Science fiction as a means of exploring ethics. The Invaders showed up mysteriously in the solar system and started destroying anything they happened across.
"I know that Peace Amalgamated is a great cultural stride forward. . . . But—can you suggest a way of keeping the peaceful way and saving our System? . . ."
"Yes . . . if . . . if the Invaders can be persuaded to follow the peaceful way."
"When they won't communicate? When they commit warlike acts for nothing—without plan, without conquest, apparently for the sheer joy of destruction? . . . This is some life-form that is so different in its aims and its logic that the only thing we can do is reciprocate. Fire with fire! You talk of your ancient history. Wasn't fascism conquered when the democratic nations went all but fascist to fight them?"
"No," said Hereford firmly. "The fruits of fascism were conquered. Fascism itself was conquered only by democracy."
—from "There Is No Defense," Theodore Sturgeon, 1948
The military leader goes on to demonstrate to the pacifist leader that pacifism is useless in such cases by suddenly beating him up; eventually the pacifist fights back, and comes to the reluctant conclusion that fighting back is the only possible response.
I haven't finished the story yet, but it's a long one, and Sturgeon rarely takes the simple way out; it'll be interesting to see where he goes with this one.
But it seems to me that in his desire to get his plot moving, he didn't quite arm his pacifist leader with good enough arguments. It seems to me that if someone's hitting you and you hit back, the statement "It was the only way to make you stop" isn't exactly the strongest possible pacifist argument. A better explanation, to my view, would be "I reacted without thinking; pacifism obviously isn't the gut reaction most people have to violence. If we'd both had better training in finding nonviolent solutions, perhaps we wouldn't have found ourselves in the situation of you beating me up in the first place."
This isn't the long-awaited entry on pacifism. But it'll do as a first installment.
Hadn't expected fifty-year-old science fiction stories to have as much impact on me as some of these are having.