Is all violence wrong?

By Scott Tibbs, July 27, 2007

In her July 22 letter to the editor, Billie Moore argues for nonviolence. The problem is that the brand of pacifism she espouses in her letter is simply not realistic. She presents a black and white view that makes no room for shades of gray, when violence, while regrettable, is necessary. (The H-T neglected to publish the letter on their Web site, so I scanned it in.)

Is all hitting wrong? If a woman is about to be raped, is she justified in hitting her attacker so that she can escape? Is harming a human being (or an animal) justified in defense of another? We have a responsibility to those weaker than us to come to their aid when necessary. But even if there is no imminent threat, what if someone just hurt your child? Would retaliating out of anger in the heat of the moment be morally justified?

Moore asks why the paper prints justification of murder. Does the H-T regularly print letters to the editor defending murderers? No, but there are those who argue for why certain military actions are justified. That is almost certainly what she is referring to. Killing in wartime may be regrettable, but it is not murder. Equating the two is simple-minded and dogmatic. In fact, murder is against the law for soldiers too, and many soldiers have been prosecuted when they have committed murder.

When we invaded Afghanistan, we certainly were killing people out of anger. Yes, we were taking out a force that had declared war on us, but we were also seeking vengeance. What would have happened had we not retaliated? We would have been seen as weak and the terrorists would have been encouraged to murder more innocent civilians. We had a responsibility to our women, children and elderly to retaliate, both for the sake of justice and (more importantly) to provide deterrence to anyone who would attack American soil in the future.

What Moore is really arguing for is to have the paper censor views she disagrees with regarding the war. While the H-T certainly has the right to do that, it would be counterproductive to the free exchange of ideas regarding this country's policy toward the War on Terror. It would do a disservice to the H-T readership to not have both sides presented and would force people to look elsewhere for a reasoned explanation of why military action is justified.

To be fair, Moore might not have been talking about the War on Terror at all. Her letter was so vague that one can only draw conclusions from the general principles she presents. Her position might not be as uncompromising as it seems in her letter. The H-T only allows 200 words for a letter, not nearly enough space to fully explore a complex philosophical question.