I remember while I was a uni student I had a writing assignment and chose the topic "Wars Are Always Wrong." Yeah, I still feel ashamed but as I was only 19, you'll have to cut me some slack:)
Now in connection with the yesterday events in France, every time a similar attack happens, there will always be someone writing comments about how we never should react back with violence because violence is always wrong, violence begets more violence etc etc. On the surface, it sounds nice and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, however, is it practical?
Let's first look at the term violence. Pacifistic-minded individuals among us mostly don't explain what sort of violence they mean precisely, individual violence, violence in self-defence, organised violence employed by the government or any other form of violence. Sometimes if they are cornered during a discussion they'll say that they are against all forms of violence including the violence wielded by government on their behalf (used by army or police). They never explain how this ideal world without violence would work except for talking about love, holding hands, no borders and general kumbaya.
I'll talk about individual violence first. A (not criminal) individual can use violence in self-defence or as a matter of taking justice in his own hands (vigilante justice). The latter is prohibited by the Bible and it's easy to understand why: a society where people are engaged in fighting their own private vendettas won't be stable or peaceful, it will tend to anarchy and clannish warfare. However, here is the caveat: for the individual to forswear vigilante justice, he should expect the state to wield the sword on his behalf and punish the evildoer. If the state consequently fails in this important duty, the citizens sooner or later will take justice into their own hands, leading to chaos and the end of civil society as we know it.
Now as for violence in self-defence, a lot of liberals are against it, as proven by their crusades against private citizens carrying arms and similar enterprises. They think that they are taking a moral high ground by allowing a criminal to rob or harass them, suggesting that one should call the police rather than fighting back. In theory, it sounds very moral, but what about practise? Not fighting back may work if the criminal only wants your wallet, but what if he also wants to kill you, rape your wife and hurt your children? How's not fighting back going to work in this particular situation?
And, of course, calling the police is only an option when there is a strong and organised police force, otherwise, you are on your own.
Which leads me to my second point, about the use of violence by the government. Liberals have been quite consistent in criticising government using force. They are also against death penalty, usually and are altogether always busy with finding excuses for violent criminals. I can understand their reasons to a certain degree, as there is always a danger of a state turning into a dictatorship where individual rights aren't respected. However, if we take another extreme, we'll see the situation when government refuses to use force to protect the rights of the citizens, which will then lead to vigilante justice and anarchy, see my previous point.
The trouble with liberals is that they seem to think that people are born with rights in the same manner they are born with two arms and two legs. However, our rights exist only as long as we (or someone else on our behalf) are ready to defend them. Because if we refuse to enforce the laws/defend our rights, some other group will come and take them away by force.
The way I see it, pacifists among us have two very wrong notions not grounded in observable reality: first, that everyone in the world shares Western liberal values, and second, that the period of relative peace and prosperity we have been enjoying so far has nothing to do with Western military dominance and police enforcing law and order, which is only possible in highly centralised states. They may be due for the rude awakening one day, but it's a subject for another post.