One of the strongest cases for military action was WW2 where it was widely believed that something had to be done, and that warfare was the right thing to do. Gandhi had offered his views about using non-violence to stop the Nazis, but his thoughts were dismissed.
How might non-violence have worked? What strategies and tactics could have been used?
None of what follows is comprehensive or conclusive, it’s simply a case study to explore. And in doing we can learn about the potency and effectivity of non-violence.
The German soldiers were not evil, they were not monsters, they were just other human beings fighting for their national cause. In nature they were no different to any other nationality. In their regular lives they would have been similar to anyone else… doctors, chefs, bakers etc. And they would have been good, kind, respectful human beings. So there was norma, good natured humanity there that could have been worked with.
The key to non-violent resistance is tapping into that good nature. Obviously when someone is pointing a gun at you that good nature is likely to be replaced by an instinct to protect yourself and fight back. But what if you had stood in front of a German solider without a gun… with no arms at all. What if, instead of a hundred thousand soldiers lined up to battle them, there was a hundred thousand human being stood peacefully, with nothing but good will and kindness for the German soldiers… Would it have been as simple for the German soldiers to simply kill these unarmed, un threatening people stood in front of them? Maybe they’d have arrested them all, but how many prisoners can you take? In fact, ‘filling up the jails’ was a tactic used by Gandhi and MLK.
Even if the Germans had it in them to simply butcher all these peaceful people… Were not hundreds of thousands butchered through combat anyway? And, if I were guaranteed to die, i’d rather die without having killed another human being, than die having killed.
I think that maybe there would be the possibility that some Germans, in fear of authority, or just because some were nasty and cruel, would have killed the peaceful armies that faced them. But I think it would have been deeply unsettling for the consciences of the majority of the soldiers, and that at some point there would have been dissent.
It is also worth considering that the Germans did not regard themselves as evil, but as fighting a just cause, and it would be very hard to maintain that belief whilst butchering unarmed, peaceful resisters.