How Pacifism Has Become A Lifestyle (Not Moral) Choice

The growing tendency to say 'there is no just war' is just a way to keep one's hands clean, while leaving it to others to pay the consequences for your freedom. A view from Germany.

Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic
Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic
Henryk M. Broder


BERLIN — Nearly 11 years ago, on July 14, 2003, an interview with theater guru Peter Zadek was published in Der Spiegel magazine. It dealt, among other things, with his "dislike of America."

Zadek, who grew up in England where his Jewish parents had fled from the Nazis, stated that he agreed with his "old friend" playwright Harold Pinter that the Americans today "are comparable to the Nazis" — indeed a bit worse. "The difference is that the Nazis set out to conquer Europe but the Americans want to conquer the whole world."

Zadek admitted that he’d never been to the United States, and that his picture of America had been shaped by "dreadful stuff ... from Hollywood," movies like About Schmidt and American Beauty. In reply to the question, "So it wouldn’t be wrong as far as you are concerned if one were to call you anti-American?" he said with disarming openness: "No. I find it cowardly that many people these days make a difference between the American people and the various administrations."

Zadek reacted just as openly to the question as to whether he thought "the American participation in the war against Hitler was wrong." He stated: "That was another war that shouldn’t have taken place. In the end, war produces nothing but catastrophes."

Thanks to his reputation as a "theater genius" with a penchant for the eccentric, there were practically no limits to the fool’s license Zadek enjoyed. But he wasn’t a moral authority, a tribune that stirred the masses.

That cannot however be said of Margot Kässmann, the former chair of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Whenever she makes a public utterance, reactions ripple across Germany. Two days after this month's 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy that spelled the beginning of the end of Nazi domination of Europe, the "ambassadress for the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017" gave Bild am Sonntag an interview in which among other things she said: "There can be no just war. That was even true of the Second World War where everybody ended up losing a sense of reason. Cities full of refugees were bombed, the Wilhelm Gustloff with thousands of refugees on board was sunk. War is also a destructive power for those who want war for Good."

The Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 — Source: Bundesarchiv

No resistance

This time there was no ripple across Germany, here and there perhaps a raised eyebrow, but that was all. Kässmann hadn’t pushed open a door for debate, she just stormed through one that was already wide open.

That there can be no "just war" appears to be such a matter of consensus in Germany that a statement like Kässmann’s meets with no resistance. Pacifism has become mainstream.

That’s a pacifism that depends on your own country not being at war. Just as anti-fascism can only thrive where there is no organized fascism, pacifism can only develop unhindered where compulsory military service and all things related have been abolished or put in abeyance.

German pacifism is mainly directed against those whose military engagement made a movement like theirs possible in the first place. Without Allied intervention there would be no peace movement in Germany, no Easter march, no Jürgen Todenhöfer (a prominent critic of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) — and no Margot Kässmann.

Only people who believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the intelligence of tadpoles also tend to the point of view that the Waffen-SS was a well-concealed peace initiative only waiting for the right moment to reveal its true goals.

Eleven years ago, an oddball like Peter Zadek, who believed that the Americans were worse than the Nazis, wasn’t completely alone in his belief, but there also weren’t many people out there who agreed with him. Now Kässmann has put into words what most Germans today think: There can be no just war, war is always wrong regardless of who starts it and who ends it.

Sense and reason

To call an attitude like that "pacifism" would be a betrayal of people like Carl von Ossietzky who paid for their convictions with their lives. The pacifism of the 21st century is a lifestyle that others pay for. For such pacifists, it is less about the love of peace than it is about the wish not to dirty their hands.

German pacifism also has a strong retroactive component. When Kässmann says there can be no just war and that that was true of the Second World War as well "where everybody ended up losing a sense of reason" she isn’t justifying Nazi policies but she is delegitimizing the Allied engagement against the Third Reich.

The message between the lines reads: One side was no better than the other, the whole bunch of them took complete leave of their senses. Some of them ran riot on the Eastern Front, others over Hamburg and Dresden.

One grandpa was gassed in an oven, the other fell from a watch tower, dead drunk. At the end of the day, they’re both dead, victims of the same situation.

That’s more than just moral rigorism. It’s the revisionism of educated classes who have learned how to formulate resentment in a subtle way. It’s a zero-sum game in which the crimes of one side are set off against those on the other.

The German peace movement is an offshoot of German nationalism, a late Nazi retaliation against the World War II Allies. The Gestapo lives on at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib is the new Auschwitz, and the NSA has taken over where the Reich Security Head Office left off.

That’s the way old scores are settled. There’s no question that the German peace movement "learned" some things from history — in particular, that you should never start a war someone else can win.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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