The Non-Interventionist

A few years ago, I would have dismissed Gandhi's pacifism as idiotic, as Orwell did. I still don't buy it, but after Iraq and the lessons of over-reach, his philosophy palls a little less. John Lloyd writes:

As an inspiration and a symbol, Gandhi has no peer in the 20th century; as a practical politician, he was a despair to his colleagues in the Indian national movement. His insistence Gandhisouthafrica on non-violence grew more extreme as he aged: during the war, he recommended to the British that they should "invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.” And in an interview given after the war, he went so far as to say that “the Jews [in Europe] should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs." To attempt to overthrow tyranny, or even to oppose genocide, became for Gandhi an act almost as bad as tyranny or genocide itselfa view which finds an echo today in those who oppose any action of intervention to stop massacres.

Yet more than any other figure, Gandhi destroyed not just the British empire, but the very idea of empire. He did it by holding up to the British and to the world a mirror in which they could see themselvespreaching law, democracy and rights at home, while oppressing abroad. It is that vision which won out, in the latter half of the 20th century.