare against people with who there has been no declaration of war) or simply something that must be considered to be more expansive than the narrow definition of war?

For me, being a pacifist means being aware of how violence exists on a spectrum with complex roots and history, operating outside of clean definitions. Reality is messy. But being a pacifist is to stand up and attempt to block violence. It is a dangerous position based on the principal that while additional violence may be justified, it often cannot take us to a better society and there is usually a clear violence that is punching down and can be prioritised. Knowing whose violence it is most important to block becomes the nuance of the situation, rather than weighing if the merits of violent uprising are justified.

From this perspective, I think there is an alternative to simply accepting a failed “peace” because of a commitment to anti-violence (which seems to be the dichotomy you’re working through). I am a pacifist and so I reject violence. I reject the violence of austerity. I reject the violence of White supremacy. I reject the violence of patriarchy. We have always been at war and there has never been a time when there were not casualties of this violence. But the future I look towards is an end to this violence, to the reduction in power vectors of all kinds - however that revolutionary change occurs, I cannot see myself intentionally enacting further violence as the path towards that.


this… feels difficult to answer without more specifics honestly

like i dont wanna be all “yes sometimes war is good” and find out your buddy joined the fuckin IDF


I see that you’re conflicted and are looking for some POVs on this, etc., but the question may be phrased a bit too broadly. “War” would be conventionally defined as armed conflict involving at least one, but usually more, sovereign states. I would say that fighting for a state is misguided almost always, because you’re fighting for something that is inherently oppressive.

If you want to fight for an ideal that your state represents, maybe instead of going abroad and exporting it or “protecting” it, which is let’s face it a bunch of bullshit, look within and see how you can improve situations for people within your borders, the people who are marginalised, the people with limited opportunities, the people who the state ignores or actively excludes etc. Look into personal action, what you can do as an individual, and also ways of improving systems and institutions.

Now, if we’re talking about non-state actors, i.e. civil wars, insurgency etc. etc. then it’s a whole other thing. Are we talking about a repressive, authoritarian regime vs indigenous insurgency? I could see the argument for the latter but then it is theoretical, I have never participated in any conflict and as much as I believe in certain ideas, would I myself participate in armed resistance to protect them? Hell no, I’m just some dude, some academic who enjoys the comforts of his life. As a Russian person living in Europe, I wrote [EDIT: CW violence/torture] about my feelings on Euromaidan and what I could do on the outside to help, for instance, when it was kicking off, but like I said I did not end up going there, of course.

In the end each of us has their own lines, like @shivoa said, reality is messy. Whatever label you want to use to describe yourself, we each have a different interpretation of its meaning. Did supporting Euromaidan mean that I had to be present physically or otherwise I am not true to my beliefs? Of course not. Is being a Pacifist, in turn, mean that I have to be anti-violence or anti-conflict in general (note that I didn’t say anti-War) under any circumstances? Or is it about understanding the effects, meanings and uses of violence, striving to limit it but not necessarily vowing to never support it under any circumstances? I don’t know, its for you to decide. @shivoa is absolutely on point with regards to resisting other forms of violence outside of the context of “War” as well.

It is OK to be a hypocrite. It is OK to question your beliefs, and it is OK to not constantly act on them. Every single one of us is a hypocrite in one way or another, otherwise human beings would not be able to operate, like at all. For instance, I think climate change is bad, but I still use plastic products, I have a smartphone, I eat beef and I don’t always recycle everything. As long as we are aware of our various hypocrisies and think through them, like you seem to be doing (not to call you a hypocrite but just making the point that you’re working through your own beliefs now), then we are striving to be better. That’s a start.


Fair, and no he didn’t join any state military force.

Being a radical myself, I’m probably too much like the people you don’t want answering this question. But maybe it won’t hurt to try?

I’d say peace is worse than war whenever peace preserves an oppressive status quo, and a classic example of that is the current occupation of Palestine. Palestinians have, for decades, been lectured that they should seek peace, but peace just allows Israel to take more of their land, build more settlements and abuse its power to attack Palestinians, both in terms of living standards and actual attacks. Any peace based on the armed superiority of the Israeli state is worse than war for most Palestinians.


I’m generally a pacifist but that’s largely due to growing up in places free of conflict. If my circumstances had been different then I might have a different take on this.

In response to your question, I guess it depends on your interpretation of “justice”. I believe like @BigNoNo for example that the violent Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation is just and that the way “peace” as a general goal is used as a cudgel to force them to accept ethnic cleansing is unconscionable.

I guess what it boils down to for me is that peace is a state of things, not a policy. It can be pursued for multiple reasons additional to the altruism it implies. By being “for peace” in all circumstances you can also be said to be anti-reparations, anti-restorative justice, and definitely in favour of the countries who have enough resources to project soft rather than hard power running the world. At least potentially, anyway.